When dealing with a non-Christian, make evidence – not behavior – the main issue

Pastor Matt posted about something that I think all Christian apologists believe, deep down. (H/T The Poached Egg)

He writes:

Typically, the church has defined loving one’s neighbor as in line with Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and Christ’s teaching in passages such as Matthew 25:31-46, in which we are commanded to love the imprisoned, the homeless, the hungry, etc. as if they were Jesus himself. Of course all believers should do so whether by volunteering at a soup kitchen or donating money to ministries like World Help.

But there is more to loving one’s neighbor these days than caring for the poor, as important as that is.  Those of us who live in a first world western country now dwell in a post-Christian society.  Our neighbors are inundated with naturalism masquerading as good science and sound philosophy.  Non-Christians believe the faith is intellectually vacuous.

It shocks many people when those trained in apologetics point out that atheists cannot answer questions like, “How did the universe come into existence?” “Why is our planet so finely tuned for life despite all the odds against it?” “How did life begin?” “Why do humans have consciousness?” “How is there truth or right and wrong without God?” “Why did the disciples die horrible deaths as impoverished traveling peasants rather than deny the resurrection of Jesus?”, etc.

If we are to help bring our neighbors to saving faith, we must first destroy their false ideas of what Christianity is and is not.  That means we must preach the Gospel (2 Cor. 5:21), knock down specious views of the faith and present the truth of what we believe.

Apologetics is not just an intellectual exercise for nerds like me or a debate to be won on college campuses but an increasing tool in loving our neighbors.  For if they do not understand the faith, they will likely not come to faith and that is what the God we love wants and how we must show love to our neighbors.  So, let’s study not just to win arguments but to love others.

That reminds me of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Our job is to beat up on false ideas and speculations.

Pastor Matt’s point is critical, I think. Just stop and think for a minute about your non-believing co-workers. Do they know that the universe began to exist? Do they know that the initial conditions and the cosmological constants have to be finely tuned to support things like galaxies, stars, planets and elements heavier than hydrogen? Do they know how much information is in a protein, and how many proteins would be needed to make the first living cell? Do they know what it takes to make a planet that can support life? What facts from the gospels and the Pauline letters pass the tests for historicity? What is the best explanation of those minimal facts?

These are the facts that we share when we discuss spiritual things with people. They are not Christian facts, they are public, testable facts. And yet, almost no one in the culture who is not already a believer is curious to find out these things on their own. But without the evidence, how are they supposed to take the first step towards a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? It’s not possible. This is a propositional faith, and we know it’s true by evidence. To share the evidence with someone so they can decide is as loving as sharing the evidence about retirement planning, or the evidence about nutrition, or the evidence about fitness and exercise, or the evidence about career planning. When you love someone, you tell them the facts, and then they decide. Evangelism is the same thing.

Here’s something from a recent post by J. Warner Wallace, where he talks about doing apologetics with people who have not yet decided whether God exists or not.

The Undecided

In many ways, this group holds the most promise. People who are undecided usually fall into two categories. Some have never really given the issue much thought. They’re neither for nor against; they’ve simply been living unaware. You may be the first person to introduce them to the issues you are trying to share. If so, remember the importance of a first impression. What you say or do will have an impact on the work of those who follow you. The second group of “undecideds” are people who have given the issue some thought, but are just beginning to make their decision. For this group of people, your defense of Christianity may very well be the deciding factor. The responsibility you and I have with the undecided is daunting, but it’s a privilege to play a small part in their decision.

OK, so I want to make a point about this. So often, I see Christian parents and leaders trying to focus on changing people’s behaviors, and not by giving them evidence. Instead of trying to convince them about what’s true, they tell them Bible verses, or maybe tell them they are going to Hell. But given what Matt and J. Warner said, I don’t want us to be focused on changing outward behavior. I want us to be focused on showing people what is true and showing our work – how we arrived at these true beliefs. You are doing Christianity wrong if you focus on getting behaviors from people by shaming them, overpowering them or scaring them.

So in my case, I’m not trying to get non-Christians to act like Christians when they have no reasons to be one. I’m trying to get them to settle on true beliefs – so that each of them and God can shake hands and be reconciled, responding to his drawing them of their own free will. Then, they can decide how they are going to act. And how they act might be even better than what we had in mind for them when all we wanted was for them to quit swearing and eat their vegetables. The Christian life is bigger than just making people do what we want them to do.

