Christian Are Enablers If They Do Not Stand in the Defense of Evolution

 

Your quote

Most fundamentalists I know deny the fact of evolution and cosmology because of Genesis. And even if you don’t, those other Christians, whether fundamentalist or mainline, are enablers. You may accept the scientific facts when they disagree with the bible, but most fundamentalists don’t, and Christians like yourself let them get away with it. The church Rick goes to (and you, I was told) has a doctrine that accepts young-earth creationism, at least that’s what Rick said. So if that’s true, why don’t some of the more moderate, or at least thoughtful, members of the congregation take a stand on that issue? I don’t mean be belligerent about it, but in your weekly dialogue with the pastors and congregants, let them know that there is a saner alternative to the non-scientific baloney they espouse.

My reply

What you’re suggesting for me is nigh impossible and highly improbable for others.  Let me explain.

In regard to me, I do not have a stand on evolution.  Here is why.

There are two key reasons that evolution seems probable to me, and two key reasons it does not seem probable.  First, why evolution seems probable to me.

1.       The preponderance of authority.  Frankly, how can so many people be wrong?  Of course I know this sort of argument is a fallacy or is illogical.  An appeal to the majority view or an appeal to authority is a common error.  Even though it is illogical, it certainly bears strong emotional force on me. 

 

I do not have the wherewithal to judge the evidence.  I am not trained in this field, nor do I have an aptitude for it.  I have to believe what others tell me.  I have made a point of listening to documentaries supporting evolution.  These viewings were done with an open mind as far as I know.  The evidence seems solid, but it is only because I’m taking someone else’s word for it.

 

Let me illustrate this way.  I have a formal philosophy and literature background, and I’m reading several works of both right now.  When someone makes a comment, I’m able to judge it based on my training and experience.  For instance, several years ago there was a guest speaker at the church I was attending.  His topic was something like the negative effect of philosophy upon Christianity.  When the talk was over I still remember so many people just dazzled by what was said; they were awe-struck by the presentation.  The speaker was superb in technique; however, his factual statements on philosophy were terrible.  He had totally reversed the definitions and key figures of Continental rationalism and idealism.  No doubt he had read some synopsis somewhere and had mixed up his notes. 

 

The point is that everyone else in the church (so it seemed) accepted what the speaker said.  The argument sounded so good.  I had the wherewithal to actually judge the evidence presented.  When it comes to evolution, I am in the same fix as the rest of the church who heard the speaker.  My option is simply to believe or disbelieve, for I do not have the ability to judge what is being said.  Even though I cannot judge it and even though it is a logical facility to appeal to the majority or to appeal to authority or the preponderance of authority, this preponderance still weights heavily for me.

 

2.      There does appear to be a common ancestor or a common origin.

 

Immediately I’m shuffling my feet, looking down bashfully, and hoping the teacher doesn’t call on me.  The various videos I have watched included illustrations of anatomical similarities.  What I have read about DNA seems to support common ancestry.  Why am I hesitant to simply hope onto the bandwagon?  This is really an extension of the first reason, but a particular, the one that impressed me the most.  I have no means to judge the evidence. 

 

Some years ago I went to a chiropractor for the worse pain I’ve ever experienced in my neck.  Literally, it could not be touched without excruciating pain.  He x-rayed it.  During his consultation he remarked something to the effect about some sort of misalignment.  He then said, “Look at the x-ray yourself.  Can’t you see it?”  When that occurred, I lost all confidence in him.  I have talked with radiologists; it can take years to read x-rays properly.  What a ridiculous statement on this chiropractor’s part.

 

Yes I can look at these diagrams and see this or that similarity, or can I?  Is anatomy that simple?  I tend to think my looking at selected pictures by editors of a film may not be the best way to simply say yes.  My personal knowledge of genes is non-existent.  All I know about them I have believed what another person said.  I can’t even remember the four chemicals (A,C,G, T?) that are arranged in the helix.

Next, why does evolution seem improbable to me.

1.       The mind.  As I have stated, if the mind is merely an extension of the brain, then the mind seems no more substantively impressive that a leaf growing out of branch or the mixing of gasoline and a flame.  These things simply occur.  They are simply there.  One atom is not more “significant” than another.  One process is simply another process out of thousands.  Nothing is “special.” 

 

Yet, this simply does not ring true with “me.”  The “I” inside my head seems so real and distinct that any suggestion that it is not real but only a by-product of another process seems absurd.  I know my feelings are not proof, but why have I used “I” or a form of it four times in this sentence alone?  There is no way to escape the omnipresence in my life of an “I.”  If the mind is not needed or is not a distinct entity, why am I wired to believe it is distinct? 

 

Why is this metaphor or illusion even needed for survival?  Why do we screw around with art and beauty?  Why are you and I spending hours of our personal time discussing issues and searching for meaning as if they are really important, when the mind doesn’t even exist independently of natural processes?

 

2.      This is related to #1.  It is impossible for me to believe my mind is not an entity apart from natural processes.  Many evolutionists believe this will be solved someday.  There is no need to bring God into this; given time, we will understand how the brain and its processes have created this illusion of an “I.”

 

Let’s assume that the day comes when evolutionists believe the evidence is clear how the brain produces the illusion of “I.”  Monism, without question, is true.  The day that occurs then determinism will truly have won the day, and freewill, individuality, humanity become meaningless.  They are simply abstract words created by some process.  Perhaps if our diet had been different, “we” (that is, the collection of atoms with a brain that produces the idea of “we”) would have used different words or acted differently.

 

Science describes what.  Minds are needed to determine meaning, interpretation, the methodologies of application, the desire to touch the transcendent by music, art, poetry, drama.  Once “we” prove that our minds are merely an extension of physical processes, then why have you and I acted as if it were important what we thought about evolution or God?  “I” cannot help what I thought, for any thinking that “I” do can be backtracked with enough science and computer power to determine eventually what physical process “caused” me, in a line of cause and effects, to think and believe what this collection of atoms designated by VL Vawter does.

 

The mind would merely become a mirror, a reflection of processes rather than an author of ideas.  As I reflect on this I’m forced to one of two conclusions: 1) the mind truly exists distinct of natural processes and “I” does exist or 2) the mind is a result of physical processes and there was never a choice to think or do anything independently of said processes. 

 

If #2 is true, then the brain in this body designated as VL had no choice but to seem to think and believe that the mind was real.  This body called VL is not deciding anything if #2 is correct.  And, if #2 is correct, this body called VL will eventually cease, thus producing no more illusions.  If #2 is correct, why fuss about anything?  Oh, “we” aren’t fussing about anything.  The bodily units designated by this nominal term “we” are determined “to fuss.”

 

I see no way out of this #1 and #2.  I see no excluded middle.  Either “I” is real and distinct from bodily processes, or “I” is not.  I have no sense of being determined within my inner self.  I know circumstances have forced my body, and my mind has gone along for the ride because it is resident within my body (such as sleeping, eating, finding shelter, whatever).  I cannot conceive my mind being parceled like my body could be (arm severed, leg severed, etc).  I am 65, and my body feels the age, but my mind does not at all.  My mind still feels the same as ever.

Because of these conflicts with evolution appearing true and appearing false, I cannot make a final decision.  Another factor that makes it harder (perhaps impossible) to accept is the (seeming) requirement that God is not personal or not needed (frankly, not needed for anything).  I’ve read that the number of physical scientists who are atheist or agnostic is 95+%. 

I have no problem with the Roman Catholic view of religion and evolution.  I have no problem with a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, allowing the time needed for evolution.  I have no problem with God implementing a universe with a single law behind it, the undefined one called The Theory of Everything.  I have no problem with God causing the initial spark of life.  Yet, I suspect you would say such thoughts are medieval and would hinder proper science.  God cannot, must not be included or involved in any way whatsoever. 

Regardless how we deal with particulars, we have to start with something.  Either matter/energy have always existed (or something impersonal existed to create matter/energy), or mind has always existed.  The universe cannot be discussed meaningfully without something of some sort having always existed.  As King Lear said, “Nothing will come out of nothing.” 

