Personal Evangelism and Focus on the Family

A little while back, a Christian named Matt sent me a Bible he thought I would enjoy. He wrote, “As a Christian it bothers me so much to hear how stupid Christians are. It’s all a numbers game and it’s just all about how many people you ‘share Christ’ with. And to all of them, that just means trying to convince people why Christianity is right.” The Bible he sent was a Holman New Testament (Personal Evangelism Edition)! Matt said to check out the back of this Bible… so I went there and I saw notes on how to share this Bible with others– how to “save” them. Allow me to share some of what irritated Matt … verbatim.

Don’t let these instructions intimidate you. They are simple to follow. Get your pen, a colorful highlighter, and mark your sharing Bible/New Testament as follows:

  1. In the front of your Bible, write the page number ** of Romans 3:23.
  2. Highlight Romans 3:23
  3. Write the page number ** of Romans 6:23 in the top margin. Since I usually sit across from the person with whom I am sharing, I turn the Bible around to face him. In this same manner, with the Bible facing away from you, write the notes in the top margin (now the margin nearest you). This way, while your friend reads the Scripture aloud, you can read your “upside-down” notes.

    [Hemant's note: Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."]

  4. Highlight Romans 6:23 and write the page number ** of John 3:3 in the margin.*
  5. Circle the word sin.
  6. Underline the word death.
  7. Write the word hell over the word death.
  8. Underline the word in.
  9. Highlight John 3:3 and write the page number ** of John 14:6 in the margin.*
  10. Draw a cross and an X next to John 3:3.
  11. Highlight John 14:6 and write the page number ** of Romans 10:9-11 in the margin.*
  12. Highlight Romans 10:9-11 and write the page number ** of 2 Corinthians 5:15 in the margin.*
  13. Highlight 2 Corinthians 5:15 and write the page number ** of Revelation 3:20 in the margin.*
  14. Highlight Revelation 3:20.

* Don’t forget to turn your Bible around to write your notes in the (top) margin nearest you.
** You may write the page number and/or the Scripture reference.

Anytime an atheist quotes the Bible, we are attacked for taking the Bible out of context. We’re told we’re missing the big picture. So, why is it ok when Christians do it?

Not to mention the whole “circle sin” and “underline death” is just kinda creepy. I can read. I see what it says. Are you trying to scare me into believing?

There are also “36 Response Scripts to Objections” (for being a Christian). One of my favorites is this one:

5. I’m having too much fun.

YOU:

  • Why?
  • (Echo back what your friend answers. Example:) In other words, you are into the party scene– sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
  • According to this, when you die, where are you going?
  • Drive carefully. (or) Have a nice day.
  • (If he answers, “hell,” with fear and trembling) Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?

First of all, who still considers “rock and roll” a sin? Is rock and roll even in existence anymore…?

Second, “Drive carefully”??? I’m a bit upset that the converter gives up so easily! I would think this person has some tenacity. They did circle “sin” after all.

Third, if anyone is “trembling with fear” after the mere question, “According to this, when you die, where are you going?” their non-Christian beliefs probably aren’t very strong in the first place… it’s like picking low hanging fruit. Is this the type of person any religion wants?

*****

On another note, I received a pre-election email from Focus on the Family, the group headed by James Dobson. Tom Minnery, Senior VP of Government & Public Policy, writes:

The liberals know what a difference values voters made in 2004, so they have tried to discourage you from voting. I hope you’ll help give the liberals one big surprise on Election Night by not only voting yourself, but by doing everything in your power to get friends, family and other likeminded voters to the polls on Nov. 7. Above all, please pray for God’s divine intervention on behalf of righteousness in our nation. (Italics mine)

So apparently, God causes faulty voting machines.

I don’t understand the reasoning behind the last line. Minnery tells conservatives to go out and vote… but then follows that by saying they should pray for God’s intervention in the election. Isn’t that contradictory?

And if Democrats win control of the House and the Senate, by Focus on the Family’s logic, did God sit this one out or did conservatives just not pray hard enough?

[tags]Harmon, Bible, evangelism, New Testament, James Dobson, Focus on the Family, Democrats, Republicans, God, Christian, atheist, Tom Minnery[/tags]

  • Mike O

    [me shaking my head]
    I’ve heard of that, but never from your perspective. I guess that puts a different spin on it, huh? I’ve never used that approach, but if I did, now that I see how it looks to you I would just spin my Bible back around and be myself. MUCH more effective.

    Regarding Dobson, I get the joke, but no, it’s not contradictory. And no, he doesn’t use faulty voting machines …. or does he?? We did get Bush.

  • KoKoMo Jr

    See what I mean Hemant, all christians really care about is proselytizing and they will do anything to get as many converts as possible.

  • Mike O

    That’s a bit hyperbolic. I wouldn’t say it’s all we care about, and I wouldn’t say we would do anything to get as many converts as possible. But yes, it’s very important to us. Serious question … is that so wrong??

    You can’t just lump all Christians into a stereotype and call it true. That’s much too simplistic of an approach for a real thinking atheist to take.

    That would be like me saying all atheists will do anything to get people to believe in evolution. While it may be true for some, I can’t make a blanket statement like that. Or can I???? So don’t do it to Christians. Some of us are actually reasonable people who are happy to let you disagree. That doesn’t mean we don’t wish you agreed, but you don’t. Fine.

  • KoKoMo Jr

    christchumps can never be true friends as they only want to convert ,you said so yourself

    yes, it’s very important to us. Serious question … is that so wrong??

    The fact that you are proud of your disbelief in evolution shows how you people have raised ignorance to an art form!

  • Siamang

    KoKoMo,

    I think you’re just stirring the pot here. Got any insight, or just trolling?

  • Eric P

    As a “Christian”, it is not my desire to make everyone else just like myself. That is not my motivation. If, as a Christian, I believe the bible to be true, then it should be my desire to share that message with others. Why you might ask? Not to try and make others conform to any set of standards, but to simply share with them the message of hope found in the person of Jesus Christ. It should be out of love for those around us that we share the message of the bible, not through insult, guilt, fear or argument, but out of a genuine concern for others.

  • KoKoMo Jr

    As a “Christian”, it is not my desire to make everyone else just like myself. That is not my motivation. If, as a Christian, I believe the bible to be true, then it should be my desire to share that message with others. Why you might ask? Not to try and make others conform to any set of standards, but to simply share with them the message of hope found in the person of Jesus Christ. It should be out of love for those around us that we share the message of the bible, not through insult, guilt, fear or argument, but out of a genuine concern for others.

    Thank you for proving my point. jebus freaks are so deluded they can’t see how obnoxious there behavior is. And no I am not trolling everything I have said here is full of insight. People never call funnymentalists on their behavior and they are running rampant!

