The Questions that Haunt Christianity

The Questions that Haunt Christianity September 4, 2012

Today, we start a new series here at Theoblogy. It’s called The Questions that Haunt Christianity, and it will be my attempt — as a theologian — to address the issues that keep people from faith.

I’m not afraid of doubt. I, myself, am a doubter. But I consider a large part of my vocation as a Christian theologian to proffer intellectually honest answers to the big questions of faith.

So this series is for everyone who doubts. It’s for your friends who are agnostic and atheistic. It’s a place for them to email me a question, and get an honest answer — even if the answer doesn’t necessarily show Christianity in the best light. It’s a place for you to submit the biggest hurdle you have to fully giving yourself over to the Christian faith.

Here’s how it will work:

1) People will submit questions.

2) I will post the question here on Tuesday and open it up for conversation.

2a) Some weeks, I will appear on Doug Pagitt Radio on Wednesday to discuss the question with him and with listeners.

3) On Friday, I will post my answer.

4) Robust conversation will ensue.

So, if you’ve got a friend who struggle with the Christian faith, or if there are some hurdles you yourself have, send them in. Questions can be posted anonymously.

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  • Already got the first question, and it’s a good one!

  • Brian P.

    Here’s a question… Why do you use the verb “haunt?” Of all the verbs you could have used, why did you pick a verb with this airy, paranormal spookiness?

    Whether attempting to be neutral or motivated by a specific end, every surveyor knows *how* a question is asked greatly influences the responses and thus from there, likely downstream conversation, interpretations, and application.

    Next question would be this… What else does this question haunt? Does it uniquely haunt Christianity or does it haunt other ideas and things and peoples as well? This question about the questions might provided increased insight into that which is needing to be protected from the haunting. Is it Christianity itself (whatever that is to be) or is it something vastly to slightly different?

    From there… Who or what is doing this haunting? Is it Satan’s influence or voice of the Holy Spirit invoking this potentially transformational, potentially lethal haunting? Or is it voices inside one’s head or voices of others or some sort of elaboration conflated mix of projections of these?

    And finally… What is your emphasis on *intellectual* honesty? Why not engage in something much more holistic in its nature and thus vocabulary?

    That doubt triggers growth *and* demise and the paradoxes and mysteries within seem interwoven with the meta-questions provoked by your question and its wording.

    • Arizona

      I am *haunted* by your question. Wow.

    • Kathy

      Brian P, don’t over-think it.

      Parsing verbs with that kind of scrutiny will keep you looking through the microscope while missing what is happening in the stars.

      • Jeffrey

        Brian P has not over-thought anything. Human understanding depends on language, and the language we choose creates meaning. Theologians have known this since the beginnings of theology: they scrutinized every word of the Nicene Creed, for example, and it took them a few hundred years to get it finished. Even then, other creeds have come and gone because people care about words, and words create human meaning. If we couldn’t over-think words, most theology wouldn’t exist, and many sermons would never pass a minute in length.

        Words matter. We make meaning from words. And Tony’s choice of words will skew both the questions he receives and the answers he gives. This is normal and OK. But if we discount the value of words by suggesting “over-thinking,” we belittle the power of the “intellectually honest answers to the big questions of faith” that Tony hopes to explain. In this context, words are the only tools he has. So I think Brian P is justified in questioning the word choice of the question.

      • Happening in the stars? Astronomy now?

  • Marcus Scott

    I struggle with finding God after a long relationship with him. I have a beautiful son that is struggling with Autism and I can’t seem to get an answer from God. I understand the “be Still” answer but I am waiting an hoping and I feel everything is going by the wayside.

    I want to know why he won’t heal him after I have asked and prayed, and why after so many years of being a Christian why can’t I get any answers to my prayers, the answers that I really need.

    I am struggling to not be bitter but I am losing this battle.

    I am 40 and have been a saved, sanctified Born again christian for the better part of 25 years and I am in the wilderness wanting to the answers.

