Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Up

A commenter named Jason asked some thoughtful questions in the comments section of my previous post. I’ve decided to reproduce the comment here, and then reply at length:

I haven’t actually watched this video yet (my daughter won the battle this morning to play myepets.com) but I have seen quite a few like it and enjoy watching them. But it is not hard to notice that most of these videos are produced by atheists (indeed, DonExodus2 is the only one I know who claims otherwise -catholic- but there could be more, I haven’t looked that exhaustively). Now I’m sure you could quote me some statistic about the huge overlap of mainstream Christianity and belief in evolution and that is encouraging, but it seems most of them simply accept it on the word of scientists. I can’t help but notice that those who really research it and promote it tend to much more heavily weighted on the atheist side then the general public.

I am a Christian and I would like to think that I am so not because I want to be, or it gives me comfort, or I am scared to die, or simply on “faith”, I want to think I believe because God is a reality and Jesus is a reality, and Jesus death and resurrection are a reality. Reality, that is the key word. I now know evolution is a reality, and that the ark is not a “historical” reality, and indeed a whole other mess of things that challanged my simple evangelical faith of just a few years ago. I have slowly lost my fear of these things for there is no point in not accepting reality for what it is. But then I ask myself why any of my traidtional faith can be known as reality, and if so, why don’t all those atheists see it to? Is it perhaps the obvious answer I don’t want to admit, that I have very little evidence for that which I postulate to be the most important, so little that a great deal of educated people think I really don’t have any. Is it because it basically makes more sense that not only is the beginning of my Bible filled with myths but a great deal of it, indeed that most of my religion is just made up?

This is hard, because it is so foreign to my childhood and even to my church experience today. Because in both contexts it wasn’t about whether any of this was true, that was assumed, it was only a matter of whether you would repent of your sin and seek salvation. People weren’t nonbelievers because they didn’t find any reason whatsoever to believe (exactly parallel to why I wouldn’t believe in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic, Norse, Greek, Roman religions->as these clearly were false:-) but because they didn’t want to repent(!), they didn’t want to give up control over their lives(!), or because they are proud.

Well I want to repent (and have repented!), and I want a savior (and have called on the name of the Lord Jesus!), and frankly having grown up in the Christian subculture my whole life there is nothing I need to “give up” to be a Christian…and yet I wonder now if it doesn’t make a whole lot more sense that most of my religion, at least with respect to what we affirm as history, is made up. Dr. McGrath, I ask, is most of our religion just made up?

I want to reply in a way that not only addresses the very important and insightful questions you asked, but also challenges at least one assumption that seems to be behind the final question.

There’s a contemporary praise song that includes the line “These words are not made up”, and every time I hear it I find myself asking “They aren’t?! Well then, what are they?!” Obviously “made up” can be used in a derogatory way, as a reference to something that is claimed deceitfully, something that is not merely fictional but a lie.

Some of the most powerful narrative in the Bible is “made up”, not in the negative sense but in a positive one. I think that, for instance, so much of the discussion about Genesis 1-3 is utterly besides the point. A talking snake? Trees with astounding abilities? God strolling in a garden? Two sides go back and forth, one asserting the story’s factuality, the other laughing at those who do so. And yet neither seems to realize that the story is not about a “guy named Adam” but about “Human” (which is what adam means in Hebrew, and there is a long history of reading it as about all of us rather than our ancestor.

I usually ask my class, when we talk about Genesis 2-3, a couple of questions. First, I ask who walks around “naked but not ashamed”. I always worry someone will answer “my roomate”, but usually the answer that is forthcoming is “children”. I then ask a question that has yet to be answered: “When did you first realize you were naked?” No one has a clear recollection of the first instance. I can state, however, with a great degree of confidence that it wasn’t a result of eating a literal, rather special fruit. “Knowledge of good and evil” in the Hebrew Bible is used in reference to maturity. And it is at the point we begin to become mature that we need to take responsibility for our actions, and begin to find ourselves making poor choices, and alienated from one another as a result.

I believe this story was “made up”. I also find it insightful, provocative and powerful, just as I do other “made up” stories, such as the ones Jesus told. I could (indeed, professionally I sometimes do) spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we can know and with what degree of certainty about Jesus, the early Church, and from time to time also ancient Israel and even the Mandaeans. But it turns out that historical study doesn’t give us certainty even in a best case scenario. It always leaves open the possibility that something we firmly believe happened didn’t actually happen. And so the question I find I need to ask is no longer “What can I prove sufficiently about the past in order to build my worldview on it?” but “How can I live in response to a life-transforming experience of transcendence and meaning, in a way that holds on to things that are clearly valuable in the traditions I’ve inherited, but also takes seriously the very different context of our time?”

I now want to return to some of your earlier questions. I think there are a significant number of Christians who also happen to be biologists. I suspect that relatively few of them are visible for a number of reasons, one of which being that biologists in general are not all that visible – if a rock star or actor is a Christian, or whatever else, people hear about it, but biologists don’t generally have star status. But Ken Miller, Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala are big names in biology, and each professes some form of Christian faith.

I think you are right that the majority of Christians who accept evolution do so because scientists with relevant expertise accept it. I don’t think it should be otherwise. It certainly is wonderful if someone has the time and interest to become well informed about a subject outside their specialty, and for most of us evolution falls into that category. But if you don’t have the time to inform yourself, then you really ought to accept what the scientific consensus is, and not a handful of engineers and preachers who tickle people’s ears and tell them emotionally-charged things that they want to hear.

For me, my own personal faith has ceased to be about claiming certain things did or didn’t happen in the past. That has its place. But I focus more on my own experience, and the reality that we inhabit now. If the teachings of Christianity are “true” in any meaningful sense, then we ought to be more concerned with how we treat others than with debating questions of history or even science. We should be more concerned with justice and righteousness than with just being right. And so, when it comes down to it, I consider your decision to spend time with your daughter on MyePets rather than watch a video on YouTube to have been a wise one.

Let me just conclude by saying that, ultimately, I don’t feel like what I’ve provided is an “answer” in any sort of final sense to your question(s). I merely want to offer encouragement to keep asking them, and others like them. Because if we think about the line-up of atheists and Christians that you mentioned, we can forget that these are all people, most of whom are on journeys, and few of whom will hold precisely the same views for their entire lives without changing their minds. Some have travelled away from faith, others towards it, and some having left have found it again, or vice versa.