  • Siamang

    Eric P…

    You ask an interesting question

    If, as a Christian, I believe the bible to be true, then it should be my desire to share that message with others.

    Now this statement hinges on your definition of the word “true”.

    Does “true” here really mean not just true to you and for you and your life, but true for everyone else’s life and beliefs?

    Can we both, for a moment, agree to the idea that the beliefs that work for you don’t work for me?

    Yes, I do from my point of view think that my beliefs are “true”. But that doesn’t mean that I need to preach my “truth” to you, or on a streetcorner or write manifestos or whatever. I don’t automatically think that your life would be improved by you adopting my beliefs. I like my beliefs. They work for me. They comfort me and help me to understand my life. I’ve tried Christianity, and it didn’t do that for me. But I’m not out there trying to de-convert anyone.

    There is (afraid to say) a sort of manifest destiny in evangelical Christian theology which imagines a future world where everyone is a Christian. UGH!!!!

    I really, really fear a world where everyone is an ANYTHING. That’s a Big Brother trip to Camazotz.

  • Mike O

    Thanks, Siamang.

  • Mike O

    Siamang, that “thanks” was for your trolling comment earlier … a couple of posts slipped in between.

    KoKoMo, I fail to see anything insightful in your comments. Unless, of course, you call namecalling and inflamatory rhetoric insightful. In the last few posts, you’ve said the following about Christians:

    You said all Christians really care about is proselytizing – NOT TRUE
    You said we will do anything to get as many converts as possible – NOT TRUE
    You called me a “christchump” – NAMECALLING
    You said we can never be friends – NOT TRUE
    You said again that all we care about is proselytizing – NOT TRUE (again)
    You said I was proud of my disbelief in evolution – NOT TRUE
    You said we’ve raised ignorance to an art form – NOT TRUE
    You called us “Jesus Freaks” – NAMECALLING
    You called us “deluded” – NOT TRUE
    You called us “obnxious” – OK, I’LL GIVE YOU THAT ONE FOR SOME OF US. AND YOU’RE NOT???
    You called us “funnymentalists” – NAMECALLING
    You said we are “running rampant” – WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??

    So, given that not one thing you said was true or reasonable, where’s this so-called insight you speak of?

  • KoKoMo Jr

    You don’t know what running rampant means? Ever hear of the culture wars:and you say you have not raised ignorance to an art form HA

    That my friends is insight
    and incidentally I called you jebus freaks not Jesus Freaks

    Why the name calling, again who is the one who is always talking about the culture wars. If it is a war you want then it is a war you will get!

  • Brodie

    Mike O,

    If KoKoMo is like me, perhaps he sick of the stereotypes given to atheists. Like, since we don’t believe in god, we have no morality. Or were just rebelling from said god, or we hate him/her/it. It’s often the condescending tone many xtians have when talking to us.

    And you believe there is a being that lives in space that created everything and controls everything and we’re supposed to worship it. And that’s not a tad bit delusional? And does a little namecalling really hurt you? Are you an adult?

  • KoKoMo Jr

    Thank you I am glad to see I am not the only one with intelligence and courage here

  • Eric P

    Beliefs are ground in your presuppostion about the world in which we live. It seems to me that there are basically two main presuppositions: 1) that the world can be understood through logical reasoning, and 2) that the world cannot be understood through reason alone.

    I am assume many reading this response view reality through presupposition 1. Beliefs then are determined through logical and rational thought processes.

    Those viewing the world through presupposition 2 use logical reasoning to aid them in understanding the world, but rely on an irrational source for understanding the world around them.

    You may ask why I am rambling like this? The answer is simple, when you start at two different beginnings, you are going to arrive at two different ends. For us to agree about beliefs, we must first agree on a presupposition of the world. So the question is, from which presupposition should we start?

    Many would say that we should start from presupposition 1. It is rational, it is what we know, it is scientific. But I cannot start from presupposition 1. I will be the first to admit that my level of logic and rationality will fail in comparison to many great minds. But what about those great minds? Have any of them, with 100% accuracy been able to properly describe the world? Is there any one person with a complete understanding of the world around us? To begin in presupposition 1 is to assume that the human minds holds the ultimate knowledge about the universe. I cannot agree with that.

    You may not be able to start at presupposition 2. You may disagree that there is an absolute truth, an irrational explanation of the universe. Then we are at an impasse.

    To “agree to the idea that the beliefs that work for you don’t work for me?”
    is to base our understanding on presupposition 1. I cannot agree to that. Maybe others have a suggestion to where we could start our understanding.

  • http://www.friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Everyone– Let’s take a hint from Siamang and keep this intellectual. Kokomo, if you want to make a point, feel free to make it. But the insults aren’t helping. We don’t want a discussion where no one is listening to the other side.

    – Hemant

  • Brodie

    Eric P,

    I don’t think most people would disagree that there is an absolute truth. What they would disagree on is whether or not that truth is supernatural or not. I would tend to say it’s not.

    I can’t tell from your writings above, are you a believer or not?

  • Siamang

    Eric P wrote:

    To “agree to the idea that the beliefs that work for you don’t work for me?”
    is to base our understanding on presupposition 1. I cannot agree to that. Maybe others have a suggestion to where we could start our understanding.

    I don’t think it actually DOES base our understanding on either presupposition. Rather, it recognizes that we have different presuppositions, and neither of us is required to bring the other to our point of view.

  • Eric P

    Siamang,

    I agree with you. The problem is, how are we going to properly dialog with one another? Our presuppositions do not allow us to understand the others point of view. Now, for may years I have tried to logically and rationally analyze my belief in Christianity, and in many areas, I can see how someone would choose to not believe in God. But, I don’t often meet non-Christians who have been willing to do the same; think about God beginning from a religious presupposition.

    Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to be argumentative or confrontational.

  • Siamang

    Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to be argumentative or confrontational.

    No, I don’t think you are. :-)

    The problem is, how are we going to properly dialog with one another?

    The topic on the table is evangelism. I think it cuts both ways. If we atheists don’t like the fundamental assumption of evangelism (“your beliefs are wrong for you, mine are right for you”), then we as atheists should not strive to be evangelists for our beliefs.

    If it’s merely that we don’t like people pushing the beliefs that we disagree with, we can’t rightly complain about the process of evangelism.

    Now, if we approach dialogue as a search for understanding… I’m trying to understand you, you trying to understand me… If we can get totally past (or try to, anyway) trying to convince the other of the correctness of our position, and get to trying to bring them to a deeper understanding of why your life is good for you…

    Then we can have a dialogue without totally shouting past each other.

    I think it’s a good, positive way to have a dialogue. It works very well at the Off The Map site.

    But, I don’t often meet non-Christians who have been willing to do the same; think about God beginning from a religious presupposition.

    Most atheists I know, including myself, were formerly religious people. So yes, we have thought about God beginning from a religious presupposition. I could tell you about my own personal journey, but the main point is that people reassess the way they determine what to believe.

