Sunday, January 29, 2012

Site Under Construction

My site was a mess! I don't know what happened, or how long it was in that condition. Some pages had the extension HTM. Others had the extension HTML. The internal links were to HTML regardless of the actual extension of the page. I don't know how this changed. Perhaps the extensions changed when I copied the files to another computer, or perhaps they changed when I switched from Geocities to Webring. It certainly made it difficult to navigate the site. I fixed up the problem, with all extensions now set at HTM.

Anybody who has linked to a page on my site with an HTML extension will need to update the link.

Now that I have the internal links fixed, I will check the links to other sites to see what needs to be updated.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So many choices

So many choices in life. Are you sure you picked the right religion?

I have posted an excerpt from a soon to be published book, dealing with the many religious options available. Could it be that another path, other than the path you inherited, is the correct one? See religious tree here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some cosntructive criticism

I haven't spent a lot of time on this website in the last two years. I have received some very interesting emails that I should have responded to. I hope to address some of those emails. Today, let's look at some construtive criticism:

I am not a religious person. I agree with pretty much everything on your website. However, let people believe what they want to believe in. If people find comfort in religion, why should this be a problem for any of us that don't agree with them? Sometimes, religion is the reason people rise from poverty and make their lives successful, and sometimes religion is the reason people are able to overcome hard times in their lives. Let people believe in what they want to believe in.



First, let me say that I am in no way forcing my beliefs on others. I started my site to share my experience, and the reasons that I had for changing my mind. If folks are interested, they may stay and learn from me. If not, they are welcome to surf on.


Are there times when one should try fervantly to change another's beliefs? What if somebody believes it is good to fly airplanes into buildings? What if somebody believes the earth is flat or that gays should be killed? Can you see that such beliefs could be harmful to a person, and to the people around him? So I think we can agree that, if a belief is harmful, it is fine to point out the problems with the belief.

Ok, now suppose someone believes that all those with the wrong belief about God suffer in hell for eternity. Can you see that such a belief can be harmful? Do those who burn in hell forever deserve it? If these people do not deserve hell, how can anybody find it comforting to worship a being who reportedly allows this unjust torture to continue forever? But if those people in hell do indeed deserve this eternal suffering, how can a person with such beliefs respect those whom he believes deserve such torture? Now if it is true that others deserve such torture, perhaps it is okay to believe it, but if it is not true, and those around us are not as worthless as this doctrine would indicate, perhaps people should be taught why they should believe otherwise.

Another person writes to me:

A number of years ago i began to question. I found your site and have come back many times.
Great writing.

I do wish you would remove your spelling errors. For instance your your using "than" for "then" and a few others.

Doing this will make your site a lot easier to recomend to more educated people. You may or may not care about this. It's just FYI.




I always struggled in my English and writing classes. Instead, math was always my subject. Much of my skill in writing comes from debating on the Internet and from writing this site. I have been learning on the fly.


My writing certainly doesn't reach the elegance of elite writers, but my writings have been special to some readers, who can identify with the folksy style. I am glad that I was able to reach people who might struggle with the vocabulary of the educated elite. So I do my part, reaching out to those who can identify with what I write.


Yes, when looking back over my writings I often find silly mistakes like "than" where I mean "then", "their" when I mean "there", "effect" when I mean "affect", etc. I have spent much time reviewing my site, and of course, have relied heavily on my spell checker. I'm sure there are many errors still there.

I appreciate any specific errors you point out to me, and certainly want to fix them if I can.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where are the fossil pictures?

Here is another email I received with a challenge to evolution:

I looked at some of your site and found it interesting. Actually your section on evolution made me ask afew questions...I am curious why their is no pictures on your website talking showing those evolution pictures?


There are plenty of pictures of intermediate fossils on the web, and I didn't bother copying them to my site. See for instance:

http://www.theistic-evolution.com/transitional.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/tran-nf.html










The ad hominem approach

There is a simple form of argumentation known as ad hominem ("argument to the person"). Instead of responding to the issues, the ad hominem approach simply attacks the integrity of the other person. Is this valid argumentation? After all, even stupid people are sometimes right about some things, aren't they? So simply calling your opponent stupid, or hurling other insults at him, does nothing to prove that you are right, does it?