Scientists as whole have zero problem positing that matter/energy (or something that produced them) have always existed.  I simply do not see the problem with Mind having always existed.  If Mind (God) has always existed, then the Biblical statement “being made in His image” makes sense.  The design issue makes sense, even if brought about by The Theory of Everything which Mind could have invoked.

Of course, when challenged, “How do you know that,” my response is simple, “The same way and with the same methodology that you know that matter/energy has always existed—you simply believe it.”  Also, for both of us, we believe that our respective eternal entity fits the coherence theory of truth, for there is no other way to “prove” the presuppositions. 

If matter/energy has always existed, then most certainly the day will come that it will be proved that the mind is an extension of natural processes, at which time “we” will be proven to be illusory.  The universe is deterministic, and freewill is false.

The above is why I cannot take a position unless it is a position that includes God, but I believe the orthodox test for a true evolutionist is the dismissal of a personal God.  Hence I cannot take a side (evolution without religion or religion without evolution) since I believe that evolution would require  God, minimalistically to start matter/energy with the TOE and to give the original spark of life and to infuse the soul into the individual.

A second reason I could not go to the leadership (and which would probably exempt a genuine evolutionist like yourself) is that 1) there is no “weekly dialogue” and 2) the leadership is fixed in religion without evolution.  No one chit-chats anyone out of a core belief.  (Also if #2 is true above, they are not “choosing” to disbelieve evolution anymore than evolution “chooses” my eyes to be brown or blue.  It simply happened.)

 

Jesus Was Not Born of a Virgin

 

Your quote

Most biblical scholars … know that Jesus was not born of a virgin.

My reply

This comment took me back a bit.  I think you have read some hyperbole.  As I have stated, I have studied Scriptures for a little over 40 years.  My study has included liberal as well as conservative scholars.  You stated “most Biblical scholars.”  Really?  Having actually read many of the scholars from both sides, I see more of a 50-50.  The only way to narrow it more precisely is to conduct a proper statistical study.  I’m aware of none on this issue.  Are you? 

You assert that “most Bible scholars …” and then say “probably all of them” know that Jesus was not born of a virgin.  Are you aware of the large number of conservative Bible colleges and seminaries in America and their enrollment?  Of all things, there is a conservative Bible college in Hopewell! 

Let’s assume that 100% of Bible scholars “know” that Jesus was not born of a virgin.  Are you sure about the word “know”?  Unless the body of Jesus could be found, verified, and His DNA checked along with Mary’s and Joseph’s … how could they know?  They might believe it, and they might believe it with high probability.  But probability does not prove knowledge; it does not prove anything.  Probability is a mathematical tool for describing a comparison, a ratio that compares a subgroup out of a total group.  It does not prove real or unreal, true or false. 

Consider evolution.  You are aware of people who will argue against evolution because of all the factors that make its existence so infinitesimally small: the finely-tuned factors in which everything had to be unbelievably precise for life to even occur.  I suspect your response to this is similar to Dawkins, “So what?  We’re here regardless of what the odds say.”  Probability is our friend and is “proof” if it agrees with our presuppositions; it is “theoretical” and “hypothetical” if it disagrees with our presuppositions.  Actually, it is neither.  Probability is no more than a ratio, period. 

The argument that an argument is true or false because of a fantastically high percentage or low percentage is ultimately an illogical argument and a fallacious one.  I admitted such in my first comment about why I favored evolution.  Truth is not determined by head count or appeal to authority.  Statistics is a sophisticated headcount.  The use of stats is for emotional reasons, not rational ones.

In other words, if it were true that most believe this or believe that … so what?  The majority of Germans under Hitler’s rule believe Jews should be disenfranchised.  And that percentage is proof of what?

 

Your quote

The Hebrew word for virgin and the Hebrew word for young woman is the same word.  There are better words in Hebrew that could have been used if they really meant a virgin.

My reply

My Hebrew is so-so; though I am still comfortable with my Greek.  I can no longer sight read the NT, but I do well enough.  Obviously I’m well aware of this objection, and it puzzles me why it is considered insuperable in contesting.  I have the impression from reading atheists who wish to use the Bible as a weapon that this argument is a poison without an antidote. 

There are two words that are used for maiden and virgin in the OT.  (A third one is merely a different form of one of the other two, translated as virginity.)  There is no single word that exclusively means virgin.  Certainly there are no “better words” if virgin had been meant.  I would be interested in your source that illustrates “better words.”  I do think you have been misled on that point.

There are three other issues that proponents of this argument do not use; so, I will.

1.       In a great many cultures of the world, particularly among the orthodox Jews of the Old Testament (and afterwards), a maiden (unmarried woman) IS a virgin.  In Western culture with the changes since the 1960’s and on, a person needs to flip a coin and guess if a maiden is a virgin or not.  Even in the early 20th century an unmarried woman implied a virgin.  Even I can recall my grandparents and mother talking about the “shame” of girls who lost their virginity prior to marriage.  Even in the OT a marriage could be annulled if the maiden could be demonstrated to not be a virgin, i.e., no blood on the bedding on the night of the consummation.  If we wish to think of maiden in our 50-50 mentality, we may; but the Jews of the OT did not.  A maiden who was not a virgin could exist, but she existed as a scandal.

2.      The Jewish scholars of the diaspora had their opportunity to make this issue crystal clear.  For nearly 200 year from 300-100BC, the OT was translated from the Hebrew into Greek by Jewish scholars.  It is called the Septuagint and is referred to as LXX.  These men could easily have translated the word or used phrases so there would be no question as to its meaning.  How did they translate Isaiah 7:14?  What word did they use: Παρθένος, parthenos.  In earlier Greek it meant either maiden (unmarried) or virgin.  Eventually it predominately meant virgin.  Παρθένος is the same world used by Matthew in reference to Mary, by which time it meant virgin.

3.      In the Hebrew and the Greek (both the LXX and the NT), the definite article is used.  The virgin” is going to have this child, not “a virgin.”  From a grammatical distinctive, this is very important and affects the interpretation.  Not just any maiden (unmarried, in OT culture presumed to be a virgin), but “the maiden.”  It emphasizes her status.  As a sleep around?  That’s 20th century talk.

Does my additional info “prove” Mary was a virgin?  No, of course not.  But most certainly yours does not conclusively and definitely disprove it.  It seems a better argument would simply be to say, “There is no way for a woman to become pregnant without insemination” or something like that.  The linguistic thrust is not a knockout punch as it is believed to be.   I don’t even get the supposed significance of it.  It certainly is not a poison.   I’ve heard it given in debates with the solemnity of a Papal encyclical.  I get the impression from the critic, “I really don’t want to burst your bubble, but you need to know the truth.  Mary was really a maiden, not a virgin.”  If someone wishes to believe this is a killer argument, then believe away; but let’s not use 20th-century social standards as the measure of interpretation.

 

Miracles Did Not Really Occurs

 

Your quote

The miracles that Jesus supposedly performed are unsubstantiated. There were no witnesses to any of Jesus’ miracles who took the time to record them for history. Plus, if you read the NT in the order it was written, you will see that his Miracles became more miraculous as time went on, the same way any other legend develops.

My reply

I am not troubled or bothered in the least if you simply disbelieve in miracles.  The use of the text as you state is puzzling.  The miracles of Jesus are in the gospels except for one, Jesus encountering Paul on the road to Damascus.  I’m not sure how the reading of the NT in chronological order gives a particular insight.  I have read and taught a Harmony of the Gospels (chronological order with the four gospels in a parallel format) at least three times.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read the Bible (for some years I read the entire Bible four times each year). 

I guess what is not clear to me is “his Miracles became more miraculous.”  I have tried to understand the meaning and significance of this statement, and it eludes me.  There are Greek words in the NT translated (not interchangeably) as power, wonder, sign, which are used with an incident of a miracle.  The words respectively mean something unusual and unexplainable (power), something that astounds (wonder), and something that teaches or points to God (sign). 

For instance, the Gospel of John only uses the word sign for miracle, that gospel only having six miracles in it.  Obviously John was more concerned with what the incidents taught as opposed to their inexplicability or emotional excitement.  How is inexplicable “more” inexplicable?  How is astounded “more” astounded?  How is a sign “more” of a sign?  I cannot make sense of miracles becoming more miraculous. 