29 thoughts on “When dealing with a non-Christian, make evidence – not behavior – the main issue”

  1. It’s true that scientists cannot prove how the world began. There may indeed be an intelligent designer and evidences that lead one to believe this. However, there are even less evidences – fact by fact – that bear out the “christian” idea of god. Why not pick any god to have started the world – since we can’t answer some questions…..?

    We are supposed to be looking for the Truth. And, the truth is that the apostles dying is no proof of anything. Ask the LDS who’s people died coming across to Utah. Proof that they believed it? Yes – same with Muslims who kill themselves for Jihad. But proof that the religion is “actually” provably true? Not possible. We are “believers” – not “knowers”.

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    1. Nearly all skeptical (as in Jewish, agnostic, and atheist) New Testament Historians agree (often begrudgingly) that Jesus was crucified under Pilate, died, and afterward his followers and former skeptics like Paul and James all were convinced they saw and interacted with him alive again over a period of time and in a variety of places and contexts. I don’t think you’ll find anything like that among non-Mormon or non-Islamic historians in regard to their own miracles. The resurrection is unique in its historicity.

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      1. Yes, I see that most historians agree that the “historical Jesus” was likely, but they do not back up any of the “miracles” nor the resurrection. There appears to be no historicity about it. And being resurrected is not unique among gods – like Horus or Mithra, etc. But I accept that mormon and muslim historians may even be more lacking. Thank you, Joe for your reply.

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        1. The difference is in what those who died for their beliefs were actually stating. It is one thing to die because you believe something, which many religious people might in fact do today. But the apostles stated something much more specific than merely believing. They said they actually saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion. People simply don’t allow themselves to be put to death for something they know isn’t true.

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        2. Do you agree that many of Jesus followers and also former skeptics like Paul and James all were convinced they saw and interacted with him alive again over a period of time and in a variety of places and contexts? If so, what do you think is the best historical explanation for this?

          I’m convinced that God exists because of the fine tuning argument and from evidence of design in biology, so I have no problem supposing that God may have intervened in our world in other ways as well.

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          1. Good question, Joe. No, I am not convinced of the reliability of the gospels or the epistles. The Abiathar error in Mark 2 really struck me and made me want to research the bible more thoroughly. I am unconvinced that they are reliable records – but I will consider the points mentioned. I think there is a counter argument to them, that I haven’t had time to look at – but I think its important to do. It is too easy to be lead down specific paths of seeming logic – only to end up believing things that no one should really be believing. Just ask ex-Jehovah Witnesses and ex-Mormons (let alone ex-Christians….)

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          2. I’m familiar with the Abiathar error in Mark 2. I haven’t studied much about inerrancy and don’t take a position on it, nor have I studied much about the Abiathar instance to know if it’s a true case of an error. I tread the bible as a collection of historical documents.

            But suppose it is a legitimate error. If it is, where did this error arise?

            1. Jesus said the wrong thing (that would be bad)
            2. Peter remembered wrong when he told Mark.
            3. Mark wrote the wrong thing.
            4. Somewhere else down the line.

            And there’s no way to know which one. But I don’t see how cases 2-4 would affect whether Jesus rose from the dead. the works of Josephus also contain errors but that doesn’t mean Roman Emperor Titus never sacked Jerusalem in 70AD.

            Speaking of “Emperor” Titus, he wasn’t Emperor yet in 70AD, just as Abiathar wasn’t yet high priest in the context of when David entered the temple and ate the bread. Just as we would say “When President Obama attended Harvard…”, even though he wasn’t yet president when he attended there.

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          3. I know what you mean, Joe, there may be errors in Josephus’ writings but that doesn’t mean we toss out what we know to be true. The Abiathar error confirms that there are real errors in the Bible – so to me, we have to be allowed to look at what is real and proven, and what is likely, and what is simply accepted as “faith”. Not just accept its all true.

            If someone doesn’t even know there is an actual provable error in the Bible, they aren’t looking at it at all. They accept it as “truth” and will argue with everyone that their ideas of it are exactly right because their pastor or friends tell them it is. But they don’t subject it to even a portion of the critical thinking skills they employ toward evolution or Obama care. Yes, I am using a broad brush here – but only to make a point.