For some reason, LC, who earlier wrote a most unusal explanation of Genesis 1, has decided to turn to the ad hominem form of argument rather than address the obvious questions about his claims. Interestingly, LC's reply doesn't mention a single specific from my public writings, but rather, shares a canned list that he prepared four years ago!

Merle, thanks but I'm not interested so I won't go there. However, in anticipation of your response, I prepared the following and kept it waiting:

I skimmed your site a few days ago and, as I recall, it's the usual rehash of infidels.org canards. About four years ago, I found I was running across so many guys with profiles like yours, I made a list and I haven't changed a word since. How many items, in general, apply to you?

-Raised in a loving Southern Baptist home.
-Indoctrinated by the fear of hell.
-Doubts the existence of God.
-Becomes rational materialist.
-Determines to enlighten the world about the evil, bloodthirsty, make-believe God.
-Believes humans can save themselves from self-destruction.
-Well-read and uses standard atheist canards.
-Uses derash Bible exegesis.
-Waffles on Jesus' existence.
-Truth outside a science lab is subjective, a matter of opinion.
-Confesses ignorance of true economics.
-Recoils at "tinfoil hat" New World Order.
-Denigrates "ancient" Jews' God but quick to label someone else as anti-semite.
-Uses Nazi Germany analogies.
-Likes to bluster and bully.
-Unless personally convinced, any argument is false.
-Requires constant support, approval of other atheists

L[C]



Well folks, has LC done anything to prove that he is right and that I am wrong? Does copying a standard file designed to insult "guys with profiles like you" prove anything? Can LC do no better than argumentation by profiling?

My writings are a matter of public record. Everybody is welcome to read them, and see if I fit the profile that LC copied.

Also, the infidels.org site is a matter of public record. Curious readers might want to check it out, to see if LC's profiling matches the writings there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More on the old earth:

I received two replies to last week's post. Dwight writes again:


I am serious and happy and see a lot of humor in this ridiculous thing called life and do laugh out loud a lot. Most people do not have this benefit.

The 6,000 year old scam is just that no matter who tries to claim it or believes it. There is no claim of this in the Bible nor is that what it implies, if read closely with good reading comprehensions skills. You are not dealing in facts but straw dog arguments--Dwight



Interesting. So you, Dwight, see no claim in the Bible of a 6000 year old earth. As you wrote before, you think "it is made clear there is time distortion" in Genesis and that "one of God's days is like...a thousand years". You are expressing the day-age hypothesis, that is, that each "day"in Genesis could have been thousands of years long. As I mentioned previously, this claim only scratches the surface in reconciling Genesis with science. Why does Genesis list a different order of species origination from the order that science has found? Why does Genesis put birds before land animals? Why fruit trees before fish? And why do the genealogies of Genesis indicate that the first man lived 6000 years ago, when we have found human relics long before then? Do you have answers to such questions? If not, the day-age hypothesis doesn't come close to resolving the conflict.

It would be easier to accept that Genesis teaches that each "day" of creation was a long period of time, were it not that other Christians are equally insistent that the Bible is clear on something else. In the previous post, for instance, we saw an email from LC claiming that the six days of Genesis were not 6 periods of creation, but represented instead 6 days of revelation to a scribe.


So if the Bible is so clear about the meaning of Genesis 1, which way is it clear about? Are you right that Genesis 1 refers to 6 long periods of creation (apparently totalling 4.5 billion years), or is LC write that Genesis 1 clearly refers to 6 literal days of revelation?


If the Bible is so clear, why cannot the two of you decide if this refers to 6 literal days or 4.5 billion years? If the Bible is so clear, why cannot the two of you decide if Genesis 1 describes the actual periods of creation, or a time of revelation to a scribe?


And if the Bible cannot make such a simple matter clear, how can you trust anything you think you understand in the Bible? In the second letter I received this week, LC addresses this:

Merle, it's a pain-in-the-butt to leave a comment on your blog so I'll just pass one along here.

You state: "If the writer of Genesis 1 is universally misunderstood, is it also possible the writer of John 3:16 is universally misunderstood?"

