Recent Stories of Leaving the Faith

Recent Stories of Leaving the Faith August 20, 2019

The recent stories of Josh Harris and Marty Sampson, one the well-known author of I Kissed Dating Good-Bye and the other a Hillsong songwriter, have been scrutinized recently. Some had a bit of a databank of others to draw upon for their observations while others had some pastoral experience with folks leaving the faith. There is lots of speculation, so it seems to me, in what is being said.

Some years back I wrote a chapter in a book on this very topic: Finding Faith, Losing Faith. (One chapter in this book was written by Hauna Ondrey, now a professor at North Park Theological Seminary.) My conclusions were based on months of reading depressing stories of “de-conversion” or “apostasy.” It seems that work can be brought to be bear on what is now being said about these two recent departures from the faith. Much of what is being said of late is based on (overly, narrowly) scrutinizing only these two stories and filling in the blanks with some (too much) theoretical speculation.

My conclusion at the end of my study is that a person apostasizes or leaves the faith to find independence. This autonomy can be intellectual, psychological, or moral (or behavioral) or more than one or all of them. My study leads me to believe we should be looking through the statements of someone like Marty Sampson to what he wants to do, how he wants to behave, to whom he wants to answer. He’s looking for independence for something.

I’ve grabbed a few paragraphs from my chapter in what follows:

Theoretically speaking, all conversions are apostasies and all apostasies are therefore conversions. Everyone who converts leaves a former faith, even if that faith is ill-defined. Everyone who leaves the orthodox Christian faith converts to a different faith, even if that new faith is as ill-defined as a kind of agnosticism or personal theism or even gentler forms of atheism. Those who study conversions often observe that a conversion to something means a conversion from something else, but rarely does the observation work itself into the fabric of one’s study of conversions themselves. One rare exception is the fine study of John Barbour, who specializes in studying autobiographies.

In his study, Versions of Deconversion, Barbour observes that those who tell their own stories of conversion also reflect on their own past through four lenses:

they doubt or deny the truth of the previous system of beliefs;

they criticize the morality of the former life;

they express emotional upheaval upon leaving a former faith; and

they speak of being rejected by their former community.

Barbour studies some of the most important “autobiographers” in the history of the Church, including Augustine, John Bunyan, and John Henry Newman. These people not only had great skills in analyzing their own conscience, but their own stories have shaped how Christians have learned to tell an acceptable story of conversion. To study these tree figures is study how Christians have learned to tell a conversion story. And one element of this story is the need to explain the inadequacy of their former life and even anyone associated with it. This study will reverse the typical Christian story to study those who have left the faith, those who have committed what the historic faith calls “apostasy.”

There is no historic profile for someone who leaves orthodoxy or, to use a clinical and historical term, who commits apostasy by abandoning orthodoxy. Some of those we have studied were nurtured into the faith in committed Christian homes (like Christine Wicker) while others experienced dramatic conversions to the faith (like Templeton and Loftus). Each, for a variety of reasons, encountered issues and ideas and experiences that simply shook the faith beyond stability. In essence, those who leave the faith discover a profound, deep-seated, and existentially unnerving intellectual incoherence to the Christian faith. The faith that once held their life together, gave it meaning, and provided direction simply no longer makes sense. For such persons, the whole of life has to be reconstructed from the bottom up.

Not all who experience this intellectual incoherence abandon their faith permanently. Timothy Larsen, a professor at Wheaton College, has detailed the stories of seven intellectuals who not only endured a crisis of faith that shook their faith but who also, once on the other side of the fence, experienced another crisis of doubt that led them back to the orthodox faith. His book, Crisis of Doubt, remains an enduring reminder that walking away can be followed up eventually by returning home.

What were the issues and ideas and experiences that precipitated their “crisis,” their walking away, and their quest for a new and different kind of life, one no longer related to that original faith?

Scripture in tension with what one believes Scripture is/ought to be

Science and faith in a war with one another

Christian hypocrisy

Hell as taught: eternal conscious punishment/torture

The God of the Bible (Old Testament usually)

In my study, one and nearly always a combination of the above five major elements forms the core of a crisis in the viability of one’s orthodox Christian faith. Because humans are complex and because our decisions are made in the crucible of life with all its connections and because with nearly every person I have studied there is more involved than one issue, when a scholar like Bart Ehrman seems to reduce his crisis to the discovery that the text of the New Testament cannot be determined with certainty, someone who studies conversions is left wondering what else was involved in that decision. After discovering that Abiathar in Mark 2 was a mistake, Ehrman says this of his own mind: “Once I made that admission [that the Bible could be wrong], the floodgates opened.” From there Ehrman charts the devolution of his own orthodox faith. Such, indeed, was his crisis. The result of a crisis like this for those we have studied is a collapse of their own personal faith in Jesus Christ and all that entails, including ostracism from one’s faith community and the reconstruction of a new world of meaning.

Even if the stories of those who leave the faith do not emphasize the benefits one finds or the newly-found intellectual coherence on the other side, intellectual coherence is the immediate and most sought-after desire. Perhaps the best evidence for this is the animus one finds in the constant diatribes and arguments such persons express against Christianity. Many of us have seen this in Richard Dawkins, author of the fiery book The God Delusion. It is my contention that what drives a Charles Templeton to write out in white-hot prose his railing away against Christianity in his Farewell to God, or John Loftus to write an entire book detailing his credentials and arguments with his former faith, Why I Rejected Christianity, or Harry McCall to resort to caricature, or Dan Barker finding a need to tell that story in Losing Faith in Faith, is the same: the intellectual incoherence they discovered in Christianity led them especially to debunk Christianity and attempt, so far as they are possible, to construct intellectual coherence and personal meaning on the other side. Another way of putting this is to suggest that those who leave the faith feel like jilted lovers or even betrayed by the one they loved. There is a need for anti-rhetoric, a need to make their problems with the their past a matter of public record.

In the end, to circle back to Thomas Paine, the advocate for those who leave the faith is reason, autonomous, independent, freethinking reason. “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.”

Regardless of who the person is and where they came from, in the end those who have walked away from the faith have come to terms with an inner reality: they have to make up their own mind and live with the results.

 

 

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  • I’ll have to dig around to figure out where I got this idea, but I thought the textual issues were just the beginning for Ehrman. I thought it was ultimately the problem of evil that was the last straw for him.

  • David Moore

    You are correct Phil. The problem of evil was something, along with the textual difficulties, that Ehrman details for his deconversion.

  • David Moore

    Scot,

    What did you read/hear about the effects of abusive church leaders on some for deconversion?

  • chemical

    Even the people who wrote the Bible knew that the problem of evil was a very serious problem for their beliefs; so much so that they devoted an entire book of the Bible to answering that question.

  • chemical

    This is the first time I’ve actually seen on a Christian blog where the blogger didn’t resort to straight-up lies and slander over apostasy. And this:

    My conclusion at the end of my study is that a person apostasizes or leaves the faith to find independence.

    …is actually a reasonable conclusion. Congratulations, Scot! I’ve been an atheist for 20 years, and you’re the first person still in the church that actually has a clue.

    I would like to add something important, though: Generally speaking, if you ask an atheist why they abandoned faith, they will tell you why they choose to remain an atheist now, but that isn’t necessarily why they chose to abandon faith when they made that decision.