  • Logos

    My thanks to Hemant Siamang and Eric P for adding a touch of class to these otherwise ghastly proceedings

  • Eric P

    Siamang,

    I would love to hear about your personal journey.

    As far as evangelism goes, from a Christian perspective, I think, as a whole, we have been completely wrong. I am not saying that we have been wrong in telling others about our beliefs, but we have been totally wrong in our motives and methods.

    It is my opinion, which is probably worthless, that it is impossible to logically argue the existence of God. How can you logically argue for the illogical? True Christianity, the way it is supposed to be, is not a philosophical system; it was not intended to be a set of rules to govern the way in which people lived their lives. True Christianity is about a relationship; not with man, the church, the priest, the rabbi; but with God himself.

    You can’t blame someone who has experienced a life changing relationship with God for wanting to tell others about it, but I agree, that for many, many years, it has been carried out in completely the wrong fashion.

  • Brodie

    If it’s merely that we don’t like people pushing the beliefs that we disagree with, we can’t rightly complain about the process of evangelism.

    Exactly. This is the only time I ever bring up the fact that I am an atheist. I have never tried to deconvert someone. It’s not my place. That’s a personal thing they have to see for themselves.

    And there will only be dialog when neither person thinks they know what’s best for everybody else. And doesn’t come to the table ready to shoot the other person down.

    My thanks to Hemant Siamang and Eric P for adding a touch of class to these otherwise ghastly proceedings

    Ghastly? I think it’s been pretty calm.

  • Siamang

    I would love to hear about your personal journey.

    Here’s a thread of an interview I did with Off The Map. It’s a good picture of my beliefs and my thinking and how it has progressed.

    http://www.off-the-map.org/ebayatheist/viewtopic.php?t=247

  • Siamang

    You can’t blame someone who has experienced a life changing relationship with God for wanting to tell others about it, but I agree, that for many, many years, it has been carried out in completely the wrong fashion.

    This is a symptom of what I’d call a core moral shortcoming to heavenly rewards. If (unverifyable but appromissedally fabulous) heavenly rewards outweigh earthly ones, people will generally tend to run the risk of peeving people off in this life.

    It’s not just about knowing you’re right. It’s about motivation to “sell.” In grade school we had a drive to sell magazine subscriptions. The winning class got an ice-cream sundae social. Were there no ice cream social, we would have acted differently as magazine salesboys and salesgirls. Probably less pushy.

    As adults with beliefs, we make assesments based on likely outcomes. Sure, yeah, I can be a pushy evangelist, and I may get some converts at the risk of treating a bunch of people like a jerk and losing some friends and esteem.

    We weigh the pros and cons and decide for ourselves how much of ourselves we want to push on people. Now add heaven, and heavenly rewards, and the idea that God likes what I’m doing.. and the people complaining about how pushy I am just don’t get that I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do. If they don’t like me, they should take their complaints to the Man Upstairs.

    Infinite invisible rewards (or punishments) tips the scales unfairly, causing behavior for which there’s no “check”.

    It’s not about “knowing” you’re right. It’s about the invisible rewards distorting the decision-makeing process. I “know” I’m right, but nobody’s piling up an infinity of chocolate sundaes for me in the hereafter saying all these could be mine if I sell a lot more magazine subscriptions.

  • Siamang

    My “know” in scare-quotes above is meant to remind others that I have no illusions that I have claim to ultimate truth.

  • Brodie

    There are also “36 Response Scripts to Objections” (for being a Christian).

    So what are the other 35?

    And if Democrats win control of the House and the Senate, by Focus on the Family’s logic, did God sit this one out or did conservatives just not pray hard enough?

    Or maybe god’s punishing them by having the evil liberals in charge.

  • Siamang

    The one response script “I’m having too much fun…” sounds like it’s more there to shore up a believer than to be an actual response given by a non-Christian.

    Given that sample size of one, let’s have some fun predicting the others:

    ….but evil witchcraft keeps me fabulously wealthy, and eternally youthful-looking.
    …. but I enjoy being evil and sexually promiscuous.
    …. but I like living in sin with two women, a poolboy and a goat.
    …. but Freud, Marx, Jane Fonda and Marilyn Manson proved God doesn’t exist.
    ….but Christianity is only for smart, well-dressed, good-looking and highly regarded paragons of virtue… how can I ever hope to measure up?

  • Eric P

    The problem with the illustration about magazine sales is that it is incorrect. I do agree that some “Christian” dnominations teach rewards for works, but I do not believe that this is a proper biblical understaning.

    A better illustration would be:

    You received a letter in the mail stating that if you bring the letter to the bank, they will immediately give you $1,000,000. At the bottom of the letter is: P.S – feel free to copy this letter and give it to as many people as you would like. Your desire would be to share the letter with others, but it would be up to the other individuals to decided if they want to accept the gift or not.

    Sharing Jesus with others is absolutely not like commission sales!!!! It is giving others the opprotunity to experience the gift you yourself has received. If someone does not want it, they do not have to take it, but at least they know about it.

  • Siamang

    But the problem is, nobody who ever got the million dollars can ever show us the money.

    The promise of invisible money that nobody can see informs my larger point that basing our decision on invisible consequences tips the scale of making decisions about whether we do option x or option y.

    Let’s take it as a simple weighing of options. Let’s say that on a current day I am equally likely to do x as do y. Whatever those x and y are, lets say that I am equally likely to do x as do y.

    What if doing Y made a lot of people angry? I might take the social cue and say, okay, since x and y are equal to me, and x doesn’t make people angry, I’ll do x.

    But if someone adds an additional reason to do y. An invisible, unverifyable one, then what? What if someone told me that by doing y, somewhere far off on a distant planet millions of people will live better lives?

    I might do y. I wouldn’t be as concerned what other people thought, because that big invisible benefit is going to long make up for the short term.

    But this is the problem with weighing moral choices based on unverifyable infinite supernatural outcomes. They presuppose a divine correctness and they cloud moral choices by tipping the scale in the direction that a person wants to be true.

    My point wasn’t about sales. I noticed you jumped on the sales analogy. I wasn’t saying christianity is like sales. I was saying that invisible rewards cloud the moral decision-making process.

    The ice cream made for pushy saleskids. But at least the ice cream was verifyably real, as were the magazines.

    Heaven itself is the ice cream. Promising ice cream is great. But if you have an infinite supply of invisible ice cream in the hereafter, it can tend to skew your moral perspective in the here-and-now.

  • Eric P

    Siamang,

    Define “verifyably real”.

    Does it mean something is real because you can verify it with your five senses, or that you can conduct an experiment to prove its existence?

    Define “love”? Does it exist? How do you know? Can you verify it? What does love look, sound, smell, feel like?