Absolutely, and you are living proof. Millions also misunderstand John 3:17. They think Jesus is returning to earth to make things all better, He ain't.

Larry




OK, so I am living proof that people misunderstand John 3:16??? How is that? For I think the writer of John 3:16 is trying to tell us that God sent his son so that we could have everlasting life by believing in him. Is that not what it means? If I misunderstand John 3:16, please enlighten us as to what John 3:16 is really saying.

So do I, and the millions of Christians that agree with me on what John is trying to teach, completely misunderstand John 3:16? If so, how are you so certain that you do not also misunderstand John 3:16?


But if I, and the millions of Christians that agree with me, are correct in what we think John 3:16 is saying, why do you insist that I am living proof that John 3:16 is misunderstood?


Many resolve the problems in the Bible by finding symbolic meanings in the text. But as our correspondents have shown here, a Bible filled with cryptic, symbolic messages does little to clear up the confusion about the state of reality.


If someone wants to learn how the current world came to be I recommend science. Searching for cryptic meanings in ancient texts seems to work only if you first find the answers in science, and then reverse engineer your findings to determine a cryptic meaning in the text to match science. As we have seen here, the process of working back from science to symbolic meanings in scripture leads to conflicting symbolic interpretations.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Does the Bible teach an old earth?

This week I received three emails regarding the age of the earth. In the first email MM advises to "familiarize yourself with the content better before making yourself look very foolish," but ones wonders if he took his own advice before writing to me. MM writes:

Your story about the bible stating that the earth is only 6,000 years old is pointless. The bible says mankind is roughly 6,000 years into his existence, it does not say anything about how old the earth is. The universe is obviously thousands or millions of years old, and that does not contradict the bible. When the bible says that the earth was created in 6 days, it is not saying 6- 24 hour periods. Besides the fact that the bible says that a day to God is equal to 1,000 of our years, the bible was obviously illustrating 6 creative periods, represented by "days." Also, it does not specify how long the earth sat in space without human existence. So, I propose that next time you write a story please familiarize yourself with the content better before making yourself look very foolish.




MM, have you followed your own advice, and familiarized yourself with my site before writing about what it says? If so, you would be aware that I wrote:

Many Christians have solved the problem by finding ways to interpret the Bible consistent with the geologic record. Some think the six days of Genesis are figurative representations of long eras, and not six literal days. Some think Genesis 1 is just a parable, an interesting poetic way of saying that God started it all. Some see the six days as representing the thought process of God deciding to create, not the actual acts of creation. There are many ways to interpret the Bible to fit the geologic evidence. So one way out of the difficulty is to find interpretations of the Bible to match science. (http://webspace.webring.com/people/xq/questioner/Bible1.htm)

Finding a way to make the Bible agree with an old earth only begins to solve the conflict between the Bible and science. Science has found that the order in which new species have arrived on earth does not match the order given in Genesis, that there were humans on earth long before the genealogies of Genesis would indicate, and that there was a long series of intermediate fossils leading to the first humans. Can MM reconcile these findings with the Bible? If so, I would like to know how he does that.

The next writer observes:

The 6,000 year old scam I think I first heard in the movie inherit the wind. I would hope no one claims that one LOL

Understanding Genesis is understanding a lot and few bible thumpers seem to even grasp key parts of it. For one thing it comes very close to describing a simple evolutionary process. Secondly it is made clear there is time distortion (one of Gods days is like being a thousand years to man), but did they have million or billion when it was written LOL The third thing is why they were barred from the Garden with deadly force (I am assuming a flaming sword is deadly LOL). No not for "sinning" LOL
Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Hmm as one of us, and the only way to control it was to deprive him of the fruit from the tree of life which gave immortality if eaten of on some regular basis. If you think about it, you are seeing some extremely advance thinking or technology being dumbed down to be told to extremely primitive men who wrote t down or possibly retold over generations until it was written down. I won't even mention the concept of taking a rib from Adam (bone marrow) to create a new engineered "creature" LOL

A few things to think about--Dwight

Dwight seems to LOL so often, it is difficult to know what we should take seriously, and where he is joking. The source of his merriment seems to be that some people think that young earth creationists actually exist. He calls this a "6000 year old scam." I hate to burst your bubble, Dwight, but yes, there are millions of people that teach that the earth is closer to 6000 years old than 4.5 billion years. See for instance, Evidence for a Young World.