  • Patrick

    I had almost the identical conversion Ehrman and the other “jilted lovers” had, except my jilted lover was Christian fundamentalism, not Christ Himself. I feel the same antipathy to it as they do Christ.

    It was a relief for me to get over my worship of the bible and that’s pretty much what it was. I still hold the bible in high regard, but, now share the view that it is a human and Divine work and must be struggled with.

    BTW, I know it’s controversial to say this, but, we are terribly failing the entire world by refusing to re-examine a literal hell torture chamber. It is not a valid interpretation, we’ve lost the metaphorical lingo the ancient Jews used and see it as literal and we’re entirely missing the point.

    Jeremiah used the exact same descriptors Jesus used to Jerusalem leaders of his era and no one thinks he was describing a torture chamber, but, due to Augustine’s hostility to Greek, we believe Jesus meant them literally. Bad theology there and embarrassing our church doesn’t have the moral authority to stand up and say Christ is not a metaphysical Adolf Hitler regardless of how long our preachers have preached this stupidity.

  • scotmcknight

    Stories confirm abusive relationships are a part of the reasons for leaving the faith.

  • Raymond

    Which one was that?

  • chemical

    The Book of Job. The whole thing is a parable about why bad things happen to good people, although I got a much different lesson from it than the authors intended.

  • Raymond

    “I got a much different lesson from it than the authors intended.” That’s interesting…how so?

    My understanding of Job is that he resisted the arguments of his three “friends” but finally asked God why these things had happened to him. To which God replied “Who are you to question Me?” Which doesn’t really answer the question.

  • chemical

    That’s the same lesson I got from it. Job needs new friends, and asking God for answers will get you nowhere.

    I figured that Job was an attempted answer to the problem of evil in that the authors wanted to try to paint the evil we suffer as a test of character; as in, it’s easy to be good, and have faith, when nothing bad ever happens, so God needs to test your faith to see how you really are.

    I don’t buy that argument in the slightest. The true test of character is when you’re elevated to a position of power. There is this atheist youtuber named Darkmatter2525, who has this series named “Power corrupts” where there is an advanced society, and where you are placed in society is determined with a test: You’re given godlike power in a virtual world, and how you treat your lessers (who is everyone) determines your character, and by extension, what position you will be in their society. To me, that makes a lot more sense.

    Besides, people suffering oppression doesn’t really cause them to abandon religion, but prosperity does. Nations with the highest levels of atheism / lowest levels of religious belief are also the ones with the highest standards of living. On the other hand, nations designated as “holy lands” tend to be backward and suffer from violence, corrupt leadership, etc., and have low standards of living.

  • danaames

    I think a large part of these recent deconversion stories is that the people experiencing the crisis have understood their type of Christianity (in this case Evangelicalism) to be the only true one, probably from being told that by people they trust, so that what they think they are doing is walking away from “Christianity”. But it’s really not; it’s the interpretation of the Bible, along with what Christianity is and means, by their particular group from which they are walking away. They may not think of investigating the theology of other streams of Christianity. They could probably find a home in other Western Christian faith traditions, but for whatever reasons don’t seem to go and look into them.

    I was in my 40s when I ran into the intellectual incoherence. But I knew it was in mainly a slice of Christianity, not the whole thing. I never really departed; I just found what I was looking for in the Christian East, and “swam the Bosporus”.

    Dana

  • Barb

    And this exactly why Pete Enns wrote his last book: see the discussion below.

  • John Phillip Pesebre

    /In the end, to circle back to Thomas Paine, the advocate for those who leave the faith is reason, autonomous, independent, freethinking reason. “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.”/

    That’s just the way it is; just stripping off the confines of an ethical monotheism. Biblically speaking, it’s just good ole idolatry.

  • Santanu

    I cannot agree with you more. I say this from my own personal experience from crossing over from Hinduism to follow Jesus when I saw him in a vision as real as I type my keyboard now and the deep crisis I struggled with for a long time until very recently. I went to an evangelical church –Assemblies of God, to be precise and spent more time in the campus ministry called UESI. I realised what I was taught to know and follow as Christianity was their ‘brand’ of Christianity early on, thank God, and did not make the mistake for long to think it was all that Christianity was and is and will be. I went through my personal crisis for quite a long time though and have recently found my spiritual home in Christ alone and in being a Christ-follower but not in the so-called typical Evangelical Christianity that is practised and preached in most if not all Evangelical churches in India. It was Christ who saved me and saves me; it was Christ whom I followed and still follow, not anyone else’s understanding or brand of interpreting Christ or Christianity.

  • Santanu

    Same understanding here. I was like oh God!

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    In my experience, people who are going through the deconstruction process state it publicly because they think they can help others going through the same thing who are afraid.

  • Craig

    The God who saves from Hell is the same God that has billions of people cast into Hell.

    When morality comes to the very forefront of your heart and mind, then you can see very clearly that the God whom you worship is being Cruel and Immoral to the majority of your fellow humans.

    Once your deepest moral intuitions get a hold of you then you can no longer worship God in the same way. You will only worship out of fear.

    I suggest that Marty got morally enlightened just like I did when He wrote ….

    How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe?

  • Obscurely

    Of course there are alternatives to Hell within Christianity, too — most progressive Christian churches reject the whole concept of literal physical everlasting punishment, as well as the notion of a violent God.

  • Obscurely

    It’s interesting to see the sophistication among the Founders in how they related to the Christianity dominating the new Republic of reason. Even deists like Jefferson (who may have been closer to an agnostic?) had a profound respect for the Christian ethic — the baby in the doctrinal bathwater, as he saw it.

  • Obscurely

    I’m guessing the majority of those leaving a fundamentalist Christian faith migrate to a more progressive (reason-friendly) tradition instead? Most of these traditions also have the additional advantage of being more faithful to scripture’s “preference for the poor,” as it has been called, and to the personal and social transformation emphasized in the Gospel (curiously derided by fundamentalists as “the social gospel.”)

  • Monty

    Soooo much confusion over the issue of hell. It is not an issue of
    behaviour. It is clear from God’s word that we are born spiritually
    dead. Being born again means to become spiritually alive. God’s
    judgement is very simple. Either we are dead or alive. Who would invite a
    dead man to his wedding celebration? Jesus did not come to make “bad”
    people “good”. He came to make dead people alive. There are people who
    are alive to God who do not know it and people who are dead to God and
    don’t know. A lack of preaching this tremendous truth leads to all kinds
    of confusion and misunderstanding. Those who are spiritually dead will
    not want to be in God’s presence. Their real regret will be that they
    did not accept Christ when they had the opportunity. People jump up and
    down about God’s perceived injustice. That’s about as useful as
    complaining that there is snow on top of Mount Everest. God does not
    send people to hell. We are all born in hell. God rescues those who will
    accept the death of Christ for the payment of their sin and the
    resurrection of Christ to give us eternal life. God is love. How about
    starting from that premise?

  • Monty

    Something like 95% of church attenders are not born again. It varies from fellowship to fellowship, but it’s a pretty reasonable average. People who are not born again are not “leaving”, they are just confirming that they were never the real deal in the first place. The “easy believeism” that is passed off as the gospel does a great disservice to humanity. I look forward to the day when the church is stripped of those who are not truly members of Christ’s body. Attendances will plummet but the spiritual level will skyrocket.