I mentioned earlier that, in the absence of a detailed study of one’s own into a matter, it is good to trust the consensus of experts. But if one wants to do science, then one has to learn to investigate and evaluate, in ways that may uphold and build upon, but also may potentially challenge the consensus. In the same way, there are helpful guides on our religious journeys, but it is our individual seeking to live and to understand that constitutes doing religion. Your wrestling with your faith rather than merely taking it on the authority of others is a sign of spiritual health, if you ask me, even though some for whom “faith” is really “accepting what certain religious ‘experts’ say” may regard it with suspicion, perhaps even hostility.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10563649474540441597 atimetorend

    Thank you for both posting Jason’s thoughtful comments and for your thoughtful response. It is so important to be able to be honest in our thoughts and communication with others, and I think you both did an excellent job of doing so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12590420531095058999 Anders Branderud

    To Jason:You write:“want to think I believe because God is a reality and Jesus is a reality, and Jesus death and resurrection are a reality. Reality, that is the key word. I now know evolution is a reality, and that the ark is not a “historical” reality, and indeed a whole other mess of things that challanged my simple evangelical faith of just a few years ago. I have slowly lost my fear of these”I want to help you to give a strong foundation that there exists a Creator. We prove this by using logic and science in our website: http://www.netzarim.co.il ; click at the link “Christians”. In the same page we prove that Torah is the Instructions of the Creator of the universe. Furthermore regarding the “ark”: Sure it is a reality! It was a local, not a global, event. See more at the above website; click in the left menu at the link “Web Café”; scroll down to 0125 and you will find a great link (whoi.edu ……)I will in this post discuss also discuss the issue about “Jesus death and resurrection”. First, let’s start with some important first century research.Le-havdil (to differentiate),The person who wants to research about a first century Jew must research first century sources, like the Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q MMT. There was a first century Jew named Ribi Yehoshua, from Natzrat (hellenized to Nazareth). To find information about the historical Ribi Yehoshua (the Messiah) who lived in Natzrat, we must study first century Jewish documents (for example Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) and apply formal logic.So let’s use the scientifically and logical method to demonstrate who the first century Jew Ribi Yehoshua was. It is not an assumption that Ribi Yehoshua from Natzrat was a Ribi (Not the same as “Rabbi”; see definition in our glossaries in the below website). He is called ‘Ribi Yeshua’ on the Talpiot Tomb to name one thing.See http://www.netzarim.co.il ; “History Museum” (left menu); “Mashiakh”-section (top menu)..Prof. of Statistics Andrey Feuerverger has demonstrated that, contrary to the mathematically-challenged critics of the Yaaqov ossuary, the chances that the ossuaries in the Talpiot Tomb aren’t those of the family of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua are 1:1600 (Feuerverger, Prof. Andrey – The Final Word, http://projecteuclid.org/aoas). Le-havdil (to differentiate), On the other hand we know that the Christian Jesus said things that contradict against Torah (for example Matt 28:19-20; Joh 3:16, et al.)Logic dictates that we differentiate from two diametrically different concepts. That is: They are not the same person. The person stating they are the same has the burden of proof.In the same way we know from documents as Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q MMT, that a first century Ribi (I proved above that Ribi Yehoshua died as a Ribi) can never had said some of the words in the Christian gospel Matthew.That is one reason to that a reconstruction is needed. “The Netzarim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matityahu (NHM)” (see the Israel Mall in the left menu at our website).Now to the conclusion: The Christian Jesus is not a historical person. 2. le-havdil, Ribi Yehoshua indeed was enlivened (not resurrected, he was not clinical dead) (more research about this in NHM) and later he died from his wounds. He died just like all other humans. You can have a relation with the perfect Creator just like he did; our website shows historical and logical documentation of how he lived.You’ll find significant documented historical information not published in the Christian world at http://www.netzarim.co.ilFinding the historical Jew, who was a Pharisee Ribi and following him brings you into Torah, which gives you a rich and meaningful life here on earth and great rewards in life after death (“heaven”)![Some quotes in this blog post: Paqid Yirmeyahu ha-Tzadiq]Anders BranderudGeir Toshav, Netzarim in Ra’anana

  • Jason

    Dr. McGrath,Thank you for you insightful reply. My own post(!). You touch on a lot of things I agree on, and for sure Genesis 1 is not really that concerning to me. It sure SOUNDS like a story, and if it weren’t for Romans 5 probably wouldn’t concern very many people. The problem with Biblical history for me is more on the lines of the Pentateuch and the Exodus, Daniel, etc. I’m not a minimalist, but I believe the combination of source critical textual issues and archeology really calls into question a great deal of the historical value of the early Israelite period. And you might ask “who cares?” and ultimately I will agree to a certain extend, but there are a few things that that do bother me with this reality. First, it seems like later OT and NT writers took this history very seriously and it in part grounded how they saw salvation history and therefor our relationship with God. Second, its doesn’t just seem like a partly fictitious national history but at times seems out right polemic, especially regarding the priesthood, for instance the insistence of Aaroniod decedents at the central shine. So not only is someone weaving together old traditions in order to set apart a natural history to encourage a nation (sounds fine enough) but some of that includes inventions of their own times for their own job security. It just doesn’t seem like God has anything to do with this last part. But the most troubling and this one is somewhat related to the last one, what do I make of passages that says, “The LORD said” when in reality such an event never happened and therefor in reality the LORD never gave such an instruction. I am having a hard time finding some sort of middle ground on this, indeed I avoid tension by not thinking of it to much, because it seems you almost have to either throw the whole thing away or blindly ignore all empirical evidence and assert the standard orthodoxy with regards to biblical history.Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I agree with your statement full right, namely ”I focus more on my own experience, and the reality that we inhabit now. If the teachings of Christianity are “true” in any meaningful sense, then we ought to be more concerned with how we treat others than with debating questions of history or even science.”I agree. In short, why should I have to worry at all about whether such and such person really said such. If God exists, and continues to have a relationship with people then that should be my concern, and that is what should be evident to myself and others. And for sure the things you listed, justice and righteousness should be and our a concern for me. But within my conservative Christian subculture, it is not that easy. Those two things are infinitely wedded. And worst, the historical nature itself is wedded to a belief in an inerrant Bible, one I no longer share (and so I will always now be on the outside). As said by my father-in-law to my wife growing up, “if you can’t believe all of it you can’t believe any of it”. This seems a strange thing to assert, almost admitting there is no reality to your relationship with God today because you wouldn’t believe anything if it could be proved to you that Jonah was not a true historical figure. You could prove Jonah was actually a fish to me and I would still know I had a relationship with my wife, and I hope the same clear picture of what is real would extend to God. (For sure some of my doubt it that my relationship with God is not nearly so clear). But more importantly, my Christian subculture can see no benefit to reaching out in love, justice, or peace, separated from the belief/repentance/submission cycle to a historical God-Man named Jesus. So as I begin to struggle that a lot of what is said in the Old Testament is not historical and am beginning to find it harder to see why this wouldn’t shove right into the most important part of the NT, well then it really does matter to me whether this part is made up. Because once we separate love, mercy, justice and righteousness from particular historical affirmations, then we go across the street and help our neighbors and yet don’t have to conclude it is all hopeless if they don’t affirm our story, as hell is their ultimate destination regardless of anything else. I feel like I have more to say and might over the weekend but just as you struggle to find an “answer”, I am struggling to find what my real questions are or should be. Also, I have to go to a meeting in two minutes:)Jason