            Mormons won’t look up problems we can see with Joseph Smith. It isn’t very nice or faithful for them. They risk so much – if they detect his falsehoods. But….. why would we be any different – and be lead into a lie – but thinking its from God? I am okay with errors in the Bible because it was written by human hands. I believe those hands wrote it – not God’s finger. But some treat it as if it is.

            Most of us take the Bible as True – and then work backwards to prove it. The pre-supposition – the first belief – is that its true and then we go about “proving” it. Why ask a Mormon to look at anything critical of their religion, if we can’t stomach it ourselves…?

            I will look at what you are saying though, and I saw your other comment about the gospel of John. I will look at this. Thank you and have a good day :)

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    2. The apostles preached that the tomb of Jesus was empty, and if it was false, would have known firsthand about it. The LDS and Muslims, on the contrary would not have known the falsehood of their religion firsthand.

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      1. I always thought that, too, TMD. However, the gospels are not eyewitness accounts. They are written in the third person – about someone else being an eyewitness. This is hearsay. And Paul never met Jesus in the flesh. Everything he says is based on a vision – only. There may be something with James or John, I can look at. Thank you for your comments – I will consider them.

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        1. Prudence,

          I’m responding to your reply to JoeCoder here since there is no reply button at the end of your post.

          You said:

          “Most of us take the Bible as True – and then work backwards to prove it. The pre-supposition – the first belief – is that its true and then we go about “proving” it.”

          That may be true of many Christians, but that does not make it right or even necessarily the only way one comes to the conclusion of Biblical inerrancy. One needs only to regard the fact that the gospels accurately record the words of Christ himself, and essential historical facts supporting his existence, claims and bodily resurrection. Once that accuracy becomes evident, then it becomes virtually impossible to doubt the inerrancy of the OT and at the same time have any confidence in what Christ said, since Christ himself held the OT in high esteem (calling it the very “Word of God”) and quoted it often.

          Further, the NT writings were very early considered on a divine par with the OT. Peter in one of his epistles mentions Paul’s writings along with “the OTHER scriptures” (the OT) – 2 Peter 3:16. Paul himself equates the gospel of Luke on a par with the OT in I Timothy 5:18 where he places side-by-side a quote from Deuteronomy 25:4 (“thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn”) and a second from Luke 10:7 (“the laborer is worthy of his hire”) calling them both “the scriptures”.

          I’m not saying we should blindly just say the Bible is the inerrant word of God and ignore all questions when we see things that don’t seem to add up. Absolutely not. However, neither should we be too quick to conclude that some apparent discrepancies (some so obvious it is questionable to assume that no one noticed them before our clever analysis discovered them) are real and not simply the result of something we are missing in the context or the grammar that has crossed from one language to another. The proof of an actual discrepancy needs to make the case that there is no viable alternative than to see it as such. Most “skeptics” are “fishing” for errors and in their gleeful haste to “prove” the Bible contradicts itself commit gross, if not humorous, errors of logic and comprehension in their efforts to do so.

          Re your “Abiathar error”, Dan Wallace a very well respected Greek Scholar suggests a viable solution to the seeming problem. He says that it is legitimate to read the phrase “when Abiathar was High Priest” as something along the lines of “in the era of Abiathar’s term as High Priest” making it a general statement about the era and not a pinpoint reference to a particular date or time. He says:

          “As for view 5, my preference right now is to take the prepositional phrase as meaning “in the days of Abiathar the high priest.” Although Mark apparently does not employ the temporal use of this preposition elsewhere, he almost surely does so here—for both “when Abiathar was high priest” and “in the days of Abiathar the high priest” are temporal expressions. Further, the construction ἐπί + genitive noun is frequently used with a temporal sense outside of Mark—with a meaning similar to ‘in the days of…’ BDAG lists numerous biblical and patristic references under ἐπί with a genitive for time, all in the sense of “in the time of, under (kings or other rulers).” Cf., e.g., Luke 4:27 (‘in the time of Elisha’), Luke 3:2 (‘in the time of the high priest, Annas and Caiaphas’) and even Mark 2:26 (‘in the time of Abiathar the high priest’). Two questions remain: (1) Can any of these texts mean ‘in the time of’ as distinct from ‘when’? That is, can they mean something like “the 1990s will forever be linked to Clinton’s presidency,” even though he was not president for the whole decade? (2) If so, do any of them have ἐπί + genitive proper noun, followed by an anarthrous common noun? Without examining all the data supplied by BDAG, Luke 3:2 looks to be the closest parallel to Mark 2:26, even though ‘high priest’ comes before the two names (the grammatical meaning differs when the proper name comes second; no article is required). But if these two men did not function as high priest simultaneously—and since the singular event of the word of the Lord coming to John the Baptist was during their high priesthood, then this seems to be a clear text in support of the general time frame of ‘in the days of.’ More work certainly needs to be done, but suffice it to say that this view has a certain plausibility and cannot be hastily rejected.”