  • Monty

    Well said. Denominations are a blight on the Church, a mark of failure and immaturity.

  • Monty

    The clue to the book is in Job’s response to God’s questions to him. Job declared that he knew about God, but he did not in reality know God. How are we supposed to “understand” God? The finite trying to work out the infinite? It’s like a two year old trying to get their head around differential calculus. God reveals Himself as He chooses, according to His love and His wisdom. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. Job at least had the courage to ask God for answers. God indeed answered, not in the way Job expected. And God rewarded Job. The three “friends” (who needs friends like that!) were rebuked.

  • Monty

    Do you know God? Does He answer you when you have questions? He answers me when I ask. If not, all you have is some kind of guesswork.

  • Craig

    You wrote ….

    || God does not send people to hell. ||

    According to the Bible that is False. God has people cast into Hell. I can give those scriptures if need be.

    Imagine yourself buried alive in a coffin for a million years. Think about it very deeply. You would go insane. What type of Being would hold someone alive in a coffin for a million years ?

    A Morally Cruel One !!

    The God of the Bible subjects the majority of His creation to ongoing and everlasting suffering and torment forever and ever !!

    The God of the Bible is the Ultimate Evil.

  • Monty

    Wrong on so many levels. I’ll not try to change your thinking. There is no point.

  • Craig

    Asserting that I am wrong and showing why I am wrong are two separate activities.

    If you would like to show why I am wrong, then I am all ears ( so to speak ).

  • Santanu

    Well, you are partly correct. However, denomonations may not always be a sign of immaturity. Denominations may be a result of the perspective from which a group of Christ-followers see Jesus, the aspects of Jesus or his teachings that they see or are drawn by most themselves. But they become a blight when a denomonation thinks their own or favourite perspective is all that there is to Jesus or Christianity. That is immaturity.

  • Monty

    If I thought that you really believed anything of what you said, I’d maybe reason with you. If you were for real, you would be begging for any way to escape God’s judgement. There is a way. Just one way. His name is Jesus. Not good enough for you? Sorry about that but it’s the way it is.

  • Craig

    If you don’t want to reason with me, then there is no actual need to comment to me regarding what I have written.

    Why do I reject what you believe ?

    I reject what you believe because it is cruel, morally repugnant, and morally absurd.

    As I have already written …

    Imagine yourself buried alive in a coffin for a million years. Think about it very deeply. You would go insane. What type of Being would hold someone alive in a coffin for a million years ?

    Do you honestly think that the God would do worse than bury someone alive for a million years ?

  • Larry Knight

    Jesus wasn’t the Christ since he couldn’t trace his lineage to David in patriineal Judaism. If Jesus died for my sins, didn’t he die for all of them, including the ones I committed yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So I’ll commit to rape, murder, and loot because all my sins are forgiven.

  • Larry Knight

    This christianity fraud is bought by only the most gullible, biblically illiterate, and intellectually challenged. i’m still waitng for one of them to explain how two gods siting on two heavenly thrones is monotheism .

  • Larry Knight

    Sell your theological claptrap to one of Franklin Graham’s sheeple.

  • Larry Knight

    Is that the Jesus who was taken up onto a high mountain (Matthew 4:8) and shown all the kingdoms of the world by Satan, a feat made possible because the earth is flat?

  • Larry Knight

    Ah, the born fraud, a concept never spoken by Jesus in the synoptics. Christianity is a fraud perpetrated by frauds who steal your money, prey on the vulnerable, and promise the fictional eternal life.

  • Larry Knight

    Jesus is dead and not the Christ (Messiah) as almost all Jews will confirm. You’ve been duped.

  • Larry Knight

    How about someone who leaves christianity after decades in the church who finally realizes there is no there there in christianity?

  • Monty

    “…Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not practice deceit, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by open proclamation of the truth, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…” The god of this age is Satan, btw.

  • chemical

    My point is that while I believe that God is nothing more than a figment of the faithful’s imagination, the church is very real, and it provides a sense of community and belonging for its members — even if it’s based on something that isn’t real. It’s considerably easier to abandon your God than it is to abandon your community.

    Your journey away from religion is different than mine was, but generally speaking it seems like it’s a gradual change for most people. I deconverted at age 18, so I didn’t spend decades in the church. But still, I’d wager that you didn’t just wake up one day and decide to abandon Christianity. Something caused you to start questioning the church’s teachings, and after much deliberation, you decided it was bunk, right?

  • chemical

    What kind of questions does God answer for you, that you couldn’t get answers to via careful consideration or gathering facts and evidence, and trying to draw a rational conclusion from those?

  • Monty

    Why people get deceived so easily. Why God did not wipe Adam and Eve and start again. Whether or not I should retire from my job. How I was going to cope with a debilitating condition that was ruining my life (so I thought). How to deal with a storm that was threatening my safety while I was driving. Whether or not to trust a man who became the most influential person in my life – for good. What happens to people who never get a chance to hear the gospel. Whether or not I should buy a particular car. Should I go to Bible College. Should I leave the military (very early on as a Christian). I used to compartmentalise my life. I had my “spiritual” life and my every day life. The Lord showed me that He wanted to be involved in every aspect. Something as trivial as getting my can opener to work properly, for example. I went to the bank earlier than usual. A staff member “happened” to be helping a customer in the foyer. We’d had conversations previously about salvation. I was able to invite her to our new school which is a couple of minutes walk to the bank. Previously, I had “just happened” to see her down the beach, about 8 in the morning. I never go there that time of day. Except this day. I rarely watch TV and for sure not before I went to work. The Lord told me to turn on the news. It was showing the 9/11 tragedy unfolding. I was able to pray, along with countless others. It’s being led by the Spirit of God. There is nothing strange about it. Sometimes I get a Bible verse that specifically relates to my situation. Other times, its just an inner impression. There is no Bible verse that tells me to turn on the TV at a particular time. Or to go early on my weekly trip to the bank.

  • Gary M

    Consider: Truth matters. Investigate. Look at the evidence. Read the books of leading Christian apologists and leading skeptics. If Christianity is true, it will withstand the scrutiny.

  • Greg G.

    What about the lurkers?

  • americanwoman343

    Well, there is also the problem of our translations. The Bible says people get cast into Gehenna.. They are dead bodies when that happens. Gehenna was the place of contempt for the enemies that died in battle – their bodies were left there. It’s not at all about eternal conscious torment in fire – it is about a lack of honor.

  • americanwoman343

    I don’t think that’s what it means, or what God does. I don’t know why it got invented but it’s a terrible picture, for sure.

  • americanwoman343

    I used to say that, too. I agree that many aren’t Christians who say they are, however I tend to think they are the Evangelicals/fundamentalists who actually DON’T do business with Jesus (but don’t know it). And as for their faith in the current president….!!!

  • Rich

    And there it is…No True Scotsman!

  • Craig

    What does Jesus Christ save people from ?

  • Karin Isbell

    Amen!