  • Anonymous

    What bugged me about Adel in the other thread was this: Christian apologists argue that not only that faith is logical, but that it can be proven in some sense by with facts.I have nothing against faith — indeed I had it myself for most of my life, and having grown up and married into Christianity, almost all of my friends and family are believers.But faith isn’t and can never be rational. There is no serious logical distinction between Christianity and other religions that Christians deem wholly irrational. God coming to earth to die on a cross isn’t any less irrational than the tales of Zeus. The Ravi Zacharias-style “I can argue an athiest into submission with my rapier-like logic in seconds” is pathetic and infuriating.I do have an issue with the idea that Christianity is true in some sense if in fact we follow the golden rule. The problem is that — while an admirable way to live ones life — that premise has little to do with Christianity as it is commonly taught. In fact, evangelicals say that it is precisely not Christianity. Plus, it is the premise of many other religions as well as most non-believers. pf

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03126711689901268060 Quixie

    Jason:I commend your honesty and wish you well in your ‘dark night of the soul’ (to use Juan de La Cruz’s phrasing).You said:”I am a Christian and I would like to think that I am so not because I want to be, or it gives me comfort, or I am scared to die, or simply on “faith”, I want to think I believe because God is a reality and Jesus is a reality, and Jesus death and resurrection are a reality. Reality, that is the key word.“What we “want”, however, seldom coincides with what actually “is” reality.peaceÓ

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10563649474540441597 atimetorend

    and as you know I am sure Jason, you are not alone in your questioning. I’ve asked many of the same (just not as clearly articulated as for you). I really do believe that being able to honestly ask and work through these questions is an important part of the journey we on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03084095209525920755 Ronsonic

    Jason, you are in an interesting and difficult part of your spiritual journey. As a Catholic, recently returned, one of the recurrent themes in my discussions with other Christians is literalism. Let me recommend this piece by Mark Shea, http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/shea/04698.html . Actually I recommend all of his work, but his essays on reading the Bible are especially good. To summarize, one doesn’t read poetry in the same way as a history text, or a newspaper editorial. Our Bible is made up of all of those things, history, polemic, poetry and all by different authors for different readers to different purposes. It is a book of truths, almanacs are books of facts. Oh yes, it contains facts, a great many. As with our newspaper the presence of a cranky editorialist or a biased City Editor does not invalidate the sports scores. And like the paper, there is an entire world of subjects not covered. I don’t recall a single word of Metallurgy in the entire Old Testament despite it covering the era of transition from bronze to iron. To me evolution is no more important than metallurgy. Neither holds a candle in importance to the truths of John 1. Unless of course, your job description contains the words biology or engineering. Even then they have little to do with your condition before God. Enjoy the journey and the very real path through things which you know you cannot understand just yet. I believe that is a part of this trip.

  • http://occultview.com/ David

    Absolute literalism has done serious damage to Christianity. God made us rational beings. If any theology insists on a dogma that is easily disproved, then we have a choice…blind acceptance or denial. Either is not a good choice. That choice is a straw man. There is a middle ground. We don’t understand how God created the universe. I think Job was told that. People seem to gravitate to Genesis as the answer, but forget about God lecturing poor Job about his level of incomprehension.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    ‘And yet neither seems to realize that the story is not about a “guy named Adam” but about “Human”…’That doesn’t make it true.The story of Pandora’s Box has truths in it, and Aesop’s Fables has truths in it, but Genesis 1-3 has no truths in it. People do not die because they disobeyed a god.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Hmm, it sounds to me like you simply have a bias against Hebrew myths that you don’t have against Greek ones…or perhaps you are still reading the former in a way you would never read the latter?

  • stephen

    RonsonicThanks for that link. Jason, you may also want to investigate what St Augustine had to say about Genesis, reason, science and faith. Here is a good place to start.http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/PSCF3-88Young.htmlAs you can see, you are in good company in your journey.