Then, how does this tie into the genre of legends?  Or the genre of epics?  I understand how people will look backwards and “explain” how such-and-such really happened.  Of course, this effort too is abstract and will be treated like other abstracts.  Also, the problem when it comes to art is that there are no rules.  I have a decent background in Western literature.  I have read legends and epics.  I’m curious as to the pattern of the origin of legends being miracles becoming more miraculous.  I’m not concerned with your explaining that position or defending it, but do you recall the source?  I would like to have it.  I have no doubt there are several out there, and I’m willing to wager a dinner for the two of us at your restaurant of choice that I’ll find discrepancies in the examples used for this “proof” of legends.   I am confident in my background on this.  I already know the author has picked and chosen evidence; even the opus, The Golden Bough, has discrepancies and assumptions in its assertions.

The argument for you should not be literature or some theory that changes from generation to generation.  You’re a biologist.  Stay with your strength.  Simply say there are no miracles that have been substantiated by science … or whatever you are allowed to say within your framework. 

Assuming the gospels were written up to 60 years after the death of Jesus (though there are plenty of scholars who will argue for earlier date of 30 years after his death), the oral tradition was alive and well.  The fact that oral tradition was used and was “standardized” is attested in the overlap of so many passages in the gospels.[1]  If oral tradition is standardized, which is probable, then the gospel writers transcribed eyewitness material, this being based on dozens and dozens of details that would be eyewitness details.

 

There Was No Sacrifice When Jesus Died on the Cross

 

Your quote

So what was the big point there? There was absolutely no sacrifice, even if he did die on the cross.

My reply

As I stated several times, it was and is irrelevant to me what you believe about this.  My point in listing the fundamentals of the faith was to provide a definition of a fundamentalist that is based upon the origin of the term in the early 20th century.  I still don’t know your definition.  As I have said, I may not agree with your definition, but at least I’ll know what you mean when you use the word.

I didn’t use the word sacrifice precisely because of its broader meanings as you have used.  If the gospel accounts are true as well as the further comments by Paul, then Jesus did not merely sacrifice Himself on the cross.  That’s why I didn’t use the word.  I’m not sure why you changed my wording.

A “substitutionary, vicarious death for the sins of the world” is rather unique.  Of course, you can just say it’s false; that’s fine.  But to say it is the same as a soldier dying for the buddy next to him or a Muslim terrorist flying in the Twin Towers has no similarity other than dead bodies when it’s all over.  In fact, to even suggest that Jesus died for the wrongs of the world is rather presumptuous.  Denying and pooh-poohing is fine; saying it was same ole, same ole makes no sense.

 

Your quote

After all, Jesus was supposedly God. Jesus, according to John, was with God or was God or whatever from the very beginning. So we have God deciding to come down to earth as his own son, just so he could annoy a bunch of Jews so that they would have him killed so that he could then return to heaven where he came from. Nothing lost, nothing gained.

 

My reply

The only reason I think there is such confusion on the Trinity[2] is the total loss of philosophical basics.  There is a difference between disbelief and confusion.  The “three in one and one in three” blindly stated without explanation does lead to out and out goofiness.  I totally agree with you, that the Trinity as popularly explained, leads to the conundrums you stated.  Without question it is absolutely absurd as popularly explained or stated.

I will only give a recap here, but a fuller explanation may be found at http://www.victoriesandvumblings.org/doctrine1.html.  That article is long; so, I don’t expect you to read it; furthermore, I don’t expect you to believe it or accept it.  If you do read it, all I am asking is for you to understand what is being stated.  It is irrelevant to me if you believe it.  If you must reject Christianity, at least reject a meaningful explanation.

“God” is not a name; it is a category of being.  It would similar to the word “man” or “dog” or “cat.”  There are times in Scripture where “God” is used as a vocative, but typically is a compound: LORD God, the God who sees (El Elroi), the God who provides (God Almighty), the God of Abraham, the God of their fathers, etc.  God was often used as an unnamed being, “I was afraid of God,” similar to “I was afraid of the man.”

The name of God in the Old Testament was Jehovah or, more currently, Yaweh.  This is designated in the OT as LORD (all caps to distinguish it from Lord, a different Hebrew word).  So LORD God could be construed as “The God whose name is Jehovah” or anything like that.  We might use a similar construction such as “Frank that man over there” or “Judy that woman over there.”

As you probably know the doctrine of the Trinity did not arise formally until @325AD.  Why such a delay?  The documents seem to illustrate that as time went on the statements of Jesus were considered more seriously, perhaps, more technically.  When Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” it was simply accepted.  As time went on after His death and resurrection, more and more writers began to state there was something different here.  There were too many unusual and unique references to his relationship to the Father.  The comments were too distinct and different.

Eventually God, the category, the definition that had for centuries listed characteristics, now was understood to include more than one personality that entailed all the identical properties of God.  The immediate response is “Ahh, polytheism.”  Not quite.  In polytheism the characteristics and inherent abilities differed from god to god.  There always is one who is toughest of all.  The early church fathers, who had a majority consensus on the subject, believed that all the definitions of God were contained with one personality, called Father, and all the same definitions of God were also contained in another personality in the Son.  As the role of the Son was recognized, so was the role of the Spirit.  The Spirit was considered to be more than a general feeling or the felt presence; the Spirit was recognized as a personality that had the identical nature as the other two.  One was not stronger or smarter or faster than another.  Their nature was identical, but their personalities were distinct.

The closest illustration we would have to this nature would be identical triplets.  Essentially they have the same DNA.  They are three persons, but the same “stuff.”  The Father, Son, and Spirit are three entities, three personalities, but the same “stuff.”

It is not an issue to me whether you disbelieve this, but it does change the wording of your sentence.  Jesus was God (the nature that makes God, God).  Jesus, the personality, was not the same as Jehovah, the personality.  You may choose to say, “You’re just changing words to make them what you want.”  No, I’m using the words with the intent and meaning as stating in the Nicean Creed.  Even Biblical liberals will say that is what the Church Fathers meant … but they simply don’t believe it.

 

The “Sacrifice” of Jesus Is Exaggerated

 

Your quote

Soldiers at war make greater sacrifices all the time. The Muslim terrorists who flew airplanes into our buildings were sacrificing as much for their beliefs. But Jesus got to walk out of the grave three days later. Who else who has sacrificed their lives for others, and there have been many, got to do that? So, not much of a sacrifice from that perspective, is it? And that’s only if you believe he actually was crucified.

My reply

I purposely did not use the word sacrifice because of this ambiguity as stated earlier.  In the three examples, Jesus, soldiers, terrorist, the net result is dead bodies.  Even if I had used or meant the word sacrifice, how is one death a greater sacrifice?  It is impossible to give any more than one’s life.  Yet, we come to the real distinction.  The Biblical writers state that Jesus died for the sins of the world so forgiveness could be granted and the gift of everlasting life be granted. 

A person is free to slap his knee and concentrate not to break into hilarious laughter because it is so absurd.  Disbelief is allowed, but to say what the death entailed and what the promised results were no more than a soldier in battle or a Muslim terrorist is ludicrous.  If it is indeed a fairy tale and sloppy mythology, how can such a thing be accepted as true so many centuries later?

Grandiose statements, such as, Jesus died for all the sins of the world so forgiveness could be granted, may be dismissed as absurd and unbelievable; but why in the world would anyone try to explain away such a statement by making it commonplace?  If anything, the death, as explained in the NT, is not commonplace.

Minimizing or generalizing the statements in the New Testament will not work.  They are too provocative; the claims, too outlandish.  The propositional statements by Jesus and about Jesus by the other Biblical writers are not common, routine, or expected.

 

There Is No Corroboration for the Crucifixion

 

Your quote

The Romans kept decent records back in those days, and there are no records of his crucifixion, no records of the events that supposedly took place during the crucifixion, such as a major earthquake or the sun being darkened, and no record of his supposed resurrection, either. Even the bible doesn’t supply eyewitnesses to that event.