  • KEN J BROWNSHER

    Agree not said by Jesus

  • KEN J BROWNSHER

    In the early Gospels jesus is the Servant of G`D-Not God.Read the noted Biblical Scholar Geza Vermes. He was a Jew who became a Catholic Priest and became a Jew again.He is considered one of the Greatest Scholars of the New Testament and the early beliefs of the Jesus movement.

  • Monty

    I don’t know what you mean.

  • Monty

    I know from experience and from various surveys that what I say is factual. I was present at a discussion with an evangelist. He was asked why he preached in churches. He replied that it was the easiest way to get 300 unbelievers in one place. Now there may be places where most or all are born again. There may be others where none are. The 95% figure is an average. Oh, and right now Scotland is one of the most multicultural places on the planet. I visited London a few years ago. Not so many real Londoners left there either.

  • Greg G.

    Lurkers are the people who read but don’t comment. Of course, they might be apocryphal.

  • Monty

    I’ve never understood the obsession with the faith or otherwise of US presidents. If Christians are praying as they should, we get the leader that we ask for, in a democracy at least. If we do not pray then we should not complain. From where I am as an outside observer, it seemed more that people could not stomach the alternative to President Trump. Why Christians see the need to anoint a President as if he were some kind of mini-messiah mystifies me. What will they say if he loses the next election? I still think it will depend on people praying or not and the quality of the Democrat alternative. I pray for the government we need, not the one we deserve. Before the last election in Australia, the Labor Party (sort of like the Democrats) were virtually assured of power. Except for God, who answered the prayers of His people.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Sins are not magically forgiven by foo-foo-pixie dust. They are forgiven as an action. You must be sincere in your understanding of your sin and your remorse for it. You must seek out and ask for forgiveness. You must acknowledge the sin and you must not want to sin again as part of your act of reconcilliation and then you must repent with an act demonstrating your true understanding that you have sinned.

    Your statement: “So I’ll commit to rape, murder, and loot because all my sins are forgiven.” is inconsistent with all of the above and does not qualify as anything but fake repentance.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Imagine committing suicide because you are so hate-filled or depressed. What type of being would do that themselves? Look no further than your own neighborhoods and towns.

    Like in a suicide, we ourselves, create the situation where we denounce the offer of love and we choose to end our lives. It is our rejection that casts us into hell. When you commit suicide your body gets buried or burned — so you the silly will claim it was someone else who gets rid of the body and therefore is responsible for the suicide. But indeed, the act the suicider did was the precursor of the only other option that remained to deal with the body.

  • Craig

    …. And when one rejects the offer and love which God wants one to have, then God holds them in an Eternal Hell filled with the utmost misery, anguish, suffering, and torment.

    “ Accept my love or I will make you pay “ !!

  • IntellectGetOne2

    You have made the error of a wrong conclusion. There is either God’s love — which you are freely encouraged to enjoy or there is not God’s love, which you are also able to choose. If you think there are other dimensions, where do you find that conclusion? Even atheists have the courage of their intellect to claim that there is nothing after death — a vast maw of emptiness for eternity. Is this not hell? It would be to me and to most of people when they think of absolute emptiness for eternity.

    The problem is your logic has been twisted to somehow put “God’s love” on the same value-plane as “not God’s love.” They are opposites and not at all the same. God’s love is warmth, happiness, joy, peace, comfort, charity, kindness, — in other word’s love. Now, I leave it to you to inform me what you think the “not God’s love” would be like. I suspect you won’t engage to do that, but if you do, it will be enlightening to hear what you think that would be.

  • Craig

    You wrote ….

    || Even atheists have the courage of their intellect to claim that there is nothing after death — a vast maw of emptiness for eternity. Is this not hell? It would be to me and to most of people when they think of absolute emptiness for eternity. ||

    A Non Existent Person is not experiencing anything. Therefore, a non existent person will not experience Hell.

    Imagine a man named, John. He just exists in your mind. He will never exist in actuallity so as to experience pain or pleasure. You should be able to see then that a Non Existent person does not and will not actually experience any Hell.

    Secondly,

    According to the Bible and Christian Faith, if one does not repent and receive Christ and turn from their evil ways they will be cast into Hell.

    As I have written …

    …. And when one rejects the offer and love which God wants one to have, then God holds them in an Eternal Hell filled with the utmost misery, anguish, suffering, and torment.

    “ Accept my love or I will make you pay “ !!

  • IntellectGetOne2

    You lost me? Are you saying atheists are non-existent people? I know quite a few myself and none of them exist only in my mind. If you are saying that atheists are right, and after death for them there is eternal nothingness, I don’t dispute you. I actually support that and it makes my point.

    On your second point, it is true that, according to the bible, God offers human beings free will to choose love or to reject it. That rejection is called hell. The acceptance is called heaven.

    You seem hung-up on the verb “casting” rather than on the definition of the noun heaven or hell. I’m not here to verbally joust with you on your choice of definitions. We have so far established one agreement: Those who reject God have nothing but eternal emptiness to look forward to.

    To me, that is hell. To you it simply “is.”

    God does not make anyone “pay” for their freewill. He HONORS their freewill by giving them their choice. You may have heard of the parable of the rich young man — it is the one where Jesus speaks about how it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to get into heaven. The important part of that parable is that the young man walks away. Read that again — the young man walks away. It was the young man’s choice. And neither did Jesus command his disciples to go and force the man to sell his goods. Instead, Jesus HONORS the man’s choice and only sadly watches as the young man makes his choice. What was his choice? Not God’s love.

    What is “not God’s love”? As we have agreed, it is eternal emptiness and non-existance.

    We really are not far off. We are both saying the same thing. And we both face the same decision. I have made my choice — it is to choose God’s love. You seem to have made your choice — to choose eternal emptiness. God is promising to honor our choices.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    And if you think the Jews are wrong on this particular point?

    Let me guess? For you, only “deplorables” think the Jews are wrong the way you describe them to be?

  • IntellectGetOne2

    hmmmm for being one of the greatest scholars, it sure is interesting how obscure he is!

  • IntellectGetOne2

    That is called free-will. God actually honors free-will. Recall the biblical passage of the rich young man. That’s the one where Jesus speaks about it being harder for a rich person to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

    The relevant portion of that passage is that as the rich young man leaves, Jesus is sad watching him leave. At no point does he command the apostles to go force the young man to do anything.

    Free-will, like life, is a gift God gives us and He honors free-will as he honors life. You have obviously exercised your free-will to believe or not. Rest assured God will honor your choice as should we all.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    I would only quibble with your obviously biased “progressive (reason-friendly) tradition” term. I think the correct way to say it is: “progressive (humanistic, not God oriented) tradition”.

    When you put man at the center of your religion, you would be amazed at all the things you can justify. Ask Mao or Stalin.

  • MR
  • Obscurely

    With respect, do you always write people off based on a brief anonymous post? You read two sentences I wrote, and suddenly I’m in the category of genocidal atheists. This is so often the problem with (so called) dialogue online, so many people are eager to quickly pigeonhole you. How would you like it if I wrote you off as an intolerant and under-educated fundamentalist (which I don’t), based on your short dismissal of me?

  • IntellectGetOne2

    (EDIT for the record: Obscurely wrote something — which I responded to first with the below, and then Obscurely edited their posting AFTER I responded. I subsequenly responded a second time with my other post. Herewith is my first posting):

    With respect back, when someone writes “progressive” and compares it to “(reason-friendly)” it doesn’t take a 7th grade education to see bias.