  • benjdm

    Hmm, it sounds to me like you simply have a bias against Hebrew myths that you don’t have against Greek ones…or perhaps you are still reading the former in a way you would never read the latter?While I agree with you completely on this point, aren’t you doing the same thing when you put the ‘truths’ of the Christian stories ahead of the ‘truths’ of the Greek ones?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    benjdm, your comment really made me think. I certainly can say that I spend less time interacting with ancient Greek traditions, but I hope I’m not closed to insights from them altogether. When I asked myself why this should be the case, I came up with two answers. One is a relative lack of familiarity with Greek myth (at least, compared with my familiarity with Jewish and Christian traditions). The other is my focus on making room in Christian thought for science and other (in my opinion) more pressing concerns. Reading more classics and classical literature is one of the things I said I’d try to do during my sabbatical. We’ll see… :)

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    Jason,I have been a position similar to yours for quite a while; we share the same subculture, or rather, our loved ones do. The most important thing is to stay connected with people close to your position, even if (as is the case with me) it’s only through the internet. Otherwise you’re likely to throw out the baby with the bathwater. That doesn’t do anyone any good, least of all your friends and family.All the pieces don’t fit so easily together as we once thought, do they? The glue for the evangelicals and fundamentalists has always been the inerrancy of infallible Scripture, delivered by air mail, straight from the lips of God. The glue of personal experience is what holds me and my other like-minded friends to our faith. Faith, after all, is trust, and like it or not we are placed in a position in which we must trust a transcendent God whose mysteries are sometimes beyond our ken.My blog is where I try to deal with this stuff in a way sensitive enough for my literalistic/ultra-conservative friends and family to get a window into my beliefs and not write me off so quickly (with this series, for instance); so far, I’d say, it’s worked. Kept me sane, anyway. Another guy who’s just recently gone through this transition and whose faith is the better for the wear is Mike Beidler. Check out his blog and strike up a conversation with him. Or come by mine and do the same.Steve

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    So as I begin to struggle that a lot of what is said in the Old Testament is not historical and am beginning to find it harder to see why this wouldn’t shove right into the most important part of the NT, well then it really does matter to me whether this part is made up.You’re right. And so are the fellow christians you know.It DOES matter whether the historical claims of christianity, especially the central ones like Jesus’ resurrection, are true.And you seem to be beginning to see, as I did about 20 years ago, that a bare handful of documents, most of uncertain authorship and written decades after the events they’re supposed to describe, not only aren’t enough to, as McCrath put it, “give us certainty even in a best case scenario”. No, the situation is far worse than that. Such evidence is so paltry that it doesn’t even begin to approach more likely than not to be true.There is simply no rational basis for believing the central stories of the christian story.And exactly the same goes for the existence of a God of any kind.I know how devastating it is for someone brought up as a conservative christian to come to these realizations. I went through it myself and its not a pleasant experience.But in the end one will find oneself with a more rational outlook on the world. And I’ve found that that’s not at all a bad place to be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    Faith, after all, is trust, and like it or not we are placed in a position in which we must trust a transcendent God whose mysteries are sometimes beyond our ken.It makes little sense to put your trust in a person you have no valid reason for believing in the existence of.Which is why such calls for people beginning to question their religious beliefs to simply “trust God” miss the mark. This completely fails to address the central question: does the God of the christians actually exist?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10563649474540441597 atimetorend

    What a wonderful thread this is turning out to be.I have been a position similar to yours for quite a while; we share the same subculture, or rather, our loved ones do. The most important thing is to stay connected with people close to your position, even if (as is the case with me) it’s only through the internet.I know what that is like. I keep clicking on the profiles of people like yourself hoping to find someone who lives in my geography! But I am so thankful for the internet and the opportunity to hear others perspectives like those on this site.

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    It makes little sense to put your trust in a person you have no valid reason for believing in the existence of.True. But it’s certainly debatable whether this is the case with God.Which is why such calls for people beginning to question their religious beliefs to simply “trust God” miss the mark. This completely fails to address the central question: does the God of the christians actually exist?That’s not a central question for those who believe they have encountered Him. We can’t really presume that the question “Does He exist?” is more valid than the assumption of His existence and the advancement of the resulting question, “How should we then interpret Scripture?”You talk of having no “rational” reason to believe in the Scriptures. The fact is that no historical documents are enough to positively prove any of the events they describe, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the ancient writing in the Bible isn’t any more empirically demonstrable. But historians get on fine reading Pliny, Tacitus, Caesar, etc. and gleaning very useful information even under the acknowledgment that what those writers wrote isn’t 100% inerrant.The problem is that fundamentalist/evangelical circles place all credibility for the faith in an inerrant canon; this was never the basis of faith for the Jewish and Christian believers prior to the first century (and much later, arguably). So after you’re sold the modernist rationalistic, materialistic worldview, the only thing your faith (if you can call it that) depends on is the inerrancy of the Bible. And when that comes crashing down, so does your faith. It’s sad and unnecessary, since no one has been able to empirically verify either rationalism or materialism.At then end of the day, I am a theist and a Christian because it makes the most sense of the world around me, including (but not limited to) the intangibles I have “touched” and observed. It is like Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    atimetorend (“a time to rend”?),Welcome to the conversation. Glad to have you aboard. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    True. But it’s certainly debatable whether this is the case with God.Then I invite you to make your case for why there are reasonable grounds for believing in the christian God.That’s not a central question for those who believe they have encountered Him.If you believe you have encountered God then I invite you to defend the proposition that its more likely than not that christians who believe they have encountered the christian God have good reason to think it more likely that they have ACTUALLY encountered God rather than that they simply imagine that they did.We can’t really presume that the question “Does He exist?” is more valid than the assumption of His existence…..Lets think about that as a general principle and see if it can be consistently applied by a reasonable person:We can’t really presume that the question “Do tree spirits exist?” is more valid than the assumption of their existence…..We can’t really presume that the question “Do vampires exist?” is more valid than the assumption of their existence…..No. That doesn’t seem to work very well as a general principle. Does it?So one must ask: why should we think this way in regard to the christian God and not any other proposition? But historians get on fine reading Pliny, Tacitus, Caesar, etc. and gleaning very useful information even under the acknowledgment that what those writers wrote isn’t 100% inerrant.Sure. But the claim that Emperor X had a son in year Y is a bit different from the claim that Jesus walked on water or that an ancient pagan statue of a god had magical healing powers. This is simple common sense. I’m sure you apply the same thinking to the claims and documents of other religions and cults. I’m simply more consistent—I do this with all claims of extraordinary, supernatural, paranormal or miraculous events.The problem is that fundamentalist/evangelical circles place all credibility for the faith in an inerrant canon; this was never the basis of faith for the Jewish and Christian believers prior to the first century (and much later, arguably).Agreed. Nothing I’ve said indicates I think otherwise. I’m not addressing inerrancy here. Simply a couple of the factual claims the majority of christians believe in: that a personal God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead.If you don’t hold those two beliefs my comments are not addressed at you. If you do, they are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12337652985240550352 David Henson