    I’m just perplexed.

    • Jordan

      I work at L’Arche, and similar questions haunt me, but they are also quite different because I am not family with anyone there. Where, the only reason I have a relationship with anyone in the community is because there are people with intellectual disabilities who need support. So, when I start to wonder, would it be better, should I pray, for them to be free of their disability…I realize, I would never have met them, never encountered them, and would they even be the same person? And then, is this a good life, despite disabilties? Maybe because of them? Would it be better without any of that experience? I don’t know. But I know that I have seen something good, and continue to. Even with the hard days.

    • Stan

      What’s the most reasonable answer? That the so-called benevolent creator of the universe that purportedly loves you and holds a vested interest in your well-being and path to enlightenment chooses to ignore your plea for verification of his/her/its existence or answer your prayers for relief from the doubt that plagues you or provide you with reasons for inflicting a disabilty on your child, or . . . that he/she/it simply does not exist and that the universe is indifferent to individual suffering? And which answer is supported by the available, observable evidence or lack of same?

      • Or perhaps that the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator, who loved the world so much that he allowed the world to torture and crucify his own Son, also loves Marcus’ son in a way that includes the difficulties and sufferings that come from autism.

        Christianity does not teach that God will take away all suffering (though he does sometimes heal the sick), or that he is a magic wish fairy in the sky (though he does answer prayer, if not always in the way we want). Rather, God has united himself to us even in suffering and death; so he has made even suffering a way to find union with his life and love.

  • Ben Hammond


    (as gently as I can) I hope that your question is not answered in this series — since it is not the sort of question that Tony is asking for. You don’t seem to the be the target of this whole exercise anyway, since you didn’t mention an doubts or actual questions (of the type he’s looking for) anyway.

    I surely could be wrong though… and you have serious questions to bring to the table. If that is the case, of course I will recant the last assumption.

    Peace be with you — I hope all is well, and goes well with you.

    • I take Marcus to be asking exactly the sort of question Tony wants, though he’s couched it in a personal anecdote. That is: Why would a truly loving God not help those who are in need and who ask him for help? I’m not talking about things we can easily fix ourselves (I need a job, I need money), or cases where we want the world altered to suit our whims (I want to be able to fly, I want that person to fall in love with me), I’m talking about cases like Marcus, where good people are in genuine distress.

      As Stan’s reply clearly indicates, this is a huge barrier for some people (among them me) in accepting Christianity, and as such it’s highly pertinent to this series.

  • John

    Why did God allow the fall to happen in the first place? Why not stop Adam and Eve from sinning and stop the serpent from lying to them?

    • Adam and Eve? Really? Apparently you haven’t heard of Evolution.

      • Min

        If Adam and Eve weren’t real, that creates a few problems. Did God create us as inherently sinful creatures? If so, why? If not, then without Original Sin, wasn’t Jesus’ death pointless?

        • Paul D.

          Orthodox Christianity addressed these problems 2000 years ago. They’ve never believed in Original Sin.

    • Curt Cameron

      “…and stop the serpent from lying to them?”

      But in that story, the serpent didn’t lie, he told Adam and Eve what would happen, and he was correct. It was actually God who lied in that story – he said they would die that day.

      • Puzzling, isn’t it?

      • Frank

        No God did not lie. The word for death there:

        Strong’s #4191: muwth (pronounced mooth)

        a primitive root: to die (literally or figuratively); causatively, to kill:–X at all, X crying, (be) dead (body, man, one), (put to, worthy of) death, destroy(-er), (cause to, be like to, must) die, kill, necro(-mancer), X must needs, slay, X surely, X very suddenly, X in (no) wise.

      • Strictly speaking you are correct, the serpent deceived them, it does not say that he lied.