Okay, Dwight, now that you see that there are actually people that teach the earth is less than 20,000 years old, can you perhaps stop laughing at those who know that young earth creationists exist, and help us to educate people in the findings of science?

Finally, LC writes:

Actually, there is another understanding of the Creation Story that works exceptionally well.

P. J. Wiseman, in his book Creation Revealed in Six Days, contends that about six thousand years ago, a scribe was inspired to write the story on a cuneiform tablet a day for six days. In other words, God didn't create the world in six days, instead, He simply took six days to reveal how He did it to a scribe who wrote the story.

We have simply lost the true meaning over the centuries. I have the book in case you'd like more info.




As I explained in the quote above, there are multiple ways to explain the conflict of the 6 days of Genesis with the findings of science. LC writes that the six days represent the six days it took to reveal it to the scribe who wrote it down. Okay, but if the scribe is trying to tell us what he learned during each of six days of revelation, couldn't he have expresssed himself more clearly? Can you understand how people--such as MM--could read Genesis 1, and not understand it to be saying that the scribe who wrote this took six days to learn about the billions of years of earth history? If God revealed Gensis 1 to this scribe, why is it that a very small percentage of people believe this view is the correct view? If most people have completely lost the meaning of this passage, what other passages have we completely lost the meaning to? If the writer of Genesis 1 is universally misunderstood, is it also possible the writer of John 3:16 is universally misunderstood? If we need to read Creation Revealed in Six Days to understand Genesis, why isn't Creation Revealed included in the canon of scripture?

So go ahead and propose your ideas of how Genesis may be teaching billions of years, but also take the time to think critically as to whether your explanation truly resolves the conflict.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Have you been bright-sided?

Surely you have been told to maintain a positive attitude in life. Is it possible to be too positive? Can efforts to think positively cause one to miss oncoming dangers? Barbara Ehrenreich takes on these questions in an excellent book, Bright-Sided.

(Click to see more).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Laughing at the death of the uninsured

Here is a video I need to share. A congressman is presenting his views on health care, and invites a woman onstage to share the story of how her pregnant daughter-in-law and the baby died several weeks ago because they did not have health insurance, or the money to pay for it. The audience, who came for a fight, and were in no mood to hear the woman's case, heckled her and laughed at her. Can you imagine that? They were laughing as a recently bereaved woman spoke of the tragedy.

The cold fact is that millions do not have health insurance, and thousands die every year because of that. Do you care? Or do you laugh? Would you be willing to make a sacrifice if it would help these people?

Many people hate government programs and the thought of the govenment stepping in, but these same people are more than willing to accept medicare and VA benefits. Why are we so certain that we could not get together and appoint government leaders who would work out a solution to this problem?

And yet folks ignore the problem.

And they laugh.

Where is our compassion? How can we build this country with attitudes like this?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Site under construction

I've been reviewing my main site lately, and seeing some needs for upgrades. I have recenlty updated the essay on Bible Errors at http://webspace.webring.com/people/xq/questioner/Bible1.htm and updated broken links. I expect to update other pages in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Should we Search Instead of Research?

Here is another email from my inbox:


I just went tru ur website and read the whole article about self-esteem. While it was hearting to know that you knew scripture so very well but sadly I felt you have used them out of context. And a text out of context is a pretext.

Your arguments may sound intelligent and philosophical but let's remember that God is beyond all such realms' He goes beyond it which is called Faith. I don't wish to argue or impose my views upon you as you did and continue to do by keeping your website on.

But I want to pray for you that someday you find Jesus, You know why? He is waiting to receive you.

I am just 39 years and have known my Jesus since my childhood and better so in the last 17years. I can give you countless testimonies of the wonderful things He has done for me.

And yes He does love EVERYONE. Yeah even the atheist. He works even through them in the world. God is not waiting to accept us. If we do He is pleased and if we don't (as I presume is the case with you) He will still love us, bless us and use us in this world.

