Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If God Is So Loving...

It isn't unusual to hear non-believers (and the occasional believer) ask, "If God is so loving, then why do bad things happen?" In order for that question to make any sense, we must first understand the context in which God is loving: He expresses his love through Jesus Christ.

25 comments:

Chris Wilde said...

This guy is making the rationalization that one must, if one is determined to maintain the idea that God is loving, regardless of what one observes naturally. The best way to look at the world the way it is, and yet maintain the idea of a loving God, is to limit the scope of His love. Preferably, limit it to spiritual things like salvation and justification, or maybe distant historical claims like Jesus dying for us. Definitely, do not allow God's love to be liable for anything so immediately observable as human circumstance. We can't allow things like starving third world populations and raped toddlers to make God look unloving or incompetent. (Though we readily credit Thanksgiving dinners and healthy toddlers to God's love). Some Christians deal with the dichotomy between what they observe vs. what they believe by simply refusing to be fully cognizant of the world as it really is. The more observant ones deal with it by clapping their hand over their mouth, concluding that God is loving "because the Bible says so," and dismissing the bulk of human circumstance as being either deceptive, irrelevant, or inscrutable as measures of God's character.

In so many ways, theology is rationalization, canonized.

Ron Livesay said...

"In so many ways, theology is rationalization, canonized." This statement ignores the fact that truth is based on God's revelation, not on our experiences or on our feelings. Our experiences and feelings are unreliable. Only God's Word can be trusted.

Lee Shelton IV said...

Chris, on what basis have you determined that starving third world populations and raped toddlers are necessarily bad? And how exactly do such things serve as evidence that God is not loving, or that he may not exist at all?

We observe violence all the time in the animal world without making moral judgments. What is it that sets human beings apart? Until you can provide an objective foundation for your claim to know the difference between good and bad and right and wrong, you must continue to borrow from the Christian worldview to make your argument.

I am content with "the Bible says so" because God's word is the objective foundation for my entire worldview. It is the standard by which I judge all things. Without it, if I were to maintain a consistent epistemology, I would have to resign myself to a naturalistic explanation for everything. In short, it would be impossible for me to distinguish between right and wrong. For any "good" or "bad" thing I witnessed, I could only conclude, "Well, that's just the way the world is."

Scripture explains exactly why we see evil in this world. It also explains the remedy. Perhaps the question isn't "Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen?" but "Why does a holy and just God show us love and mercy by keeping mankind from being as depraved and corrupt as it possibly can be?"

Another related question we could ask is this: If it weren't for the bad things happening in this world, how would we ever know what good is?

Chris Wilde said...

Ron, yes, our experiences and feelings are unreliable. Just about everything is unreliable! That's an uncomfortable feeling! That's what gives humans their perennial tendency to scurry towards tidy religious explanations for everything. But the Bible, too, proves ultimately unreliable.

Lee, you're right. By your standard, I don't have a very "objective" foundation for what's right and wrong. It's mostly just convention. You have an illusory objective foundation in the Bible, but it too is really based on convention. It's just the religious embodiment of the moral ideas that have developed in humankind.

Point taken: The existence of things I consider bad are not conclusive evidence of God's non-existence or un-loving character. They merely cast serious doubt. Doubt that is not overcome by any positive evidence. Likewise, the lack of horse poop on my roof is not conclusive evidence against the existence of Ghost Riders in the Sky. Nevertheless, I'm still not inclined to believe in them. I believe things on the basis of evidence that they do exist, not on the basis of a lack of evidence that they don't.

As for your comments about humans vs animals, I think there's less that sets us apart than you'd like to think. Mostly, it's that animals run mostly on instinct, while human the human mind largely replaces instinct with self-will, modulated by culture (with includes religion).

Right and wrong are a human convention, but humans have been around long enough to find a lot of conventions that work. We are the beneficiaries (and victims) of millenia of moral trial-and-error. As far as the Bible being the basis we fall back on and "borrowing the Christian world view", you put the cart before the horse. The Bible doesn't contain any new moral ideas that didn't already exist before even its earliest parts were written.

