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Dialogue w Christian “Outside of Orthodoxy”

Dialogue w Christian “Outside of Orthodoxy” December 21, 2020

This took place underneath my article, Atheist Ignorance of Christianity: Typical Example. Words of Sandy Plage will be in blue.

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In the spirit of Charlie Brown’s Christmas, I would like to say “good grief.”

Why the heaping scorn and ad hominem put downs of WCB and every other atheist under the sun?

You yourself are engaging in “relentless scorn and put down.” Can you not see this?

I deny that I do that. I am polemical and passionate and sometimes I generalize about the experiences with atheists that I have. At the same time I have no fundamental personal hostility to atheists or prejudice against them as a group. I object to those things when it is sent our direction. So, for example, recently an atheist came here and started making out that all Christians are literally mentally ill. Now, that is pure prejudice, and so she was banned. You’ll see nothing like that at all from me.

I’m on record saying that atheists have legitimate gripes in how they are treated by many Christians, that there are different kinds of atheists, that I have had many enjoyable dialogues with atheists: including my very favorite one, that atheists can be saved, that we have much in common, etc. It’s all a matter of record. If you don’t believe me, I can produce the posts.

I was referring to one place [in words of mine that Sandy brought up]: Seidensticker’s blog and comboxes. What goes on there is observable for anyone to see. This indeed is how Christians are treated. I documented what went on there, when they decided to target me for attack.

Now, if you consent to those sorts of insults being lobbed, by all means, defend it. Have at it. Or else you can join me in condemning such behavior whomever does it.

Note that I qualified my statement to “anti-theist atheists”: who are not all atheists, but rather, the ones who constantly attack Christianity and Christians. This is how they very often behave: at least the ones online. Then I said, “generally speaking” and what I said is true. I’ve literally seen it hundreds of times. As one who understands and defends his belief-system, I know what I believe and what Christians believe. That’s not bragging; it’s simply stating the obvious: that I know my own belief-system, as an apologist for it.

I’m enjoying a great ongoing dialogue right now with Jonathan M. S. Pearce: one of the most well-known and influential atheists online. We don’t have to personally insult each other. But we are both very hard-hitting against ideas we think are false and unsupportable.

I just responded to WCB just now, including with an apology for any unfair broad-brushing. I made it clear that my beef was with him insinuating that all Christians believe in double predestination, when in fact only about 5% believe that. That objection has not been overcome at all. Again, it’s not personal or prejudiced; simply a disagreement in the area of sociology of religion.

WCB demonstrates his own deep knowledge and experience of Christianity. He is the one citing and analyzing compelling Biblical passages to make his points. Calling him “extraordinarily ignorant” on these matters seems desperate and defensive and just plain wrong.

You make a basic error in telling us that we mischaracterize Christianity based on YOUR own assertions.

It’s not my own assertions. It’s a fact that only so many Christians are Calvinist, and they are the ones who believe in the wicked doctrine of double predestination. They don’t speak for me and 95% of Christians on that score. I don’t have to defend myself or “Christianity” as an apologist regarding things that I don’t believe, never (unlike many former Christian atheists) have believed, or that 19 out of 20 Christians also don’t believe.

But since we sit outside your belief system, we are allowed to observe what we see. We don’t have to get your nuances right. We can see with our own eyes.

That doesn’t give you the right to caricature literally over two billion Christians and make out that we believe things that we don’t (i.e., regarding matters of documented fact). That’s a form of either prejudice or ignorance. Ignorance is the lesser of those two charges. I have set the record straight, and neither you nor WCB has refuted my claims as to the sociology of Christian belief-systems.

And what we see is predestination and an inscrutable God.

You have to document what you “see”, and you haven’t done so. This is not just subjective mush. What WCB claimed, and what you seem to be claiming now, is a thing that only some 5% of Christians believe. That should be made clear, as a question of fundamental fair play and accuracy.

The citations WCB makes of Paul’s letters below are pretty clear.

Christians disagree on what Paul means. Only 5% think he teaches double predestination. 95% don’t think so.

Look around—people are plainly predestined for certain kinds of beliefs and actions. People born in Muslim families, with very few exceptions, destined to be Muslims, and Christ is unable or unwilling to reach more than a few.

That’s not predestination; it’s the human tendency to belief in religious matters based on what those around them believe: rather than doing an individual study to determine what is true. The offer is open from God to anyone who seeks Him. Our job as Christians is to evangelize and spread the Good News. That’s what I do as an apologist, including defending Christians beliefs so that purely rational objections are answered.

My mother was destined to mental illness which rendered her unable to function socially. No free will for her, and she went to Catholic Church services for years.

So was my late sister. That doesn’t damn anyone to hell. God is a merciful God. Whatever is suffered here, He will more than make up in an eternity of paradise and no more suffering. It’s the atheist system that offers no one any ultimate hope. People like your mother have the life they live here and then are annihilated [in the atheist view]. There is no justice or “making things right or fair”. That’s why it seems to me that atheism is ultimately meaningless and nihilistic: the counsel of despair.