    And yes every human being has them, but denying your own when you provide actual evidence of your bias, doesn’t help your case.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    With respect, you probably should think more carefully before you write. It was your own posting, not mine. When you write online, on a posting board, you do so to have other’s read and with intention they can (and often will) respond. If you regret what you wrote, and feel it was unclear and misrepresented your intention, attacking me places your angst in the wrong direction.

    A simple clarification instead of an unwarranted attack is far superior to the knee-jerk reaction of blaming your reader for your miscommunication.

    As for your hypothetical taunting of me as an under-educated fundamentalist, and how I would feel if you called me that, I would feel sadness for you for resorting to the kind of hate and anger that I see so often in liberals. But otherwise, such a taunt would mean nothing to me. The left has nothing but hate and lies. I have grown accustomed to such a hate-filled and lying response.

    Good luck in communicating in the future!

  • Craig

    A Man with a gun held to a woman’s head says to her…

    “ Love me or I will shoot you dead. “

    God says to people …

    “ Love me or I will have you thrown into Hell. “

    You should be able to see the moral problem.

  • Obscurely

    If you read what I actually wrote with more care, you’d see I myself took care not to “attack” you, and I specifically said I did not see you as an anti-intellectual fundamentalist. I responded to “hostility” (for lack of a better word) that YOU initiated — not an attack, but being compared to Mao and Stalin sure felt like it — and merely asked hypothetically how you’d feel if someone judged you the way you judged me, based on a single short post. Best of luck to you, sir!

  • Rich

    Well then, do tell how you know it is factual! Present the evidence! I really hate going down the No True Scotsman path but…. The truth is, there is only one way to attempt this, self reporting surveys and questionairres (even the most stringent biased questionairre type will yield 10% of Americans!. A basic survey will get you as high as 45% (Americans) born again believers – if that’s what you want!). I can’t begin to say how problematic surveys and questionairres of this nature are. Whether you think the numbers should be more or less, you can criticize these types of surveys/questionairres and have a case. At the end of the day, you have your notions! More importantly you have your narrative and that’s what ultimately guides your take on this. There are many that will tell you they left the faith precisely because they were very faithful. People who were devoted, passionate believers who trusted Jesus and had a relationship with him. People who studied and knew the Bible. The reality is that people of all flavors and dispositions are leaving and they are leaving for a variety of reasons/complex of reasons.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Your statements are silly to me. You proposed a hypothetical “if” you called me an anti-intellectual fundamentalist. I responded with words saying “if” you had. Your hypothetical still stands and so does mine. If you don’t like my hypothetical response to your hypothetical, you should not have made a hypothetical to start.

    As for Mao and Stalin — I never compared them to you. Seems like you chose to compare yourself to them.

    Good luck in communicating more clearly in your future posts!

  • IntellectGetOne2

    I’ missed that in the bible, you’ll have to show me where God says: “Love me or I will have you thrown into hell.”

    What I have done is given you a biblical verse where Jesus tells a man how to gain eternal life and the man CHOOSES to turn away from Jesus and Jesus is sad that he has but honors the man’s free will.

    So, the bible citation I gave you is real and the one you gave me is a lie.

    Your move?

  • Obscurely

    Good luck to you in getting medical attention for your condition! 🙂

  • Craig

    If people don’t love God ( and loving God is the Greatest commandment in the Bible ) do they go to Hell ?

    Yes or No ?

    Your answer is ….. ??

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Well God is love. If people choose not to be with God, they reject love. Not being with God is not being with Love.

    A better question, which now I hope you will answer, is: What remains?

    We have both agreed on that, right?

    Is that hell for you? It would be hell by any definition I know.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    And good luck with getting your family to respect you and love you. We all deserve that.

  • Craig

    If people don’t love God ( and loving God is the Greatest commandment in the Bible ) do they go to Hell after they die ?

    Yes or No ?

    Your answer is ….. ??

  • IntellectGetOne2

    hmmm, I can see I need to slow things down some and explain it in simple words.

    So God is love. If people choose not to be with God, they reject love. Not being with God is not being with Love.

    A better question, which now I hope you will answer, is: What remains?

    We have both agreed on that, right?

    Is that hell for you? It would be hell by any definition I know.

  • Craig

    If people don’t love God ( and loving God is the Greatest commandment in the Bible ) do they go to Hell ** after they die **?

    Yes or No ?

    Your answer is ….. ??

  • IntellectGetOne2

    See previous answer.

  • Craig

    I asked a question about people AFTER THEY DIE.

    If people don’t love God ( and loving God is the Greatest commandment in the Bible ) do they go to Hell ** after they die **?

    Yes or No ?

    Your answer is ….. ??

  • IntellectGetOne2

    The answer to your question depends on what people choose. God honors their free-will choice.

    If they choose “not love” = eternal emptiness (some people consider this hell).

    If they choose” love” = eternal love (some people consider this heaven).

    The answer is up to each person. I choose love.

    What do you choose?

  • Craig

    In other words, your refuse to answer my question as I have asked it. You have reframed the question and answered that question instead. You have done his because you’re dishonest.

    I despise dishonesty in Christians more than anything else. I hate dishonesty from Christians with a passion !!

    In being dishonest your prove yourself as a bad witness for Christ.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    I have answered it as you asked it. You simply refuse to accept my answer.

    There is nothing dishonest about my answer. The dishonesty you sense must reside elsewhere. It does not reside in my answer.

  • Craig

    Yes or No only to the question.

    If people don’t love God ( and loving God is the Greatest commandment in the Bible ) do they go to Hell ** after they die **?

    Yes or No ?

    Your answer is ….. ??

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Hmmm, let me establish what it is you or I mean by typing a yes or no.

    I believe this:

    Yes = Someone genuinely chooses to love God in word and action and so YES they will go to a place of eternal love, which most people generally call heaven.

    No = Someone genuinely chooses “not to love God,” and so they go to a place without God’s presence, and that place is eternal emptiness, which most people generally call hell (so No, they don’t go to heaven).

    There is your answer in Yes or No terms.

  • Craig

    You wrote ….

    I believe this:

    Yes = Someone genuinely chooses to love God in word and action and so YES they will go to a place of eternal love, which most people generally call heaven.

    No = Someone genuinely chooses “not to love God,” and so they go to a place without God’s presence, and that place is eternal emptiness, which most people generally call hell.

    Matthew 13:49-50 English Standard Version

    49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

    50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    As I have written …

    A Man with a gun held to a woman’s head says to her…

    “ Love me or I will shoot you dead. “

    God says to people …

    “ Love me or I will have you thrown into Hell. “

  • IntellectGetOne2

    You must have mistakenly chosen to take the passages out of context. The proper context is more fully here — and note the term that says “the kingdom of heaven is LIKE…” That “LIKE” is the context that refers to a simile not an exact:

    “47Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.

    48When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.

    49Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous

    50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

    The passage — and even more around it — is stated as a simile. You do know what a simile is right? In the context of calling out the simile, the imagery is given as a description of separation from God following death in a way that human minds can start to grasp the immense decision they would be making if they chose NOT to love God.

