Why I Am a Christian

Yesterday’s post – There is No Proof of God’s Existence – broke all records of most views on this blog since I began the blog three weeks ago. We’re almost at half point on the Facebook shares wherein five commentors will receive a free copies of my newest book, Jesus: A Theography.

What follows isn’t a list of “proofs” for Christianity. Nor is it a list of theological reasons (e.g., God chose me in Christ before time). Neither is it a list of reasons why I am indebted to Jesus (e.g., He bought me with His own blood). The list isn’t exhaustive and the points are in no particular priority.

Also, I’m defining “Christian” to mean someone who has trusted Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior and who follows Him.

Why I Am a Christian . . .

1. Because life makes no sense to me apart from Christ. Nor does it have any purpose.

2. Because I’ve tried to not believe in Jesus, and I find that I cannot.

3. Because I’ve never seen the Gospel narratives refuted successfully.

4. Because I’ve never seen the resurrection of Jesus refuted successfully. I’ve investigated all the alternative explanations and find them uncompelling.

5. Because it makes no sense to me that Jesus of Nazareth isn’t who He said He was – the Messiah, the Son of the living God. C.S. Lewis’ trilemma – Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or lord – rings true here.

6. Because I can’t help but see the biblical narrative of Creation, Fall, and Redemption echoed in every play, every work of art, every human story, every drama, every movie, and the news I read each day. The Christian story is deeply embedded in the soundtrack of human history and art.

7. Because every time I meet a true follower of Jesus for the first time, I feel like I’ve known him or her all my life.

8. Because Jesus is the most compelling, intriguing, awe-inspiring, and amazing person I know of who is worthy of the greatest admiration, obedience, love, and (uniquely) worship.

9. Because I’ve never seen any religion or philosophy deliver people from a life of carnality and bondage to addictions like Jesus has.

10. Because I have a deep and unshakeable belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is with me and taking care of me . . . and has all of my life. I cannot imagine life without Christ.

11. Because there is no rational explanation for some of the prayers that I (and others I know) have seen answered “in Jesus’ name.”

12. Because I don’t weep easily, but I readily cry whenever I detect the fingerprints of my Lord or behold His handiwork.

Again, these are not “proofs.” Just my testimony.

Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled, “Why I Am Not a Christian” in 1927. His essay inspired this title.

To my Christian readers: What reasons would you add to my list?

To my non-Christian readers: Without using my list as a basis for your answer — my list isn’t meant to convince you; so if you want to create a list, create your own without drawing on my points — why do you not follow Jesus?

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  • Rachel Blaylock

    Don’t know if this is the right place to insert a reply – for me, an excellent writing on the resurrection is Who Moved the Stone? By Frank Morison. The book that refused to be written.

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  • http://Skepticali.blogspot.com Skepticali

    Hi Frank – I don’t follow Jesus because there’s no compelling reason to do so. There’s no evidence of anything supernatural going on in the world, thus no evidence that any deity exists or has interacted with the world, thus no evidence for Yahweh, thus no evidence that Jesus is anything but a really great guy. I see no reason to follow really great guys, let alone try to adhere to the rituals and beliefs of any of the many flavors of Jesus that are marketed.

  • austin

    hi there everyone,
    i’m new to this blog, i’ve been reading some of Frank’s books and lots of comments like the ones on this page.

    i suppose this comment is mainly for the consideration of kelly youngblood, and any of God’s children who wish to consider it?

    dear kelly, your comment provoked me to write this, i thank God for you, and for your comment!

    i write this to give the chance of hope in testimony, to people who have not their own strength to do, do, do.

    when the creator of all things revealed who he is to me and gave me a choice to believe in his way, i was determined to ‘do this faith thing’.
    i failed. thank the Lord our God.
    Jesus strengthened me and began destroying the foundations of my ‘old nature’.
    Jesus also began showing me the way and the place to rebuild a redemed life. in him.
    eight years later (which is now!) i find that i am less able than i ever was to read, read, read and pray, pray, pray!
    yet my experience has been that he has always kept me, and continued faithfully in his work in me – even despite my ‘self’ishness, even despite the lack of the ‘drive’ and ‘commitment’ i once had. he offers this to you…

    this life i live now, is by his faith planted and growing in me.
    he has shown me this, so i have no grounds to boast about it!

    my own faith waivers and fails me, yet the faith that Jesus has given me is strong, and works through or by my daily portion of grace (the power that my heavenly Father supplies to live pleasingly and obediently to Father God).
    Father is able to keep those who are his, even if we decide not to believe ‘all things’.

    this may not be good theology, yet it is my (limited) experience of the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, my Lord and my God.
    grace and peace to all of you, in Christ Jesus,
    austin

  • Frank Viola

    No, you’re not in the ballpark. Give Tim Keller’s book a read. It will challenge many of these assumptions. Here’s the write up for it. It’s a NY Times Bestseller for a reason:

    In this apologia for Christian faith, Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God. Written for skeptics and the believers who love them, the book draws on the author’s encounters as founding pastor of New York’s booming Redeemer Presbyterian Church. One of Keller’s most provocative arguments is that all doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. Drawing on sources as diverse as 19th-century author Robert Louis Stevenson and contemporary New Testament theologian N.T. Wright, Keller attempts to deconstruct everyone he finds in his way, from the evolutionary psychologist Richard Dawkins to popular author Dan Brown. The first, shorter part of the book looks at popular arguments against God’s existence, while the second builds on general arguments for God to culminate in a sharp focus on the redemptive work of God in Christ. Keller’s condensed summaries of arguments for and against theism make the scope of the book overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, it should serve both as testimony to the author’s encyclopedic learning and as a compelling overview of the current debate on faith for those who doubt and for those who want to re-evaluate what they believe, and why. (Feb. 14)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
    From Booklist

    *Starred Review* Keller has just made life harder for preaching atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. For with this tightly reasoned defense of faith, he challenges the evangelists of doubt on their own ground. One by one, the arguments for unbelief fall before Keller’s unrelenting logic. The claim that science has disproved religion comes in for particular scrutiny, as Keller deflects the antireligious syllogism that converts evolutionary theory into an obituary for orthodoxy. Keller even turns the tables on rationalists, adducing compelling evidence for scriptural doctrines, including the physical resurrection of Christ. And although Keller frankly acknowledges that inquisitors have justified atrocities as religious duties, he nonetheless traces the modern concept of human rights back to religious roots and exposes the fragility of such rights when shorn from those roots. We start down the road to Hitler’s death camps and Stalin’s gulag, he warns, whenever we refuse to recognize in fellow humans the divine image of God. But by recognizing that image, Keller affirms, we open sacred possibilities not only for redemption in the hereafter but also for social justice here and now. Readers expecting Keller to deliver the usual pious bromides may experience a profound shock to their spiritual and social complacency. –Bryce Christensen –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

    Link to order: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594483493?tag=reimagchurch-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1594483493&adid=10VNMVFPC886V15ZJ9N1&

    I really would like to hear what you think of this book. So please write me when you’re finished. I may even feature your comments in a blog post.

  • kessy_athena

    Well, after doing a little googling on those titles, most of what I’ve found so far seem to be either arguments along the lines of “Well, these things made sense in the context of the times,” or “But Yahweh did so many other good things.” Am I anywhere near the ballpark?

    First let me say that I simply don’t accept the notion of a book being the “word of god” and honestly I find the concept a little silly. On the one hand that means you’ll get no traction with me by invoking some sort of legalistic textual argument. On the other there’s no reason for you to try to defend every little thing in your book. In the context of talking about the characters of the gods, I really don’t care about the laws and customs of one small Semitic tribe thousands of years ago. I find it extremely improbable that any god had anything to do with the ancient Hebrews’ menu decisions. ;) (j/k)

    I’m far more concerned with actions directly attributed to Yahweh then with what Yahweh’s followers claimed to be doing in his name. For example, if you’re going to take the Flood and Sodom stories as serious, literal, and historical, you’ve got a really steep moral hill to climb. There are circumstances where wiping out cities or committing mass genocide may be the least bad choices available, but those have to be some pretty extraordinary circumstances. For example, you can make a moral argument for the use of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII when you consider that not using them would have very likely meant a conventional invasion of Japan that could have meant tens of millions of more deaths. Not that I’m trying to start a debate about that, I’m just trying to point out just how extreme the circumstances have to be before you can even begin to make a moral argument for such actions.