My reply

Who knows why there are no records?  Reasonable explanations can be provided.  For instance, the execution of common criminals was common.  There is no reason to believe there were stored in a super, segregated vault.  The record was made, then stored.  One more dead body, big deal.  After 40 years who knows what kind of storage there was?  When the Romans escaped the city when the Jews took over in their rebellion in the 60’s, why would a fleeing government be sure to take 40 year old records of the deaths of common criminals?  And when the city was complete razed by the Romans in 70AD, why couldn’t the records have been destroyed then?  Why couldn’t the Jews have destroyed them out of spite while they had control of the city?  Even in our sophisticated computers, data can get lost or entered incorrectly.  The ancients were magically exempt from this?  The destruction of Jerusalem was so devastating there is a vast hole in historical data; there is more than a gap with corroborating the Bible; there is a lack corroborating all kinds of beliefs and events at that time.

The absence of quantities of corroboratory text is not particularly astounding after 2,000 years.  What would be much more critical would be contradictory text.  The explosion of Christianity in Jerusalem and Judea after the resurrection was significant.  Why aren’t there contemporary testimonies denying the Christian ones?  Why aren’t there dozens of documents compiling and denying the rumors of a false prophet Jesus, the lie of the resurrection, the silly rumor of the feeding of the 5,000, et al?  Critics are so bothered about the silence of additional evidence that the silence of contradictory evidence, particularly in a cauldron as Jerusalem, isn’t brought up or even suggested.  Why does one silence of evidence bother atheists, but the other doesn’t? 

Logically nothing can be determined from silence.  There are four documents that state that Jesus died and rose again supposedly by eyewitnesses or people who knew the eyewitnesses.  You say that is not enough.  Ok, what’s the number?  There is no number.  The real argument is that science cannot verify a resurrection.  That’s the argument, not the lack of corroboration or lack of denial.

 

The Resurrection Has No Evidence

 

Your quote—

Like I said, show me the evidence.

My reply—

There is no evidence that would ever be acceptable.  What evidence would prove to you beyond a doubt that Jesus rose from the dead?  There is none.  Whatever evidence is submitted will be subject to a different interpretation.   You’re asking for proof like the natural sciences that have universally accepted methodologies.  No abstract has that.  None.

The issue is not evidence.  It never has been.  For a list of reasons, I believe Jesus rose from the dead.  Because I believe that, the evidence is sufficient.  For a list of reasons, you do not believe Jesus rose from the dead.  Because you believe that, no evidence is sufficient.

There are four accounts that record the resurrection.  The four accounts do not harmonized precisely; there are a couple of uncertain chronologies.  If the accounts matched perfectly, the writers would have been criticized for having corroborated.  Since the account slightly differed, a key identifier of genuine eyewitnesses, then critics claim they can’t be true because of the differences.[3]

We know very little about the Peloponnesian War except from Thucydides.  Are you troubled that there is only one source?  Caesar’s Gaullic Wars is nearly alone in detailing what happened in Gaul.  Is that troublesome?  The number of sources is not the issue.  Because Jesus is not believed to have been crucified and resurrection, then 50 accounts would not be enough. 

The real issue is the body of evidence that our presuppositions have posited as reality.  I doubt seriously that history is any factor in your not believing the resurrection occurred; most likely it is the lack of scientific evidence.  It is so improbable that it is impossible.  Once impossible is believed, then “evidence” to the contrary will prove nothing.  Since the evidence is contrary to coherence, then it must be tainted, whether there are four sources or forty sources.

 

Your quote

And I would like more evidence than a few buffoons whom Jesus himself became annoyed with on more than one occasion for their lack of understanding.

My reply

What does buffoon have to do with true or false?  Though a buffoon might be more likely to make a false statement, there is no inherent necessity that he will.  Such a demand is a request for a fallacious argument. 

Though that may make the argument more probable, certainly it does emotionally, it is illogical. 

Children might be questioned as to the truth of what they are saying because of their confusion of reality with imagination.  Yet, when several children give the same story about seeing a man outside the window, then coherence occurs. 

Critics insist that the gospel were written 60 years later.  Let’s assume that.  So, haven’t the buffoons had plenty of time to get their story straight?  The intriguing issue about the resurrection accounts is the numerous details that can be falsified.  There are slight differences and uncertainty about the order of events, a common feature of eyewitnesses.  Yet, this is to no avail.  Why? 

Buffoons are not a real objection.  True and false are not determined by buffoonery but by correspondence or coherency.  This objection seemed to be the most trivial of all that you stated.  It seemed that your intense dislike and rejection of Scripture overflowed unnecessarily.  I took the time to respond, but it seemed to me that your anger blurred your thinking horribly at this point.  Doesn’t it seem odd that you request a fallacious argument? 

 

Fundamentalists Have Failed to Think the Resurrection Through

 

Your quotes

Oh, and how does that bodily resurrection thing work in heaven, anyway? Is God permanently attached at the hip with his corporeal alter-ego? And what about the rest of humanity, the good ones who are going to be resurrected to join Jesus, will they have their old bodies? What if I don’t like my body, will I get a new one? And will my heart still beat? What if it stops, will I die again? Will I still have to take a crap? Will I fart in heaven? Sometimes fundamentalists just don’t think things through.

My reply

Your dislike of fundamentalists is so great that you mention them specifically, but the resurrection was believed for nearly 2,000 years before the first fundamentalist showed up.  A fundamentalist and fundamentalism are 20th century terms.

As far as the “attached to the hip,” if you wish to combine nature and personality, then the absurd image is correct.  If you wish to distinguish nature and personality as they have been for centuries, then the image falls apart. 

Will they have their old bodies?  There are a number of NT passages that discuss this.  I’m puzzled by your question.  If you wish to say, “I do not believe what the NT says about the new body for the believer,” that’s fine.  Rejection of the NT teaching on the resurrected body is ok, but to ask questions that have been addressed as if they haven’t been addressed simply puzzles me.  1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5 are filled with comments about the new body and the old body.  Again, feel free to disbelieve, but I’m at a loss why you suggest such questions have not been addressed.  If ridicule is a weapon in your arsenal (and you do tend to favor it), then ridicule what is there, not what is not there.

You asked about digestion and complications with digestion.  More than likely you used “crap” and “fart” because adults laugh even now (well, the guys do) when they pass gas at a table.  The laughter, I assume, heightens an assumed absurdity.  Ridicule is an effective weapon, but it is also unkind.  I avoid it.  No information is being provided.  That’s why I won’t waste a minute with Jon Stewart or Steve Colbert.  All they do is ridicule. 

Digestion for the resurrected body per se is not discussed in the NT; however, Jesus, in his resurrected body, did specifically eat some fish with His disciples.  Either he ate it and the new body digested it as we understand it now or digested it in a different way.  Let’s assume digestion works the same way.  There would be discarded substance that the body cannot use or is discarding.  Some of the fish that Jesus ate would presumably not be digested.  I have no reason that Adam and Eve did not urinate or defecate prior to their sin.  

How does this prove there is no resurrected body?  What’s the connection here?  Jesus in a resurrected body ate food.  And???  Is this absurd?  Does a resurrected body inherently require no food?  What if it doesn’t require food?  What if eating in a resurrected body is simply for the pleasure of taste and visiting with others?  I have no idea.  All I know (or believe) for certain it this: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  The properties and scope of my resurrected body is unknowable except by a few analogies with the resurrected body of Jesus.  All I can possibly “think through” is how it might have been with His body.

Again, that’s not the issue.  If you don’t believe it for whatever reasons, then no argument is sufficient.  Facts are not the issue in any of this; it never has been, and it never will be.

 

The 2nd Coming of Christ Is Riddle with Confusion and Relies Upon Revelation, a Disputed Book in the Canon of Scripture

 

Your quote

Not even all fundamentalists agree on this one. Some believe he will come before the tribulation, some think it will be during, some think afterward, and some think it is only figurative. The view comes from Revelation, which is a book that is so off the charts that it almost wasn’t even adopted as part of the official canon. There was a lot of debate over its inclusion. And the vast majority of bible scholars knows that it has nothing at all to do with Jesus, the Rapture or the future, but was actually a veiled, metaphor-rich lament of the current (eg. Roman) times.

My reply

End times is not a uniquely fundamentalist issue, nor is it limited to the 20th century and afterwards.  It is true that the doctrine of the Rapture was not developed until the 19th century in England.  The early church’s prophetic view seemed to be no more than what is called “chilliasm.”  There has been movement all over the place since 100AD.  By the way, what discipline hasn’t?  Is science untrue today because of difference in the past?  Differences within propositional statements do not imply false for all of the statements.  They may be all false, but not necessarily.