    Define “wind”? Does it exist? How do you know? Can you see it?

    There are things that exist that the human mind cannot conceive. The human mind is not the ulimate center of knowledge in the universe. If it was, nothing would be a mistery, nothing would be unexplainable.

    How would you then make moral choices? Are you a Utilitarian, Consequentialist, etc.?

    I have not had a chance to look at the link you posted. But it seems to me you may have an inadequate view of Christainity and what it is about.

  • txatheist

    Define “verifyably real”.

    Does it mean something is real because you can verify it with your five senses, or that you can conduct an experiment to prove its existence?

    Define “love”? Does it exist? How do you know? Can you verify it? What does love look, sound, smell, feel like?

    Define “wind”? Does it exist? How do you know? Can you see it?

    Imo, something you can repeatedly test.
    Yes, we do have to be able to fathom it with our mind/senses and be able to explain it.

    Love is an emotion. It’s a chemical reaction of neurons in the brain. Love is also simply a word we use like hurt. I’m hurt when someone calls me dumb. I’m hurt when I fall off a 3 story building. The word is open to interpretation.

    Wind is something we understand in nature. We define wind by the fronts that come from the north and push the current local atmosphere. It has a lot to do with the ocean currents and season based on the continent you’re on.

    I make moral choices based on all the logic and knowledge I have at the time. I don’t cross the street without looking because I was taught that. I am now teaching my son not to cross the street without looking. My morality is not exactly the same as everyone else’s. There is a general consensus that we all use and society asks us to conform to. When I sneeze someone usually says bless you and I always drive on the right side of the road because it’s what we are taught to do. I don’t have a solid answer for morality decisions.

  • Siamang

    Define “verifyably real”.

    A sliding scale. One one end my existence (cogito ergo sum) on the other end big promises with zero delivery: fairies, invisible pink unicorns, ghosts. Things that nobody ever can give you any proof of.

    Since it’s a sliding scale, only one thing hits the absolute: I exist. But please don’t fly to the opposite absolute and say therefore nothing is real or our perceptions are all suspect or relativist. (I dare you to jump off a cliff while making that assertion.)

    Verifyably real things occur along a contiuum. I live with the things closer to the vest, and I try not to suppose things that are long on promises and short on evidence.

    Does it mean something is real because you can verify it with your five senses, or that you can conduct an experiment to prove its existence?

    I have a list of real things that I have accumulated over my lifetime. If you think I’m missing something, feel free to convince me that it exists. If you think I believe in something that isn’t real, feel free to convince me that it doesn’t exist.

    Define “love”?

    A combination of chemical reactions, thoughts, feelings, emotions, social norms, actions, words and behaviors whereby people cleave to each other.


    Does it exist?

    Yes.

    How do you know?

    Because I have felt the chemical reactions, thought the thoughts, felt the feelings, felt the emotions, observed and taken part in the social norms, enacted the actions, spoken the words and engaged in the behaviors whereby people cleave to each other. None of those things were supernatural.

    Can you verify it?

    Yes.

    What does love look, sound, smell, feel like?

    It looks like every painting Chagall painted. It sounds like Mozart. It smells like gardenias for one year, then roses for ten, then freshly baked bread for the next fifty. It feels like peace.

    Here’s a question, what is the Democratic party? It does not look, sound, smell or feel like anything. And yet, it’s not supernatural. It’s not an invisible superbeing, or a magical spell. It’s just a non-material concept.

    Contrary to perhaps your perception, atheists DO believe in love, algebra, the Macarena, the diatonic musical scale, patriotism, pitching a perfect baseball game, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and TCP/IP protocols. Sure, none of those things are strictly physical nouns. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real things we all deal with in life.

    You see, atheists don’t have a problem with non-material things. It’s the SUPERNATURAL things we tend not to believe in. Wind and Love are not supernatural.

    Define “wind”? Does it exist? How do you know? Can you see it?

    Oh not, “define wind.” Did you really just use “define wind”? You guys need to get new material. Moving molecules of air. “How do I know?” Because airplanes work. The day airplanes stop working, you may be able to use “define wind” and find me introspective and doubtful. Until that day, you’ll need something better than “define wind.”

    There are things that exist that the human mind cannot conceive.

    I never argued that. In fact, I believe that yes, there are things we will never know.

    I’m quite honest about that. But that doesn’t mean that just because we humans don’t know everything that therfore you’re right about the creator of the universe and I’m wrong.

    How would you then make moral choices? Are you a Utilitarian, Consequentialist, etc.?

    My moral choices are based on my conscience, same as yours.


    I have not had a chance to look at the link you posted. But it seems to me you may have an inadequate view of Christainity and what it is about.

    Feel free to read it and let me know what you think.

  • Brodie

    But it seems to me you may have an inadequate view of Christainity and what it is about.

    Here’s another problem. No two xtians agree in their beliefs. So no matter what an atheist may have experienced, I was raised baptist for example, there’s always that person that says, “Well obviously you didn’t understand xtianity”. I understood it, that’s why I’m not a xtian anymore. I don’t need someone to look down at me like I’m inferior because I didn’t get the same fuzzy warm feeling they have.

    Define “wind”? Does it exist? How do you know? Can you see it?

    Have you heard of hurricanes and tornados? You can see the affects.

  • Brodie

    How would you then make moral choices?

    This is exactly what I said earlier. You think becasue we don’t believe in an invisible being and are not awaiting an imaginable place after death, we have no morals. This is what pisses me off.

    Siamang,

    I have some suggestions of my own for the responses, if you don’t mind me adding some.

    …..I’ve always wanted to try cannibalism first

    ….The Harry Potter books are just sooo cool!

    ….Fonzie wasn’t a xitan.

    …..If only you could change the day church is held on.

    and

    ….Priests scare me!

  • Eric P

    Sorry Brodie,

    I was not implying that you have no morals, I was simply asking Siamang what moral theory he uses to make moral judgments. In his X and Y example, it seemed that he might be using a Utilitarian view and I was just curious.

  • Eric P

    Siamang,

    In asking about love and wind, I was simply trying to show that those are two things that we can both agree that they exist, but that they are relatively hard to define. One of the ways in which we define them is by their effects (which Brodie seems to have proven my point). We cannot see the wind, but we can see the effect of it. We cannot hear love, see love, touch love, or taste love, but we can experience its effects, its feelings.

    Or we can define things by what they are not: love is not; hate, anger, impatience. Some things are not necessarily empirically verifiable, but that does not mean that they do not exist.

    God is no different. He can be seen by his effects; the way he interacts with us as individuals, in the glory of nature, in the miracle of the birth of my children.

  • Brodie

    God is no different. He can be seen by his effects; the way he interacts with us as individuals, in the glory of nature, in the miracle of the birth of my children.