    “It DOES matter whether the historical claims of christianity, especially the central ones like Jesus’ resurrection, are true.”Actually, I consider the resurrection, as well as the birth narratives, to be among the least important parts of the New Testament. They are great stories that communicate, I think, deep truths about humanity and about God. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead, though, really has little bearing on Jesus’ message of standing with the poor and the oppressed, and against injustice and religion twisted to build up social and economic power. To me, being a Christian has very, very little to do with what I believe to be (or not be) historically true and very much to do with how I live.That said, if someone holds the resurrection as the key to their faith, and it helps them confront the pain and suffering they have caused or that has been caused to them; if it orders their lives in a way that the live for other and for good (as it very much does for many), then who am I to try and chisel away something that gives them strength? I’d rather turn my ax toward injustice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    Believing that Jesus rose from the dead, though, really has little bearing on Jesus’ message of standing with the poor and the oppressed, and against injustice and religion twisted to build up social and economic power. Very true. But those aren’t the only things that matter to people who believe in conventional rather than liberal christian theology.It matters to people like Jason whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead, whether he can really forgive sins, whether believing in and committing one’s life to him can really provide “salvation” in the sense understood by Jason and his church.What it comes down to is that whether the sort of conventional christianity Jason was raised in is or isn’t true matter a great deal. It even matters a great deal for YOU as well. Since, according to that variety of christianity, you’d probably be spending eternity in hell for your, according to them, watered down view of christian truth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12337652985240550352 David Henson

    No putting words in others mouths. It actually doesn’t matter a great deal to me. Why should I care if someone thinks I’m going to hell when I don’t believe in hell?Them believing it doesn’t make it true.

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    David,Trying to figure out a way of declining a long-term debate that I don’t really have time for (sorry for starting it!). :D Then I invite you to make your case for why there are reasonable grounds for believing in the christian God.Not here, not now. Honestly, we both know we’ve made up our minds and can dismiss the other guy’s arguments fairly easily.If you believe you have encountered God then I invite you to defend the proposition that its more likely than not that christians who believe they have encountered the christian God have good reason to think it more likely that they have ACTUALLY encountered God rather than that they simply imagine that they did.What I’m saying is that certain tenets follow logically from assumptions, whether or not your assumptions are correct. “Tree spirits exist: therefore this means that…” One who believes, delusionally or not, that he has had an encounter with a tree spirit cannot be shaken from this assumption. You, not being omniscient, cannot prove that he has not had such an encounter; the best you can hope for is that he’ll at least be consistent with that belief in carrying things out.Lets think about that as a general principle and see if it can be consistently applied by a reasonable person:I full expect any reasonable person who not only finds a system that’s reasonably coherent logically but also makes sense of his experience to actually maintain belief in that system. It would be unreasonable to drop it as soon as they encounter some guy on the internet who feels it his mission to relieve people of the burden of such a satisfactory, non-materialist system. When evolution is challenged, the theory adapts and moves on, because it’s unwieldy and unprofitable to throw it in the trash every time the belief of evolutionists in the past is called into question; same thing with my Christianity. Faith is not proof; it’s the way a startling number of people throughout history have made sense of their world. If you do so without faith, more power to you; if the Druids do so with dryads, more power to them.But the claim that Emperor X had a son in year Y is a bit different from the claim that Jesus walked on water or that an ancient pagan statue of a god had magical healing powers.Only under a materialist presupposition.This is simple common sense. I’m sure you apply the same thinking to the claims and documents of other religions and cults. I’m simply more consistent—I do this with all claims of extraordinary, supernatural, paranormal or miraculous events.It’s not like I woke up one day and decided, “I think I’ll believe in fairies.” “Reasonable” people (as opposed to rationalist materialists) adopt their beliefs for many reasons, including cultural background, personal experience, and rational study. Growing up with a presupp that works and has the virtue of explaining the beliefs of so many reasonable people in the past and present in countless lands and diversified cultures makes perfect sense as a starting point. This cannot be said of tree spirits or Zimbabwean religion. Christianity is much more complex and robust than those beliefs and has had much more influence, and you know it. There is a reason for Christianity’s growth and popularity that must be fully, honestly accounted for before it is filed with “vampire” and “leprechaun” in the loony bin. Now, Christianity’s influence and longevity may indeed be explainable in rationalist terms (I’m sure you’re ready with some arguments), but it’s a bit arrogant (and the sign of an emotionally charged ax to grind) to urge people to discard such a highly developed system as pure bilge even when you’re not personally convinced it’s valid. You may believe socialism works; preposterous, but not as ridiculous as believing there’s a Sasquatch ranch in Surrey. Atheists are not going to get on with Christians if they continue to treat the position as sheer lunacy.Reason alone could never bring one to faith; Christianity even in the Bible has always recognized this as a fact. That said, if you’re not “reasonable” enough to agree that Christianity has much more credibility than the myths of the Greeks, myths long passed from the scene (poor Zeus, no one worships him anymore) by virtue of its ongoing intellectual defensibility (whether or not you personally “buy” those defenses) and practical utility, then we’re clearly not going to get any further with this discussion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    Why should I care if someone thinks I’m going to hell when I don’t believe in hell?I didn’t say you should care about what they believe. I said it matters whether its true or not.Those are far from the same thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    What I’m saying is that certain tenets follow logically from assumptions, whether or not your assumptions are correct.One who believes, delusionally or not, that he has had an encounter with a tree spirit cannot be shaken from this assumption.I happen to know this to be false. People can and do change their beliefs they previously took as fundamental axioms of their view of the world. I know this because its happened to me.You, not being omniscient, cannot prove that he has not had such an encounter; the best you can hope for is that he’ll at least be consistent with that belief in carrying things out.I can do more than that. I can point out the problems with making the assumption he makes.When one arrives at the level of assumptions one doesn’t have to throw up one’s hands and say “well, nothing more to discuss”.There are reasonable and unreasonable assumptions. And that subject can be explored in discussion. True. Most people don’t change their mind about a cherished belief.But to say people can’t change their minds on things they have assumed to be true is simply demonstrably false.I full expect any reasonable person who not only finds a system that’s reasonably coherent logically but also makes sense of his experience to actually maintain belief in that system.Most people don’t change their minds about their most fundamental beliefs. But we are all capable of being mistaken and should all be willing to examine our beliefs and, yes, our assumptions critically.And discussing them with other people, both those who share them and those who disagree, is a worthwhile thing.Of course, you are in no way obligated to do so. But this is, after all, precisely the sort of place people come for the purpose of exploring fundamental ideas together. Its hardly that I’m coming up to a guy on the street and demanding he discuss his religious beliefs with me.It would be unreasonable to drop it as soon as they encounter some guy on the internet who feels it his mission to relieve people of the burden of such a satisfactory, non-materialist system.I don’t have expectations about changing the minds of total strangers. I simply find it worthwhile to discuss and explore ideas about religion, ethics, philosophy and the like. Even when neither person’s mind has been substantially changed much that is of value can result. The give and take of discussion about important ideas is worthwhile in and of itself. Don’t you think?Oh, and I’m not a materialist. Faith is not proof; it’s the way a startling number of people throughout history have made sense of their world. If you do so without faith, more power to you; if the Druids do so with dryads, more power to them.Nothing about the above makes it not worth discussing and debating.Ideas matter. Truth matters. Christian or Druid. Muslim or atheist. Surely we can all agree on that. Me: But the claim that Emperor X had a son in year Y is a bit different from the claim that Jesus walked on water or that an ancient pagan statue of a god had magical healing powers.Stephen: Only under a materialist presupposition.First, as stated before, I’m not a materialist.Second, even if such extraordinary events occur they only occur rarely. Far less rarely than fraud, error and the like. So even if such events occur its still appropriate to hold any particular claim to careful scrutiny.Or do you actually consider the following two claims on a par in regard to their plausibility:My baby was born yesterday. He weighed 7 lbs 4 ozs.My baby was born yesterday. He was speaking fluent French within 30 seconds of drawing his first breath.This cannot be said of tree spirits or Zimbabwean religion. Christianity is much more complex and robust than those beliefs and has had much more influence, and you know it.The popularity of a belief system is no indicator of its likelihood to be true. And I would dispute that Christianity is “more complex” than any other religion I’ve studied (I can’t speak for whatever religion they practice in Zimbabwe since I don’t know what religion that might be—do you even know what their religion is—the dismissiveness of the comment, frankly, smacks a bit of prejudice).Atheists are not going to get on with Christians if they continue to treat the position as sheer lunacy.When I discuss an idea I’m going to be honest in my opinion about it.I consider believing in christianity highly irrational. I don’t just say so I’ve been willing to explain and discuss why I think so in a civil but frank manner.Reason alone could never bring one to faith; True or false. Belief in the factual claims of the christian religion is rationally warranted?That said, if you’re not “reasonable” enough to agree that Christianity has much more credibility than the myths of the Greeks, myths long passed from the scene (poor Zeus, no one worships him anymore)Actually, the worship of the Greek gods is experiencing something of a revival. I’ve encountered more than a few pagan who were quite offended by comments like the above.But that’s not really important. The fact that a religion is active and popular today is no indicator that belief in it is any more rationally warranted than religions that have disappeared or greatly diminished in their number of adherents.Many irrational beliefs are enormously persistent. I don’t think any reasonable person could disagree with that. So to argue from somethings popularity and persistence to its reasonableness is simply obvious bad reasoning.For that matter, I think a good case could be made that pagan religion (in both ancient and revived modern forms) suffers from fewer intellectual difficulties than christianity.Particularly in regard to the problem of evil.