Without question there are different views, but what is agreed, especially among fundamentalists, is that Jesus will physically return, which was what I stated.  Amillennial views, premillennial, postmillennial, and whatever else advocate that eventually Jesus will physically return and rule.  The charts and graphs differ, but those were not part of the foundation of fundamentalism.

You give the impression that the 2nd coming of Christ is limited to Revelation.  Actually, if Revelation were not accepted into the canon of Scripture, the only 2nd-coming issue that would be left out would be the Millennium.  The 2nd coming is mentioned in plenty of other places in Scripture.  For instance, every chapter of 1 Thessalonians refers to and/or gives some information about the 2nd coming.

Once again you made a statistical comment: “the vast majority of bible scholars knows that it has nothing at all to do with Jesus, the Rapture or the future.”  Just what is this being based on again?  I am not aware of a single Bible scholar who would say that Revelation has nothing at all to do with Jesus, not one.  Give me liberal scholars as far left as Rudolph Bultmann or Paul Tillich, and they will not take that position.  I agree that they will not consider Jesus in the same light as fundamentalists, but even they will say that the 15 times (per the Greek) that Jesus or Christ is mentioned in Revelation that it is the Jesus or the Christ mentioned in the other places in the New Testament, not a different Jesus or a different Christ.  They may not believe what it says, but they do not deny that the comments about Jesus are indeed about Jesus.

I am so puzzled at your strong statistical statements and inferences concerning the Bible.  I may be wrong, but it appears you are reading anything that is opposed to fundamentalism and accepting it as unequivocally true.  As I have said multiple times in this essay, disbelieve as you please; but your arguments about the Bible to discredit the fundamentalist hermeneutic of the Bible are so forced and unsubstantiated. 

I have read so much online and in other books by critics of the Bible.  They attempt to use arguments in the Bible to weaken the Bible’s argument.  That’s fine; anyone may critique.  What are puzzling are the arguments that are used: the insistence upon certain definitions, the use of arguments from silence, the questioning of credentials or authority, statistical inferences, the quoting of texts without regard to contextual data, and on and on.

I have carefully read Dawkins’, Harris’, and Hitchens’ critique of the Bible.  They need to remain with their strength.  For instance, if I hate Shakespeare, then I’ll find a list very easily of what is wrong with him.  The problem, of course, is that my intense dislike will lead me to exaggerate what is wrong.  Have you never heard an arch political conservative or liberal criticize his opposite?  Everything is wrong with the other guy, everything.  When Bush was President, Keith Obermann, a former TV political critic, found nothing but fault in anything Bush said.  Since Obama, Fox critics have found nothing but fault.  Intense dislike will find errors even where error is non-existent.

It would be better if the three would simply say, “We do not believe the Bible is the word of God because we do not believe there is a God.”  Honestly, even if the Bible had no conflicting passages, would you still believe?  Of course not.  Your presuppositions and experiences have created your body of truth (and it has for me), and, when a propositional statement does not cohere with that body of truth, then it is false.

The Bible was not written to convince people there is a God; it was written for those who do believe in God.  From the first verse, “In the beginning God,” God is assumed.

As a side note on my definition of fundamentalism, it means nothing to me if you believed any of it.  I wanted you to know that if I say, “So-and-so is a fundamentalist,” then you would know exactly what I meant.  Whether you would go on to think that so-and-so is demented and mad for believing such nonsense is irrelevant to the definition.  The definition is precise, historically rooted, and can be determined by inquiry.

So, when you say fundamentalist … what do you mean?   What is your definition?  I still can’t tell except that whatever it is, it is very bad indeed.

 

We Live in an Indeterminate Universe

 

Your quote

Our universe could have been created by a quantum fluctuation. Thus, we are probably living in just one of many universes, maybe an infinite number. My point? These quantum fluctuations are unpredictable, at least on a case-by-case basis. Thus we live in a totally indeterminate universe.

My reply

These sentences are an excellent illustration about the concrete and the abstract.  I am not agreeing or disagreeing with what you asserted, i.e., we live in an indeterminate universe.  The point I wish to emphasize is how proof is used against Christian statements, but it is not with scientific ones, at least not this one.

Your proof for your assertion is one “could have been,” one “probably,” one “maybe”, and one “at least.”  In other words, it is loaded with “I don’t know.”  Yet, an assertion is made. 

The creation of the universe is an abstract; it cannot be perceived by our senses or by instruments.  We have to use logic, analogy, and language and simply press on.  What bothers me is that if I do this with God, I am immediately charged with lack of proof.  If you use abstracts with science, such as your theory on the creation, it is considered careful and thoughtful work.  But there is no difference. 

You do not know if creation is really that way anymore than I know whatever about God.  We simply believe our positions and line up the illustrations to prove it.  We feel strongly about our positions because of the coherence.  I guess I’m weary of the unfairness of it all. 

I know that if I made a similar series of statements about God, I would be laughed at by scientists; but, if a scientist makes the statement you did at a symposium on cosmology, it would be thoughtfully considered, but there is zero difference in the nature and scope of the propositional statement or the “proof” offered.[4]

 

Fundamentalist Refuse to Understand Evolution

 

Your quote—

Most fundamentalists misunderstand evolution because they don’t want to understand it. If they truly understood it, very few of them would have a problem accepting it.

My quote—

I’m not convinced that they misunderstand evolution because they want to.  Perhaps you’re correct; I’m not sure. 

On my part I think I understand the broad issues in regard to evolution.  I feel a little self-conscious saying that to you, for I strongly suspect your breathe of knowledge on evolution compared to mine is that of a mountain range looking down on a child’s sandcastle.  Believe me, I reflect very, very carefully around you and other experts in Biology before stating any particular about evolution.

I do have trouble with a certain point, which has been mentioned several times in this essay.  My difficulty has nothing to do with Genesis; it has to do with mind and the extinction of “I.”  Evolution without a God will inherently and necessarily subordinate mind to natural processes eventually.  An adherent of evolution will necessarily have to take that position unless he believes the mind (the soul) is separate and distinct from natural processes.  This position cannot be taken unless the person is a theistic evolutionist (a dualistic position).

If evolution allowed an open tent for Gould’s NOMA and the Roman Catholic encyclicals on evolution, then some fundamentalists could accept natural evolution with God.  I could, for instance.  But I know I would not be welcomed.  Dawkins clearly detests Gould’s comments and considers it unreasonable and an unnecessary concession to be a nice guy.  To Dawkins, Gould lacked the guts to stand up for what evolution means, and it means God is not needed.  If God is not needed for nature, then what is He needed for at all?  Just cross one more name off of the god list.

 

Natural Selection Is Not a Random Process But a Mechanism

 

Your quote

If I set a trained monkey down before a word processor, and if I programmed that word processor properly, the monkey could type out Gone with the Wind in a few days, by random chance. For example, I could program the word processor to save all letters that matched the next letter in the novel and disregard all wrong letters. Natural selection works the same way (by analogy, of course, not exactly the same). It weeds out all traits that are not helpful, but selects for those that cause the individual to be better suited to its environment, giving it a greater chance of passing that trait on to its offspring.

My reply

Of course natural selection doesn’t work exactly that way; you are using analogy.  There is no other way to describe an abstract.  What interest me in this explanation are the “mind” characteristics: “weeds out,” “works,” “giving,” and “selects.”  You’re personifying Natural Selection without giving it a shape or form but simply using the verbs of a personality, the processes of a mind.  Your language makes Natural Selection sound reflective, purposeful, deliberate.  We know it’s not that at all.  Scientists have observed data for different time periods.  In the data in this study, genes have changed over the time period.  Certain data with certain gene traits outnumber others.  This is what happened.  It is documented. 