You have done a RESEARCH on Christ but I pray you SEARCH for Christ. That's the difference.

I wish I could really debate with you one-o-one but you know what I have discovered this to be true - Christ is an experience and not a subject for argument or debates.

May you experience Him. I know someday you will. He won't leave you until you have found Him brother. Until such times you can be assured of my prayers for you and your loved ones.

I apologize if I have hurt you in anyway. Pls. forgive me.

But I felt the urge in my heart to respond and not react. Until next time have a blessed life.

God bless you and yours.



You write that you felt I used verses out of context. I am sorry you felt that way. Can you understand that reading something and "feeling" that what you are reading is out of context does not prove that what you read is out of context? I would be more interested in knowing if there is a verse you have determined to be out of context. Have you found a verse that can objectively shown to be taken out of context on that webpage? If so, which verse? Please explain why that verse doesn't mean what I think it means. Facts would be more helpfully then telling me you read it and get a feeling that this is wrong.

You say my argument sounds intelligent, but that God goes beyond this into the realm that is called faith. Ah, but if my argument sounds intelligent, is not the next step to determine if it is indeed intelligent? How does it make sense to ignore an argument that looks intelligent, and simply take it by faith that the reasoning presented is wrong? Shouldn't we actually check to see if the reasoning is wrong?

Others take it by faith that you are wrong. Do you agree that it is right for Muslims to take it by faith that you are wrong? If you do not think that the faith of a Muslim overrides the facts, then can you understand how others might think that your faith does not override intelligent arguments to the contrary? And if your faith does not trump my reasoning, perhaps you might want to consider my reasoning.

You admit that I have done research, but ask me to instead search for Christ. Have you read my story (here)? Searching for Christ was the theme of my youth. When in my own mind I had found Christ, life was all about deepening that walk with Christ, continually searching for more. So I have done exactly what you ask. If not, what exactly would you like me to do that I haven't yet tried?

You say Christ is an experience and not a subject for argument. OK, but whose experience is right? Is the one who experiences Christ as the one who leads him on a crusade to kill others experiencing the true Christ? Is the Mennonite who experiences Christ as the one that leads him to oppose war--all war--experiencing the true Christ? Were both the Irish Catholics and Protestants experiencing the true Christ as they fought each other? Our all claimed experiences of Christ the true experience of Christ? If not, how do you know your experience is the right one, and that those who experience something contrary to yours are wrong?

You say that even if we con't accept Jesus, "He will still love us, bless us and use us in this world." Uh, and then send us to hell to burn for ever and ever in eternal torment with no chance for mercy, regardless of how much we beg for forgiveness? Is that part of your message? Why did you leave that out?

Speaking of self-esteem, in what way can that help our self-esteem if we are such evil people that we deserve to be tormented in hell forever?

I would love to hear back from you, or from anyone who agrees with the message you present.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I've moved

My website has moved to a new address, http://webspace.webring.com/people/xq/questioner/index.htm .

If you think others will be helped by this site, please link to it. Thanks.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Christian Forum General Apologetics, RIP

It has been my privilege to spend many hours at the Christian Forums website, debating the issues that I present at my site. That site is now under new management. Most of the threads from those days have been deleted. Skeptics are no longer welcome at that site. Unfortunately, many of the discussions that I reference at my site no longer exist. Someday I will update my site, and remove those links. See Christian Forum General Apologetics, RIP .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Way of the Master

Previously I posted that the book, "The Way of the Master" includes an extensive quote from my site. I now find that this book is part of an agressive witnessing site entitlted "The Way of the Master." Here are some videos that refute the claims made at the site about evolution. I recommend these videos.

Part 1.



Part 2.



Part 3.



And here is a good video on transitional fossils.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Is God Imaginary?

I found this thought-provoking video. Can you answer these questions within the context of your faith, without resorting to unlikely rationalizations? Do you come to the conclusion that God is imaginary?



Monday, February 23, 2009

Can we enjoy believing in a real Jesus?