    As for the notion of of Yahweh’s bad behavior being off set by his good behavior, that doesn’t hold water and you know it. If you go shoot up a movie theater, it doesn’t mater how much money you just contributed to charity, you’re still a murderer. And I’m not an expert, but aren’t extreme swings in behavior sometimes indications of mental illness?

  • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com smidoz

    Well, we do have instances where induction has failed, so perhaps we should abandon it, although I’m not willing to do that.

    I still don’t see your point, which seems to come down to it works because it works, I’m struggling to see how that solves the circular reasoning problem. In short, pretending that there isn’t an issue doesn’t make it go away. I also think you’ve managed to make it a faith thing, we shouldn’t think about it, we should just accept it.

  • Frank Viola

    I’d begin Tim Keller’s NYT Bestseller “The Reason for God.” Then go on to David Lamb’s “God Behaving Badly.” I think you’ll be surprised by the books and it will challenge some deep-seated assumptions.

  • kessy_athena

    1. Well, you’re certainly the one to speak on what’s in your heart, not me.

    2. Depends on the quality of their answers. But I will certainly listen. Linky?

  • Frank Viola

    Thx. for your comment. Two things.

    1. Nope. I’m not a Christian because it fulfills emotional needs for me. My reasons for believing actually have little to do with human emotional needs. If my faith were based on emotions, I’d probably be an atheist.

    2. All of your objections have been answered by theologians and scholars in competent ways. Are you even interested in investigating their responses?

    My brutally honest response. ;-)

  • kessy_athena

    My impression is that the reasons you gave for being a Christian really come down to one thing – it fulfills a deep emotional need for you. That’s a really important thing – we all need to have a place our hearts can be at peace. If this is what you want and this is what makes you happy, then good for you. But you shouldn’t expect that to be a compelling argument for anyone else. We all have different emotional needs and we all find different ways to fulfill those needs. And I would advise everyone, regardless of their religious opinions, that just because you have fond one thing that soothes your soul, do not neglect trying new experiences. Growth and learning are life long endeavors. Just because you have one favorite song that speaks to you like not other that you’ve ever heard, does not mean it’s the only song that will ever speak to you. Keep listening to your favorite, by all means, but don’t listen only to that one song. Broadening your experiences enriches those treasures you already have, it doesn’t detract from them.

    As for why I’m not a Christian – do you really want to know? I’ve never been a christian, so my perspective is that of an outsider. And honestly, what I see from the outside looking in is not very pretty. But it’s not really any of my business. If you’re happy with what you have and aren’t harming anyone else, then it’s not my place to tell you any different. I know that religion is very important to many people, and it’s not my intention or desire to upset people for no purpose.

    If you really want to have a discussion about, I’m happy to explain my views. But be warned – I tend to be brutally honest. If that’s something that would upset you, please stop reading now.

    ————–

    Why don’t I follow Christ? The short answer is that both Yahweh and Jesus strike me as a couple of nasty pieces of work. I really don’t see how there’s a moral distinction between, “Live the way we tell you or our buddy Yahweh will damn you forever,” and “Give me all your money or my pal Vinny here is gonna break your legs.” I don’t respond well to threats in general. And really, what sort of god feels the need to go around threatening humans? Talking about “salvation” automatically implies something to be saved from, and thus reduces to nothing but a threat. And one that’s not terribly credible in my view. Why in the world should I think any god has the power to change the fate of my soul? Making lots of claims that are neither verifiable nor falsifiable is the mark of a con artist, no matter whether you’re talking about a human or a god.

    And look at the mythos. Consider the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Destroying a couple cities because the residents were all guilty of some unspecified sin? What sort of god would do such a thing? People are people, I don’t care if you’re talking about today or thousands of years ago. People are complex, doing both good things and bad things. The notion that entire cities full of people (even if we’re talking about settlements that were closer to largish towns by today’s standards) are all universally guilty of such evil that the entire city should be massacred down to the last child is silly. There are many people guilty of terrible sins in any large city. Does that make it morally acceptable to drop a nuke on New York or someplace to get those guilty people? Should you hold a god to a *lower* moral standard then you’d hold a human to?

    Or how about the story of Abraham and Issac. What sort of god would try to manipulate their follower into murdering that follower’s own son in cold blood just to see if they’ll do it? A test of faith? What virtue is there in being willing to murder innocents simply because you’re following orders? And if Yahweh didn’t intend for the killing to actually happen, why did another god have to intervene to stop this travesty? Yes, yes, I know, it was an angel. If it looks like a god and quacks like a god… The point remains that Yahweh directly told Abraham to commit murder, so why would he need an intermediary to stop it?

    And the whole story of the crucifixion simply does not make sense. How does some crazy preacher from two millennia ago going around and provoking the authorities into executing him have anything to do with the consequences of my actions today? Is there some sort of karmic debt to be balanced? If so, one person spending a few hours on a cross balances out all of humanity being tormented forever in some hell? This math does not add up for me. If it’s not about karma, then could Yahweh just have arbitrarily forgiven humanity its sins but chose not to? What, did he need a little blood sport to get in the forgiving mood?

    There are, of course, plenty of other examples, but I’m sure you get the point. As far as I can see, these are not the actions of a kind and benevolent father figure. They are the actions of a rather nasty demon that feeds on suffering.

  • Frank Viola

    Gordon: You aren’t familiar with the evidence. There are many ancient source attesting the historical Jesus aside from the New Testament, which is also an ancient historical document.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “To my non-Christian readers: … why do you not follow Jesus?”

    One of the reasons I don’t believe Jesus was God is because it’s impossible to make senese of his teachings, as nice as some of them may seem to be. For instance, within the pages of the very same gospel, he contradicted himself (emphasis is mine):

    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” (Mt 10:34-36)

    Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Mt 26:52)

    So on the one hand he says he wants people to fight over him … or at least, he said that he came to earth in order to cause them to do so. But on the other hand, he says that people who fight each other … presumably for any reason, including over him … will perish.

    Note, the above is not my sole reason, nor is it the sole evidence of the confusion among the supposed teachings of Jesus. There are others. Plenty of them. I selected this one as an example, because of its specificity and simplicity.

  • Gordon

    But there is more than one source for Julius Caesar. The comparison would be apt if all we had was the Shakespeare play. Jesus only appears in the Gospels, not in any contemorary accounts. So I’ll keep believing in Julius Caesar and withold belief in Jesus.

  • http://Jaylloyd.locatestaugustinehomes.com Jay lloyd

    I was wondering what you have found as your default belief for the reason for everything as opposed to nothing. Did you become an atheist. My personal thoughts are pretty simple. There is a creation all around me that is very complex. This is creation could not be some random accident so there must a God and he is the one who created all I can see so He certainly would have the ability to communicate with me and you and all of humanity who He is and the thoughts He has toward his creation what you must always remember the decision is yours what will you ultimately decide ? The very fact that you are questioning His existence and activity in our world reveals He is dealing with you Mere Christianity isa great read Jesus does not come into the work until the 8th chapter I believe

  • http://Jaylloyd.locatestaugustinehomes.com Jay lloyd

    Why I am a Christian is a great question and one we who believe should ask ourselves. This actually seems to be part of what Jesus we should when counting the cost. In the end the reason I am a Christian is because God in His grace decided to open my eyes and heart to the reality of who Jesus is and the uncompehendable love offered me on the cross.

  • Sunny Day

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • Sunny Day

    “You have to give an alternative explanation to explain the rise of Christianity without the resurrection to be convincing. ”

    No she doesn’t.
    She doesn’t have to give any explanation for your assertions.
    Instead of shifting the burden to other people, you might want to explain why you find the fantastical and contradictory tales of the resurrection so believable.