  • Anonymous

    If the success of a religion is evidence of its truth, how can Christians deny the truth of Islam, Buddhism or Judaidism?The idea that the particular tenents of Christian belief — its the only religion in which people believe God came down to earth as savior to die for the sins of the world! — constitutes some sort of proof of those beliefs is inherently absurd. A Christian would never argue the oddities of another religion makes it likely that that belief system is true. In fact, it would be quite the opposite.pf

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I wonder whether it would help, or simply create other problems, to point out that Christians need not deny the validity of Islam, Judaism or Buddhism. According to early Islamic sources, Muhammad received encouragement from Christians early in his religious career. And if we look at either Acts 17 or the letters of Paul, we find him arguing against those who depict God through images, but we also find him depicted with echoes of Socrates and quoting Greek poets (Acts 17). I can’t think of anything in either Acts or the epistles that suggests that Paul would have considered a philisophically-minded, morally upright, monotheistic Greek as “still not good enough”. I don’t think this will ‘sidetrack’ the discussion – in fact, it relates to a point mentioned in Jason’s comment to which I had hoped to return. While there is a fundamentalist approach that regards everyone (including many Christians) as in serious trouble and ignorant of God, here too there is a middle ground, in which it is possible to collaborate with others who value human life, justice and equality, with whom we may also in our spare time engage in interesting discussions and debates about matters like doctrine, discussions that may be not only secondary but impossible of resolution, yet which may be mutually beneficial to all those involved in the conversation even so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    I wonder whether it would help, or simply create other problems, to point out that Christians need not deny the validity of Islam, Judaism or Buddhism.The claims made by most forms of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are in direct contradiction of the claims made by most varieties of christianity.You may acknowledge that all religions have valid insights—but one cannot consistently think all religions true. If all religions where just system of mythically/poetically expressed insight into the human heart with no factual claims associated with them there would be nothing to dispute.That’s not the world we live in though.And the crisis of faith Jason seems to be having is all about whether the factual claims of religion are actually true.So comments like Hensons that he doesn’t care whether the resurrection happened or not don’t do anything to address the concerns Jason is struggling with. Jason DOES care. So do I. And caring about that question is entirely appropriate. Whether or not its true MATTERS.