    Yes, there is a difference. All those things you mentioned are natural, god is supernatural. All my years of church, he never interacted with me, not once.

  • Eric P

    Brodie,

    Did you ever ask him to? Did you ever want him to?

  • Siamang

    I’ll step back and let Brodie answer that question.

  • Brodie

    Eric P,

    Yes I did. I remember thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me, that for some reason I heard nothing, or felt nothing. I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong. I wasn’t perfect, but neither were these other people that claimed god spoke to them.

    Then again, if they could believe stories about talking donkeys, why was I surprised they thought god spoke to them.

  • Siamang

    We cannot see the wind, but we can see the effect of it. We cannot hear love, see love, touch love, or taste love, but we can experience its effects, its feelings.

    We cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell many many things which nevertheless do not exist. I never said that all things that exist can be seen, heard, touch, taste or smell. You seem to be arguing against someone’s views that don’t resemble mine at all.

    The unseen nature of God is manifestly not the reason I don’t believe in God.

    God is no different. He can be seen by his effects; the way he interacts with us as individuals, in the glory of nature, in the miracle of the birth of my children.

    I have seen the glory of nature. I still haven’t seen anything in nature that specifically points to any one religious view over the thousands of others. What if I pick the wrong God? How do you know that you haven’t? The Hindus claim the glory of nature as their own, too.

    I have seen the miracle of birth. Tell me how you know that was Yaweh? Because followers of Allah, Buddha, the flying Spaghetti Monster and none of the above can also have children.

    My problem with religious beliefs is that you never can know if you got yours wrong.

    If you get your taxes wrong, the IRS shows up at your door.
    If you get medicine wrong, patients start dying.
    If you get geography wrong, you wind up in Lisbon instead of Rome.
    If you get long division wrong, the numbers don’t multiply back to check it.

    What happens if I get theology wrong? After I die God tells me, “sorry, the Hare Krishnas were actually right”?

    What happens if you get theology wrong? If your theology was wrong, how would you know?

    How can I tell a true theological idea from a false one?

    Is there any test at all that I can run to tell a true theological belief from a false one?

  • HappyNat

    I “felt God” when I was a Christian. In youth groups and choirs and during prayers. This feeling was one of the reasons I hard a hard time when everything else I was learning pointed to the Christian God no being real.

    About 3 months after I had first started to describe myself as a Atheist, I took a camping trip. I woke up early one morning and saw a beutiful sunrise over a lake. And you know what? I “felt God” again just like I had before, the funny thing was I knew God didn’t exist. The feeling was within me, it was my reaction to the beauty of nature, it didn’t have to come from an invisible creature it was in me the whole time.

  • Eric P

    I chose Christianity for the following reasons:

    1) Not all religious systems can be right, the contradict each other!

    2) historical and archaeological evidence supports that the New Testament is true, including extra-biblical sources

    3) Christianity is the only religious systems whose beliefs are based on the writings of multiple individuals over many years. Multiple authors at differing periods of time means no one person ever had complete control over the written material, meaning, less of a chance for manipulation.

    Ex. – Mormonism = John Smith; Islam = Muhammad; etc…

    4) Jesus was the only religious individual who claimed himself to “be” God, and the only one to conquered death. All other religious leaders ARE dead.

    5) Lastly, and most important, Christianity is the only religious system NOT based on ME.

    All other religious systems are based on my performance in order to gain acceptance with God. In other systems, if I live a certain way, do certain things, eat certain things, etc.. then I am acceptable. For Christianity, it is not based on what I do. It is simply based on my accepting God’s gift, THAT’S IT!! (note: not shouting, just emphasizing.)

  • Siamang

    Those are some blanket statements.

    For example:

    All other religious systems are based on my performance in order to gain acceptance with God.

    Not Zoroastrianism, which predates Christianity and was the historical source for a lot of Christianity’s beliefs. In Zoroastrianism all will eventually be purified and achieve oneness with God.

    But you said “all other religious systems are based on your performance”. It is exclusive language like this that make me suspect that you haven’t given an exhaustive search among the various other religious beliefs.

    I think you have compiled that list after the fact of being a Christian, and have chosen the attributes which you believe best describe Christianity. It is a test that only Christianity can pass…

    For example…

    Christianity is the only religious systems whose beliefs are based on the writings of multiple individuals over many years. Multiple authors at differing periods of time means no one person ever had complete control over the written material, meaning, less of a chance for manipulation.

    Really? The only one?

    So the Hebrew Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, and all the sacred writings of Judaism were written by one person? Certainly not.

    The Zoroastrians venerate many sacred texts. The most important collection of these texts is the Avesta, the parts of which were written in different styles at various times in history.

    The Sikhs revere the Guru Granth Sahib, a collection of sacred writings of their holy gurus that spans hundreds of years.

    Hindus revere an entire library of sacred texts, including the collection called the ?ruti whose writings span the entire history of Hinduism.

    I’m sure if I did more research, I could find many more religions that have this aspect in common with Christianity.

    That you say it’s the ONLY one gives me a clue that you didn’t even pick up an encyclopedia to determine the truth value of that assertion.

    Jesus was the only religious individual who claimed himself to “be” God, and the only one to conquered death. All other religious leaders ARE dead.

    Let’s take that one by one.

    Let’s start with the last bit, “All other religious leaders ARE dead.” Really? Can you prove that?

    Please bring me the body of Vyasa. You cannot, because as millions of Hindus will attest, He is an immortal Chiranjeevin, and therefore cannot die.

    Now let’s take the first part:

    Jesus was the only religious individual who claimed himself to “be” God

    Dear, dear. There’s that word “only” again.

    Krishna, according to Hindus, was the eight avatar of Vishnu, their name for the creator God. He also rose up into the air after death, in a glorious shower of light.

    So Jesus is certainly not the only religious leader to have his followers claim he has conquered death.

    But, or course, if Jesus indeed has conquered death, He should be around here someplace, shouldn’t he?

    Or is he in heaven with my dead grandfather, but still not dead? I’m sorry but this doesn’t make sense. If my grandfather and Jesus are both in heaven, then neither of them seem to have defeated death.

    So let’s look at your reasons for being a Christian once again.

    Number 1, I don’t disagree with. Not all religious beliefs can be true, as they contradict each other. Well put.

    Number two I’ll leave to another post, or let someone else chime in on.

    Okay, now three through five, we’ve dispensed with them. Christianity is not the only religion based on multiple written sources. Many religions were written by different authors over wide timespans. None of this gives any creedence to the truth claims included therein.

    Christianity is not the only religion based on someone who is reported to have claimed to be God. Christianity is not the only religion wherein believers claim the founder has escaped death. We don’t have evidence that all other religious leaders are dead. In fact, we don’t have any evidence that Jesus isn’t dead as well. On the contrary, most Christians believe that Jesus left his body and went to heaven.