Genetics determines that many babies eke out a few days or years as semi-conscious beings—no free will or coming to Jesus there.

Almost all Christians believe that such babies will go to heaven: as will the millions that human beings ruthlessly slaughter before they even see the light of day on earth.

The cosmic morality of this is indeed inscrutable to us humans, unless it is what it appears, namely, a blind watchmaker.

I’m sorry that you see things that way. The problem of evil is very troubling, but there are solid, plausible answers to it. I’ve dealt with the topic many times.

Finally Dave, you have a habit which rankles even the casual visitor to this blog, like, me.

You puff up like a peacock about how many books are in your library, how many posts you have written, and how many years of experience you have. The claim is always “a lot and vastly more than you!” coupled to insults. It strikes me as similar to how many manuscripts are in evidence for the Bible. Apologists count every shred of papyrus. Skeptics though observe perhaps only two independent sources, Paul and Mark.

May God’s love be with you! Merry Christmas!

That’s your perception, and I think it is unfair and inaccurate. I respond differently in different situations, and there is a reason for every response I make. It’s easy for you to make this generalization, as if that sums up who I am. It doesn’t. If you want to talk about individual examples of where you think you saw this behavior in me, I’d be more than happy to explain why I reacted as I did, and why; and will apologize, retract and modify or remove materials if necessary, just as I apologized to WCB within the last half hour.

[apology to WCB in the same combox: “Now it’s true that I sort of lumped you in with a general atheist ignorance of theology. I did that because I see this sort of thing all the time and it’s ultra-frustrating. But it was nothing personal, and to the extent that I over-generalized or broad-brushed you, I apologize. It’s unfair to make you the epitome of atheist undereducation about Christian theology.”]

I’m a flawed human being like everyone else. But I’m also not this Beast and Monster that a lot of atheists think I am, from listening to all the gossip about me that appears in some of their major venues. I’ve been the target of several lengthy threads entirely devoted to trashing and insulting me: literally filled with flat-out lies (I can produce them if you doubt my word). Gossip and rumors distort facts and the truth of things.

Calling it “double” predestination or merely predestination seems, to me (a Christian) like splitting hairs. If some are predestined (as WCB citations of Paul clearly say) then the remainder are clearly in some sort of hot water.

It’s not without human free will. That’s the key to everything. Calvinists deny human free will., God predestines everyone to heaven or hell without it. 95% or so of Christians deny that, because we think it turns God into an arbitrary and unmerciful tyrant.

Calling it just 5% doesn’t seem meaningful. What % of Christians believe in single predestination?

Almost all non-Calvinists. But again, it also involves human free choices and human free will.

From the outside of orthodoxy (me) it seems like implicitly or explicitly baked into the faith, with special pleading required to assert that God actually gives everybody a fair shake.

Well, then I imagine that is one reason why you are outside orthodoxy, because you haven’t been convinced of it. Universal atonement is God giving everyone a fair shake.

What of the countless generations of heathen Native American? Doomed—unless we read a special meaning to God’s mercy that seems unBiblical.

They’re not necessarily doomed at all. God is merciful to them as He is to everyone, and they can be saved based on what they know (see Romans 2 in particular). You simply are unfamiliar with mainstream Christian teaching about those who have never heard the gospel.

We can all see that some people are drawn to Christ and others are not. Blaming the victim is grossly unfair, given that a) we know from the Bible that God is prone to “harden hearts” and to actively besiege the hearts of others,

When God “hardens hearts” it means He has allowed those who already chose to do so, to do so. I’ve written about it many times. It’s a huge error people make because they don’t study it enough.

and b) the Bible itself is not at all convincing without the special intervention of the Holy Spirit.

This is true, and is why atheists can’t come to understand it no matter how hard they try, because they refuse the guidance and grace of God the Holy Spirit.

Others have insisted to me that Muslims are equally called to Christ, but refuse—even the ones who never heard the Gospel. I don’t buy it. My mother was a gross and unrepentant sinner. According to the Bible, she was indeed annihilated, for eternity, even though she really had no free will in the matter due to a broken brain.

God takes all that into account. His omniscience is such that He knows what a person would have done, had circumstances been different.

Sorry, the problem of evil has no “solid, plausible answers.” You might think you do, but literally nobody outside of apologetics think so. It is the superhighway of exiting orthodox Christianity. I have read more apologetics on this subject than is healthy. I conclude that defending against the problem of evil is itself, well, naughty, let’s say.

It’s a deeply troubling thing to many. I continue to assert that we have good replies to it, and above all, that the atheist “alternative” is far more troubling and despairing than our problem of evil. The “problem of good” is an even more thorny difficulty.

Thanks for apologizing to WCB, and thanks for engaging Pearce.

Thanks and my pleasure!

May God’s love be with you, and may the peace of Christmas bathe you and yours in holy light and mercy!

That’s a wonderful greeting and I heartily extend it back to you and yours as well.

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Photo credit: [public domain / SnappyGoat.com]

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