    Lets not forget along with the story of Jesus’ resurrection, supposedly a number of saints also rose up and wandered the city for many more people to see than, presumably, the ones who spoke with only Jesus. Odd that no contemporary authors noticed the dead wandering around and making a general nuisance of themselves.

  • Sunny Day

    The same reasons you will use to dismiss my testimony will work on your own testimony.

    – The remainder of this post was removed because it violated the rules of moderation (see rules in the menu) and the conditions that were stated on the question at the end of the post. ~ The Blog Manager

  • Nox

    “Because I’ve never seen the resurrection of Jesus refuted successfully. I’ve investigated all the alternative explanations and find them uncompelling.”

    What are you trying to get the resurrection to explain?

  • blotonthelandscape

    I’ll keep an eye out. Do pop a note on the UF forum when it’s done, I’m sure you’ll get a few more views that way.

  • Rolf Boettger

    I don’t follow Jesus because most of the things he is supposed to have said are non-sensical, against common sense or just plain wrong. If I want to follow Jesus, do I need to leave my family and sell everything I have? When I read “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” I hear him saying that some people who are there will still be alive, physically, when he comes back. That didn’t happen. Also, while there are reports of earthquakes and eclipses from around that time, they didn’t occur together and no one reported an eclipse lasting 3 hours. So I think if I looked around a bit, I could find things in the gospel that could be “refuted.” Like the Quirinius and Herod thing or the fact that no other historian of the time mentions this census that would have displaced thousands because they had to return to their own city. I’ll stop for now. Oh, hang on, no surviving Roman or Greek report about the many holy people who had died that suddenly walked the streets of Jerusalem in broad daylight. And isn’t there a discrepancy between the gospels on the day and the hour of the crucifixion? I really got to stop now.

  • Dorfl

    My answers to the question of why I do not follow Jesus are more or less the same as I would give to the question of why I do not follow Allah or Ukko.

    1. Every argument for God that I’m qualified to judge to quality of, is terrible. I do understand physics and mathematics, if not necessarily much else. That means I am able to see that – for example – the Cosmological argument is built out of several steps that are each intuitive, reasonable and completely wrong.

    2. The arguments I’m not qualified to judge tend to be equally unimpressive to people who are. Historians tend not to accept arguments for a historical messiah, even if they agree that somebody named something like Jeshua probably existed. Mathematicians tend not to accept purely logical arguments for God, sometimes using them as examples of how not to do logic. Biologists completely reject any argument from design.

    3. Even if God existed, serving him would mean serving the one being with least use for service. So if conclusive proof of God’s existence were given to me tomorrow, I don’t see any reason why I should do much more than say “Oh. Cool.” and go on trying to be of use to the rest of society.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    “To my non-Christian readers: Without using my list as a basis for your answer — my list isn’t meant to convince you; so if you want to create a list, create your own without drawing on my points — why do you not follow Jesus?”

    The short answer is that I’m not a Christian, I do not follow Christ, because Christianity doesn’t work for me as a way of looking at my life and/or the world around me. It just doesn’t fit with my experience. I’m not entirely sure that Jesus ever existed as a historical person. And I can’t “choose” to believe in something that makes no sense to me.

    Here’s the long version:
    http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/2011/02/bertrand-russell-redux-or-why-i-am-not.html

  • Frank Viola

    UPDATE TO ALL:

    The Blog Manager – the person who moderates comments — has taken off for Thanksgiving (in the USA). So if you post a comment, it won’t be approved until next week. Note also that this is an old post, so very few of my regular readers are reading the comments.

    I’d encourage you all to read this post and comment — http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/friendships/ — it asks a practical question about friendship and asks readers if atheists and Christians (for example) can be “friends” as so defined. I look forward to hearing your responses to that post. And if you live in the USA, happy Thanksgiving. :-)

    Oh, if you’re new to the blog, be sure to check out the rules for commenting. The Blog Manager doesn’t approve comments that violate these: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/rules

    fv

    Psalm 115:1

  • MountainTiger

    Because any standard of evidence that accepts Christian claims about Jesus also requires me to worship the Divine Augustus.

  • Frank Viola

    Hu? French poets are now reputable historians? Murdock’s work — along with some of these others listed — has been shredded by the work of Ben Witherington, Dale Allison, Richard Hays, and N.T. Wright, just to name a few. To discredit the consensus of historians and believe that the world’s most influential faith is based on a person who never existed strains the bounds of credulity until they break. There is more historical merit to Jesus of Nazareth than to most ancient historical figures, Caesar included. For starters, try Craig Evans’s Life of Jesus Research: An Annotated Bibliography (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989) and Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006); Martin Hengel’s The Charismatic Leader and His Followers (New York: Crossword, 1981) and Studies in Early Christology (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1995); Dale Allison’s The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009); Ben Witherington’s The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1990), and Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1994); Scot McKnight’s Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory (Waco, TX: Bayor University Press, 2005); Craig Keener’s The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009); N. T. Wright’s The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), Who Was Jesus? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), The New Testament and the People of God, vol. 1 of Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1992), and Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2 of Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1996); Darrell Bock and Robert Webb’s Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Explanation of Context and Coherence (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010); Darrell Bock’s Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002); Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy’s Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007); Beverly Roberts Goventa and Richard Hays’s Seeking the Identity of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007); James Beilby and Robert Price’s The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 2009); H. J. Cadbury’s The Peril of Modernizing Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1937); Richard Bauckhman’s Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009); Nicholas Perrin and Richard Hays’s Jesus, Paul, and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright (Downers Grove, ILK: IVP Academia, 2011); John Meier’s A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 2001); Stephen Barton’s The Spirituality of the Gospels (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992); Otto Betz’s What Do We Know About Jesus? (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968); Raymond Brown’s The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels (New York: Doubleday, 1994); G. B. Caird’s Jesus and the Jewish Nation (London: Athlone Press,1965); James D. G. Dunn’s A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry Into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, [[year]]), Evidence for Jesus (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985), and “Faith and the Historical Jesus,” in Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003); Bruce Chilton’s The Temple of Jesus: His Sacrificial Program Within a Cultural History of Sacrifice (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992); Stephen Davis’s Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993); W. R. Farmer’s Jesus and the Gospel: Tradition, Scripture, and Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982); C. F. D. Moule’s The Origin of Christology (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977); E. P. Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) and The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin, 1995); Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1997); Gerd Theissen’s The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987); Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus (First published London: A. and C. Black, 1911); and Luke T. Johnson’s The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996).

    Regarding the reliability of the NT documents, begin with The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
    by F. F. Bruce (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1960); The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988); The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1987); Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006); The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009); Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels by James D. G. Dunn (Grand Rapids, MIL Eerdmans, 2011); Memory, Jesus, and Synoptic Gospels by Robert McIver (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011); Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007); Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Richard Hays; The Case for the Real Jesus:A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007) and The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigaaation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) by Lee Strobel; Gospel Perspectives (6 volumes), eds. R. T. France, David Wenham, Craig Blomberg (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1980–1986). See also The Art of Reading Scripture by Ellen David and Richard Hays (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003); Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, rev. and expanded ed. by N. T. Wright (New York: HarperOne, 2011); The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006); Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture by Paul Achtemeir (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999).

    But yes, all of this *is* besides the point, as my post wasn’t an apologetic piece of work. I stated that up front that it’s not meant to convince. An apologetic piece will be forthcoming . . .

  • RowanVT

    Why I don’t believe in Jesus (anymore):

    1- No prayers answered, not even prayers to be able to really feel Jesus in my heart. I never felt I was doing anything other than talking to myself. (age 4-18)
    2- I read the bible. And I found the deity portrayed therein morally repugnant. A god that takes away free will on a whim so he can visit incredible suffering on an entire people? A god that will kill infants just to show his power? A god that considers it perfectly okay for a man to offer his virgin daughters up for gang rape? A god that, on a bet with the devil, kills a man’s entire family and then promises him a new one as if that makes up for the loss of his children?
    3- Hell. Ties into point #2. I would never send anyone to anything remotely resembling Hell. I am more compassionate than God.
    4- The mythology in The Lord of the Rings was more coherent than anything in the bible.
    5- No objective evidence for the supernatural at all.