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    FWIW, I never argued that the “success” of Christianity made it true. I said that as a developed, analyzed, critically examined system, it has held up better than “tree spirits” and “vampires”, which were presumably David Ellis’s way of rhetorically belittling Christianity’s credibility. The moon being made of cheese is decidedly less respectable than Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, etc; OTOH, the difference in credibility is smaller between the moon being green cheese and animism or vague spiritualism, which have had no intellectual development.If one believes, as I do, that Christianity does provide important truths that other faiths don’t, it still cannot be claimed that classical Christianity is therefore true. There is definitely room for humility between faiths, as well as between faith and non-faith. That’s where I’m going with this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03126711689901268060 Quixie

    David B. Ellis said:So comments like Hensons that he doesn’t care whether the resurrection happened or not don’t do anything to address the concerns Jason is struggling with. Jason DOES care. So do I. And caring about that question is entirely appropriate. Whether or not its true MATTERS.“It matters no more and no less than whether Mohamed really received the Q’uran from an archangel of Al’.It matters no more and no less than whether you adhere strictly to your registro (African Diaspora rituals).It matters no more and no less than whether you hold to Joseph Smith’s being a true prophet or not.There are a LOT of things that would “matter” if they were theoretically “true,” David. Do you have the same sense of urgency about the fact that you should strive to achieve Nirvana or be damned to eternal circling as you do about the fifth-century doctrines about hell that you insist should matter to people?DBE:If all religions where just system of mythically/poetically expressed insight into the human heart with no factual claims associated with them there would be nothing to dispute.“Sounds like a great idea to me!Where do I sign up? :)This is precisely what all religions are, the way I see it.Sociology, psychology, poetry. Yes, the stories we tell ourselves DO matter, even though we know they are just stories. To have them matter more than their actual worth (i.e. as stories meant to edify a religious community), though, is to venture into the land of idolatry, which in my view is a destructive force. …reading along .. . . . . .Ó

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12337652985240550352 David Henson

    I get your point, David, that it does matter to a great deal of people whether the resurrection and myriad other stories in the Bible happened historically.What I am saying is that it misses the point of the stories.You said that the historical truth of the resurrection, etc “even matters a great deal for YOU as well. Since, according to that variety of christianity, you’d probably be spending eternity in hell for your, according to them, watered down view of christian truth.” If you wish to backtrack and rework this sentence I understand.But the fact is that it doesn’t matter at all to me that most of christianity might think I’m damned, though I’d challenge you to search a little bit deeper for the diversity within Chritendom rather than what appears to be a reliance on literalist faith as the standard (which ironically is a trait shared with the very literalists you seem to chafe against). All I am saying is that I don’t care if my own family thinks my faith is sending me to hell. If it matters to other folks, that’s fine. They are welcome to be concerned by those things. But I think to reduce the meaning and/or authenticity of a faith to a series of beliefs and/or historical facts is reductionistic, overly simplistic and narrow-minded — no matter who is doing it. Because, if someone proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the resurrection didn’t happen — or even that Jesus didn’t live — I’d still think that the teachings attributed to Jesus are the best way to live life. Others might find his teachings abominable. I’m fine with that. I encourage you to broaden your notions of what exactly Christianity is when you are arguing against the entire concept of a religion.It’s my main problem with folks like Christopher Hitchens. He relies on the same method of bibilcal interpretation as the very people he abhors. It’s pretty damn ironic, actually.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    I said that as a developed, analyzed, critically examined system, it has held up better than “tree spirits” and “vampires”, which were presumably David Ellis’s way of rhetorically belittling Christianity’s credibility.It was not a belittlement. I used two examples of supernatural ideas I presumed (accurately) that we would both take to be obviously not plausible to show why reasoning of the sort you presented can’t be applied consistently.It matters no more and no less than whether Mohamed really received the Q’uran from an archangel of Al’.Indeed. Whether or not the factual claim of any particular religion is true matters. I never suggested that whether the resurrection of Jesus is historical fact matters MORE than the claims of other faiths.However, since Jason was raised christian and has always believed in the resurrection it is THAT question with which he is struggling at the moment.Do you have the same sense of urgency about the fact that you should strive to achieve Nirvana or be damned to eternal circling as you do about the fifth-century doctrines about hell that you insist should matter to people?I have no sense of urgency about any of them. The question of whether belief in the supernatural is reasonable has long since been settled in the negative for me (pending any new evidence or argument that might alter my opinion). Its a new issue for Jason though and its to his struggle my comments are primarily directed.This isn’t simply a theoretical matter we’re discussing here. It has at its heart a single person’s very real and very personal crisis of faith. And I’m keeping that very much at the center of my attention.Sounds like a great idea to me!Where do I sign up? :)This is precisely what all religions are, the way I see it.This may be precisely what you think all religions SHOULD be. And it may be what your variety of christianity consists of. But other varieties make quite explicit factual claims. We do Jason and this discussion no service by failing to acknowledge that fact.Yes, the stories we tell ourselves DO matter, even though we know they are just stories. We DON’T all know they’re just stories. Its fine that you have a liberal theological outlook. But its not helpful to project that outlook onto those who clearly don’t share it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03126711689901268060 Quixie

    Not Christian. I have no theology to speak of.Ó

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    But the fact is that it doesn’t matter at all to me that most of christianity might think I’m damned…I didn’t say it matter TO you. I said it mattered FOR you.If you and I are wrong and the fundamentalists are right it will matter quite a lot (as they are all so prone to pointing out when a discussion is going badly for them—I can’t begin to count the number of times some fundamentalist has said to me something of the following sort: you won’t feel so smart when you’re burning in hell!).though I’d challenge you to search a little bit deeper for the diversity within Chritendom rather than what appears to be a reliance on literalist faith as the standard (which ironically is a trait shared with the very literalists you seem to chafe against). I never claimed the literalist faith is the standard. Though I do think their theology is very probably nearer that of christianity in its original form, or forms, than yours—but I consider all christian theologies, from the most literal to the most liberal, just made up so there IS no standard so far as I’m concerned.I encourage you to broaden your notions of what exactly Christianity is when you are arguing against the entire concept of a religion.I am well aware of the wide diversity of forms christianity takes. But, again, this discussion has at its root Jason’s struggle with the question of whether Jesus really rose from the dead and that’s my focus here. Not liberal theologies that consider the story of Jesus little more than an inspiring myth. I consider this view no less valid (and certainly more rational) but like I said earlier its Jason’s particular crisis of faith I’m keeping in mind and focusing my comments on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    Not Christian. I have no theology to speak of.Well and good, then my comments are not in any way pertaining to your views—they concern solely the difficulties of christians who have had a belief in the literal historical resurrection of Jesus and who are struggling with doubts about it.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand people who don’t believe the Bible yet claim to be Christians. There is no such thing as fact-free Christianity (or any other religion). One is free to believe the ethics of Jesus are a good way to live one’s life, but that isn’t “Christianity” by any standard. Christianity, as taught in the Bible and practiced throughout the centuries, involves believing certain propositional facts. Paul wrote that without the resurrection, faith is in vain.I suspect Jesus would agree, even if one doesn’t agree that Christianity represents his true teachings. He was a radical cleric (albeit a non-violent one). He thought God was going to wipe out his enemies and put his followers in charge of the world. The truth of his message was extremely important to him. He certainly wasn’t a fuzzy believer in being nice.pf