Your concluding question can be answered in pretty much the same way, our knowledge of right from wrong comes from what we're taught, from generation to generation, dating back to before the existence of monotheism.

I can tell you from experience that a rejection of the Bible does not completely trash one's ideas of right and wrong, but it does painfully dash a few ideological attachments. It forces you to reconsider more realistically where those ideas of right and wrong really originate.

I understand where both of you come from in your insistence that the Bible has just gotta be that absolute standard. I used to feel the same way. Without that conviction you are indeed stuck with having to say "Well, that's the way the world is." You do indeed have to accept naturalistic explanations for a lot of things, and also accept just not knowing a lot of things! But intellectually and emotionally needing the Bible to be true, in order to maintain your worldview, does not actually make it true. Truth is just just the facts we're stuck with, and facts are coldly indifferent to our ideals.

Ron Livesay said...

"Truth is just just the facts we're stuck with, and facts are coldly indifferent to our ideals." This squares with what I have told students innumerable times, "Truth is that which is consistent with reality." No amount of wishing God away makes even the slightest difference in the reality of His existence.

Chris Wilde said...

Ron, you are absolutely correct! But that point cuts both ways! Wishing does not make anything so or not so!

I do not wish God's existence away. I do not deny the possibility of the existence of God or the supernatural. But I consider the odds extremely slim that Christianity is even remotely correct about the nature of any such things or beings that might exist.

Lee Shelton IV said...

In other words: "I do not deny the possibility of the existence of a being that cannot be seen or touched, but since I cannot see it or touch it, I don't think it exists."

We believe that the natural proves the supernatural: "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). One would think it is obvious that everything had to come from somewhere, yet atheists/agnostics will only concede the possibility of the existence of the supernatural. Denying spontaneous generation while embracing abiogenesis never really made sense to me.

Chris Wilde said...

Believe what about the supernatural?

Your attempt to state my thoughts "in other words" misses the mark widely. I think the supernatural COULD exist, period. You sound like you're saying I have to be 100 percent certain of the supernatural, or else completely materialist. And that's just not so. The apostle Paul's insistence that everyone should be certain of the supernatural as a given fact is just defensive dogma. When you're trying to make unprovable truth claims, an easy defense is to insist on something that can't be DISproven: namely that unbelievers are just repressing an obvious truth that they know instinctively, and won't admit it. Before I lost my faith, I thought that's what had to be going on in the unbeliever's mind. I now realize that ain't necessarily so.

Of course I cannot see or touch anything supernatural! That's part of what being supernatural is, by definition! So, in order to believe in the supernatural, there needs to be some other sort of evidence. To a lot of reasonable minds, the wonder of the cosmos provides significant evidence that "something beyond nature" (that is, "supernatural") is behind it all. But that says nothing whatsoever about what that something actually is. It could be one intelligent being, it could be multiple intelligent beings. The being(s) might care for us, or not. The being(s) might live on some sort of timeless plane, or might be dead long ago after setting the basic forces of life into motion. Or the supernatural might be no super-intelligent being at all. It could just be a natural force that we just don't know about or don't understand. One thing I very much doubt is that the supernatural is embodied by an anthropomorphic figure such as the Jehovah God described in the Bible. It's just far too likely that construct is the product of human imagination. If fish could imagine a god, that god would have fins and float on a golden reef.

The key is, can you say, "I DON'T KNOW"? Many people can't stand to just not know. When they hit an unknown quantity anywhere in life, from religion, to science, to politics, to whatever, they insist on jumping to some sort of comprehensive explanation. That's where conspiracy theories, inaccurate science, and organized religion come from. I have no special powers of perception to explain life, the universe, everything, and the number 42. I'm just a guy who has somehow become able to simply say, "I don't know," and to just be OK with that.