  • Benjamin

    No reputable scholar or historian? You mean aside from G.A. Wells, Alvar Ellegård, Robert M. Price, Thomas L. Thompson, D. M. Murdock, Paul-Louis Couchoud, and Arthur Drews? Just to name a few.

    This is all besides the point. There is primary evidence for the existence for Julius Ceasar. There is none for Jesus. The only accounts we have of his existence are second and third hand translations that cribbed liberally from each other and other, presumably lost documents, known forgeries and misattributions, and other unreliable evidence.

    I’m not necessarily arguing that he didn’t exist. But it’s far from the settled matter you claim it to be. And to ignore the very real, very serious scholars who question it, not to mention the entire Jesus Project, leads me to suspect a certain lack of seriousness on your part.

    By the way, hello all. I wandered over from Unreasonable Faith, where I left the second post regarding you. I can cross post here, if you like.

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks for posting your thoughts. As I said to Kodie, next week I plan to share some evidences that I find compelling with respect to Jesus of Nazareth. I hope you’ll subscribe via RSS so you don’t miss it. I’ll be responding to these comments that you, Kodie, and others have put forth. Thx. again.

  • Slow Learner

    With respect, non-religion does not struggle with the problem of evil – if the universe is natural, what is to prevent bad things happening to good people? Only the efforts of other people, and we can neither be everywhere nor do everything.

  • Slow Learner

    Quadrilemma: Lunatic, Liar, Lord, Legend.

    To any non-biased historian, it is hard to suggest that option 4 isn’t involved, possibly quite heavily, and that means there is no requirement on me to show that Jesus was either a lunatic or a liar.

    Christianity never made much sense to me, and the more I read, and the more I experienced of life, the more it became clear that Christians are just people like anyone else, that faith is a vice, and that it is bizarre that belief in it was ever a societal default anywhere in the world.

  • blotonthelandscape

    Hi Frank, saw vorjacks response on UF, thought I’d put mine here. Specifically, these are the (abbreviated) reasons why I’m no longer a christian:
    1. I realised that faith was a substandard methodology for discovering truth and/or justifying belief. If faith leads to true beliefs then it is by chance, not faith itself.

    2. I realised I had no reason to believe beyond my upbringing and submission to the ideas I had been brought up to believe were unquestionably true.

    3. Many of the beliefs from 2 had eroded in my adult life, whilst I was still a christian. These included: Old-earth creationism (I became a disciple of theistic evolution); that evangelical christianity had something that other traditions didn’t (I exposed myself to a wide variety of different christian traditions, including house-church and ecumenical/liberal theology, and briefly flirted with catholicism); the belief that homosexuality was evil (I’m straight, but it took the mistreatment of my uncle at the hands of his brothers and parents to wake me up); the belief that prostitution was evil (no, I’ve never used a prostitute, nor would I as a married man, nor in the current socio-political system); the belief that sex before marriage is evil (I was a virgin on my wedding night, but no longer judged those who took a different path); the belief that christianity wasn’t a religion (specifically, that religion was a meaningful, special concept worthy of adopting, rather than demeaning and framing as ‘relationship’); the belief that the bible gave an accurate account of history, science and morality.

    4. I studied statistics. I learned what the implications of our cognitive limitations are for discovery of truth and belief confirmation, how to properly construct tests for the existence of an object or effect, and how to interpret results. Most importantly I learned that my personal experience could not be trusted, and that I was always committing the cognitive error called confirmation bias when I attributed experiences to the will/work of the Holy Spirit. I also discovered that ‘randomness’ doesn’t look like what we intuitively expect, and that in fact random variables produce regular patterns; statisticians compare data to these patterns, and if they DON’T match the pattern, they conclude that there is an exogenous effect. This is exactly the opposite of what the design argument for God does.

    5. I never heard God’s voice. Sure, I believed God had a plan and purpose for my life, and that He was guiding me somehow, and I’d “felt the Holy Spirit”, but I needed to hear His voice, His direct guidance. I’d almost put my life on hold while I waited for His direct and unambiguous input, not filtered through the mind of another human, but straight to me.

    6. Even in my sincerity and desperation God failed to reveal himself to me. I realised that this was because he either wasn’t there or was disinterested in my belief. Both of these scenarios excluded the christian God as I was raised to believe in Him (and as He’s portrayed in all forms of Christianity I’ve come across).

    After I said my final prayer and made the conscious decision to change my belief into disbelief, my decision has been supported by the following observations:

    7. I studied economics and morality. I understand the dynamics of many of the socially constructive (i.e. moral) behaviours of christianity, but more than that I’ve discovered that christianity as a whole provides a woefully inadequate guide to moral behaviour; there is so much more out there, the subject so much richer and deeper than the platitudes offered by Jesus and his disciples in the bible.

    8. I learned a bit of history. I discovered that the bible was even less reliable a source for any of it’s claims than I’d realised. I learned how it was fabricated, and more importantly, why (machinations by politicians and bishops to control the content of the “authoritative word of God”). I learned that there were many similar religions and cults around in Palestine and Rome at the time of the formation of Christianity, that christianity was just the survivor, and had taken great pains to erase competitors from history.

    9. I learned more about evolution, and how there was no reason to believe it was guided by an intelligence (it’s guided by the environment, often to its own doom). Indeed, the universe itself seems perfectly capable of existing as it does (and in many other ways besides) without an exogenous actor causing it.

    10. I’m content. As a christian I was also generally content with life, but was afraid to share my faith with others because it was so intensely personal that I didn’t think anyone else would “get it”. As an atheist I feel proud and strong in my beliefs, and am happy to discuss them in depth, or refer to experts where available. My mind is open and free; nothing is out of bounds, and my only limit is that which is good for me (which, by the way, includes being a morally good, socially aware person who acts in the interests of his local and global communities).

    I reflected on my christian influences, especially CS Lewis, and saw them for the faulty thinkers they are.

    That’s a brief summary I think; it’s certainly not complete. I’d like to respond to your statements as well, but will save it for another post.

  • Kodie

    Argumentum ad populum; I don’t know why poodle skirts caught on either, but I also wasn’t alive then. I’ll see you in the next post. Sorry this is an older post as it was linked at UF this morning.

  • Kodie

    I just happened to see this come up in another post on UF while perusing older posts – fictional character was the fourth option.

    But no, I don’t think it’s arrogant to suggest a preacher or rabbi as Jesus is purported to be was a lunatic or a liar, but why stop there? You’re calling me arrogant but you wouldn’t call Jesus arrogant? What’s the difference? I didn’t die for your sins?

    He didn’t live or die for your sins either. From another angle, let’s say there is a Jesus, the magical lord you believe in. That makes me also Jesus. I might be misunderstanding, but whether I choose to believe in him or not, he exists inside me and is me, and he’s you too. I may be arrogant to deny him, but you’re arrogant to deny he is me.

    You’re making your guests feel like sitting ducks also. Have I investigated them directly? OH MY NO, never, not at all. I just woke up one day and decided to think there’s no god while he appeared in a pancake. Did I come here to be treated like an idiot because I’m not a Christian yet? The poster I was responding to is using Christ to warn someone from being gay, and you’re calling me arrogant?

  • Frank Viola

    Kodie: Your logic doesn’t follow. Saying that “it just can’t happen” begs the question. You have to give an alternative explanation to explain the rise of Christianity without the resurrection to be convincing. Next week, I will be posting some of the evidences for Jesus’ claim and His resurrection. This is an old post that you’re replying to so very few people will read the comments. I suggest you subscribe to the blog via RSS so you don’t miss the upcoming post. I want you to read it and hear your reactions. Thanks and have a great day.