    And Christianity is not the only religion that doesn’t require specific actions for salvation.

    Many different religions pass at least some of your tests (perhaps more than one will pass all of them, especially with some liberal interpretation of the relevant scripture).

    The fact that you made such blanket statements about other religions gives me the impression that you didn’t outline the test before you became a Christian.

    But back to my unanswered question: How can you tell a true theological belief from a false one?

    It’s directly relevant to your list of requirements or reasons for believing. How do you know that your reasons for believing are a valid way to judge theological truths from theological falsehoods?

    In other words, how do you test these rules?

    How do you know that these are valid conditions to place on a set of theological beliefs?

  • JR

    Is there any test at all that I can run to tell a true theological belief from a false one?

    That’s easy! Just use the five easy steps on this page.

    Yes I’m kidding.

  • Andy

    2) historical and archaeological evidence supports that the New Testament is true, including extra-biblical sources

    Not in my investigations. I recommend the Jesus Puzzle

    3) Christianity is the only religious systems whose beliefs are based on the writings of multiple individuals over many years.

    Except, of course, for Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Greek paganism, etc. I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.

    4) Jesus was the only religious individual who claimed himself to “be” God, and the only one to conquered death.

    Except for Krishna and Mithra and Osiris. And there are others. Of course, none of them, including Jesus, ever actually rose from the dead, assuming that any of them, including Jesus, were even real people. But as for the stories, they all claimed to be God and rose from the dead.

    5) Lastly, and most important, Christianity is the only religious system NOT based on ME. All other religious systems are based on my performance in order to gain acceptance with God.

    Except for Zen, and Taoism, off the top of my head. I’m sure there are others.

    You’re flat out wrong on 3, 4, and 5, and probably 2. You lack basic knowledge of other world religions. With that average, I certainly wouldn’t listen to anything else you have to say unless you just want to talk about your feelings.

  • Siamang

    Someone close the tags. That link to cultwatch broke the reply function.

  • Andy

    To begin in presupposition 1 ( that the world can be understood through logical reasoning) is to assume that the human minds holds the ultimate knowledge about the universe. I cannot agree with that.

    This is possibly the most annoying misrepresentation of naturalism that gets thrown around. To say that the world operates according to natural processes is not to say that we know everything about how it works. It only means that we’ve observed the world long enough to conclude that the natural processes we’ve observed account for everything we see.

    But for some reason, some people like to repeat this over and over again. It sound like you are just trying to make naturalists look like know-it-alls, even though you know perfectly well that we admit our knowledge remains incomplete.

    It is supernaturalists who claim to know everything. By saying “God did it” wherever there is a crack in knowledge, they purport to have an answer to every single question, and conveniently the answer is God. That’s not a useful answer though, because it raises all sorts of other questions like “well what is God?”

  • Karen

    HappyNat:

    I “felt God” when I was a Christian. In youth groups and choirs and during prayers. This feeling was one of the reasons I hard a hard time when everything else I was learning pointed to the Christian God no being real.

    About 3 months after I had first started to describe myself as a Atheist, I took a camping trip. I woke up early one morning and saw a beutiful sunrise over a lake. And you know what? I “felt God” again just like I had before, the funny thing was I knew God didn’t exist. The feeling was within me, it was my reaction to the beauty of nature, it didn’t have to come from an invisible creature it was in me the whole time.

    Thanks for this, HappyNat. My experience was very similar to yours, and I like the positive way you’ve captured it here.

    It took me a long time to recognize that the “god feelings” I’d had were the same things I’d felt listening to poetry, or beautiful music, or contemplating nature or the joys of true love. It was that recognition, and the realization that I could use “self-talk” to calm myself and find clarity on issues, that finally freed me to leave religion behind altogther.

  • Karen

    …. but I like living in sin with two women, a poolboy and a goat.

    ROTFLMAO!!

    Let’s not forget the classic “… but fried kitty is SO delectable!”

  • Karen

    From the CultWatch page:

    An Atheist or “Naturalist” may believe that there is nothing beyond the material realm, and finding this thought depressing she turns to alcohol, or some other form of escape to dull the pain of the “pointlessness of life”.

    Ah-ha – the pointlessness of life! I knew there had to be some explanation for why all the atheists I know are addicted to crack. Tsk, tsk…

  • JustHis

    The Top 10 Reasons We Know the New Testament Writers Told the Truth

    “Why would the apostles lie?….If they lied, what was their motive, what did they get out of it? What they got out of it was misunderstanting, rejection, persecution, torture, and martyrdom. Hardly a list of perks!” Peter Kreeft

    THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS:
    1. Included embarrassing details about themselves
    2. Included embarrassing details and difficult sayings of Jesus
    3. Left in demanding sayings of Jesus
    4. Carefully distinguished Jesus’ words from their own
    5. Include events related to the resurrection that they would not have invented
    6. Include more than 30 historically confirmed people in their writings
    7. Include divergent details
    8. Challenge their readers to check out verifiable facts, even facts about miracles
    9. Describe miracles like other historical events: with simple unembellished accounts.
    10. Abandoned their long-held sacred beliefs and practices, adopted new ones, and did not deny their testimony under persecutionor threat of death.

  • mattyc

    I’m the one who sent Hemant the Bible. Here are the other response script topics
    1. I’m not ready
    2. My friends will think I’m crazy
    3. What about my family
    4. I’ve done too many bad things
    5. I’m having too much fun
    6. Why does God let bad things happen?
    7. There are many paths to God
    8. There are many religions of the world.
    9. I’ve always believed in God
    10. There are too many hypocrites in the church.
    11. I don’t believe in God
    12. I’m a member of another world religion
    13. I’m Jewish
    14. Cults are the answer
    15. How can a loving God send someone too Hell?
    16. How can I know the Bible is true?
    17. I don’t believe the Resurrection took place
    18. You can’t possibly know what truth is
    19. There are many translations of the Bible.
    20. There are too many errors in the Bible
    21. What about those who never hear the Gospel
    22. You must think you’re better than me
    23. I’m a good person
    24. I’m God
    25. I’m not a sinner
    26. A Christian hurt me
    27. The church only wants my money
    28. I’ve tried it and it didn’t work out
    29. How do I know I have enough faith
    30. I can’t live the Christian lifestyle
    31. God cannot forgive me
    32. I’m not good enough
    33. I’m not sure I’m saved
    34. My beliefs are private
    35. I want to think about it
    36. The argument never stops.

  • mattyc

    In response to Eric P
    1) That’s because the individual adherents to the religions or they organized religious bodies have thus deemed them to in order to feel special (the whole idea of a chosen people). If you ask a Hindu, he’d tell you your God was the same as yours. A Muslim would also tell you that he is worshiping the same God as a Christian

    2) What historical documents, and how can they prove the bible “is true.” The bible is a collection of various writings from various sources at various times describing various events at various other times. Unless there is some document or group of documents from around the same time period as each individual document of the bible that verify the exact facts of all the people places and events contained in those biblical sources, I’m gonna have to say you are wrong on that one.