RS writes:

I just read your tretise again. I like your questions. In fact I've asked a lot of them myself. You imply some conclusions that I'm not comfortable with however. We could draw some firm conclusions if all of the books that were ever written about everything were still available. But they're not. In the ancient, illiterate world I don't think many books were written in the first place. How many books do you think there were in circulation 2 thousand years ago? What did people write about back then? Who were the authors and who were the audiences? Why did they even write books? Did they get paid for writing them? Were there professional authors back then, like there are now?

So, I'm uneasy about some of your conclusions; like maybe Jesus didn't actually exist because we haven't found more than a couple of ancient books outside the Bible that even mention him. We don't have all the books that were written available for examination. We can't conclude that an event didn't happen just because there is no evidence for it. The event could have happened but the evidence is gone. To be rational I think we have to reserve the possibility that Jesus did exist. I think we also have to consider the possibility that mingled within possible myths, legends, and embellishments contained in the Bible is a kernel or 2 of truth.

You seem to have drawn your conclusions more on faith than on evidence. So I guess you and I are still following a practice we thought we left religion for: believing in things that can't be proven or disproven. I enjoy believing there was a real Jesus. I enjoy reading what he puportedly said for the most part. There is wisdom and insight there in some of it. I enjoy reading Pauls teachings. I accept from the Bible generally , what is relevant for me and ignore the rest, and I find meaning in it. I don't believe there is a final exam at the end of life so to me it's okay if you reject everything. All I'm suggesting is that because we don't know all there is to know we should be open to the possibilities.

Cheers,


You are uneasy with reaching the conclusion that Jesus did not exist, for we do not have a complete historical record of that time. That is true. We cannot resolve the issue of his existence with certainty either way. And I make no claim that I know it with certaintly. I do think he probably did not exist, but I am not dogmatic about that claim. (See The Jesus Puzzle for more information on why many think he did not exist.)


You say you enjoy reading the reported words of Jesus. That is all well and good. There are a lot of good ideas in the Q Gospel and Thomas, the two books that are believed to be closest to the timeframe of Jesus. And there are lessons to be learned from writers like Luke who built on this tradition. I am in no way saying we cannot learn from these books. The point is that there is no way to prove that these books represent the words of a single man named Jesus, the words of one man who used Jesus as a pseudoname, or a compilation of sayings of many people. When it comes to enjoying the moral lessons there, one can do that regardless of who had a hand in preparing those documents.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Ask whatever you need to, and let Him provide the answers."

Another reader observes:



I stumbled upon your website and wanted to ask something. In your own words, taken directly from your website, you state:

"To convince a skeptic that he is wrong, you will need to do more then state that you are right and he is wrong. You will need evidence."

I simply want to ask...what "evidence" have you provided that the Bible is not inspired? Your website is a multitude of questions without answers. Can you, with your scientific mind, provide evidence that the Bible was not inspired by God? Can you provide evidence that God does not exist? You pose very good questions on your website, however, you fail to answer any of them. In the end, you simply tell me that since I can not provide evidence that you deem sufficient, I am incorrect in my beliefs and you are correct in yours. Why does it have to be me providing the evidence, and not you? Even if I were to tell you of all the wonderful ways God has blessed my life since inviting the Holy Spirit of Jesus into my heart and doing my best to live in His will...you would ask me whether wonderful things ever happened before, and you would tell me that it's all just coincidence. So, one man's "evidence" is not necessarily another's. Based on the litany of questions on your website it seems to me that you are searching. Don't look in the Bible, and likewise don't look to science (which will only explain to you the matters of this three dimensional universe and time)...just look to Jesus and ask. Take the time to sit peacefully, open your heart, and invite Him in. He'll stand at the door waiting for as long as it takes, but he won't break it down to get in...it's got to be your choice. Then ask whatever you need to, and let Him provide the answers.

God Bless...and I hope you find what you're truly looking for.





I respond here:


What evidence have I provided about the Bible? What about the long list of contradictions at my site? What about the detailed descriptions of moral problems with the Bible? Could God have written such things? Please read what I wrote. If you don't think that evidence is sufficient, please explain why.

You say, "you simply tell me that since I can not provide evidence that you deem sufficient, I am incorrect in my beliefs and you are correct in yours. " But of course, I never said any such thing, or anything close to it. Failure to find evidence for one belief in no way proves that another belief is correct. My views must stand on their own evidence.