  • Kodie

    Whatever has convinced you I don’t find to be at all convincing. Resurrection is impossible, period. If you believe in magic, I guess it’s possible, but magic is impossible too. I’m not confused by too much evidence that I’m just stubborn or something, it’s just that I find arguments that start with the premise that resurrection happened are dead reckoning and just try to rationalize something. I’m saying you don’t believe it either, in the sense that if I told you I’m resurrecting right now, you’d call bs, right? You say, how can that happen? because you don’t believe me. You have strong doubts that I am supernaturally accomplishing something, and you find it impossible to believe.

    I don’t want to step out of bounds, not being a Christian, but I’m supposing every Christian regards the resurrection as a “miracle”. That is, unlike ordinary things that happen on earth in every day life. So your brain says something like “WOWEE!” or “I’m going to need more information before I go with this bs story.” I know how rumors spread, and I know how deep convictions feel, and that’s all I really need to know to assess all the “evidence” I’ve ever heard to explain how this impossible event supposedly happened.

  • Kodie

    Points 1 and 2 above, I proceed with my list:

    3. I don’t find a single argument for Jesus’s resurrection or god’s existence convincing, explanatory or comforting. I also find the illusions described by Christians to be illusions and not evidence. For something that’s supposed to be obvious if you’re looking/listening “correctly”, people are really bad at explaining the part where how they feel this “something” is the thing they describe. I’m insulted by remarks to the effect that I’m willfully ignoring that “something” is true just because I feel that way too sometimes but fail to ascribe that feeling to their deity. It’s a complicated superstition.

    4. In the bible, Jesus has some good advice, but I don’t think that makes him real or a savior. I can separate wisdom to live by from the idea that proves anything else about a guy in a book, or that receiving this advice means I’m also indebted to the author or teacher of this advice for his enlightened guidance. Furthermore, those ideas are not original to Jesus.
    4b. I observe that the best things Jesus said (if you’re going to isolate these ideas by choice to one person) are often Christians’ lowest priorities. Y’all are getting the warm fuzzy confirmations off of being inspired by but failing to behave as per his suggestions.

    5. Statistics can explain a lot that is often ascribed to miracles. Miracles are parlor tricks. People describe an incident exactly the same way if no people died; if only one person died; if only a few people died; if almost everybody died, as a “miracle”. I assume you also buy insurance based on actuarial tables. I don’t believe I have been spared or saved or marked for any purpose from outside of myself, and I do believe that I’ll live as long as I live, and things that can happen may happen to me. There is a 100% chance of something happening. Statistically, I’m lined up for heart disease almost definitely, but maybe a piano will fall on me before then, or I’ll buy grapes and a black widow spider will bite me. I don’t know yet.
    Example:
    .00004% of people X = 2800 people X (based on a round 7 billion). You have a pretty great chance (.99996%) of not being in that elite group but around 2800 people necessarily will be, and you’re a person, right? It’s not what I would call mundane or unimpressive, but “miracle” is an overcompensation. Miracles are things that would otherwise not happen at all without supernatural intervention, not things that can happen to somebody.

    6. Speaking of miracles – myopia. When a deity lends a grand gesture to some wretch like you but not all the other wretches far worse off than you, I don’t understand how that’s supposed to make me feel good. Jesus in the matchmaking business, Jesus in the jobhunting business, Jesus in the give me the strength to be a good enough parent business, etc. What about Jesus in the medicine and clean drinking water and enough food to eat business? Modern Western culture praising Jesus for fortunes we’re incapable of acquiring without superpower assistance? That just makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

    7. I’m a good person; few people will admit they’re not very good, although Christians love to admit this in context of being worthy of Jesus’s love. My opinion of you doesn’t matter to you as much, and I realize that. We’re interdependent social creatures and we’re all we got. Why I don’t believe in Jesus is not as important as what that implies. To many Christians, this leads to hedonism and violence and that’s simply not true, and bringing up villains is simple and anecdotal. If you think deep inside you without Jesus you’re going to turn into a gay Stalin, then you’re already a gay Stalin. (To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being gay, but Christians may fear it, so I used it in my example). We’re all in this together – that’s a powerful thing to realize, and believing in god doesn’t change the fact, although it might alter the behavior. If “winning souls” is the primary motivation in life, then count me out. I understand it’s out of a sense of “love” that Christians feel the desire to help others get right with god – if keeping everyone I know from ending up in hell is why I want to help them stop being gay, that’s a fairy tale. That’s not a real reason to intrude on them. I do not find comfort or inspiration in the hereafter, and I do not think using it as an excuse to change people you don’t like on earth to be especially helpful. The advice I remarked about in point #4 is a true life change of attitude – to stop being petty or angry, to be charitable or generous; to change from within and be sincerely less angry and more generous, which is possible without Christ. Being a Christian would take credit away from people for being as wonderful as they are. Believing all this is for that instead of for each other down here where we live now is, at it’s worst, tragic and ugly. At it’s best, I know it’s well-intentioned, but misguided by magical hopes and fantasies. I am conflicted by the contradiction between Jesus loving everyone and people using that love to hate people for their own good. Don’t meddle. Ultimately, that’s why I don’t have Jesus. I don’t need Jesus.

  • Frank Viola

    “Impossible” assertions. Really? That’s not an arrogant remark? You’ve obviously never read N.T. Wright’s massive book on the Resurrection of Jesus. It’s yet to be refuted. Enlightenment arrogance is pretty unconvincing in our time. :-)

    also: There are some Christians who take take a “believe no matter what” posture. But many believe because of the overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, which has never been discounted, though failed attempts have been made. And there are are atheists who also take a “believe no matter what – don’t confuse me with the evidence” posture as well. So it works both ways. It would be presumptuous to presume that *all* Christians and atheists fit that description. I hope you’re not in the latter category.

  • Kodie

    2. I think this sort of thing sums it up for me. Working through doubt in a premise that doesn’t line up with reality with the intention of deepening one’s conviction in it does seem like a very hard thing. So I don’t do it. Christianity has a few given impossible or incredible assertions, and an abundance of literature meant to suppress your sensibility and talk you into believing it’s true anyway.
    2a. Christianity also builds upon myths and aspersions about atheism such that one doesn’t wish to break free of it out of fear. Given that anxiety, one would be compelled naturally to find any way possible to believe doubtful things until they reconcile to one’s satisfaction. It’s on this basis that I observe the habits and arguments of Christians as an outsider – without burdening myself with whether what Christians believe is true or not, up to this point – how Christians maintain belief in the interest of ‘belief no matter what’ is curious to see.

  • Frank Viola

    You do realize that you yourself believe many things without proof. We believe things based on evidence. And there is a great deal of evidence to support Jesus’ claims. Have you investigated them directly? Arrogance works both ways, doesn’t it? While you may claim it’s arrogant to say Jesus is who He said He was . . . it’s just as arrogant to say that He was a liar or a lunatic, no?

  • Kodie

    1. I don’t believe in Christ because it clouds people’s judgment. Giving belief without proof as a premise can lead one to poor conclusions of no merit or purpose and in many cases antithetical to what I know about love, while at the same time posturing to be superior regarding love but is merely arrogant. Defense of such arrogance within the context of belief is neither helpful nor loving.

  • Frank Viola

    Gordon. I hope you realize that to deny that Jesus existed is to deny the existence of Julius Caesar and many other ancient figures. No reputable scholar or historian denies that Jesus of Nazareth existed. The question is, who was He exactly?

  • Gordon

    I don’t believe there really was a Jesus. There might have been, but I have no reason to suspect there was.

    I don’t find the teachings of Christianity to be moral or meaningful. I find the opposite actually. Walking away from Christianity felt like the most meaningful thing I had ever done.

    I cared whether my beliefs were true and I realised that they were not.

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  • Frank Viola

    That logic doesn’t exactly follow and is built on some unfalsifiable assumptions, but you’re entitled to your own opinion. ;-)

  • lightgiver

    If you can not find meaning to life outside of Jesus then of course you will not find any evidence against him compelling. Of course you can not live without him even if you try. I have yet to find someone who found meaning outside of Jesus and made their own set of morals ever convert back.