    • SJH

      He allowed the fall because he allows free will which is necessary for authentic love. If we are forced to make the right decisions then we are not free to follow and to love. Rather then force us to follow (slavery) God chose to come down and die knowing that if he did that for us then many would freely choose to follow Him.

      • Brian

        Protecting a loved one does not preclude free will. God was there when it happened but he remained silent and allowed the serpent to have his way with their innocent minds. He could have showed up and said “the serpent wants for you what is bad, but I want this for you because of what will happen”. He could have been less vague and rather than just saying “oh if you eat that’ you’ll die” he could have explained what would have happened and why. He could have, oh, I dunno, WARNED THEM ABOUT THE SERPENT??? I mean, parents can tell children to not go with strangers but if they really want to get the point across they have to explain why, and they have to make clear to their children that there are people out there who would like to harm them. And if their kid takes candy from strangers anyway, they’re definitely not going to curse them or send them away.

        Wtf God?

        • advent-gred


          Person 1 says X
          Person 2 says not X

          This is complicated for inexperienced minds. It is only an after the fact rationalization that anyone is able to say “well it’s god that you are supposed to listen to, obviously.” Such a thing would not be obvious to these young minds.

          Aside from other objections, I simply cannot say that this situation can be handled by a young or inexperienced mind. Parents probably know what I’m talking about.

          • ::son jumps on couch::
            “Don’t jump on the couch, you’ll hurt yourself.”

            ::son jumps on couch::
            “Don’t jump on the couch, you’ll hurt yourself!”

            ::son jumps on couch::
            “Don’t jump on the couch, you’ll hurt yourself! Next time you get a time out!”

            ::son jumps on couch::
            ::gets a time out::

            ::son jumps on couch::
            ::son falls and hurts himself::
            “Daddy I have a boo-boo.”
            “How did you get it?”
            “I was jumping on the couch.”
            “Now do you see why I’ve been telling you not to jump on the couch?”

            (next day)
            ::son jumps on couch::
            *face palm*

      • Mark

        I am tired of the “god gave you free will” answer. What you speak of is choice. We cannot exercise free will because everything we do comes with consequences and is subject to natural laws. To exercise free will removes the consequence factor which is impossible.
        The genesis story is a metaphor which may try to explain human sentients (blissfully ignorant in paradise until they ate from the tree of knowledge; saw themselves naked and were ashamed..etc).
        Literal interpretations of any religious text is self defeating.

  • Michael

    There seems to be overkill (pardon the pun) in the whole “nature red in tooth and claw” thing.
    There’s a disconnect between hundreds of millions of years of predation and suffering, death and decay — and Adam’s sin hundreds of millions of years later? Huh?
    I’m very disturbed at conditions like Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases that leave people trapped in their own bodies for years.
    I’m troubled by starvation of children — babies and toddlers who cried out for help in agony, and got no help. Seems like a negation of “Whatever you ask in my name I will do” and “The Lord is a very present Help in time of trouble”.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    Why is God so hidden? If he wants to have a relationship with us and desperately wants us to stay out of hell, why not simply make himself available?

    Said another way: Why is faith an important part of Christianity? Isn’t that a huge clue that the whole thing isn’t real?

  • Buck Eschaton

    Why do Christians ignore the Jubilee, when it was so central to the Old Testament and the context of the New Testament?

    • Can’t help it: Catholics have jubilees, but they celebrate them differently.

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  • I think that the issue of God being a ‘god of war’ is worth addressing here. Why did Yahweh order the slaughter of the Canaanites and later rebuke Israel for failing to exterminate them all? This sounds more like Nazi master race actions than those of a God who loves the world and wants to include and welcome everyone into his kingdom. I have had friends ask this and must admit that I have no answer and wonder about it myself. God fighting for Israel and Israel fighting for God in this way is such a motif in the Bible that it must be one of these questions that haunts us.

  • I’m a psychic medium and a paranormal investigator/researcher. I am also a Christian. I was born with my psychic abilities, because I inherited them from my family.