I've addressed this many times before, but I will express it yet again: The testimony of creation of which Paul speaks is at best just general revelation, getting a careful thinker no further than deism (maybe). It provides no evidence whatsoever for the specific story of the Gospel, or any other of the Bible's specific claims. A full acceptance of the Gospel ultimately has to come from accepting the say-so of some human authority, and/or from some emotional process that is not strictly rational.

Lee Shelton IV said...

You seem willing to believe in the possibility of any explanation other than the Christian one. Like you, there are many things to which I must say, "I don't know." But when it comes to historical fact, I tend to side with the evidence.

For example, (and I know I have mentioned this before) we are willing to believe that Hannibal crossed the Alps and attacked Italy from Carthage, despite the fact that there is nary a shred of archaeological evidence to support that belief. Actually, we do that all the time when it comes to history.

The Bible, however, is dismissed out of hand, despite the fact that it was written by 40 different authors from various backgrounds (shepherds, prophets, kings, tax collectors, scholars, physicians, etc.) over the course of about 1,500 years, and yet remains internally coherent and consistent. It includes accounts of eyewitnesses related during the time of other eyewitnesses. It has more supporting manuscripts than any other piece of ancient literature. The Bible has been corroborated over time by other ancient writers as well as archaeological evidence. In short, it is the most popular, reliable, and well-documented book in the history of civilization.

So, yes, if the Bible says the earth was created in six days (Genesis 1-2), that man sinned (Genesis 3), that all men are guilty before God (Romans 3:23), that Jesus Christ died and bore the punishment of our sins (1 John 4:10), that he rose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4), that everything foretold about Jesus was fulfilled (Acts 3:18), and that all we must do for eternal life is believe in him (John 3:16), then I am compelled to believe. Of course, I don't credit my own intelligence for that. My eyes were blind to the gospel until God opened them (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

You may think you knew what faith was from an intellectual standpoint, but since you have left that behind, I can only assume the veil has not been lifted. The truth of the matter is that no amount of evidence will convince you of the gospel. People cannot be reasoned or argued into the faith. I do pray that God will open your eyes to the truth, and that you will repent and put your faith in Christ.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Chris Wilde,

Given that this is a Calvinist blog and given what you've written above, it should not surprise you that you are considered an apostate. And according to Calvinists, you were never a genuine Christian.

Now you may know a lot about Christianity, but you were never regenerated with a persevering faith.

I hope that you will one day.

Chris Wilde said...

I am not at all willing to believe in any explanation other than the Christian one! There are plenty of religious and non-religious ideas about the origin and state of our world that are absurd. Christianity is just one of them.

Your arguments about the reliability of the Bible are valid defenses the historical authenticity of the text itself, and I don't think archaeologists and other users of scientific methodology really dismiss those arguments in quite the way you say. Authenticity, that is, in terms of the language of the text we read today being very well-preserved, and being little altered from the earliest written copies that have been found. But none of that is evidence supporting the literal truth of the text. The archeological support for the Bible amounts to things that show the Biblical stories come from real people and real places. That is no evidence at all that the stories themselves are fact. You should not be surprised that secular archaeologists dismiss those stories of supernatural phenomena, when they have no vested interest in their verity. The "rejection" you perceive on the part of those who deny the Bible is based on your feeling that everybody should jump like you do from "Here's a piece of pottery that proves the Bible's claim the Israelites occupied a certain piece of Palestinian territory at this time" to "therefore, the Bible's claim that Jonah survived three days in the belly of a fish is true." Or, "There really was a Pontias Pilate during the Roman occupation around 30 AD" to "Therefore the resurrection story is true." Those are total non sequitur.