  • Frank Viola

    You are more than welcome. I appreciate your contribution and encourage you to invite your friends to participate also. You may also find some blog posts on here that you like. While I’m a serious Christian, I’m often regarded as being atypical.

  • Diane

    The problem of evil is one that plagues religion and non-religion alike. But I’ve found a spirituality that doesn’t leave me struggling with the same problem as Christianity. On the contrary, when I’m no longer trying to reconcile an omnipotent, inactive, loving God, I’m not longer plagued by the cognitive dissonance. I believe that the Divine’s power is limited. When humans stop looking to someone else to rectify all of their problems, I believe they will discover they have always had the power to save themselves. Perhaps to others it feels less hopeful than believing in a God who has the power to do anything he wants, but to me it’s much more hopeless to believe in that god and realize that he isn’t going to do anything.

    With regard to the logical fallacies, I’m not looking for answers. I researched those back before I left Christianity. Here I am merely providing my perspective in response to the invitation from the blogger. I respect those who find fulfillment in Christianity. I just do not find Christianity either effective or believable for myself. As someone who has been trained in conducting experiments, I disagree that the scientific method relies on circular reasoning. I’m sure that some scientists have abused science to try to justify a circular belief, but for those who are not hung up on verifying their preconceived notions, the scientific method can be a great tool in avoiding logical fallacies.

  • Diane

    I really appreciate your attempt to include non-Christians in your discussions. I think diverse dialogue is really important and that hearing multiple perspectives is valuable. However, I think it would be wise (if you truly want to build up a non-Christian readership along with the Christian readership) to avoid turning the non-christian responses into invitations to try to convert. I myself, while excited initially at discussing the various reasons why someone would or would not be a Christian, have been put off by the assumption that I need to be changed because my response was non-Christian. If Christian commenters cannot respect the place of those who have wrestled with and decided to reject or leave Christianity, not many non-Christians are going to want to express their side of things.

  • Diane

    Well, I’ve appreciated the amusing conversation which, I might point out, still has nothing to do with a child being molested by an adult. But like I said, I didn’t come here to be converted. You’re wasting your time. And if I took the time to disprove and debunk all of your conclusions which you have drawn from limited information on the topic, I know that you’re not likely to change your mind either–which would be a waste of my time. So I wish you well in your journey and take my leave.

  • Matti

    “Of course we know induction is useful because we have a finite set of data that it seems to work, we extrapolate that out, so we accept induction only by induction.”

    Or if you don’t have a burning need for justifying a-priori you can simply accept induction (and more broadly empiricism and science) by the fact that they seem to consistently produce results that work (much unlike any “other way of knowing”). In the surprising case that they suddenly stop doing that, you’re well within your intellectual rights to throw them out the window.

  • Steve

    Why I am a Christian:
    Reason 1: Because it is true.
    Reason 2: See Reason 1.

  • Brian P.

    I remember once being a Christian.
    Alas.

  • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com smidoz

    Diane

    I’ve read through the discussion, respect both the fact that you’re happy, and appreciate the points you’ve made.

    The problem of evil is a problem for any religion, so unless you’re an atheist, finding spirituality somewhere else is just as problematic. If you have found a religion that actually really teaches moral relativism (I’ve heard some arguments, but they only result in contradicting some tenets of the religions in question) then leaving Christianity doesn’t solve the problem. By moral relativism, I mean what you referred to in saying that you could argue that morality is completely subjective, perhaps you could, I’ve just never heard a half good argument for it. Of course if this is the case, then there is no evil, since if a culture condones child abuse, it isn’t wrong for the members of that culture, and thus not actually objcetively wrong at all, then there would be no evil, & thus no problem. This is a good way to simply avoid an obvious problem, but again, I’ve never heard a good argument for it. That said, I find moral arguments for God’s existence very uncompelling.

    As for logical fallacies, they can’t be answered if you aren’t explicit about exactly what fallacies are being violated, and where, so I’ll look at what you did point out. Circular reasoning doesn’t mean you’re wrong, just that if you’re right it’s by accident, so it’s generally accepted that as part of a larger set of premises that converge on a certain conclusion, it’s acceptable to add, which is what Frank did. Science is a circular argument incedentally, and I wouldn’t advocate throwing that out, would you? Science is based on extrapolating from a finite set of data to an infinite set of possibilities, inductition. Of course we know induction is useful because we have a finite set of data that it seems to work, we extrapolate that out, so we accept induction only by induction. I also very much doubt that anyworldview can be supported without some kind of circular reasoning, at some point.

    Expandng on the earlier points, if there is indeed good, then the possibility of absence is there, so there is evil. If God intervened to remove the consequences of violation of moral laws, then we would never be able to make inductive leaps about what is right and wrong, we could nver objectively analyse it. In cases of violent crimes, we can, violent crimes have profound effects on society; the victims and, in many case, the psyci of the perpetrators too. As an analogy (which isn’t perfect) if God suddenly suspended the laws of gravity in randomly chosen situations, we’d end up as gravitational relativists, and be uncertain of gravitiy as a natural law. We don’t know why God would allow evil, we can only guess, but I don’t think there’s a logical link between saying evil exists, therefore God does not. (By “God,” I’m referring specifically to the Judeo-Christian God.)

    I also left the belief I grew up in, and my return to Christianity (albeit a very different brand) was probablyas emotionally taxing as leaving, so I empathise with the fact that it may well have been easier for you not to move. That said, I did find my return intellectually fulfilling.

  • Tom Hanig

    Diane, God made you and he made you a woman. When somebody gets a computer or another machine, often times it comes with an instruction manual, which tells the user how to use the machine and under what circumstances, for example what are its electrical requirements. It also comes with a list of warnings of how NOT to use the machine. For example, you must not get most electrically powered machines wet or they will cease to function and may even harm the user. This is only an analogy to explain God’s teachings as they relate to human beings. God tells of how we are to live and that we must not misuse ourselves or other people in the bible. And that if a person misuses himself or others there will be bad consequences for which God, our creator, is not responsible. A person can harm himself by having sex with a person of the same sex. The proof of this is obvious: homosexual men suffer far more than the general population from STD’s . My source of this information is the US government’s Center for Disease Control. They are accessible online and have analysed an enormous amount of data on AIDS and other STD’s and have found that a very high percentage of MSM( men having sex with men) have the HIV virus which leads to AIDS. A very telling statistic (you can look this up on their site) is that the average life span for MSM is about 42 years. They and other reliable sources atribute the disease rate to the unnatural practice of these men having anal sex. The anus is not made for sex as is the female vagina. And the result is high rates of infection of all kinds of STD’s as well as severe bowel problems in homosexual men, and abnormal loss of bowel control, bleeding etc. God, in the bible, esp. ch. 1 of Romans vs. 26-28, tells us that there are consequences to men lusting after men and doing that which is “unseemly.” So our Creator is telling us that if we mistreat ourlselves and other people by disobeying Him, there will be harm to the offenders. You say that you are insulted by a insinuation that lgbt’s are invovled in sexual abuse, but the figures don’t lie: homosexuals are sexually abusing themselves and their partners, “receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet..(Romans 1.27). And some of the consequences of that sexual abuse are STD’s, early death, confusion, depression, etc.- all of which has been amply documented by medical studies. Whether you accept that or not, there are negative consequences for misusing yourself, as your Creator has told you in the bible. So, I suggest that you and other homosexuals turn towards your Creator and ask for forgiveness of your sins and that he will not only repair your STD ravaged bodies, but change and renew your heart. I’m just telling you the truth as God has shown everyone. And telling someone the truth is not hatred, but may save you for eternity.

  • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

    I like what you did with your essay. It did not assume or try to prove too much. I believe the best we can work toward with an apologetic is provide good reasons, which stop short of proofs. This does not satisfy many Evangelicals who decry the Enlightenment and Rationalism on the one hand, and then draw upon a rationalist apologetic and its alleged certitude when trying to persuade non-believers. A good does of epistemic humility is in order here in my view. Related to this, have folks seen my latest essay on Patheos on apologetics? http://www.patheos.com//Evangelical/Fresh-Agenda-John-Morehead-11-13-2012.html

  • Amory Ewerdt

    Because his story transcends cultural and linguistic differences creating unity in our diversity.