You say I fail to answer any of the questions at my site. Again, have you even attempted to read my site? The site is filled with questions, and my responses to those questions. I think I have made my position very clear. If you are confused about my position, please ask.


You say one man's "evidence" may not be enough to convince another. Exactly. You are not convinced with the evidence that Iesha presented for Islam, are you? You are not convinced with the evidence for the book of Mormon, are you? Can you understand that some evidence is not convincing? Some evidence is valid, some is not. The fact that you found "evidence" may not mean the evidence is valid. For even you refer to your "evidence" in quotes, indicating that even you see that this is not convincing evidence.


You tell me to open my heart and invite Jesus in. I have indeed done that, many, many times. And no, I did not get all the answers. Yes, when I was a Christian, I thought I had a direct line to the throne, and yes, I thought I was getting answers directly from God, but as I explained at my site, others were using the exact same link to the throne and finding dramatically different answers. Have you never experienced that? Have you never once found a Christian who prayed to God and concluded something different from you? If this method you propose is so valid, why do people who use if find such radically different answers?

.



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"I ended up in a place I should be in"

JF writes:


I just read some of your points. You are very creative. There is a lot of smoke and mirror's for you to hide behind.

I think you should look closer. The answer may be there.

Good luck on your ongoing search for the truth.

My search was long and winding and I ended up in a place I should be in.

I will give you a hint,

I will pray for you,



JF, I am glad that, after a long search, you ended up in a place you should be.

Can you understand that, just because a place may be right for you, it may not necessarily be right for me? After all, some will tell me that they have found a place that is right for themselves, and their faith is very different from yours. Should I follow Islam, for example, since some have found it to be a place that is right for them? Will you immediately turn and follow all religions for which others declare that they have found it to be right for them? No? Then why would you expect others to immediately turn and follow your religion just becuase you declare it is right for you? Can you understand how most people would not regard your argument to be convincing evidence that they should abandon their views and accept your faith?

May I ask you how you know this is the place for you? Is it because of social pressure, and the fear of saying things that disagree with your peers? Is it because you have come to the faith you knew as a kid, and you feel secure in not having to face the real world with its many conflicting beliefs? Or is it because you have found new evidence that convinces you of a certain truth? If it is because of new evidence, what evidence are you referring to?

You say that you will pray for me. Fine, but what will you pray for? Will you pray that I abandon the knowledge I now have, and accept your faith, even though I sincerely think the evidence points me in another direction? Would your God honour such intellectual dishonesty? And if your God honors intellectual dishonesty, how would I know I could trust him?And if you are praying that I will be informed of a new fact, what fact is it that you want me to know? Why not just tell me?

I am sorry that you think my site is smoke and mirrors. I wrote it as an honest attempt to explain my views, and why I came to those views. If I am mistaken, it was an honest mistake, and I would like to know where I am wrong. Can you understand how simply calling my site smoke and mirrors does not address the issues? If I am wrong, where am I mistaken?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Okay, maybe not so much Paul as Mark and Luke

I see that WisdomUnchained has responded in detail to my post about Paul. I will address him here.

WisdomUnchained,

You write,

I have read the 3 parts starting with the Conspiracy of Silence so I understand your reasoning that Paul was speaking of Jesus on a spiritual plane and not as an earthly person. My initial reaction is that a person, after reading all of Paul's writings, would have to make a pretty significant leap of faith to agree with that. This in light of the fact that the gospel of Luke makes it clear that the Jesus being spoken about was an earthly person. Luke of course was a travelling companion of Paul so it seems unlikely that he would have somehow been in disagreement with Paul over whether Jesus was a real person or not.



I'm glad that you were willing to read the other side. You are certainly on the way to deeper understanding. Many refuse to read that which they disagree with. You and I--and probably most of those reading this--are among those who are willing to explore the thoughts of those who disagree with us.