But isn’t it dry and boring?  So, an invisible entity is created called Natural Selection.  This entity “drives” the process and “weeds out” bad genes and “selects” good genes.  I have no problem with Natural Selection, but it is only a concept.  It is abstract to the core.  There is not a real thing out there doing this or directing it.  It is a metaphor to describe a process, to simply describe phenomena that occurred.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s no choice.  But if I ask you, “Show me the proof that Natural Selection really exists, that it is an entity with mind as your words indicate,” there is none for there is no such “thing, no such being.”  It is an arbitrary chosen word that illustrates (rather forcefully) what happens in succeeding generations.  Natural Selection is a metaphor that states, “Nature appears to be selecting, but it doesn’t, of course.”

Perhaps you do need to correct me.  Are you saying there is really an objective entity that has conscious processes that produces the results called Evolution?   I don’t think so.  It’s a language convention to describe something that cannot be perceived by the senses.  This same process occurs whenever any abstract is discussed.

Frankly, the criticism directed toward theists for falsely personifying God is not directed toward the personification attributed to natural processes that are cold, indifferent, blind, and pitiless.  Why is it wrong for theist to personify, but not scientists?

 

Omniscience and Omnipotence Have Been Redefined to Create an Argument

 

Your quote—

You seem to be redefining omniscience and omnipotence. I’m using them in the context that almost all fundamentalists I’ve ever talked to use them.


 

My reply—

I’m not redefining omniscience or omnipotence at all.  Omniscience is the capacity to know all things, and omnipotence is power to do all possible things.  (Omnipotence does not mean the ability to do the impossible.  Nonsense is nonsense with or without the prefix omni-.)

What we are differing on is how are the omni’s practically experienced; in other words, what are the existential extensions of omniscience and onmipotence.  My original comments do you were not it HAD to be this way, but whether such scenario could exist and still maintain the definitions.  I agree that most define the practical extension of omniscience to mean that God foreordained all the details of what would happen.  If that is true, then we run into all the goofiness that you illustrated in your first email.  Obviously the application or the definitions are wrong … IF contradiction cannot exist.  I chose to keep the definitions and rework the applications.  The applications that I used were not merely hypothetical (imaginary) but were based on micro-illustrations that we recognize, perhaps have used.  IF mind is from Mind, if I could think of this, then Mind could think of it.  If Mind (or God) has the time, smarts, and ability, then He could do on a genuine, grand scale as to what I poorly illustrated with my wife.  That’s all.

I have struggle with this myself for years.  How could God, omniscient and omnipotent, have a plan for my life and allow free will?  I provided a simple example on a human scale how this sort of thing could occur.  If God is eternal (so He has the time), if He is omniscient (so He would know me intimately and could successfully predict all my responses), if He is omnipotent (so He can figure out with His omniscience to put into play, His power, what He needs in order to respond to any potential  act), and my will would still be intact because the Lord could keep Himself from knowing what I would do (in the same way that Jesus contained Himself and said He did not know when the end would come).

The definitions have not changed; what has changed is the practical scenario in which it is played out.  Since contradiction cannot exist (the first principle of presuppositions), I believe your scenario cannot be true (precisely because it contradicts) whereas mine could be true because it does not contradict.  (I say “could be” because there may be an excluded middle that I simply cannot reason out nor heard from anyone else.)

 

God Has a Plan for Everyone; Thus God Has Ordained Heaven or Hell

 

Your quote

However, whether God knows every little detail of my future actions or just the main plan of my existence, the fact is, most Christians, fundamentalist or not, believe that God does have a plan for me. And if he knows my plan, then he knows whether or not I will ultimately end up in heaven or in hell.

My reply

Once again, why is headcount the issue in determining what is true or false?  I don’t care if EVERY Christian believed a definition that could cause a contradiction when applied.  I do not believe contradiction can exist. 

When definitions are provided (as all abstracts require) and scenarios are played out (as they have to be), then when conflicts arise, then there is 1) a flaw in the definition or 2) the scenario is wrong.  I am unable  to reason out a third alternative.  I can adjust the definition, I can adjust the scenario, or I can adjust both.  I chose to adjust the scenario.  Further explanation is in the previous section.

I do have some comments to make on hell.  Hell is the one area that I believe Christianity has maintained silly images.  Let me make a few comments here.

Jesus introduced the term hell.  As you probably know, Jesus took the term for the Jerusalem dump and applied it spiritually.  We cannot perceive hell with our senses; so, Jesus has to use an analogy.  The moment He (or anyone) uses an analogy, then only part of the analogy is being used.  If hell is like the dump, then it is not the dump.  If something is like a dog, then it is not a dog.  All this is Analogies 101.

Jesus mentions smoke and the fire that doesn’t end and the worm that doesn’t die.  Please dismiss Dante’s Inferno and medieval art and movies like Constantine, What Dreams May Come, The Prophet 2, or any movie that displays hell.  Let’s try to get into the minds of the original listeners.

When Jesus first said “trash dump,” (I do mean the first time) they thought of the trash dump.  I doubt seriously that the Jerusalem trash dump would be that much different from the many that I’ve seen.  A fire or smoldering might be here or there, for spontaneous combustion can occur.  Perhaps a live match (or torch for the Jerusalem one) might be tossed in.  Have you ever seen or considered a trash dump that was in continual flame?  Why would we remotely think the Jerusalem one was that way?  Moreover, does anyone think of a trash dump as a place of torture or punishment?  It is simply a nasty, horrible place to be.

Also, garbage would be there for sure as well as human waste and who knows what else.  I can see maggots all over the place (“the worm that dieth not”).  When Jesus said it was better to have a hand cut off or an eye plucked out than to be cast into the dump, that would make a lot of sense.  The word “cast into” is the idea of being cast into prison.  Think of being sentenced to living in a dump.  Tell me truthfully, what crosses your mind as you think of being cast into a trash dump: 1) being horribly tortured or 2) being sickeningly repulsed?  

Is there anything in the metaphor of the trash dump, as originally heard by the first listeners, that would remotely provoke torture and torment?  I have asked many Christians about the imagery of heaven.  None I have talked with are locked into the notion of “streets of gold.”  It means a really nice place.  Yet, the imagery of hell … oh no … let’s keep those flames burning and torture those sinners good.  “Oh yeah, burn, baby, burn.”  Why are the literal properties of one abstract (heaven) considered figuratively, but the literal properties of another (hell) are literal only?

Please note, I am not denying the existence of hell; I am denying the imagery of hell.  There are Christian who believe that non-believers are preordained to hell.  That belief is, ironically, determined by the definition and applications of that definition.  In the scenario that I suggested in my previous email, then God could ordain hell without intruding upon a person’s will.  Hell would simply be planning in a series of potential decisions.

I need to introduce a new topic here, but a relevant one.  The typical explanation for someone going to hell is that God is punishing them for their sins.  There is another way to understand that statement, and I’ll illustrate that shortly.

First, I want to think about punishment.  The Bible does teach that Jesus died for our sins.[5]  Jesus died for the punishment of my sins.  I have yet to find a committed Christian who does not believe that Jesus died for all his sins on the cross, past, present, and future.  Without question I believe that.  If that is so, then why would I, or anyone, be sent to hell for punishment of sin?  If Jesus died for the punishment of sin, then why would I be punished again?  It makes no sense at all.  It is a clear contradiction.  Either definitions have to change or scenarios have to.  Something is amiss.

Unbelievers are not “sent” to hell, nor are they “punished” for their sins.  They will reside in hell for eternity, but not for the reasons typically explained.   Why do I say this?  It’s the contradiction.  Either the definition has to change, or the scenario has to change.

 

A Supernatural Entity Is Not Needed to Explain Natural Phenomena

 

Your quote

You’ve made some valid points, but in my view, none of them are compelling enough to warrant a belief in a supernatural entity to explain natural phenomena.

My reply

There are two issues here.

1.       Before the theory of evolution, people literally believed God made the leaves change color each fall, caused birds to sing each note, and on and on.  I’ve tried to seriously and reflectively think back in time, and I can never remember believing that.  What I probably believed (until later) is that God created the first bird with the capability to sing, and they have continued on just like all other animals with their instincts and capabilities and distinctions.

2.      My major issue, as you know by now, is the mind.  If it is an extension of natural processes, then “I” is an illusion.  If a god did create it, then he had to be at least as great as we understand the mind ourselves.  The lesser cannot create the greater.  It creates at least what it is or less.  We see this in nature all around us.  Nothing is greater than the matter/energy that comprises it.  All “things” are reducible to matter/energy.  In the same way, all minds are reducible to Mind.