Now, if the work of God, the manifestations of his presence, the Christian experience, and the effect of devotion to God bore any real resemblance to how the Bible says God works, well then perhaps a little more weight would be carried by the few more-compelling apologetical arguments about eyewitness accounts and the apparent strength of conviction amongst the 12 apostles. But, my observation is that the things post-New-Testament Christians identify as the work of God are pretty much limited to feelings of God speaking to your heart (preferably in the context of Bible study), the hopeful perception of some sort of providence in the natural happenstance of everyday life, and a whole lot of theology to work those manifestations up into something much more than they really are. Well, that and some Catholic and Pentecostal hype over supposed modern-day miracles that I know you don't buy yourself. When the "fruits" I have the ability to observe bear little resemblance to the tree, I then have to remember that the contemporary eyewitness authorship of the Gospel is not really as agreed upon as you assert, and "eyewitness" accounts can be just as full of crap as oral tradition. Therefore, in spite of the passionate convictions found in those writings the early church hand-picked to make their canon consistent, I can't grant the Gospel much more credit than I can the Koran or the Book of Mormon (books that also should have never lasted if the theory held true that contemporary eyewitness testimony kills the propagation of myth).

The other things you say about the popularity and respect the Bible has are just cultural, and a matter of opinion.

Chris Wilde said...

Lee (and "Truth Unites..."), I understand that--especially as Calvinists--you have to believe as the apostle Paul did in a spiritual "veil" that must be "lifted" in order for non-believers to see the truth. You also have to believe that someone who once believed, but then changed their mind, never really believed at all. Your theology and your mind requires that, in order to maintain that the Bible is as consistent and compelling as you want it to be. If it's all so obviously true, then there must be some intangible thing that keeps everybody from seeing it.

I suspect that "veil" of which you speak is much more likely a manifestation of human will. Driven by authority figures, fear of mortality, and a desire for purpose, you will yourself to jump past the lack of evidence in support of the Bible, and embrace it as true anyway. The resultant satisfaction in having the essential mysteries of life tidily explained makes one feel like one's eyes have been opened. Having found such comfort, from that time forward one is loathe to really critically re-think the nature of that leap of faith, and is ready to perceive--from the other side of the "veil"--all manner of circular reasoning and weak apologetical arguments as rock solid and deeply profound "evidence". That extreme reluctance to re-examine one's world view down to the core and reject what can't be empirically supported is something I totally understand. It was very painful for me.

Based on my opinion that the best explanation is often the simplest, I suspect that "veil" of which you speak is really a manifestation of human will. Driven by authority figures, fear of mortality, and a desire for purpose, you will yourself to jump past the lack of evidence in support of the Bible, and embrace it as true anyway. The resultant satisfaction in having the essential mysteries of life tidily explained makes one feel like one's eyes have been opened. Having found such comfort, from that time forward one is loathe to really critically re-think the nature of that leap of faith, and is ready to perceive--from the other side of the "veil"--all manner of circular reasoning and weak apologetical arguments as rock solid and deeply profound "evidence".

Lee, your last paragraph will always be the sort of thing said by people who ultimately find themselves at the end of their argumentative resources. You feel that I just stubbornly refuse to believe, and that "no amount of evidence" will turn my mind. This is because you are predisposed to recognize a great many more things as "evidence" than sound logic permits, and because you get frustrated when I keep knocking things down point-by-point. This is how most of our theological arguments go: As each pin falls, you don't really have a response to prop that specific pin back up again, so you move on to another one. Eventually, with no other argument to skip to, you make a declaration about the state of my soul which can't really be defended one way or the other, but it provides some concluding satisfaction for yourself as you endure another round of persecution for the sake of Christ.

My apologies for sounding so sure of myself on what goes on in the mind of a Christian like yourself. It's just that I was there myself for many many years, and I did not shed it easily. I'm probably being overly judgmental, but it comes from being highly self-critical.

Chris Wilde said...

sorry, accidentally repeated my second paragraph in that last comment when copy/pasting from my draft!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"That extreme reluctance to re-examine one's world view down to the core and reject what can't be empirically supported is something I totally understand. It was very painful for me."

Chris, there's a difference between speaking for yourself and projecting your fears and trepidations onto others and thinking they must possess the same concerns as you.

Don't confuse the two. And please realize that while projecting your neuroses onto others is understandable ("I'm neurotic, so others must be neurotic like me"), it's rather transparent.