    Some of the things you’re talking about they also talk about on the web show the Paranormal Christian.

    • YoRp

      You are nothing without proof.

      Go get some so we can all stop fighting over it…or shut up.

    • A3Kr0n

      If you really have psychic abilities then James Randi has 1 million dollars he’d like to give you.

  • How do you deal with the fact that you essentially believe in something that is unfalsifiable and therefore can’t be distinguished from fantasy or delusion?

    And furthermore, knowing that you essentially believe in something that can’t be distinguished from fantasy or delusion, what makes you think that your particular story (e.g. Yahweh/Jesus) is real as opposed to the 1,000+ other god/creation stories?

    The first one is the key one because it relates with the god concept as a whole. The second really just deals with the absurdity of picking one story (e.g. Christianity) over others, which is a much easier bridge to cross than abandoning the entire god concept.

    • The Naturalist

      This is a great question and I would like to see Tony Jones and other Christians address it. This question goes to the heart of the mater: why invest in a false life? My first question to any Christian (or any religious person for that mater) is “how do you know your specific religion tenets are true?” Can a Christian go though the claims of the Nicene Creed and give any reasonable justification for believing them? If the answer is “faith,” then the follow up question is “why do you pick that particular assertion and not another contradictory one from a different religion?”

    • SJH

      We believe in something because, although we cannot prove it to others, we have found sufficient proof in our personal experiences to be satisfied enough to take it to the next level of faith. I do not think we should need 100% proof of any one aspect of truth in order to make a judgment on truth. Each of us have our threshold and must satisfy that threshold but if you choose your threshold to be 100% proof then you will not be able to make any decisions in life. At some point you must take it on faith that something is true and move forward.
      I am satisfied with my religion (Catholic) because I think that from my limited knowledge, it seems to be the most consistent within itself. I do not have proof but I am satisfied with the evidence that I do have to make that judgement. In order to make that judgement for yourself you will have to take the time to look into different religions and make your own determination.

      • rustywheeler

        So, in this formulation, other religions can be equally ‘true’ depending on who you are.

        How is this not relativism?

  • Homer

    Is the xian god and the bible the defining set of guidelines for morality and is it so as a result of man not being able to be moral of his own accord?

    If you think man cannot be moral of his own accord, would you kill me if god said to?

    If not, you just might have morals beyond gods. If you would, gods and your morals are not above mine and I don’t worship god.

    This is what makes me struggle with any faith.

    • Joe Cascio

      I would like to know what your answer is to The Euthyphro Dilemma, first posed by Socrates.

      “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”.

      For details, see the Wikipedia entry here:

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  • Mike de Fleuriot

    Do you have any evidence that gods CAN exist.
    Do you have any evidence that gods DO exist.
    Do you have any evidence that these gods are needed by universe.
    And the last one, how do gods cross the barrier from their realm into our realm and not be detected by our science?

  • Edward

    The entirety of Christian mythology (Genesis and the fall) essentially rests on the concept that we are to pay for our ancestors mistakes. aka. “The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son.”

    (Despite a direct contradiction to this in Ezekiel 18:20, and others, depending on interpretation.)

    Clearly, the world still works this way – but how is this fair and just?

  • A3Kr0n

    Here’s my question: Now that we understand that evolution to be true, and humans came from lesser forms Adam and Eve are fictional. Since they are fictional there was no original sin, and no need for God to send Jesus down to Earth to forgive us. Why is Christianity still around when it has been proven false?

  • Mr. Jones, how will you decide if your answer is a strong and successful answer? Will you be interested at all in whether or not we are satisfied with your answers to our questions, or only if you are satisfied with your answers? Will you pursue us to sincerely gauge our satisfaction, or will you walk away, self-assured in a circular, insular, self-contained, self-confirming thought bubble?

    The only question that I think is worth asking you is a request: “Please show me the evidence for the existence of the deity you describe.”