 

This is where you and I differ and can never reconcile.  For a god to create mind, then he has to be something like it.  When I think of me, my mind … mercy, how great it is.  I don’t mean academics; phooey on that.  I mean the ability to think, to feel, to interpret, to love, to rejoice, to understand, to wonder, to imagine, to dream, to hope, and on and on and on.  All that happens with and within the mind.  IF IF IF a god created my mind so that it is above and beyond nature, though framed within nature, his mind has to be something like it.  It has to be.  In your definition of a deistic god, that god had to be at least as complex as what he creates.

 

I do not “presume” to anthropomorphize (shapes like arm, eyes are but metaphors), but I attribute to God the same sort of mind activities that I, frankly, attribute to you.  My mind interprets the sensory inputs, and we (and all humans with minds) see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the same way.  Details may differ slightly, but we match consensus.  If out-of-body experiences are real in the sense of being objective, then the key issue they teach is this—the mind can perceive without the body.  And this matches the belief that the mind is not divisible like the body is. 

 

When Scriptures states that we are made in God’s image, that can’t mean shape.  The only thing it can mean is mind.  Of course I realize the assertion or narrative in the OT doesn’t make it true, but it rings true, it is coherent with my mind as I understand it and as I understand you … or any mind, even God.

 

In conclusion to your actual comment, if mind is subordinate to nature since it is created by nature, then the scope and properties that we sense and are convinced of are false.  The brain causes this illusion for survival, nothing else.  A purposeless world cannot create true purpose, but it can create the illusion of purpose, meaning, hope, love, justice, etc.  This is the step that I cannot make because it denies the three primary presuppositions:

1.       I exist.  No, “I” really does not exist.  The brain merely causes the illusion that an “I” exist.

2.      Contradiction cannot exist.  Sure it can.  “I” believe that “I” exist, but “I” doesn’t exist.

3.      The mind is able to discern true and false.  No, it cannot.  It discerns only what natural processes present to it, and whatever the “I” believes is actually Natural Selection’s urge to survive.  There are no abstracts; truth, morality, and beauty are merely tools to motivate the species to survive. 

 

How Does Any Christian Know Anything About God

 

Your quote

Even if everything you say about God’s omniscience and omnipotence is true, that still leaves me with the all-important question: How do you know?

My reply

My answer to your all-important question is the same answer you gave for the universe being indeterminate; you believe it to be so.

The only way an abstract (and mind is certainly that for mind cannot be perceived by the senses) is believed to be true is if it is coherent with the body of reality, the body of truth.  We cannot prove and know in the same sense as an objective test that has agreed upon standards of measurement.

Of course I cannot prove objectively that God or mind exists.  It’s impossible.  I can only point to what coheres to reality as a whole as I understand it.  That is true for any abstract.  The failure to understand this distinction leads to unending and fruitless battles of proof and no proof.  There is no correspondent theory of truth here, only the coherence theory of truth.

This demand for “How do you know” is only a one-way street.  It is a demand only for theists.  Atheists are allowed the same methodology used by theist, but without challenge. 

I ask you the same: how do you know, really know, the universe is indeterminate?  Do you remember your maybe, might be, etc?  It was no more than an assertion preceded by three or four unknowable statements.

The difference between us is that I am not bothered by this, for there is other way to discuss abstracts.  It is simply impossible.  For some reason I cannot figure out, atheistic scientists are given a waiver for abstracts.  Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens (as well as you) were so troubled that theists personify God.  How terrible.  How do theists know this?  Yet, Natural Selection is as endowed as God with properties of the mind and personality.  In other words, atheists may personify, but theists may not.  Candidly, it’s cheating.

I repeat my answer.  I know the same way you do.

 

How Can an Intelligent Person Believe that God Exists

 

Your quote

In other words, what makes you, a very intelligent individual, believe what you believe about God, even if you can tweak your definitions to fit him?

My reply

Your insistence that I tweaked the definition of omnipotence and omniscience simply does not make sense.  I have defined them for you.  Omniscience is the property to know all things, and omniscience is the property to do all things that are possible.[6]  You tell me how I tweaked the definitions.  I could use this before any theologians, and there would be no heartburn on their part.

I think you’re unfair in saying I tweak definitions.  My definitions have not changed from those who believe God has ordained every action.  What has changed is how the definitions are practically manifested.  Tweaking give a sense of self-adjustment for personal satisfaction … or … creating God in my image.  Not even a little. 

Revealed data cannot harbor contradiction.  All of your objections against fundamentalists have use contradiction, implied contradiction, or denial (ignoring contradiction); therefore, I seek to reconcile the contradiction.  When a scientist sees a contradiction, I would presume he goes after it, to reconcile it.  Is he tweaking to make himself feel better, or is he searching in order to restore harmony, to remove contradiction because contradiction is simply unacceptable?  Why can’t I have precisely the same motives for issues of the abstract as scientists do for their issues of the concrete?

In regard to your question per se.  The reason that God and the Bible make sense to me and cohere and resonate is that they make coincide with my mind.  I don’t mean reason here; I mean the total scope and properties of the mind as we internally sense them to be.  What I sense in my mind I attribute that you have one as well as does God.

Natural process creates more problems for me than an eternal Mind.  I agree that natural processes could create the illusion that I perceive in my mind.  But if that is true, then all abstracts are meaningless except as tools to survive.  Additionally, if mind is created by natural processes, then the three foundational presuppositions of all knowledge … is false.

 

Gaps in Knowledge Are So Trivial; So, Why God?

 

Your quote

Today, we understand far more and the gaps in our knowledge are far less; there are fewer gaps, yet God is still there to fill them.

My reply

If God exists and He is mind (the Bible uses the word spirit; Descartes prefered unextended; I like mind), then He would know the Theory of Everything.  That is omniscience.  So He creates matter/energy with TOE as the inherent energy behavior and can set back and watch.  Everything is in place.  Somewhere, somehow He would have to infuse mind, assuming nature would not be able to evolve a mind independent of nature.  When we get to the bottom line, God only had to do two things.  All of this is consistent with nature and mind. 

If God did create with TOE, then He is filling every gap … though is He utterly unobserved.  Science has detailed thousands and thousands of particulars.  Many theorists are still working on the theory of everything.  Yet, even if and when TOE is discovered, it is still a WHAT.  There is no WHY.

The finely tuned universe along with the anthropic principle (adjusted, of course) moves from a WHAT to a WHY if mind is distinct from nature.  A why will make sense if man has been created in the image of the eternal Mind.  An eternal Mind answers a why.  “We are” because “He is.”

 

God Precludes the Search for Knowledge

 

Your quote

Science doesn’t know it all, and may never know it all, but at least it’s searching for answers, and has found many, many more than any religion has, since religion starts out already knowing. And that is my basic problem with religion, and my particular problem with fundamentalism. Why should we search for the answers when they have been provided for us?

My reply

If depends on what you mean by answers and answers to what.  If you mean how nature works, then the Bible is practically silent.  Go to it.  Use the mind and do the things that mind does best.  Study nature and teach it.

If you mean why, we are now in the world of the mind.  The senses can detect the particulars of nature.  Only the mind can interpret and discover the universals, the meanings, etc.  Far more important is the question: why do I have a mind?  Why do others?  We are now entering the arena of relationships, values, morals, cooperation, etc.  Nature is of no help here except for illustrations.

I’ve heard this criticism of fundamentalists being satisfied with no new searching, no new answers.  I’ve been a Christian for 40+ years, and I’ve never stopped searching.  I’m not the only one.  I have talked with others who think the same way.  I have a Sunday school class in which the people in it are considering thoughts and ideas they have never considered before.  That doesn’t make me or Christianity “special,” but it does mean that if in Nowhere, Indiana there are some fundamentalists who have not stopped seeking, then there must be others.

I have known thousands of Christians over my four decades of involvement.  I have never known a single one who believed that religion provides all answers and searching is unnecessary.  Not one. 

 

Religion Preempts the Need for Science

 

Your quote—

If all our answers can be found in a centuries-old set of manuscripts written down by Bronze Age nomads in an attempt to explain things they did not know, then why do we need science?