          Here is the link:

          https://bible.org/article/mark-226-and-problem-abiathar

          JMG

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          1. Thank you JMG – I appreciate your response. I don’t know why some of the “reply” buttons are missing – I am working around it, as well.

            I was taught inerrancy – no true “errors” in the original languages, in the original manuscripts. But…. there are none. All we have are errant copies. God could preserve His Word perfectly throughout all time – but not when it came time for preserving a single perfect original.

            He couldn’t even provide a Bible that is clear to us all. Clear like – “the sun is yellow” or 2+2=4 which are universal truths around the entire world. But for Christianity, we have multiple sects, preachers, and professional apologists – all confirming “their” idea of what this and that means.

            How can we think its perfect if there are 5 possible answers to Abiathar alone? God is not the author of confusion. Yet…. confusion remains. But we just blame ourselves for not getting it – or the other ones not getting it.

            You say –

            “One needs only to regard the fact that the gospels accurately record the words of Christ himself, and essential historical facts supporting his existence, claims and bodily resurrection….. ”

            But the Abiathar issue shows that even Christ’s own words are possibly not recorded properly. How do we know the rest of them are? We have no actual way to prove this. Most of the people of this time – were illiterate – let alone able to write. How would they all be able to argue what was and wasn’t written? And the Bible isn’t used as a historical book because there are problems with it.

            Lastly, I did believe in inerrancy – at a great cost to me personally – in relationships, in choosing churches – all of it. I was 100% confident that all “contradiction” and “errors” were just a matter of understanding God’s plan, small errors of a letter here or there – or it was a problem of not allowing “scripture to interpret scripture”.

            It’s true – 2/3 of all of them are dismissable, but there is at least 1/3 that are disturbing, hard, and make no sense as to a God in Heaven writing it.

            I loved God and His Word – so much so, that I had no fear of looking up any of it – because Truth can be scrutinized all day every day and it won’t change. But after only a day of looking things up – I realized with a sickened heart – that there are real problems with our Bibles and even with how our God is represented in it. The God who wrote our DNA codes deserves real truth – not just people saying they represent him or speak for him – even people from that long ago.

            I accept what you wrote and the link you provided. I agree there are possible valid reasons and none are serious enough to throw it all away. Dinesh D’Souza must have looked up all of these and heard every argument plus some – and he still believes. I can’t fault someone for that. But I still say, inerrancy isn’t all they say it is.

            Thank you for taking the time to respond. Have a good day –

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          2. Prudence,

            You said:

            “I was taught inerrancy – no true “errors” in the original languages, in the original manuscripts. But…. there are none.”

            Yes, we do not have the originals, but that is really not relevant to whether or not we can know what the originals actually said. With the wealth of manuscript evidence that we have it is not really very hard to determine with near 100% accuracy what those originals looked like. It’s true there are some spots where there may be some uncertainty as to which of several viable possibilities may be the correct one, and on those points there is room for honest debate. However, those spots are so few and so uncritical to any of the core doctrines of Christianity that they are largely irrelevant to the truth claims of the Bible. Further, none of viable alternative readings on those few points of dispute alter or contradict any point of doctrine held by the rest of the Biblical text which NOT disputed. So this objection is a bit of red herring in the question of Biblical inerrancy. As long a there is even a single viable possibility for items like the Abiathar passage, one cannot claim that there is a flaw in the text. When all viable possibilities are shown to be untenable then, and only then, can the text be faulted as unreliable. Since we have instance where that has taken place, the text must be considered reliable and accurately transmitted based upon the manuscript evidence that we do have.