  • Diane

    “ultimately I do not think there is an “answer” in the sense of a rational explanation that fully reconciles God’s character, power, and suffering.”

    I agree. I guess the difference between you and me is that I feel that remaining a Christian would require me to punt logic and would lead to little more than blind obeisance to tradition. That’s just not compelling enough to keep me in that religion. Your resurrection argument actually reminds me of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:12. But it is not a proof or really even an argument. It’s an appeal to emotion. I could just as easily argue that if my teachings on aliens creating the earth are not true, then my followers’ hope is in vain. Yes, Christianity provides a form of hope to its followers. As a worldview, that’s its job. But other worldviews provide hope in different ways. I can respect your choice to adopt the Christian hope as your own, but there is no valid reason for me to do so because I do not find hope in the Christian God. In fact, I find that god quite hopeless.

    I’m always happy to add books to my ever-growing queue to read, but I find it interesting that explaining the Bible necessitates so many other men’s explanations of its inconsistencies.

  • Diane

    I appreciate the kindness in your post. I think you’ve got a few flaws in your argument though.

    With regard to your last question, God is not necessarily confined to Christianity. It’s not as simple as do I want God’s love or not. It’s much more complex. Wanting God’s love doesn’t mean that Christianity represents either God or love. I can reject Christianity’s definition of God without rejecting the existence of a Divine. Or I can desire God’s love without God even existing. In order to be faced with the choice you are presenting, I first have to start from your starting point—the idea that the God represented in Christianity or in the Bible is 1) the only possible God and 2) loving.

    Along the same lines, the existence of morality isn’t proof of God any more than the changing of the seasons proof of fairies. Morality’s existence cannot prove the existence of anything else. Its source isn’t self-evident. I can just as easily argue that morality is an evolutionary survival mechanism or that it stems from Allah, Shiva, or Buddha. I can even argue that morality is entirely subjective and changes across cultures and times—that it is merely a social construct that humans have created in a similar way that they created the concept of time, mathematics, and gender. In order to see morality as proof of God, I have to first believe that morality stems from God. But there’s a really big problem with that assumption, outside of the circular reasoning, considering that much of the OT laws contradict what we today would consider moral (such as stoning rebellious children or rape victims who didn’t cry out, forcing women of conquered peoples to marry and have sex with their conquerors against their will, or mass genocide of nations including children and animals—all ordained by God.)

    I will tentatively agree with you in saying that belief in God does largely come down to deciding what kind of God (if any) I want to believe in. Ultimately, God’s existence or non-existence cannot be proven. But as I pointed out, believing a god exists doesn’t automatically mean Christianity is right. There’s nothing inherent in Christianity that makes it more believable than other religions, and I’ve discovered a greater spirituality outside of Christianity than I ever did in it.

  • Diane

    Sorry, no that doesn’t help. I’m actually not looking for help. I’m happy where I am spiritually, far far outside of Christianity. I didn’t come on here to be converted; I came on because the author invited non-Christians to explain why they aren’t Christians. Which I did. As a bisexual, I find it incredibly insulting that you insinuate that being lgbt has anything to do with sexual abuse. I do not have any desire to harm either adults or children. In fact, that highest percentage of sexual abusers are straight men.

  • Diane

    If exploring your questions has allowed you to remain in your faith, I respect that. But I’m certainly not looking for easy answers. I think I’m actually taking the harder, less comfortable road by daring to leave my religion and build my faith outside of the accepted doctrine. To break away from your worldview is, to me, even more terrifying than trying to live with the doubts created by that worldview and the complications that surround it. But I’d rather face the terror and discover a world view that works for me than cling to the comfort of the known and live with the cognitive dissonance.

  • Frank Viola

    Thx. for sharing. I appreciate you weighing-in. And with a good attitude. When I have more time, I want to follow up with some questions as I find your remarks to be interesting. So I hope you’ll check back tomorrow.

  • Kyle

    I used to be a Christian let me explain a few reasons why I am no longer:

    The more I studied the bible the more questions arose as to its moral ambiguity. Is the Old Testament valid or invalid? According to Jesus it is still valid meaning things we consider morally reprehensible now are biblically grey areas at best.

    I believe IF there is a god (I’m open to the idea but just don’t think he/she/it is one of the 3k+ that have been written about) I believe said god would have “created” us all equally and the bible clearly states that is not the case (Jews as chosen people, women can’t speak with authority in the church)

    That being said if belief in your deity makes you a better person and keeps you from committing crimes against your fellow man, then please keep believing in your deity. For me letting go letting go of preconceived ideas of people I have never met (gays, people of other faiths or no faith) and allowing each person to be themselves has made me a better person.

    I hope this doesn’t come off as an attack
    Cheers
    -Kyle

  • Tom Hanig

    Dianne, to the point, God put people in charge of the world, the child should have Christians , the body of Christ to advocate and protect him/her, and family members to get the child out of danger because God made US to be responsible for our children. God mandated laws to protect people from lawless people, but today we have the spectacle of the president and other wicked men and women advocating for not only homosexuality and other behaviors forbidden by his commandments, but even forcing schools in Europe and the US to TEACH homosexuality to children, to confuse them and make them an easy prey for perverts like Kevin Jennings, the safe-school czar(which was like appointing the fox to guard the chickens). In short, God gives each person a built in conscience to guide him, along with families to nurture and protect children, and governments to have and enforce laws likewise to protect children, but if no adult is willing to take care of their children, which is their unique responsibility, and governments try to do away with just laws protecting children, and Christians don’t take up their charge from Christ of bringing children up “in fear and nurture of the Lord,” then the sin of child abuse becomes rampant. You see Dianne, God made people responsible for children. I hope that helps.GB Tom Hanig

  • Joyce

    Because of 1, 2, 10, and He is my Safety, my safe place, my Surety.

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  • http://rwtyer.blogspot.com Rory Tyer

    Diane – Since you obviously have a well-formed point of view on this and took the time to comment about it, I assume that you’ve heard most of the things that someone could possibly say at this point, and aren’t necessarily looking for an opportunity to change your mind. So what I basically want to do is affirm that I, at least, continue to be an eyes-wide-open, intelligent, sometimes cynical but still hopeful and faith-abiding follower of Christ and participant in the church while also being very aware of many of the things you mentioned. This is such an interesting phenomenon to me – that two people could see much of the same evidence and yet think differently.

    Additionally, here are some more specific thoughts. You mentioned what might be summarized as the problem of evil. This is a very emotional and difficult issue for me, and ultimately I do not think there is an “answer” in the sense of a rational explanation that fully reconciles God’s character, power, and suffering. But I am convinced that the resurrection happened – as Frank mentioned, but as you seem to downplay, scholarship on the reliability of the Gospels has never been as robust or exhaustive as it currently is – and if the resurrection happened then there is a reason for hope despite the immense weight of suffering and evil. William Rowe, a philosopher of religion who defended various arguments from evil against God’s existence for most of his career, nevertheless considered himself a “friendly atheist” because he conceded that a theist might have evidence that justifies theism despite his arguments; he just never found such evidence. I submit that the resurrection, being part of the Gospel narratives and thus NT (and, thus, the whole sweep of Scripture) is such evidence – not the only evidence, but such that convinces me and positions my evaluation of other evidences. Also, I love the book “The Doors of the Sea” by David Bentley Hart. Many Christians simply do not speak well of God’s involvement in instances of suffering and evil – you reference some rather terrible justifications, and I probably agree with your criticisms of those things – but Hart speaks well of it, and is good at speaking in terms of what ought not be said (rather than trying to exhaustively describe something).