My reply—

This is a near repeat of your previous critique.  We need science to help with new medicines (those viruses and bacteria conform faster than cockroaches), increase food supply for bulging populations but less tillable land, cure cancer, etc, etc.  I could say this in any fundamentalist church I know, and it would be applauded.

There is a bit of a paper tiger that equates fundamentalists and Neanderthals.  The problem is that specific behavior is generalized to include all behavior.  Because fundamentalist (your particular dislike) are opposed as a group to certain premises of Evolution, then they are oppose to all science.  That is simply a false conclusion.

The real issue for Christians is not Evolution per se, but the insistence that God does not exist. 

 

Religion Precludes the Need for Critical Thinking Skills

 

Your quote—

Why do our kids even need to develop critical thinking skills?

My reply—

I recall how you have blamed fundamentalism as the leading agent; I’m not remotely convinced of that.  I have much more fear of Twitter, Facebook, and forums.  I had a job for a few years that had me in schools to take pictures for school newsletters.  I was in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.  I made a point of asking teachers when I could what was happening with students.  The concerns were universal: the inability to spell, to read, to understand sentences, the dismissal of vocabulary, trouble with analogy, and the elevation of opinion to the level of fact.  This was across the board for all students.  It was a trend.

I’ve made a point at different times to simply scan random blogs and forums.  I no longer do that.  It is too discouraging.  Simple, simple language and expression.  No awareness of logical fallacies whatsoever.  Underneath all this there is the foundation, opinion.  As long as I express what I feel, then you may not criticize that.  I feel what I feel, I know it’s who I am, it’s wrong to criticize.  I may express what I feel, and you may express what you feel.  I remember some years ago a posting about Hamlet, to wit, “Hamlet is a terrible play.  It’s nothing but a bunch of famous quotations strung together.”  She got to express her opinion and express to all readers her foolishness. 

The worship of opinion, which is reinforced by the Internet, is the real culprit.

 

Religion Reinforces Anti-Social Behavior

 

Your quote—

There is a linear association between atheism and things such as intelligence, morality, and lack of violence in their culture. It even applies within the U.S. The so-called Red states have higher teen pregnancy rates than the Blue states. There is also a weaker correlation with crime rates. And certainly a measurable correlation between education and religious faith.

My reply—

I guess it depends where you are in place and time.  These are not inherent traits of atheists or theists, but of “people.”  North Korea brutally mistreats its people, horribly so.  They are atheists.  The purges of Stalin are brilliantly chronicled by Solzhenitsyn.  They were atheists.  The monstrous behavior of the Red Guard was done by atheists. 

All this means nothing.  This will ebb and flow with time.  Theists will be monsters someplace, sometime.  Atheists will be monsters someplace, sometime.  From a Christian perspective this is not a theist or atheist problem, it is a “heart” problem. 

Yes, many have been horribly brutal in the name of religion.  Then, there has been horrible brutality in the name of patriotism.  There has been horrible brutality for muddied reasons.  The women and children at Mi Lai were not murdered for religious reasons though Christians were involved.  Religion was not the motivation, but unbearable stress.  It is very, very easy to find atrocities which don’t seem to have any clear motive.  Even the riots occurring in London right now make no sense, but I’m sure they’re not philosophically driven.  Brutality and cruelty is not more right or wrong because more religious people did it or more patriots did or more any “definitional group” did it. 


 

Conclusion

 

In no way do I consider my comments to be final, conclusive, or non-respondable.  You may write back on whatever points that you wish to.  Ultimately there will be no certainty until we die.  I point to the resurrection of Christ as evidence for life after death, and you point to the only conclusion possible from a materialistic perspective—only mindless matter/energy will ultimately exist. 

My strongest objection is not the Bible, but the step of faith that is needed to believe that the mind is an illusion.  I see no other naturalistic response than the mind is an illusion of the brain for the purpose of survival … for a bit longer.  Ultimately it does appear, from a materialistic perspective, the universe will collapse into fire or expand into ice.

I am required to believe that my purposes, morals, dreams, hopes are all illusions, merely means, a manipulation by nature.  And that baffles me.  What is the big deal about a particular group of matter/energy (i.e., human and the rest of nature) having any more significance than the cosmic dust clouds throughout the universe? 

If naturalism is correct, then we are on a sinking ship.  And to make it worse, there is no “we” that really independently think that.  Processes in the brain are creating the illusion that “we” are thinking that.  Whether we live morally or immorally, whether we strive to live or commit suicide is meaningless.  Even our emails back and forth are totally meaningless if the mind is meaningless.  They merely occurred because of natural processes.

My coherency in the body of truth as I believe is that meaning and purpose have to be real, not illusory.  I truly believe that the first principle of presuppositions has to be real—“I” exist.  The moment that any logic or wording subordinates “I” to matter/energy is the moment that “I” is not real but an illusion.

Of course, I can be accused by a naturalist that I merely want to believe there is meaning and refuse to see and accept the obvious truth.  That sounds ok … except for one rather obvious problem.  If naturalism is true, then “I” have chosen nothing to believe because “I” does not exist.  Unless the mind is truly independent of the brain, then any “decisions” by “I” are not decisions at all.

To me the issue between theists and atheists is quite simply.  Is there a real “I”?

1.       If there is, then a terrible door has been opened for all kinds of non-naturalism; and it can never be closed.  If our minds, exist apart from natural processes … then a Mind could exist before natural processes, before matter/energy.

2.      If there is not, then how does one escape total materialistic determinism and the eventual conclusion that all abstracts are illusions: truth, love, good, kindness, morality, justice, etc?  If they are illusions, then why are we discussing them or arguing about them … unless we, like chimps, are wired to kill each other?

I do not believe that truth and good and morality and the soul and God (Mind) exist because the Bible says so, but I believe the Bible because I believe that truth and good and morality and the soul and God exist.  The Bible merely confirms my coherency; it does not create it.

 

 



[1] Liberal scholars, for some reason, insist that a document called Q preceded the other gospels, and the writers copied from it.  I am puzzled by this since oral tradition of cultures have been documented as been uncannily standard, literally word for word.  There is no reason aside from some presupposition that Q was used by the gospel writers instead of oral tradition.  It does sound odd, doesn’t it?  Oral tradition had to be transcribed as oral tradition before the gospel writers could have “massaged” it.  If oral tradition was standardize, why wouldn’t the gospel writers simply have “massaged” it.

[2] You don’t mention the word, of course, but the comments about Jesus being God and coming as his own son are the comments that come out of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Though you did not mention the word per se, I will answer as though you did because your objection is a typical objection to the Trinity.  Then again, your clear statements that you absolute do not believe in the Christian God would presumably include the rejection of the Trinity.

[3] There seems to be a failure to distinguish between contradictory statements and unreconciled statements.  To say there were angels at the tomb and to say there were no angels at the tomb is contradictory … and is a real problem.  For one writer to say an angel was there and another to say there were two angels is unreconciled, but not necessarily contradictory.  There are reasonable explanations for the mention of an angel versus two angels.  It is difficult to reasonably explain angels and no angels.

[4] Let’s consider “indeterminate” for a moment; that is a very serious statement, and you may be claiming too much.  I am assuming you mean that indeterminate means that some features of the universe and its behavior cannot be determined.  A natural or physical cause-effect will not be determined for some properties or methods of the universe because there are none.  Is this what you mean?  If so, you have opened the door for a spiritual world, and I’m sure you don’t want to do that.  Perhaps you need to define indeterminate.  Einstein was correct in his resistance of the implications of quantum mechanics.  If quantum mechanics is true in the extension that you have suggested, then God can play dice with the universe.

[5] My concern is what the text says and means, not what the reader believes.  If a person reads the New Testament and concludes that Jesus did not die for sins because that is what the text says, then there is no hope for that person in understanding plain text. 

[6] I do add “all things possible” as part of the definition of omnipotence.  This is because God cannot do the inherently impossible.  2 + 2 = 4.  God does not have the power to make it equal to 5.  Matter and anti-matter cannot co-exist (much like an irresistible force and an immovable object); God cannot do the inherent impossible.  That is nonsense.  Making God the subject of a nonsense proposition does not magically create sense.  God cannot count to infinity, for there is no such number.