    So, is that all you had? A biblical simile? Which describes itself as a simile?

    There is nothing at all wrong with a simile and the separation I discuss for those who choose not to love God — the eternal emptiness — is indeed keeping with the simile.

  • Man (humanity) is always at the center of any religion, for humanity has only the vantage-point of being here, unable to see beyond what we see, and so humanity interprets from that vantage point. Even those who would take the Bible literally do so from that same vantage point. They may believe the Bible to be written by some divine means, but that’s an interpretation from here, not from some imagined “above” outside our own perception. We cannot know the source of the concepts written in the Bible, except that they were written by humans like ourselves. Anything beyond that is a claim of faith, which cannot be proven. Logic cannot prove the Bible, nor disprove it. Any human chooses what s/he believes or disbelieves. The choice is what shapes us.

  • There are those who consider themselves to be earnest, sincere Christians who do not believe in hell – they would be called Universalists. They are often considered heretics by orthodoxy, but even some Church Fathers (such as Origen in the 2nd Century) would be considered universalists. There are some scriptures to support this (unending hell is not mentioned in the OT) in the NT, and those scriptures which suggest unending torture in hell can be interpreted in different ways. Make sure you delineate what type of Christians you feel are in error. I would go so far as to suggest we use the term “Christianity” in the singular in error – there are many variations.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Hello Jeffrey,

    Any religion that puts man at its center is going to suffer greatly from hellish/horrific relativism. I disagree with your view that mankind is limited only to what we see here and now and not beyond our sight.

    The bible was assembled by a council. I’m not sure how that fits into your world view, but its a fairly well established fact not an act of faith.

    The choice to value love or to not value it shapes us.

  • Obscurely
  • Monty

    Yes, I agree that it is complex. Firstly, there is a great deal of research (used against Christians by atheists) to suggest that most Christians are from Christian families. Many of those “Christians” have never had a real experience of being born again. I often get “I’ve been a Christian all my life” statement. It’s just not true. It does not go like that. Then you get the curious, those who like the idea and philosophy of Christianity and even people looking for a spouse. I’ve seen many young women fall for a guy who makes a pretence of being a Christian, only to pull the pin when they are married. My daughter is one of them. Before I was born again, I considered myself a Christian. I was born in England, so that was the reasoning. I despised Church, having been compelled to go for 3 years. I was, however, seeking. I “made a decision” at a Billy Graham crusade. It did not stick. I finally was led to Lord Jesus about 4 years later. Then I knew that something had happened. I was different and all my colleagues could see it. It was not easy, I was in the military and it is nothing like the US where there are a lot more Christians. That was 48 years ago. Many people have a mental concept. It is not enough. Being born again is not an analogy for having a new philosophy. It really is a new life within. If I can talk you into something, someone else can talk you out of it. And that’s where so many “Christians” fail.

    I would like to offer more concrete evidence. My statement is a composite of surveys, personal observations and the observations of others. Billy Graham was aware of this issue and he was right in the front lines. He said that he would be delighted if 5% of the people who came forward at his meetings were genuine conversions. I’m happy to see this exodus. The biggest problem facing the church in the West is the numbers of pretenders. The statistics show that there is little difference in morality between churchgoers and people who are not. It gives the real Christians a bad name.

    Finally, some of those who quit will return. If they are really born again, God will bring them back. I met someone who married an unbeliever and pulled the pin on Church. I knew her before she got married. She had returned to the Lord after much heartache and suffering.

  • Like it or not, we are chained to the relativity of our own perceptions. I’m not saying I like it, either, for it brings us more and more into the postmodern POV, but I think this is inescapable. Your comment on the Council of Nicea and the canon illustrates my point – it was a human organization which decided which books to include. As to your last comment, I completely agree – an existential decision to commit to ways of love (which I view as the core of the Christian faith) both defines and forms who we are as humans. No more comments from me, but I appreciate the dialogue. Grace and peace to you.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    I’m good submitting myself to God’s will and not my own.

    But to each their own!

    As for the books of the bible and the wisdom they hold, I’m all for them!

  • Joe M

    A fair-minded and dispassionate analysis of “apostasy” on the Evangelical Channel. Who’d a thunk it?

    I’d like to claim that my disavowal of Christianity was from careful observation of the data and weighing of the evidence. While that cemented my conviction in time what was the turning point is how the machinery of Christianity uses the best intentions of its adherents against them for the benefit of a few. That is where I started in earnest to examine the flaws of this religion in particular and religion in general.

  • springer

    Where they actually Christians or did the use the church to promote themselves?

  • springer

    Two gods? Where did you get that? I think you know as much about Christianity as the two this article is about. Read the Athanasian Creed — it’s explains the Holy Trinity.

  • springer

    Born again means you are Baptized. Stop listening to uneducated Baptist preachers.

  • springer

    Born again is not a feeling it is the washing you experience in Baptism. It’s all about God — not you.

  • Craig

    Jesus meant the following as literal ….

    49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

    50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
    —-

    I won’t waste anymore of my time with you because you get a buzz from wanting to disagree. You can have the last word.

  • Monty

    What makes you think I just had a feeling? It has nothing to do with water baptism, if that is what you are implying. Yes, it is of God that I am in Christ Jesus. He put me into Christ, but I had to receive Christ. And yes, I could not do that without the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I am also a new creation in Christ Jesus. God did all that. But I am the beneficiary of what Christ did on the cross. Many people know the doctrines. Not so many know the Lord Jesus. I do know Him.

  • Monty

    I was led to the Lord by a Methodist. He did not mention being born again. I get my teaching from the Bible, not from any denomination. Sure I read a lot, but I am not bound to any particular denominational viewpoint. And baptism is not the meaning of being born again. I suggest you read your Bible again.

  • KEN J BROWNSHER

    You must be kidding or you know nothing about Biblical History!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • KEN J BROWNSHER

    He was one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research,[1] and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time.[2] Vermes’ written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning and challenging the basis of the Christian doctrine on Jesus.[3]

  • Tim

    That’s an interesting perspective Scot.

    But do people really “decide” to leave their faith? Is that what really happens? Because you’re using a lot of decisional language here. And I’m not sure that really is the right grammar to map onto what’s really going on.

    For a belief to work it has to be viable. I can never again believe in fairies. I did as a child. And it was wondrous. I don’t ever recall “deciding” to stop believing. But what did happen is the belief became unviable. Now, if you insisted, you could perhaps say I ”deconverted” away from a belief in fairies and “converted” towards a more intellectually coherent understanding of the real world. Except that makes it sound like a choice. When what really happened was that I could no longer believe in fairies though I’d wanted to. But too many incongruities built up until your mind simply won’t permit the belief any more. No more than you Scot could permit yourself to believe that 2 + 2 = 3. I could offer you the world if you could only find a way to make yourself believe it, but it’d be impossible. The belief wouldn’t be viable for you.

    People leave beliefs, including faiths that require such beliefs, because they become unviable for them. Only in our narratives that we tell ourselves afterwards do we like to pretend that we “decided.”

  • Andii Bowsher

    Perhaps “explains” is a bit strong. It more modestly delimits what can and can’t be said, but the danger is that it can appear contradictory (brushing up against the human mind’s limitations).