    3) While the bible does contain many books by many authors, all of the theology around which Christianity is based hinges on the writings attributed to one man: Paul. Even the books that are not attributed to him are heavily influenced by his theology as he became an early leader in the Christian movement. If anything, the more authors a collection of works has the more easily it is for errors to creep in, especially before the printing press was invented when all books were hand copied. The more people that touch something the more error it contains. There are more differences in the ancient biblical texts that we have surviving today than there are words in the bible itself. Also look into Hinduism which has many many volumes of sacred texts that have many different authors.

    4) Jesus was not the only God in history whose believers thought had been raised from the dead, see Mithra, Attis, Adonis, Some would even say Julius Caesar and Alexander the. Jesus IS dead. Physically he is dead, though he may be spiritually alive, he IS physically dead.

    5)Christianity IS about ME because it’s about a relationship. You can’t have a relationship without ME

    And, yes I am a Christian.
    Also, you might think about reading some books about early christianity and how the bible came to be.

  • mattyc

    About evangelism
    I’m gonna have to side with the atheists on this one. I read a book by a Theologian named Klaus Klostermier called “Hindu and Christian in Vridaban.” As a priest he was asked to teach at an Indian university in Vrindaban (which happens to be the Krishna capital of India). During his two year stint living amongst Krishna devotees he came to realize that the main reason the Christian missionary movement in India had largely failed was due to the original missionaries who had first come to India. They didn’t care to learn anything about the people, their religion, or their culture. All they knew was that these people “needed Jesus.” They didn’t know that Hindu’s had hundreds and hundreds of years worth of well thought out theologies etc. Through their ignorance they put Jesus in the realm of Maya (illusion), and that is exactly where Jesus has remained in the cultural consciousness. He will likely never be viewed as anything Infinite. I tell this story because it perfectly illustrates atheists’ problem with Christian evangelism. All Christians know and care to know is that there way IS THE right way. End of story. That’s all they seem to care about. For the most part it’s not this positivistic view of wanting to share something cool with people like one would do by telling someone about their favorite TV show. A majority of Christian evangelism springs directly from what in Christian speak is called “the great commission”. Essentially Jesus at one time or another said something like “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” A lot of emphasis is placed on this in a great number of Christian environments, and that’s why things like the share bible exist, to “help people” “share the Gospel.” It’s all about sharing with as many people as possible, in all occasions. That’s why a lot of the Atheist on this posting board are saying that it’s not possible for Christians to be fiends with nonbelievers, because in a lot of Christian circles they teach Friendship evangelism. This basically means you be friends with nonbelievers in order to one day in some form share the gospel with them. This is what’s know in the real world being double minded, and is viewed as insincerity (because lets face it, it is). So essentially all this emphasis is placed on one little part of Jesus’ teaching and most other things are forgotten. That’s what atheist have a problem with. What Jesus taught and how he lived was loving people. It’s about loving service to your fellow men (the brotherhood of man). Christians don’t go out and do the kind of things that Mother Theresa did, or help the homeless, or act kindly to those society has shunned, or any other thing that Jesus would likely be doing if he were here today. Hence, Christians by and large are not practicing what their so called founder preached. They are too worried about proving Christianity is right and making new believers. They forget that the whole light analogy (“You are the light of the world”). Light is bright unto itself, you don’t have to point to it and say, hey look, this here, this is light, don’t you see that. If you are pointing at the light and saying that it’s light and people don’t see the light, chances are there ain’t no light. And chances are there ain’t no light because you ain’t loving people. And there is no proof in the pudding.
    In closing here is a nice quote, and sorry, it’s not from the bible.
    “The measure wherewith truth seekers are drawn to you represents the measure of your truth endowment, your righteousness. The extent to which you have to go with your message to the people is, in a way, the measure of your failure to live the whole or righteous life, the truth-co-ordinated life.”

  • Andy

    If you are pointing at the light and saying that it’s light and people don’t see the light, chances are there ain’t no light. And chances are there ain’t no light because you ain’t loving people.

    Well said, mattyc. Those are words to be heard by everyone, not just Christians. I think this is something that all people need to keep in mind.

  • Roy Gathercoal

    I am an “evangelical” Christian, and I’m with most of the “against” evangelizing comments here.

    I disagree with the conclusions, often, but I am quite certain that learning any sort of script, deciding on “talking points” or highlighting your Bible are enough for the prosecution to rest.

    I did a short stint in advertising (now there is a group liked less than fundamentalists!) and have since been craving an opportunity to explore “the ethics of persuasion” with a group of thinking evangelicals (even though I once was one, I’ve pretty much given up on fundamentalists–they seem to be way too committed to the “war” metaphor to make discussion fruitful).

    We are really quick to lash out from our moral high ground against all of the “situational relativists” because of their rejection of any universals (which is, I believe, a universal).

    So, is evangelism persuasion an OK form of “whatever works” or “the ends justify the means?”

    Jurgen Habermas did some interesting work on communication, trying to work out some rules that could ensure a particular communicative exchange was good (not manipulative, deceitful, “might makes right” etc.)

    That really got me thinking: Is a right relationship with God all about getting one confession out of someone? What if we were free to employ the “interrogation” tactics apparently approved (by one who self-identifies as an evangelical) for evangelism? Would it be OK to use sleep deprivation, humiliation, sensory overload or deprivation, verbal harrassment, fear of death or harm etc. if it resulted in someone confessing that they were a sinner and that they accepted Jesus into their life? (or insert your own euphanism)

    Where are the limits? What is an ethical basis for evangelism?

    As is probably clear by now, I have disavowed any sort of evangelistic activity. I believe

    (1) that it is God’s affair to interact with others, not mine, and that if there is an omniscient and omnipotent God (and I do believe so) we are way *not* qualified to shoulder our way in and try to take over, and if there isn’t such a God, we have nothing to evangelize to!,

    (2) that while there is no one so enthusiastic and dogmatic than a recent convert (works for those who have quit smoking, as well as for new Christians) there is no one so hardened against persuasion than someone who sort of tried it and found it unsatisfactory,

    (3) that what God desires is an honest relationship with us, not any sort of program, cultish program or gimmicky trick. I am daily humbled by the realization that the largest and most gullible targets for multi-layered marketing schemes are evangelicals. . .the implication is that these are people who will believe anything. . .
    perhaps, just perhaps, this is the case because people who are willing to believe anything are the ones with whom Christians have been filling the pews. . .

    (4) we seriously shortchange the real news of Christianity (if you believe there is any news at all) by giving the metamessage that being a Christian is a simple and easy matter, much easier than, say, buying a car. . .