Seriously and honestly, there are atheists and non-Christians who become regenerate Christians and who then repudiate their former beliefs in a manner similar to you. Meanwhile, there are apostates like yourself who repudiate Christianity. It goes both ways.

I don't have a problem with you talking about why you don't believe in Jesus Christ as Resurrected Lord and Savior. Go ahead. Just know that there are plenty of people who believe that the evidence for your position is thoroughly lacking in comparison to the evidence for Christianity.

Lee Shelton IV said...

Chris, as for being at the end of my argumentative resources, all I see is that you have had a comeback for each point I've presented. What intelligent agnostic doesn't? I guess I'm not sure how that translates into defeat for me and/or Christianity. Remember, there isn't anything your or I can say that hasn't been said for the last 2,000 years.

Like you, I have no problem accepting secular history on faith despite the lack of physical evidence. I've used Hannibal crossing the Alps as an example. You couldn't "prove" that actually happened any more than I can "prove" that Jesus walked on water. We accept historical accounts not because of our own ability to prove certain events occurred, but because of the authoritativeness and reliability of the sources relating those events. Still, the Bible is dismissed out of hand simply because many of the events recorded within its pages don't quite line up with what we see happening today.

What really intrigues me is your insistence on countering views presented by Christians. You rise to meet any challenge with the zeal of a new convert. But what's the point? For believers, presenting the gospel and seeing someone come to Christ means seeing that person saved from eternal punishment and given eternal life. We rejoice and give God the glory. If, however, you manage to convince someone that there is nothing beyond this life...well, what exactly has been accomplished? Clearly, you must admit that, even from a strictly pragmatic point of view, Christian morals are superior to naturalistic morals. Indeed, naturalism doesn't have any morals. Good is defined simply by what makes the individual feel good, and that is perhaps the biggest obstacle the atheist/agnostic has to overcome. From your standpoint, there is no objective moral standard, therefore there is no accounting for morality.

Again, I don't expect to argue or reason you into the faith. It can't be done, just as it is impossible for you to argue me out of the faith. I do, however, appreciate engaging in these intellectual calisthenics and philosophical sparring. I only hope that I do so in a loving manner and that I glorify God in the process.

The truth is, I do pray for you. I'm sure your family is praying for you. There is nothing we would like more than to see you come to Christ. You may see it as a cop-out to chalk up your resistance to spiritual blindness, but that's exactly what scripture calls it. A saving faith isn't a change of mind; it's a change of heart, and I'm incapable of doing that. Thank God the salvation of others isn't dependent on my persuasive abilities!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Chris,

I clicked on your name. You and Lee Shelton know each other and are co-bloggers on some other blog?

Wow. No wonder Lee is praying for you. He knows a real-life apostate.

BTW, I have heard of an apostate reject his apostasy and becoming a Christian. It's pretty rare, but God does miracles.

It was a British journalist. I think his name was A.N. Wilson.

Anyways, I believe in monergistic regeneration. God is sovereign.

Chris Wilde said...

"Truth Unites...", I understand the psychological concept of projection. Nevertheless, I believe that other people DO share the same concerns I do. We are all human. We think very much alike, and we make a great many of the same mistakes.

After all that's been written above, mere gainsaying in response that Christianity has more "evidence" for it than an agnostic has against it is a little silly. Lee stuck his neck out and expressed pretty well what he's got in the way of evidence. I believe I stated quite clearly why it's no evidence at all. So...how was I wrong? Tell me! Or do you have better evidence to present? Then state it!

The fact that different people change their minds in different ways at different times in their lives is irrelevant. Facts stay the same no matter what people think about them. There are mistaken people on every point, and everybody's mistaken about something. That's why I actually think the most important knowledge is knowing what you don't know. That's how the mind stays open to learning, improvement, correction, and how the mind zeroes in on the few things we can know.