    Then it always comes down to what a skeptic accepts as evidence, and what a theist accepts as evidence, and frustratingly, theists most often have naively, childishly low standards for what is acceptable. Hint: it stimulates at least one of the five and only five senses. It can be verified by more than one observer. The observation can be tested and repeated. The power of the evidence should match the power of the claim, and you’re making a huge claim. It should be the kind of rigorous evidence that you would want to have verifying that a powerful drug is what will be best thing to save your child’s life. I think you get the idea.

    I’ve asked for evidence of this many, many times, and what I’ve been given in response is nonsense about beautiful sunsets, babies’ smiles, and warm, happy feelings inside someone’s gut. I like sunsets and babies’ smiles too. It’s not evidence, it’s emotion; lovely, human emotion that I can experience just as readily, just as vividly as anyone else.

    I’ve been given claims of fulfilled prophesies from an ancient book that offers nothing but self-references for its own veracity. That’s not evidence, that’s hearsay. It’s a collection of stories that self-claims the stories are true without a shred of actual evidence beyond itself.

    And most of all, I’ve been given arguments. Tired, dusty arguments so old that many have Latin names. An argument is not evidence. An argument needs evidence. No matter how eloquent, no matter how elaborate, no matter how mind-numbingly long-winded it might be, if, at its foundation, an argument has no credible, acceptable evidence, then it’s just vibrating air, just a mouth going up and down.

    Please SHOW me the evidence.

    Please don’t waste my time with any more sunsets, babies, warm fuzzies, ink on onionskin paper, or mouths going up and down. Thank you.

    • Squire Bramble

      This is the best question by far and I very much look forward to the answer.

      I find the arguments by theists particularly tiresome because they all use the same set to support their claims for mutually exclusive gods. You are just as likely to hear a Baptist or a Muslim quote Pascal’s Wager or Paley’s Watchmaker scenario as a Catholic or Anglican. When asked why they support a particular faith or denomination it inevitably closes back to an appeal to their own “common sense” – I’ve already seen this up-thread from a Catholic. It’s funny that all of the Pakistanis I know find Islam to be the most reasonable faith, while many North Americans of my acquaintance claim various demoninarions of Christianity feel like the “natural” religion.

    • I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this. According to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV) meaning that faith is what happens in the absence of proof. If you had proof, it wouldn’t be faith any more. (See Babelfish Argument.)

    • Steve S

      Richard Wade, please show me the evidence that reality is limited to that which can be demonstrated with empirical evidence. Please, using your own standards for determining what is real and true, I’d like you to show me the evidence that demonstrates this. In other words, what is your evidence that only evidence can demonstrate the truth?

      Your starting assumptions about what is real and true (only that which can be demonstrated by empirical evidence) are not the starting assumptions of a Christian. And here’s the real kicker, since your starting assumptions cannot be “proven” using your own standards (empirical evidence), then your entire epistemological system is as much of a “faith statement” as that of any believer, Christian or otherwise. The difference between you and me is that I at least acknowledge that my first principles ultimately rest on faith.

    • Darren

      Take the statement, “Show me the evidence for the existence of your God”, and turn it a bit on it’s side.

      “Show me how the God you describe, with the properties you ascribe to him, is logically consistent. Then, show how this God more fully, eloquently, and completely explains the properties, events, and meaning of the observable world and the inhabitants within it.”

      Now, the Theists do not have to pull out a Hubble telescope picture of Heaven with the left earlobe of God clearly visible or some such thing.

      The theists ‘only’ have to explain how an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God is a better explanation for such things as: Malaria, the disparity in suffering from an animal being eaten to the pleasure of the animal doing the eating, starvation, misery, multitudinous conflicting religious claims, wherein, at most, one of them is true, and the rest destined only for eternal torment, etc. These are all things which, for God, _need_ not exist. A logically valid world could be constructed without them, and there would still be more than adequate striving, and character building, and free will to satisfy any theistic demands.