            You said further:

            “God could preserve His Word perfectly throughout all time – but not when it came time for preserving a single perfect original.”

            Have you not considered that there might be a very good reason why God has chosen to preserve His word in the fashion that he has? Suppose there was a set of original manuscripts preserved and kept in a secure place. Suppose no copies of the originals were ever permitted. Suppose those with direct access to the originals purposed to cosmetically alter them according to their own preference. How would the alteration be detected and disclosed? Or suppose copies of the original were allowed. Would you then expect God to supernaturally safeguard the copyist’s hand in every copy? and every copy of those copies? Of course, there is a much simpler way for the transmission process to work which insures the transmission of the documents, eliminates the potential tampering inherent in a centralized stream of transmission, and removes the possibility of idolatry over original manuscripts as “sacred relics”. That way is precisely what we have. A multitude of manuscripts in multiple locations and in various languages, which when compared yield a virtual 100% certain understanding of what words were in the originals. You seem to think that the whole thing doesn’t make any sense for a God of order, but actually its a rather ingenious stroke of work on his part.

            Might it be more simple if we had a single stream of copies from the originals with no variation and no questions? Consider the Koran. One of the claims of its superiority over the Bible is the fact that there are supposedly no copies that vary in any way from all the others. Yet, few Muslims ever ask the question of why this is so? In fact, there was a time very early in the history of Islam when there were varied copies of Koranic manuscripts. One the early Muslim leaders (Uthman Ibn Affan) was very concerned about the varied manuscript copies. So, in order to rectify the situation, he selected the version that he preferred, destroyed all others and made his selected version the only one the would be acceptable. Because of his actions, Muslims can proudly claim that there are no questions in the transmission of their holy book. Yet, we will never know how it compares with all the other versions that are no longer existent. Christianity, on the other hand, does not have to deal with this problem and that is so precisely because of the way the transmission of the NT has taken place.

            You also said:

            “It’s true – 2/3 of all of them are dismissable, but there is at least 1/3 that are disturbing, hard, and make no sense as to a God in Heaven writing it.”

            I think you are overstating your case significantly here. The number of variations that are truly disputable are much smaller than 30%. Its more like 2 or 3%. And as I mentioned before, none of them, no matter which possible wording is accepted, alters an doctrine of Christianity one iota. There are 3 pieces of text (the last few verses of Mark, the story of the woman taken in adultery, and the Johanine comma re the trinity) that are probably if not surely not part of the original manuscripts. And how do we know that? Precisely because of the tremendous testimony of the vast manuscript evidence we do have.

            You also mention the “God who wrote our DNA codes” and say that the way the text of the NT has been transmitted is not up to par with his work in nature, presumably because its not “neat and tidy” enough. I think God’s handiwork in nature is a resounding evidence for his handiwork in the transmission of the Bible as well. Have you not noticed that nature, though it works and works well, is itself not so “neat and tidy”?

            I appreciate the demeanor of your posts and that you will seriously consider our discussion. Keep an open mind. I will do the same.

            JMG

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          3. Hello JMG – thank you for your response.

            You say: “Have you not considered that there might be a very good reason why God has chosen to preserve His word in the fashion that he has? ….. Would you then expect God to supernaturally safeguard the copyist’s hand in every copy? and every copy of those copies?”

            Yes – I think it would not be beyond him to protect what is His.

            I did not know the history of the Koran. I didn’t realize the implications of how a single copy could be a problem.

            But our God did everything else supernaturally to preserve His Word. Its practically perfection we say! 66 books written over a 1500 year time span with how many different authors – wow – how incredible!

            But is it true? Does it make sense that somehow He wouldn’t continue this supernatural protection of His Word? So we say the next best thing…… it was all designed this way.

            And on the DNA – I agree that nature isn’t tidy and neat – but my point is that if its intelligently designed, and our god is that sophisticated – why do we think he would write this bronze aged book that seems so backward. Why don’t we question this?

            And on the 1/3 of discrepancies – I meant 1/3 of all of all of the contradictions, moral problems with God, and inconsistencies thrown together that people level at the Bible.