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12337652985240550352 David Henson

    At the risk of prolonging what has become an already tedious conversation, I’d just like to point out a few things:Mattering FOR me, instead of TO me. That’s the point your making? That if someone’s beliefs with which I don’t agree with turn out to be correct and mine wrong, then their beliefs will have an effect on me. Forgive me for missing the point, but so what? I might as well be concerned that if someone believes if I eat too much spaghetti, they will turn into worms, then it would matter FOR me. Parse any more and you won’t have anything left.”But like I said earlier its Jason’s particular crisis of faith I’m keeping in mind and focusing my comments on …” With all due respect, this is actually far from the tenor of your comments and it would seem you are now hedging, which I’m fine with. Your point, it would seem, that you are making over and over again is that the questionability of the historical facts in the Gospels/Bible is enough to debunk the entirety of a religion. You said as much multiple times. Here, you are addressing Christianity in general, not the faith expressed in the original post. At any rate, if the ahistorical nature of parts of the biblical narrative is enough to debunk the religion for you, then I wish you well, but I find it odd that you presume all Christians should agree with your truth about Christianity. It’s rather patronizing and fails to engage with the way people believe — not just what they believe. Many of us have moved beyond such dualism and find them overly simplistic for understanding not just God, but life as well.I would like to point out that this kind of logic is ripped out of literalists’ mouths: That conflation of fact and truth, the inerrantist’s perspective that factual errors crumble meaning. You argue that it is inconsistent to view all religions as true. Again, this assumes that one religion owns God, a rather narrow view of God that, again, is ripped from the mouths of literalists. Certainly it might be argued that it is inconsistent to view all religions as fact, but not as true. It assumes that if there is a God, then this God must reveal God’s self in only one way, in only one culture, and in only one context. Again, from the mouths of literalists. So forgive me when I assume that you use the literalist faith of your upbringing as the standard. Whatever your thoughts on the subject may be, your logic seems not to have changed. I’m less concerned with whether religions are made up (because they all are, but that doesn’t make them not true, or not worthwhile). I’m more concerned with what they mean and how they function. It’s a much more productive discussion than the childish (on both sides): Religions are false; are not; are too; are not; are too; are not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09468191085576922813 David B. Ellis

    Mattering FOR me, instead of TO me. That’s the point your making? The point I’m making is that the questions Jason is struggling with are significant ones. It makes a real world difference, and not just to him, whether the beliefs in which he was raised are true.Remember the point I’ve had to hammer on time and again (and which seems to be consistently ignored): the central point of my comments is the struggle people like Jason are going through in beginning to question the religion they grew up in.The subject they’re dealing with is an important one—even if those beliefs they’re struggling with are ones which you and I consider so implausible as to not be worthing of our serious concern.Your point, it would seem, that you are making over and over again is that the questionability of the historical facts in the Gospels/Bible is enough to debunk the entirety of a religion.My focus is JASON’S religious system—apparently conservative or evangelical christianity. NOT yours.And conservative/evangelical christianity of that sort DOES stand or fall on the reality of the resurrection and the other doctrines that people of THEIR, not YOUR, religious system embrace.My point is that you seem to only be seeing the issue through the lenses of your own very liberal brand of christianity rather than trying to see them through the eyes of someone of Jason’s religious background—from which the issue looks very different.At any rate, if the ahistorical nature of parts of the biblical narrative is enough to debunk the religion for you, then I wish you well, but I find it odd that you presume all Christians should agree with your truth about Christianity.I am most absolutely NOT claiming that your liberal christianity is invalidated if the resurrection didn’t occur. None of what I’m saying is directed at liberal christianity. I’m talking about the variety of christianity Jason grew up with.You argue that it is inconsistent to view all religions as true. Again, this assumes that one religion owns God, a rather narrow view of God that, again, is ripped from the mouths of literalists.I do not assume one religion owns God (not all of them even belief in God for that matter). I am simply pointing out the quite obvious fact that many religions and denominations or sects within a religion make mutually contradictory claims. This is not to say that God does not embrace people of a variety of religions (if he exists). I was saying nothing of that sort. Of course, if he DOES embrace a variety of religions then, in fact, certain religions are dead wrong in certain central doctrines of theirs. As in the view of many varieties of christianity that think only believers in christianity are saved—or even subgroups like the Church of Christ which long taught, I don’t know if they still do, that only Church of Christ members go to heaven. That’s one I have personal experience of since when I was a kid by father, a methodist, had many long debates with a friend of his around our dinner table about whether his friend was right in his, and his churches, belief that only Church of Christ members are saved.It assumes that if there is a God, then this God must reveal God’s self in only one way, in only one culture, and in only one context.Again, you are misinterpreting my comment. Perhaps its my fault and I wasn’t clear enough. So I’ll clarify: I’m not saying anything like the above. I’m saying simply that not all religions can be factually true in their doctrines because the doctrines of different religious systems are frequently mutually contradictory—if doctrine X of religious belief system Y is true, certain other doctrines of other religious belief systems cannot be. That includes the mutually contradictory claim that there are many ways to God and people of different religions can come to him each through their own faith and it will be pleasing to him vs the doctrine that there is one true faith and that, for example, someone who isn’t christian (or muslim or whatever) will suffer in hell for eternity.You can’t both be right. So forgive me when I assume that you use the literalist faith of your upbringing as the standard. Again, I’m not using it as any standard (in fact, I find your version of christianity vastly more sensible). I’m simply not talking about YOUR kind of Christianity. I’m talking about Jason’s.


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