  • Stan

    Why does the Bible, supposedly the inerrant, inspired word of God, contain two different, contradictory, and mutually incompatible versions of the origin of the universe in Genesis? And that’s just within its first few pages.

  • Boz

    This might be a good question for your series:

    The book of Genesis has many improbable stories. One example is that Methuselah lived to 969 years of age.

    Why should I lower my bar of acceptable evidence, to accept such an outrageous claim from an anonymous person ?

  • Chris

    From the ideology of which branch of Christianity will you be answering questions, and why did you choose that particular sect as opposed to the thousands of others?

  • Doug

    My submitted question,
    According to Christian morality as described in the laws in the Bible, how should a woman be properly punished for being raped. Should she be executed because she didn’t scream loudly enough therefore she wasn’t “legitimately raped” , or should she be sold off as property to her rapist to be raped again and again in the future? Why should anyone, especially women, take Christianity seriously when the religion takes such a heartless view towards women and victims of rape?

  • Doug Kirk

    I asked (in a long and roundabout way so as to leave no quarter or place to hide) what is the definition of god, and what properties does it have. I really hope they get to that at some point in the series, because a major problem I have with these debates is the god side constantly changing its definitions of god so it can keep moving the goal posts after they clearly and obviously lose.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I emailed you my question, but I’ll cross post it here as well since everyone else seems to be doing it and I’m helpless against peer pressure 😉 (Yes I WILL jump off the bridge! How do you expect me to go in life without all my friends?)


    Many times, Chrisitans are asked to take things on faith. Faith is considered one of the highest virtues. However, from my understanding, faith is believing something when there is no reason to believe it. “I believe because I believe because I believe.” This seems problematic because someone can take any idea and accept it on faith. I can accept miracles and God on faith, but I can also accept fairies, unicorns, Zenu, or the rich Nigerean prince who emails me on faith as well.

    So my question is this: Is faith a reliable method of dicerning truth, and if so, how?

    (Clarification: I realize that there are multiple definitions of “faith” and they tend to get muddled up a lot in these kinds of conversations. The dictionary has at least 7 definitions. I am talking about “belief without evidence.” I am not talking about “trust” or “hope” etc. I also am not talking about believing in something without 100% certainty: People do not need faith when they can be 99% certain of something.)

  • I submitted my question via the contact form, but I’m posting it here as well for discussion:

    If God exists, why is he such a poor communicator? An omnipotent god would have the power to communicate clearly and directly with people so they wouldn’t have to guess about which religion is correct. Instead we get cryptic messages sent to individuals, books in the Bible that don’t even claim to be inspired, and a whole lot of silence in more recent times.

  • DavidJ

    The bible is inerrant we are told.

    Which version is inerrant?

    Which translation is inerrant?

  • Eric T

    How were the mothers of the grand-children of Adam and Eve?

  • Rachel

    How can one know for certain that Christianity is the true faith when there are, and have been, thousands of belief systems in the world, each with their own believers who swear that their faith is the true one?

  • Beau Quilter

    Quite a few of the comments here could be placed in the category of “why doesn’t this aspect of Christianity make sense”.

    I would narrow it to this: Given that Christianity doesn’t meet the demands of basic logic in so many ways, why should we believe it?

  • phhht

    This is my question:

    Given that there is unambiguous, empirical evidence for the existence of everything from apples to zebras, from cosmic background radiation to the Higgs boson, but none whatsoever for the existence of gods, why should I conclude that gods exist?