  • IntellectGetOne2

    My wife describes me as one of the greatest lovers of all time. So I suppose it must be true because someone describes me as such?

    I hope you get the point.

    Second, being an important voice in contemporary jesus research is not the same as being one of the greatest scholars. Let’s say there are approximately 20 contemporary Jesus researhers and he’s in the top 5 and is considered an important voice. That’s roughly eqivalent to scoring an 80 on a test. Again, you want to hang your hat on that kind of result?

    As for writing a book, hate to break it to you innocent ones but today anyone can write a book on anything. Estimates are 750,000 books are published EACH YEAR. So, over the last year, his 1 book is equivalent to exactly: 0.0001% of all books written.

    Are you impressed yet? No one else is.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    I know a thing or two about Christian Theology. It is the single most studied issue in all of human history. Nothing else comes close to the art, music, books, debates, articles, scientific research, archeology, architect, etc, that has been focused on Christian Theology.

    And no. In the midst of all that, there is no question this small tiny voice is insignificant.

    You might enjoy him as a scholar like my wife enjoys me as a lover — but your personal beliefs, like her’s, does not make either him or me anywhere near the top of the list of others who have engaged in the same practice.

    But enjoy him! Everything that adds to Christian scholarship is welcome. Just stop fooling yourself about how influential his work is. Yawn.

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Of course you choose to exit now. This is how it is with all atheists. When they are confronted with the truth, they run.

    I’m not surprised at all.

    And Jesus gave five similes prior to his statement in 49 and led 49 with the “so it will be” meaning so is 49 like the other similes.

    God is great. The truth shall set you free. Your fear of the truth is a marker of your own embrace of anti-truth.

    Good luck and remember, Christ is always there to take you back. Your free will remains in tact!

  • MR

    Thank you, Tim. Nicely put.

  • vinny152

    ..Cults–an off-shoot of “religion”–is-after all-a creation of the human mind–could be “Fiction” or “Non-Fiction”–Take your choice-;^)).…….v152

  • Unsure how all of those deconversion stories you’d read were depressing. I left Christianity over a decade ago and the only thing about it that was depressing was having everyone I know abandon me. Some of your readers might have read about my deconversion in my book, Leaving Worship (as Steve Dustcircle).

  • KEN J BROWNSHER

    So nothing means nothing

  • IntellectGetOne2

    Facts mean facts and truth means truth.

    Truth does not emerge because some guy named Ken Brownsher announces something. Ken, you need to either put up facts and provide compelling evidence for your claims or you ought to sit down and acknowledge you have nothing but your own opinion to rely on.

    This is really not hard. It is the kind of thing children are taught in the seventh grade.

  • Dave Roberts

    There is no such thing as “leaving the faith” as far as being a Christian is concerned. When I became a Christian (I was 30 years old), God spoke to me (just one brief sentence), and the Holy Spirit entered me. At the time, I really didn’t know what to make of this Voice that had spoken to me, and if the Holy Spirit had taken up residence within me, I was mentally unaware of it.

    I didn’t even realize that I had become a Christian until 3 days later. I started reading the Bible, and the words jumped off the page. It was as if someone had changed all the pages within the book, replacing them with new ones that spoke living water to my spirit.

    Ever since that day, 37 years ago, my life hasn’t been the same. God’s Spirit lives within me. Jesus loves me, and so does His, and my, Father in heaven. Their loving presence can be felt close to me as soon as I start praying or reading the Bible. When I’m speaking or writing to others, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me and guide my words. What can I say? He does, every time.

    Please explain to me how I could leave that faith, especially since I will never want to. I always sought God ever since I was about 16 years old, but it took 14 years until He came and changed me within. Leaving is impossible, since it was Him who came to me. The only way that’s possible would be if He left me, but He promised that He would never leave or forsake me. I am His, and He is mine, forever.

  • Dave Roberts

    Evangelicals haven’t lost anyone. As per Pew, their numbers have stayed constant in the States. It’s only the mainline churches that are leaking members. If you’re born again as an adult, ie. anyone over the age of accountability (usually 13, but it varies per person), you can’t leave. It’s only as a response to the cry from your heart that God fills you with His Holy Spirit, but it’s Him who changes you inside. You don’t decide to become a Christian, He decides in His ineffable grace to pull you out of the miry clay and put your feet on the Rock to stay.

    Deciding to become a Christian is only mental assent to an argument. It’s only when God fills you with His Spirit that you become born again, a Christian.

  • KEN J BROWNSHER

    Whose facts?

  • BoBa K

    Ok, how many thrones are there and who is sitting on them?

    1 Peter 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

    If Jesus is at God’s right hand, doesn’t it mean there are two of them, at least?

  • BoBa K

    Unless you are a mindless robot, you decide. However you explain it, your mind controls your actions. Your post only shows that to be a Christian, you need to mentally check out. To become brainwashed, where absolutely nothing will sway you away from the faith. You may think it’s a virtue, but I prefer critical thinking and actually using my brain to make decisions.

  • BoBa K

    Logic cannot prove the Bible, nor disprove it.

    Why can’t logic disprove the Bible? I think one can easily show that Jesus’ promises that apply to this life are easily proven false.

    Among the clearest examples are Jesus’ promises that believers in him will do the same tricks he did and even greater ones.

    ESV John 14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

    12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

    The above promise is easily verified as false, because there is absolutely nothing that a Christian can do that an Atheist can’t.

  • Dave Roberts

    Have you had the experience of being born again, bbk?

  • springer

    Read the Bible.

  • Santanu

    Many people may not really leave Christ but a particular brand of Christianity. Hope that explains. That is my case, at least. I crossed over to Jesus from Hinduism when I was in law college and Jesus just bang! appeared in front of me.

    I have never left him, how can I? He never gave up on me. I just stopped worshipping and feeling in one mind with certain fundamentalist group of Christians. I do still love em.

  • If you are arguing the Bible can be shown to be false, I would agree. If my Christian faith depended on the Bible being 100% true for everything written in it, then I would not believe. However, scientists also make statements which are later found not To be true, yet we do not reject science. The Buddhists have a saying, “The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon ” The Bible points to a transcendent truth, yet not inerrantly, IMHO. My faith does not require that. But to your point on atheism – show me how atheism offers hope for this life and beyond, and I will be interested. Until then, you have nothing better to offer. We can agree on myths of the Bible, but at it’s base, the Bible is about hope and love. Atheism needs to take something of this and apply it before it will seriously compete with the Christian faith, for this is what the world needs and seeks. As long as this is what you, too, pursue in life, I have no argument for your beliefs, nor do I care. I care much more about how we behave, how we treat one another. That’s the heart of the Beatitudes, and why the Bible is considered at all relevant today.

  • EVA-04

    You can always tell the benevolence or malice of any organization by the method by which they treat their former members.

  • Dave Roberts

    I agree, Monty. Those of us who are born again aren’t confined to any denomination.

    My wife was born again three years before me. At the time that she had her amazing life-changing vision of Jesus, she was a practitioner of Wicca, more or less a witch! She thought of herself as a “White Witch”, yet a Witch nonetheless. At least 2 or 3 specific events over a few years prior to her vision, prepared for the event to come.