Lee, I really have no greater purpose in arguing with you and countering your views, than that I sometimes just enjoy the exchange of ideas. I like that you can handle it, and that you're willing to fight back a little bit! I find it intriguing that theologically-inclined guys like yourself are so very rational when it comes to analyzing what you believe to be inerrant scripture, but are comparatively short on rational backing for why scripture is so authoritative to begin with. I like to dig to see if I can really scratch up something on that point that I've missed out of those 2000 years of Christian apologetic arguments. That, and I enjoy being right about stuff! That's just the sort of annoying guy I am!

I agree that Judeo-Christian morals are functionally superior in many ways, and that secular morals are almost non-existent. That's because religion has typically been the historical bearer of morals in human culture, and secular institutions typically have not. Lots of religions have been pretty effective at preserving moral behavior. Christianity has specially benefited western civilization by promoting not just the value of morality itself, but also the value of forgiveness and mercy. Ultimately, Christianity's practical moral strengths are no more evidence for the inerrancy of the Gospel than Buddhism's moral strengths are evidence for the inerrancy of the Tipitaka. Nevertheless, religion remains a practical thing whose role cannot be fully replaced any time soon by anything else. I don't wish to see Christianity eradicated like some more militant atheists do. But I do like to argue about its factual basis sometimes. I think it's important that these things be worked out thoroughly in one's mind. That's how one keeps from getting swayed back and forth by the whims of emotion and culture. I believe I've already made my point a couple comments ago on how morality can develop without necessarily depending upon a universal absolute.

I appreciate the kind intentions that are behind your prayers. If your belief that I'm just blind helps you feel more charitable toward me and people like me, so much the better. But the point that "spiritual blindness" is scriptural just circles back to where this conversation started, and my contention that much of what's in scripture and resultant theology is just plain old rationalization with a spiritualized glow. Those apostolic writers could rationalize with the best of them! They had such disappointment to overcome when it became obvious that a literal theocracy on earth was not in the works for them after all!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I don't mind evidence-based apologetics. Chris Wilde, have you ever read any of Lee Strobel's books?

They do a reasonable job of presenting evidence.

Anyways, why do reject the evidence of Jesus's resurrection, Chris?

Chris Wilde said...

No, I haven't read any of Strobel's books. I think the most recent apologetic book I've read was Tim Keller's "The Reason for God". And I got pretty well-drilled on apologetics at the Bible college I attended. To be honest, I tend to come at those sort of books with a little ennui, as they are generally very derivative of things already said and already written. I used to find them to be enjoyable reading back when I was a believer, when I was looking for rational arguments to affirm what I had originally accepted out of emotional need, fear, and trust in the word of pastoral and parental authority figures. When my predispositions began to change a few years ago, though, I began to notice the straw men and the logical shortcuts in those arguments that I had previously been fond of.

To my mind, the evidences perennially presented for the resurrection tends to fall into a couple categories: That of eyewitness testimony, and that of the commitment to the resurrection story by the apostles and early Christians.

But the problem, as I see it, is that we don't really have direct eyewitness testimony, regardless of how often apologists suggest that we do. We just have stories, written some years after the life of Jesus, about what supposed eyewitnesses supposedly saw. I'm not an expert on the dating of the gospels. I just know that scholars are all over the map on that topic, with the only ones that really insist they were really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John being fundamentalist theologians who wouldn't have it any other way. I also know that there are other early writings about the life of Christ that were not consistent with the gospels the church later established as canon, when they were trying to unify a church that had become splintered with a whole host of different doctrines during the first few generations following the life of Christ. My personal readings of the gospels have given me a distinct sense that they are retelling stories from oral tradition, rather than directly from the mouth of eyewitnesses. I find it interesting that Mark, supposedly the earliest of the gospels, reviews the story of the resurrection in a hurried manner that almost seems to have been tagged on at the end by a different writer. The tone and brevity of Mark 16 doesn't at all gel with what should have been recognized immediately as far and above the most important event in the annals of Jesus of Nazareth. The resurrection story doesn't seem to fill itself out until the "later" gospels. Finally I can observe in human history and in other books, stories, and religions that eyewitness testimony is no insurance against the propagation of myth. Eyewitnesses themselves can be highly fallible, and their testimonies can be highly colored by their own biases and rationalizations, even before their stories get put through the blender of third-party accounts.