  • The Naturalist

    Memes are cultural and psychological ideas that propagate through societies based on a combination of their individual appeal, societal pressure and propensity to spread to others. Examples of modern day memes are viral videos, urban legends and chain emails. In a naturalistic world view, Christianity and other religions satisfy all the characteristics of memes: a) the ideas provide psychological incentives to believe: having the creator of the universe on your side, comfort in the face of mortality, rewards in an afterlife, and fear of punishment for not believing; b) societal pressure: in conforming to the norm, proving connections with community, and shunning of non-believers; c) incentives to spread: by continuous reinforcement through regular attendance and repletion of beliefs, urge to “save” others especially loved ones, having more children, and indoctrination of children into your faith. Note that the popularity of a meme has nothing to do with its evidential support.
    So my question is “Can you demonstrate that Christianity is more than just a well designed meme?”

    • GREAT question. Would love to see this one answered.

  • Christy

    I don’t know what questions haunt Christianity as a whole, as certain factions seem far too certain of things to be haunted by much of anything, so I will lead with the two questions that haunted me when I was a Christian, and that I was never able to successfully resolve. Neither is terribly original, but I never could get a good answer that made sense to me:

    1.The whole problem of evil (Like I said, my questions aren’t original.) If there really is a personal, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God who is involved in an ongoing basis in the world, then he is doing a pretty shitty job of running things. The whole “God gave us free will” argument just doesn’t cut it for me, even though some people seem to find that compelling. The only thing that made sense for me was to radically change my conception of the Divine to something very different from the Christian God. (Stories of how God personally rescued you from something bad will not count as evidence, given that He does not appear to show the same courtesy to the millions of people getting shot or bombed or starved on a daily basis.)

    2. Hell and original sin – I find it impossible to reconcile a good God and eternal torment for much of the human race. (And you may not believe in either – I know that not all Christians do, particularly on the more progressive end of the spectrum.) If you are not down with hell, then what salvation is Christianity offering that is not available elsewhere?

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  • I asked another Christian 5 questions awhile back and I think they are still relevant. They are a bit tongue and cheek, but they are actually serious questions:
    Five questions for Christians –

    • Good questions — clever pop-cultural phrasing, but I like that they all sit sort of in the middle ground in terms of how bothersome they are as well as how accessible to the average person. I particularly like Question 3. That one has always bothered me. The idea that Judas was the real Messiah has been explored here and there, as I’m sure you know, and I’ve always found it most intriguing.

    • I found your answers to his questions. Where are his answers to your questions?

  • abb3w

    As a general observation… in Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s book “Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn to Faith & Others Abandon Religion”, they gave (pp. 13-15) a list of twenty religious sticking points they had provided to a group of students, and also reported the degree to which students in the study indicated that the questions tended to come up and tended to raise doubt. The points in this list might possibly be rephrased to provide a list of questions that haunt religion.

    In any case, it’s a book that both the religious and irreligious might find of interest.

  • DavidJ

    We are told that the bible is inerrant.

    Which version of the bible is inerrant?

    Which translation of the bible is inerrant?

    If there are discrepancies, one must be correct.

  • rustywheeler

    Which New Testament disciple’s version of the Crucifixion and Resurrection is right?

  • rustywheeler

    Why is theology necessary?

  • Kim

    I asked him where God came from. If God created everything, who or what created God?

  • Jesus was alone praying in Gethsemane and was arrested immediately afterwards. How did anyone know what he was saying in order to write it down? With the “Take this Cup of Suffering” and that?

    • Brendon

      He rose again for 40 days, teaching his disciples.

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  • Niemand

    Do you believe Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut are in hell now?

  • TicklishMeerkat

    Longtime reader, first time commenter 😉 I don’t think this question is well phrased, if I may say so. I realize you’re aiming at those who are “struggling,” but what it sounds like what you want to do is argue yourself and others into a god where none exists. An ex-pastor of mine once said that the best cure for doubt was proselytizing!