    On a Marriage Encounter weekend, a movement founded within the Catholic church, she was changed forever as Jesus appeared before her. Her eyes were closed throughout, and she instantly recognized His face from a dream that she’d had about a year before. Sitting at the foot of His garment, at face level with the stitching on the hem, His brilliant illuminating light in the scene shone directly from within Him. Along with that light, simultaneously flowed a Compassion, Forgiveness, Love, and Holiness that was beyond Human comprehension.

    She was at once overcome with shame at her sinful condition, yet He Loved and Forgave her all the same. There is much more that I could describe that went on in this vision. However, the point that I seek to make is that it was during this 30 second (?) experience that my wife was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she was no longer the same person that she was before. I witnessed this new life within her over the next 3-6 months. A new, kinder, gentler, more forgiving, loving and compassionate woman now lived with me! That changed woman still lives with me today, now 40 years after that event.

    No-one from any denomination had witnessed to her prior to the vision – the events leading up to her vision were sovereign acts of God Himself. We don’t all need to have visions to be born again, but I would contend that to be a Christian we must all have been touched by God, in a real experience that alters us for eternity.

  • Dave Roberts

    Similar story for me, Santanu. I was fully aware of my attraction to worldly lusts, so I became a Zen Buddhist for 12 years. My thinking was that if I were to achieve unity with the Godhead, enlightenment, the promise held out by Zen, then I’d be free of all those sins.

    Yet, the longer and harder that I worked to achieve enlightenment, the more hopeless the struggle seemed to be. As I reached a fuller realization that my own works would not save me, an opposite of a tenet of Buddhism, God in His grace and mercy reached down and pulled me out of the miry clay! He spoke to me, absolutely unmistakably, in a clear male voice.

    He said, ” My Son, Jesus, has already done it all”.

    At once, I took the implication to mean that He had done it for me. From that very moment onward, the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in my heart, although it took 3 days for me to start to realize what had happened. My life has been forever changed by Jesus, my Messiah, from that moment.

    Affiliation with a denomination has never had much significance for me. God has Christians who know Him all throughout the world. He spoke to me over 30 years ago, yet regardless of the church (even non-church groups sometimes) His Spirit has been there, living in the ones that who have sought and found Him.

    I say, just as you do, I have never left Him, how can I?

    In Jesus’ name …. Dave

  • Santanu

    Dave thank you so much for sharing this. 🙂 My heart is so touched. Wow .. The Rescuer of all human souls is at work in His Rescue Mission. Great to hear what He has done in your life. I can’t wait to share it with some of the guys in the Bible college I currently work in. They have to study Buddhism as part of world religions and one guy is particularly interested in studying Buddhism after Bible college by staying in a monastery and then reaching out to them with the Gospel. I wonder how wise this plan is though.

    Any advice for him?

    Peace,
    Santanu

  • Dave Roberts

    Thanks, Santanu. For the man who’s interested in staying in a Buddhist (?) monastery, and attempting to spread the gospel to them, the plan doesn’t sound workable. I mean, even as a working person, meditating at home each night, attached to a Zen Buddhist temple in NYC (Manhattan), and attending 3 day retreats as I did occasionally, involves practices that are antithetical to being a follower of Jesus. Such as worshiping idols occasionally, chanting who knows what in Japanese as a break from meditation, and even the purpose
    behind meditation. There’s no way that one could balance a faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour with the practice of Buddhism.

    If this man intends to spend time in a Christian monastery, I don’t think that it would prepare him in any way to lead Buddhists to the Lord. If I were him, I’d refocus to first pray to God to ask Him what He wanted me to do. I’d need a quite definite sign before I’d start a ministry anywhere else. Personally, before I’ve moved somewhere for ministry, I’ve always asked God for a sign like those in Judges 6:36-40. In addition, Gideon had a personal visit from Jesus! Tell your man to read all of Judges 6, especially focusing on v.36-40.

    For example, there was a rumour in a company that I worked for that the owners might combine the NY and KC offices. Just the regular water cooler type of chat, nothing more, and at that point, it could be combined in either city. I mentioned this to my wife who had lived in NYC for her whole life (I grew up in England). Unknown to me, she became very concerned about this possibility that we might be asked to move to KC at some time in the future. So she threw out a fleece, of course without telling me. On a Sunday night, she prayed that God would speak to me on Monday about whether we would be asked to move to KC. Remember, she’s told me nothing about either her concerns about moving, or that she’s thrown out this fleece-type prayer.

    Monday morning, I commute into work in Manhattan as usual. Today is a little different, in that I’m going to be at IBM’s offices all week learning and training about a new main frame computer. I sit down at my cubicle, and before I start the book based training session for today, I stop to briefly silently pray that God would help me learn everything that I needed to understand that day. My eyes are closed, my hands joined in front of me. About half way through my prayer, a male voice interrupts my mental prayer, just like the one I had heard in the Zen Temple around 18 months earlier. The Voice speaks the following;

    “You’re going to go to Kansas City. You don’t need to work so hard to please me. I love you.”

    The Voice starts to fade away towards the end, but I hear the whole message above quite clearly. God didn’t say, “Hey, Dave, mind if I interrupt you?” Nope, He just broke in whilst I was speaking to Him in my mind. That was the last time that I’ve ever heard His clear Voice speak to me, just two occasions, now over 30 years ago.

    So, I commute home, arriving home at around 7.30 pm. As I open the front door, my wife’s walking towards me. “Guess what, hon? God spoke to me today!” I carry on to tell her the three pieces of information that He spoke to me that morning. It was only then that she told me of how she threw out this fleece yesterday, and that the request was that He speak to me today. Consequently, from that point on, over the next 15 months, I knew in advance what I was going to say when I was offered the transfer to KC.

    At major decision points, every born again believer, such as this man. should expect to know from a definite, specific sign from God about this monastery and subsequently witnessing to Buddhists. God is able to speak to us anytime that He wants, in whatever manner He chooses. But He doesn’t want us to formulate plans in our own minds, and then put them in action without asking Him if it’s what He wants you to do. Expect to receive guidance of this type whenever you’re unsure of a major decision.

    My wife and I have some other examples of answered fleeces, but none of them has yet involved a further “Him speaking to either of us in that clear male Voice”. Plenty of still, small voice messages though. Please ask him to read all of I Kings 19 to learn about how those are heard. Verses 11-12 are the key, but it’s always important to know the context;

    “Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice.” NKJ/KJV translations.

    Blessings to you, Santanu, in Jesus’ name….. Dave

  • Santanu

    Yes, He does speak and He does answer our prayers. He is real and He is Sovereign. I had seen Him and heard Him and touched Him and that’s why I follow Him. Or else I may not have crossed over to Jesus.

    I shall share what you said to my friend.

    Thanks.

  • Dave Roberts

    I added some several paragraphs after accidentally hitting “Enter” earlier! I hope that they are of some small help to your friend. They certainly were to me when I initially read them, following by hearing some teachings on them.

    all the best to you, Santanu. I pray that God fills you with the Holy Spirit, so that you might speak His words and not your own as you meet others. I also pray that whatever you say and do might find favour in the eyes of those with whom you meet. I pray this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

    Dave

  • Santanu

    Thank you my dear friend, Dave. I really appreciate your prayer.