            2 examples are the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. This “loving God” who “fine-tuned the world for life” goes on to destroy everyone, including the most innocent lives – the unborn. And we defend the slayings of these innocents and turn around and call him pro-life and pro-love.

            But is this kind of slaying more like a tribal god or a sopisticated one who created the nebulas and helium?

            I only became a Christian because I thought it was True and that our God was most loving to everyone. He would never ask us to harm people. He was LOVE and His Grace captured me.

            But after years of believing and loving Him, it turns out I never really asked these questions. I just “trusted”. These are legitimate questions to post. They are coming up more and more. Most of them seem unanswerable.

            I am talking about our posts with my husband. He is a believer and has been encouraged by what you have written. I also recommended Dinesh D’Souza to him, because at the end of the day – Dinesh sees all this too – and still believes. So, thank you and I will watch for a response but if I have offended you – I understand if you would rather not.

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    3. Prudence,

      You said :

      “And, the truth is that the apostles dying is no proof of anything. Ask the LDS who’s people died coming across to Utah. Proof that they believed it? Yes – same with Muslims who kill themselves for Jihad. But proof that the religion is “actually” provably true? Not possible. We are “believers” – not “knowers”.

      And who ever said that people dying proves anything? If that is what you have understood Christian apologists to be saying, then either you have been listening to / reading the wrong people or you have severely misconstrued what is being said.

      The Apostles didn’t just die, they were executed because they would not recant their claim that they had seen the same Jesus with whom they had walked for three years risen from the dead in a bodily form like nothing they had ever seen before. All it would have taken for them to be spared death was simply to say “It was a lie”. There is no record ANYWHERE that ANY of them ever did.

      They did not die because of the rigors of traveling through the wilderness in an effort to avoid mobs or justice (as the LDS you give as an example did), nor did they kill themselves in some suicidal attempt to murder as many “infidels” as possible (like the Muslims you give as an example do). No, they willingly submitted to their persecutors to the point of death in order to underscore the integrity of the claim they had made of a risen Christ.

      Further, there is another huge difference that you don’t seem to realize. The LDS people and the Muslim terrorists were not firsthand witnesses of the miraculous claims made by their leaders. They were far removed from seeing or hearing anything firsthand (how many LDS people actually SAW the golden plates Joseph Smith claims to have found and translated?, How many Muslim suicide bombers actually saw or heard Allah speaking to Muhammed as he claimed?). The LDS people fleeing to Utah and the Muslim bombers of today have all been subject to deception by others (Joseph Smith, Muhammed, etc) who have made claims to receiving divine revelation. They simply accepted without any real warrant what their leaders told them.

      The Apostles, however, were the original source of the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. No one fooled them. If the claim was a lie, they certainly knew it was so, for they are the ones who made the claim in the first place. Yet, there is absolutely no record that ANY of them ever recanted the claim even to the point of willing submission to execution at the hands of their persecutors. If they were lying, then what possible motive would a group of 11 or 12 men have for needlessly dying for what they all knew to be a lie? That’s the question that you are hiding from, but which simply will not go away despite the futile efforts of so many to avoid it.

      Finally, you say that we are “believers” and not “knowers”. Sadly too many Atheists, Agnostics and even Christians think that believing equates to wishing and not knowing. That is misguided indeed. To believe something is to be persuaded or convinced based upon objective evidence that that something is true. To believe in a person is likewise to be persuaded or convinced based upon objective evidence that the person is truthful in what he claims or promises. To “believe” is virtually the same as to “know” with the only legitimate difference being that one “knows” via first-hand observance, whereas one “believes” via secondary evidence which, when taken as a whole, compels one to a conclusion with a force equivalent to that of direct observation.

      JMG

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      1. JMG – I appreciate your response. You make good points – let me try to hit them. The LDS do have 8 witnesses to the plates (though not the vision) – and they are very proud that none of them ever recanted – or at least stayed recanted. I think its all baloney – and I have looked at it – and I do accept what you say about the muslim acct.

        On another point, you said:

        “And who ever said that people dying proves anything? If that is what you have understood Christian apologists to be saying, then either you have been listening to / reading the wrong people or you have severely misconstrued what is being said…”

        But later you say “If they were lying, then what possible motive would a group of 11 or 12 men have for needlessly dying for what they all knew to be a lie?”