    The message I keep seeing in the Bible is exactly the opposite: God doesn’t want the “I’m Christian because it is easy” group–and that there will be a whole lot of people who whine “we called ourselves Christians” who are on God’s “not belonging to me” list.

    So it seems to me that if I have any right at all to continue to call myself “evangelical” it is because I do believe we are better off with God than without, that it is possible for a finite spatially-temporally bounded human to have some sort of relationship with one who is not limited, period, and that I ought to remain particularly sensitive to opportunities to tell people what I believe and why.

    In many peoples’ books, that probably disqualifies me. . . guess it’s a good thing there aren’t any “identity police”, and that I don’t have to agree or defend shallow or insincere or unthinking people who also call themselves “evangelical” any more than someone who is not a shallow, insincere or unthinking atheist (or agnostic, or secular humanist, or animist or . . .) has to defend every nut who calls themselves an “atheist” just to see how “the locals” respond.

  • Roy Gathercoal

    mattyc, I would take issue with one of your points directly. . . (I think it was your post, sometimes I get confused about which blogger said what in relation to who else)

    I would say that Paul had little influence over what we today would call the “Old Testament.” If you are of the school that somehow sees this body of Scripture as “no longer relevant” then this is probably not an important point.

    But even if you were to restrict your comments about Paul’s influence on the canon to the “New Testament”, I would suggest that Pauline thought was not nearly as coordinated, nor as pervasive, as your point would seem to indicate.

    Much of the “New Testament” non-gospel writings do claim to be from Paul, and you can certainly see Paul’s influence in other places. But there are at least two mitigating factors:

    (1) the “New Testament” was not pulled together and standardized/canonized until way, way after Paul’s death. There are many manuscripts and fragments and references to things that claim to be written by Paul which were not included in the canon.

    Those scholars who pulled the canon together (and they did not all agree–still don’t all agree) had to make some judgment calls about which copies of which letters/writings that were circulating among the (by then) established churches should be accepted as authentic, and which should not be assumed to be the “Word of God.”

    It might help to remember that there were no printing presses, that every letter was recopied and recopied, and recopied as it made its way around. The whole need for the canonization project was based in the uncomfortable reality that some contradictory works were being read in some areas/among some groups, and that many of the early heresies were established by “emphasizing,” “editing” or even “fabricating” parts of larger works.

    Papyrus doesn’t hold up so well (nor do any of the common and portable writing materials of that era), and the original copies with Paul’s signature probably didn’t even last until his death. The originals were certainly not around 300 years later.

    Perhaps this is similar to the advice “say it was written by Benjamin Franklin: people will be impressed, more likely to believe it, and there is no way to prove you wrong. . .”

    (2) Much, perhaps all, of the “New Testament” was written to address one or more heresies or shortcomings in the scattered groups of these new-called believers.

    One such disagreement is obvious in Paul’s account of his meeting with Peter and the other delegates from the Jerusalem believers who came to correct Paul about some mistakes he was making. According to Paul, they are the ones who were taken to task. We don’t have Peter’s account.

    Point is, the “New Testament” was not taken to be “a manual with rules for living” until after the reformation. If we wanted to read these scriptures in the light of how the original audience would have heard them, we should imagine them written as encouraging/scolding messages to our own local meetings–and not as a manual on “how to do things the right way.”

    Please note that I am not (here) saying anything about the infallibility or truthfulness of the “New Testament.” Just commenting on what some might misread your point to say.

    Many people believe the English version of the “New Testament” as we have it is the literal inspired Word of God. That may be, but this position must be maintained within a historical setting in which the decisions about what should be included in the canon were made by human beings, some of whom were active opponents of others.

  • Patti

    This has been very interseting reading from everyone. I am not even going to say where I am in all this because I don’t know. I don’t know if I really believe in God or if I don’t. I know I don’t go to church and I don’t follow the bible. To me and this is just my opinion, the bible was written and re written by man so whos to say what has been left out or added through the years. I have nothing against christians as long as they don’t try to convince me that I should be living they way they do and I also have nothing against atheists. I believe if we all lived and cared about each other as human beings and treated each other as such it would be such a better world to live in ( I can hope). This has been very interesting reading and I think you all have very good points.

  • mattyc

    Roy
    My point was that Christians don’t view the Old Testement the same way Jews do because Christians view it through the lense of the new Testement. So there have been years and years of thought trying to link the old to the new. So even though none of the books in the hebrew bible were written by paul, christians view them through paul’s theology. And also when reading the new test christians do not read those documents how they were initially intended. They were written for specific communities with a specific purpose. Christians read it as one complete work and since Paul outweighs every other author in the new test his theology is dominant. And historically it should be called Pauline Christianity as he started the religion, not Jesus.

  • Andy

    Roy,

    If the gospels were written later than most of Paul’s work (and they were), then they would presumably be influenced (perhaps strongly) by him. That summarizes what I understood to be mattyc’s point.

  • Roy Gathercoal

    Probably so, to some degree.

    I was trying to highlight the lack of certainty about what went into, and was kept out of the scriptural canon. I think we are on the same side–I am confident that any sort of “literal” view of the canon is problematic, if the basis for it is the assumption that the apostles sat around a table and decided what would go in.

    Many scholars believe that the scriptures were “protected and guided” by God. That’s fine, at least in terms of consistency and matching up with reality. These individuals tend to recognize the diverse sources and complex decisions that went into the canon.

    I only wanted to say that while Paul’s writings dominate the epistles section of the New Testament (I don’t know of anyone who states that the gospels or Acts were written by Paul), its beginnings were much less unified than this statement might suggest.

    As to the issue of Paul influencing the reading of the “Old Testament”, I agree to a limited extent.

    It might be more accurate to talk about it the other direction: Paul was trained as a Pharisee and would have been well versed in the “Old Testament” as it was interpreted by the scholars of the time.

    It is also striking to me that Paul refers to the “Old Testament” far less often than do the gospel writers. This might be *because* the big issue that was trying the unity of the new believers was the question whether they had to be Jews in order to be believers. Paul’s position clearly was “no.” Peter’s position (as reported by Paul) was less definite.

    That’s all. Just wanted to clarify what might have been misunderstood. It is surprising how many Christians assume that the apostles gathered their manuscripts together and decided to have them bound into a book.

    I think the prevailing thought is that the work of selecting which manuscripts were scripture and which were not happened sometime in the second or third century–as much as 300 years after Jesus’ life on earth.

    But I might be wrong on this, as well! If practice makes perfect, I’m just about a perfect “being wrong” athlete. . .

  • http://sajeev.philipgmail.com Sajeev Philip

    Never be a Christian because Jesus was not a Christian. These immortal words of Osho sum it up.
    Sajeev Philip


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X