I used to be more moved by the argument of the commitment unto martyrdom by early believers who should have been contemporaries or even eyewitnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection. But that was before I began to realize how humans are capable of believing almost anything with absolute certainty. A person's commitment to a claim does not depend on the truth of the claim, only on how much they want to believe it. And ultimately, what we "know" about the circumstances of the executions of the apostles is itself based on legend and church tradition.

OK, dang 4096 character limit...gotta break this in half.

Chris Wilde said...

continued.....

Now, I'll admit: If you look at the resurrection story in isolation, it does seem hard to believe that such a fantastic story could be trumped up, believed by so many people so fast, without there being some truth to it. But, when you look at the resurrection story in the light of other myths and religions that have arisen with similar speed and even more recently (such as Islam and Mormonism), you have to recognize mankind's amazing capacity to embrace myth. Then you have to ask yourself, OK, the resurrection is possible if you presume that God can do anything, but, really, what are the odds? Is it more likely that the resurrection is an astounding anomaly in the course of human events, after which God stepped back and decided to let the rest of history flow with no more intervention on his part other than the gradual establishment of an "inerrant" textual canon over the next few hundred years, plus an intangible ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit? Or is it more likely that the Gospel is right in line with all the other myths that humans repeatedly prove themselves capable of falling for time after time, generation after generation, right up to the present day? There are any number of things I can't prove false. I probably can't even disprove the existence of flying pink elephants, but I know slim odds when I see them.

This does not mean that the Gospel is automatically false, it just means that it's highly suspect. The "evidence" we have for the resurrection would never pass muster in a court of law. It only passes as "assurance" to Christians who have already embraced the Gospel for less rational (but no less passionate) reasons. For better or worse, my own dulled capacity to embrace the Gospel emotionally meant that sort of intellectual assurance wasn't able to last me much more than about 20 years.

Lee Shelton IV said...

Every argument you raise against the authenticity of the events recorded in scripture could be said about any other ancient historical account, especially since the Bible is the best-documented of all ancient writings. The eagerness of people to accept less-documented accounts as fact while disregarding the Bible as myth speaks to a much bigger issue than just the preponderance of evidence.

Ron Livesay said...

Chris:

Do you believe Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a key on the string in an electrical storm? We have no direct witnesses... they are all dead. Even if they could still be alive, there were likely only a small number of them. It is interesting that people believe all sorts of historical "facts," based on a few eyewitness accounts, but ignore or dismiss the evidence for the resurrection.

As one of my students in a Christian high school Bible class once admitted, "If the resurrection is true, Christianity is true." The interesting thing about that statement is that it came from a young man who was a Muslim.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dear Chris,

Every time I think of something to write to you, I can imagine a snarky rebuttal coming right back at me. Not saying that you would do that, but just that I've run across hardened apostates similar to you in the past.

I guess I don't know what to say. Other than to say that I hope you don't die apostate.

-------

Question for Lee Shelton IV: Do you still hold to "P" of TULIP after knowing Chris Wilde?

I.e., Suppose Chris died without recanting of his apostasy, would you say that in all probability and based upon Scripture that Chris was *never* a Christian?

Lee Shelton IV said...

Truth Unites..., I only have scripture as my guide: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). So, yes.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"So, yes."

Thanks for responding, Lee.

To be transparent, out of all the 5 principles of TULIP, "P" was the one I struggled the most with. Most everyone else struggled with "L", but it was "P" that was my struggle.

And in my way of thinking... If you accept any one of the 5, then you accept them all. They're indivisible. And if you reject one of the 5, then you might as well reject them all.

I hope that sounds logical.

God bless you and your family as you pick up your daughter in China.

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