        So, at first you say it isn’t part of the proving at all – but then it looks like you are going ahead and using it. You haven’t shown me how I am actually misunderstanding apologetics at all – but proven that the apostles deaths are part of the Christian case for Christ (apologetics).

        Moving to another point – I have a Christian friend who thinks athiests are dishonest because they claim there is no god. He says “the only honest one is the agnostic – who is open, but doesn’t know”. I agree with him. But I include that the agnostic is more honest than the Christian – who claims to “know” there is a god – but ultimately can’t. It’s hard to admit – but we don’t actually know – we have a great hope!

        I watched Dinesh D’ Souza admit – on a debate – that Christians are “believers” not knowers. He gives great examples of this – and he is a Christian. We have a belief, based not on evidence – but “on things unseen”.

        Last thing, have you ever attempted to look into how Christianity is refuted? I have witnessed to the LDS – and they refuse to look at failed prophecy for example. But we fail to look at failed biblical prophecy (like the Nile never running dry as predicted). We don’t hold our own bible up to the same standards that we do other faiths. Try looking up arguments against the bible and refuting them. This will disturb anyone.

        So, instead, we take the spoon-fed rhetoric, the purposeful leading of questions that can only be answered with – Yes, I agree – it makes total sense! But other people have posited really good arguments to taking the gospels at face value. I am only saying – we are being like Jehovah’s witnesses – talking about our own faith like it all makes sense. It doesn’t outside the faith – and its good to know why – to be able to refute those reasons – not just use the christian arguments of how “it all makes perfect sense!”

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        1. “So, at first you say it isn’t part of the proving at all – but then it looks like you are going ahead and using it.”

          As I had hoped to clarify, JMG is pointing to the distinction between merely dying for a belief, that is, something held as a result of second or third had info, and dying rather than recanting what is claimed to be true as a result of firsthand knowledge. The point is that it is not the mere deaths of the apostles that prove anything, as would be the argument in using any martyred believer, but that their deaths were uniquely due to their firsthand knowledge of Christ having been resurrected and that they would not deny it when faced with death threats for not recanting.

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          1. I am going to have to wrap my mind around that one. I will look at that. I am not even sure the average person (me) knows how each apostle died – although we hear it is “tradition” that this one died like this or this one died like that. But for arguments sake, lets say it is true – they wouldn’t recant because they actually saw “Christ” risen.

            There is no way to actually prove the stories are true – true, like with a capital T and not instead, written later. God was able to “perfectly preserve” all the oral traditions – and copies and canonization, but not a single inerrant original. I think Thomas Jefferson did a good work by trying to re-make the Bible – but leave out all of the stuff that wasn’t provable and didn’t make actual sense. But – maybe I am off topic. Thank you Marshal – I will think about what you are saying.

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        2. Prudence,

          First, thanks to Marshart for his correct clarification of my earlier post. He was right on target.

          You (Prudence) said:

          I watched Dinesh D’ Souza admit – on a debate – that Christians are “believers” not knowers. He gives great examples of this – and he is a Christian. We have a belief, based not on evidence – but “on things unseen”.”

          While I have not seen the full debate you speak of, I think you are misunderstanding D’Souza here. He said that there is a built in skepticism in Christianity. The reason is that except for the original witnesses (the Apostles, Paul, James, and 500 others) no other Christians actually know that Christ rose from the dead based on their own first hand observation. All true believers apart from that group mentioned above have been led to the conclusion that Christ rose from the dead based not upon sight but upon other evidence that supports the claim of those who say they did see the risen Christ. So the distinction is not between knowing and blindly hoping or wishing, but between knowing (first hand observation) and believing (being led to a conclusion of the truth of a claim based upon evidence that stands in support of those who make the claim to know (the first hand observers). It is true that our faith (belief, the same thing as faith) is based not on what we have seen, but upon what we know about the historical facts surrounding the lives and message of those who did claim to know. Therefore, since we Christians did not see the risen Christ, we tend to be skeptical unless there is sufficient evidence to put or skepticism to rest. I think that is what D’Souza was getting at.