    Because you have not a shred of objective evidence for a single particular of Christianity’s claims, it all comes down to the book about him. Either the Bible’s accounting of Yahweh/Jesus is literally true, in which case he is the greatest enemy of humankind we could possibly encounter, or else it is metaphorical, in which case it is perfectly safe for me to ignore its lies, errors, threats, contradictions, merciless cruelties, relentless misogyny, genocides, remarkable evolution of Yahweh from just one part of a large desert pantheon to a single monotheistic deity, glorification of submission and suffering over reason and independence, weirdly unrealistic and arbitrary rules, utter and complete lack of historicity or scientific credibility, insistence on self-denial, and odd similarities to contemporary Middle Eastern mystery religions and their risen messiahs. It’s hardly a hurdle to disbelieve in something as horrendous and baldly unbelievable as the Bible. The “haunting” question is this: given that the Bible has zero objective credibility, and given how cruel, error-ridden, and barbaric it is, why in the world would you want to worship its god, much less drag innocent people to him, when there are thousands of religions that possess exactly the same credibility AND the same “warm fuzzies” Christians report? Why this religion and not some other? (Your answer should provide objective proof of your claims. Like others who’ve responded, I have no time for warm fuzzies and subjective emotional appeals. I get plenty of those with my current religion, thank you.)

    It’s nice you’re trying so hard to uncouple Christianity from its barbaric roots. I like seeing the religion try to grow and adapt to the modern world. I like your blog. That’s why it’s important for me to say that if there’s a struggle at all, it’s on the part of Christians to become decent people despite the religion’s brutal source material, not on decent people to become Christians despite the utter lack of credibility of the religion’s claims.

    • if there’s a struggle at all, it’s on the part of Christians to become decent people despite the religion’s brutal source material, not on decent people to become Christians despite the utter lack of credibility of the religion’s claims.


  • Frank

    Ater all is said and done does anybody want to guess how many non-answers we will get in thè form of “answers?”

  • Becky

    I am somewhere between agnostic and christian and have always been troubled by the fact that Jesus seems to predict his return within the lifetime of his immediate audience. If Jesus was God, it seems unlikely that he would be “wrong.” I do not believe in literal Biblical inerrancy but have not seen any explanation for this (consistent with the Christianity of the Nicene Creed) that I find intellectually satisfying.

  • One of the most common arguments for God is that there must be some first cause. From reason I have gotten that the first cause must either have will or not have will. If it has will, you can easily say that the universe is in accord with its will (otherwise it is something which could be moved, and an unmovable thing cannot be moved) and, because we have knowledge of it and its will, we can easily see that it is in accord with the divine will that we are aware of him and that we relate to him directly.

    I am a bit stuck on how we get the fact that the first cause has a will to begin with and, that assumed, how we can get to sin and redemption from the fact that the first cause desires our interaction?

  • Beau Quilter

    Besides the fact that the bible has all the appearance of an ancient collection of mythological stories, there is the age-old conundrum called the problem of evil.

    For those who do not believe, there is no “problem of evil”, just a world that unfolded according to the laws of physics whether we like it or not.

    For the believer, the solutions to the problem of evil require rather convoluted (not to mention mostly extra-biblical) notions such as free will and the fall (as extended to include such things as disease-causing microbes).

    After hearing a theologian describe the classic doctrine of free will to explain evil, I asked: since his bible had very little (if anything) to say about this important notion of “free will”, why was he so convinced by it. He replied that without free will, God is monster. Of course, without free will, there is a much simpler conclusion one can make about God.

  • William cheriegate

    what’s Paul been doing for two thousand years … ??

  • John Moriarty

    Why would I want to have anything to do with a tribe of ancient Semites who conveniently heard their deity tell them it was OK to slaughter their neighbouring Semites, their wives, their children, grab all their land, yet keep their choice virgins to rape and marry and cast on the shitpile if they got fed up with them?

  • Brendon

    Hi. I read today in the bible not to participate in “obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. . . . . You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.”
    Now I’m torn because I wanted to minister to an unsaved friend this week, but he loves to say dirty things. If he start a dirty story, is it okay to listen and not nod, or should I stop him right there? The same question goes for any unsaved person you I might meet. Please answer