    What I have found, in my own journey, is that it is never true to say that “Christianity” causes wars; or that “Christianity” claims things that it cannot deliver. Religious systems do not work that way; they are populated by people who do and say things that may or may not actually reflect that system at its best. And with Christianity the analysis is further complicated by our unique teaching of grace and its unique focus on the person of Jesus and the specific consequences of his life, death, and resurrection. This is really a unique focus; it is disingenuous at best to suggest that other religious systems with dying and rising god stories have anything to do with Christianity – that argument has been competently dealt with by many.

    All I would suggest, moving forward, is to keep your ears open to those whose life and work adequately represents Christianity at its best, and the person and work of Christ at their fullest. I am thinking, esp. with regard to the NT, of people like Wright, Keener, Allison, Hays, and Hurtado.

  • http://jesusinthecoffeehouse.wordpress.com Heather

    Hi there, Diane. I can hear a lot of anger in what you’re writing, and some of what you’ve said leads me to wonder if you’ve had personal experience of the church that has hurt you in some way? If so I feel sad, as I’m sure nothing grieves the heart of God more than those who do evil in His name. I know that would do nothing to change your mind or anything, but I’ll say it nonetheless.
    To fully answer all the points you’ve made would take a library of books. So I’m going to try and keep it simple, aware that I’m not going to do much justice so all of the points.
    I thinks some of your responses to the free will defence presumes knowledge that we don’t have. For example, does God intervene every day to stop terrible things, that we’re totally unaware of? Would it even be possible to have a world where evil could be stopped every time, and still have free choice? Was it a choice between never creating the world at all, and having this one in which people do choose to do evil? We don’t know the answer to those questions, and perhaps never will. I guess all I can say is that as I’ve got to know God more, I trust that he is truly loving and makes the best decisions even if I can’t understand them.
    I would point out that our disgust at evil like child molestation points to one of the arguments for God. If there is good and evil, where does it come from and why? There are big philosophical problems with the concept of an objective morality without the existence of God. And I would say, if we feel disgust about it – I can’t imagine how much more anger God feels. The passages in the Bible that talk about God’s anger are usually used in an argument against Him. But I see it as – this is how God feels about evil and suffering in the world. He looks at children being abused and killed and all the wilful wrong that is done, and he is angry. If he was a purely loving God, he couldn’t be anything BUT angry at the terrible things that go on. However he has offered people a path away from doing evil, to freedom. But it’s still people’s choice if they take it or not.
    And I know a number of people who have found true healing from the dreadful harm done to them as a child, through a relationship with Jesus. I interviewed someone recently who had been abused and pimped out by her father, and suffered terrible, terrible things. She would tell you how much joy and healing she has found through her relationship with God. In fact she might even write on here if I ask her. I have heard similar stories many times.
    Finally, re the logical fallacies. I know there are a lot of poor Christian apologists around. But I find it interesting that in the debates I’ve seen between a guy called William Lane Craig and atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens – they completely ignore his logical arguments and start throwing red herrings in there. They can’t seem to fight his logic.
    I do suspect though, that although there are loads of reasonable approaches to Christian faith, (and there are loads of reasonable approaches to atheism) that ultimately it boils down to a choice of whether you want God in your life or not. On the basis of that decision, we adjust our logical reasoning. Experiments in psychology have demonstrated that we’re not really purely computational reasoning machines – there is a lot of bias in there. So it comes down to a choice: do we want the love of God in our life, or not?

  • http://aparchedsoul.com Grayson Pope

    -Because there are innate morals amongst peoples all over the world, even those who have never been exposed to the Gospel.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com Kelly J Youngblood

    Diane,
    As a Christian, I actually relate to a lot of what you say. I have questions, doubts, concerns, and things that bother me–if I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be fully engaging w/ faith, life. Yet…instead of turning away, even when I was at my lowest point, I fought through it and read, read, read, and prayed, prayed, prayed. I certainly don’t have all the answers to your questions, but I do know from my own experience that there *are* answers out there, even if there’s a lot of information to wade through to get to it. I think a lot of times Christians expect easy answers or faith to be an easy thing, and then that is what they express to others. That has not been the case for me.

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks for commenting, Bob. I shall be in touch.

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks for the comment. Let’s see if any of my Christian readers will take the time to reply to you. I hope they do. Though I’m new to Patheos.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    Frank:

    Thanks for laying out your position. I realize that this isn’t intended to be an argument, so no complaints about this post, but I’ve seen the arguments behind many of these statements, and I find them very uncompelling. Not surprising–I’m an atheist. But if you’d like to get into it in more depth, perhaps with blog posts that go back and forth on an issue (I’m a fellow Patheos blogger and also fairly new), let me know.

    Bob Seidensticker
    Cross Examined blog

  • Diane

    In response to number 9, I’d say that you’re too insulated and are perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I am not a Christian because I cannot find a legitimate reason why God would answer a prayer to find keys but not intervene for the child who is begging to be protected from a molester. God should not be morally exempt from intervening to protect an innocent and helpless being. And a God that chooses to sit on his hands while a child is being raped because he doesn’t want to “interfere” with the free will of the rapist isn’t even worth the contempt I could waste on him. In fact, the justification used for how God treats his followers looks remarkably similar to the battered woman syndrome and codependent enablers.

    I find the reasons to refute any doubts or contradictions pointed out are hack jobs that rely on false dichotomies, circular reasoning, and various other logical fallacies.

    I’ve had greater spiritual experiences outside of the church than I ever did within it.

    I find the canon’s legitimacy doubtful and a convenient tool to serve the patriarchal, hierarchal powers that “verified” its inspiration.

    I got tired of Christianity claiming to do something that it never does and am disgusted with the way that it has caused vasts amount of harm over the years (genocides, wars, witch hunts, spiritual abuse of followers).

    I’ve discovered, to my immense amusement, earlier stories in other religions of dying gods who rose from the dead . . . even one that includes a virgin birth and basically all the major points of the Jesus story.

    I’ve found that “love your neighbor” is pretty much a universal across all religions and is hardly unique to Christianity.

    I’ve discovered that people outside of Christianity tend to have better moral compasses than those who claim to be Christians (see first comment), which leaves me wondering wtf the Holy Spirit is doing to these “transformed” believers.

  • http://www.missionchurch.name Manny

    As David said where can I hide from God…Jesus is truly amazing grace!
    …In spite of myself/ourselves/themselves, He is there for me, us & them.
    Because in the midst of the ugliness in the world, there is so much beauty and life.

  • Catherine Collie

    Good reasons. I find that there is a mystery in being a Christian.

    In the fact that I am being changed from what i used to be to what God is creating me to be.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com Kelly J Youngblood

    There was a time when I had many doubts and was questioning everything (I sat at my kitchen table one day, in tears, and said to my husband “what if everything I have ever believed is wrong?”). During this time, even when I didn’t know what I was supposed to believe anymore, the only thing I could really grasp onto in the tiniest of ways, was that I knew, somehow, if Jesus was *not* in my life, I’d be missing something important. Although at the time it was such a low point, I felt as if it ended up making my faith stronger in the long run if I had not gone through that.

  • http://www.jessicamccracken.com Jessica McCracken

    #2 and #6 resonate with me SO much. I have so many doubts and questions and even fears but the Story is what keeps me. I can’t get away from it.

  • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com smidoz

    4 and 5 hinge on 3, and I would imagine an critics list would include the opposite of 3, that they have never seen the gospels successfully defended. Of course, I’ve never seen Manetho’s kings list satisfactorily defended either, but that doesn’t stop mainstream acceptance of them.

  • http://identifiedcatholic.blogspot.com Thomas

    - Because when I took a step of faith and opened my heart to Jesus I had an experience of being filled with a love greater than any I had ever known.
    - Because people are able to love others more than their own self: this love that is greater than any person exists outside of the human person.
    -Because my life clearly demonstrates to me that it has been guided by someone wiser than myself who cares for me.
    -Because I have seen the lame walk and the blind see.
    -Because I know in my heart that while the world is a wonderful place, we were meant for more for heaven, and that’s why nothing is ever good enough.


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