          Now as I said, I have not heard the full debate involving D’Souza, so, I may be the one mistaken here about what he means, but if that is the case then I would have to flatly disagree with him, despite my respect for many other things he has also said. The plain fact is that the root of the greek word (pistis) used for faith / belief in the New Testament is peitho which means “to persuade, i.e. to induce one to believe a claim is true.” If this is not what the NT writers were trying to say, then someone needs to explain why they selected this particular word family to convey their message. In no way can these words be construed make faith / belief mean “to hope” or “to wish” or “to blindly accept” or “to choose”. People, whether Christians or atheists, who try to make faith / belief into something less than persuasion do violence to the literal definition of the words used by the NT writers to express the idea.

          On your another of your points, yes, I have taken a look at some of the objections raised by skeptics in an effort to disprove Christianity, find Biblical contradictions, etc. Virtually all of them involve misunderstandings of Christian positions, taking statements of Christians and scripture out of context, and the like. The few serious items that one can distill from the heaps of unwarranted objections scattered over the internet, although perhaps more difficult to answer, are nonetheless not the ultimate stumpers that their posers wish them to be. History cannot be trumped by clever arguments, and history is impossible to explain if Christ did not bodily rise from the dead.

          On the topic of Bible prophecy, many OT prophecies are indeed unfulfilled to date, but still await their fulfillment in the future as their contexts clearly indicate to be the case. There are none which have gone unfulfilled which have passed their due dates. Those OT prophecies that have been fulfilled have done so with such precision that skeptics have been relegated without any supporting evidence to make the claim that they must have been written after the fact on the strength of nothing but their determined hope that there is no God and no one knows the future (the book of Daniel, for instance). One particular prophecy (Daniel 9) actually can be calculated to the exact day of Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday, March 29, 33 AD).

          Finally, regarding the 8 supposed witnesses of Joseph Smith’s golden plates, those are not the mass LDS people you presented as dying on the way to Utah. I don’t know of any of the 8 that was ever faced with the point-blank sober choice of execution or recanting. They may have grown old and died without recanting or been the victim of angry mobs who executed first and asked questions later, but those are quite different than what befell most if not all of the Apostles and the other claimed witnesses of the resurrected Christ.

          JMG

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          1. ” actually can be calculated to the exact day of Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday, March 29, 33 AD). ”

            Unfortunately this throws that claim off:
            ”However, both Luke and Matthew associate Jesus’ birth with the time of Herod the Great.[33] As a result, scholars generally accept a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC.[5][34][35][36] It is generally agreed that Herod the Great died in 4 BCE, placing the birth of Jesus before then.[30][33]”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus#Date_of_birth

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          2. Well, JMG – you have given me a lot to think about. I am not sure I agree – but…. I am willing to look harder at these points. I do like Dinesh – and his arguments are very satisfying. Have a great night and thanks!

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  2. If behaviour is the metric. There are plenty of other philosophies and religions that ensure ethics in their members Secular humanism for example.

    Behaviour does not however have any bearing ultimately on the existence of God or not or the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ on whom the claim of Christianity rests.

    If Christianity that is not true then at best it is a noble lie that keeps people motivated to be Good a flavor which one chooses and anchors one life to, a private matter an opiate that has no place in rational discourse or reality, a comforting delusion that masks an indifferent universe, a reality that just exists, not a matter of eternal life or death.

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    1. Inforwarrior1,

      While I do not wish to go too far afield of the main topic, I’m not sure how you see the statement you quote about Jesus’ birth as “throwing off” of the date of Sunday, March 29, 33 A.D. as his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) just prior to his crucifixion. Can you Can you please explain?

      JMG

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      1. If Jesus was born earlier and he died and was crucified at the age of 33 wouldn’t the date of his triumphal entry be earlier?

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        1. Yes, that would be true, but where do we find the idea that Jesus was crucified @ the age of 33? I know there is a verse in Luke that says that he was baptized “about” the age of 30, but the fact that Luke uses terminology that indicates he his not being specific about Jesus’ age allows flexibility of several years. If Luke was simply indicating by his statement that Jesus was closer to 30 than 40, he could very well have been as old as 34 when he was baptized which would make his crucifixion as late as age 36 or 37.

          Here is a link to an article by several well respected scholars who propose just such a scenario.

          http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/april-3-ad-33

          JMG

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  3. InfoWarrior – I could not agree more!! And I am not sure it is a noble lie – but that is another conversation :) Good post.

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