Now that you have read the skeptical view, you may want to go back and read Paul for what he says. People are so used to hearing bits and pieces in church, where the speaker jumps between Paul and the gospels, leaving one with the impression that they are all speaking the same message. But if one isolates just the teaching of Paul, and reads it by itself, without interpreting it in the light of the first five books of the New Testament, it is hard to see that Paul is speaking of an earthly Jesus. That was the point I was responding to. The argument had been raised that Paul was a good early witness to the reality of the story of Jesus. Paul certainly testifies that he believed in a Jesus, but does he witness to the fact that Jesus lived on earth? That is the question.

Are we justified in reading Paul on his own, without viewing him in light of the first 5 books? Yes, if Paul wrote long before those books, wrote to a different audience, and had no contact with those other books or their authors. Is there any convincing evidence that the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were known by Paul?

Interestingly, your response shifts completely from the original topic of the writings of Paul, and turns back to the four gospels as your source. I addressed those books at Are the Gospels Historical?, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? , and When Were the Gospels Written?.

You refer to Luke, the companion of Paul, as the writer of the third gospel. How do you know that he wrote that book? The third gospel is completely anonymous, with no indication within the book itself of who the author is. Nobody even mentions Luke as a writer of a gospel until 150 years after Christ. And even then, we are told only that a Luke wrote the book, and not told which Luke. And yet your whole argument here hinges on the assertion that this book was written by Luke, the companion of Paul. Do you have any evidence for that claim? And if you admit that there is no convincing evidence that this Luke wrote that book, then the argument that Paul's intimate companion taught an earthly Jesus disappears. One is then left once more with turning to the writings of Paul himself to find out what Paul taught.

The gospel of Mark, who of course is considered the disciple Peter's interpreter, also speaks of an earthly Jesus. Since from Paul's writings we know that he had extensive interaction with Peter, and Peter claimed to be a direct disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, it seems pretty unreasonable that there was some major miscommunication between all four of them over whether Jesus was a real earthly person who had died just 20 some years before or not.



Again, I see an assertion here about the authorship of Mark. Once again, there is no mention within the gospel of who the author is. Again, we find nobody identifying this particular book with Mark until 150 years after Jesus. How do you know it was written by Peter's interpreter?

Paul mentions Peter, but nowhere mentions anything about Peter actually being with a physical Jesus on earth. In fact, Paul very clearly indicates that his own spiritual visions of Jesus are of equal validity with what Peter saw. Is there any indication anywhere that Paul thought Peter saw anything more than a vision? If I look only at the writings of Paul, I find there no evidence there that Peter physically saw Jesus.

Mark most likely wrote to an isolated group away from Palestine who had no contact with the Jerusalem apostles. If the Jerusalem apostles were even still alive at that point, they probably had no contact with the book of Mark, and so never refuted it.

If you would like to claim Mark was written before 70 AD, I would be interested in your reasons. For I find strong evidence for a date of Mark after 70 AD.

Peter even addresses this in 2 Peter 1:16 where he says, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty”..



Excuse me, but how do you know that Peter wrote the book of 2 Peter? 2 Peter is widely regarded as a second century pseudepigraph, that is, it was written by somebody other than Peter. See 2 Peter. What are your reasons for thinking Peter wrote that book?

Be that as it may, that still doesn't answer the underlying question. What are your thoughts on why Paul, who from the writings attributed to him was obviously a highly educated zealous Jew, who spoke and wrote fluently in multiple languages, was a man of reason, a roman citizen, a rising star in his Jewish sect of the Pharisees, and one who had already demonstrated his contempt for Christians by admittedly having them put to death; Why would he have abandoned his zealous Jewish beliefs to convert to Christianity? All this in light of the fact that he was trading a life of success and respect for one of prison, beatings, and suffering that lead to his own death by crucifixion. Whether it was an encounter with the physical or spiritual Jesus, it was a catastrophic event that compelled him to make a 180 degree change in his lifestyle based on 1400 years of tradition. A reasonable man, as Paul obviously was, just doesn’t do that without a dramatic event.



Did Paul encounter a catastrophic event? Sure! It was the Diaspora. Paul appears to have been one of the many Jews that were spread by the Romans across the area, intermixed with believers in many religions. In those desperate times in which people had to learn to cooperate with people of many cultures to survive, many adopted parts of other religions. So it is no big surprise that Paul combined elements of Judaism with elements of other religions, such as the religions that taught that a dying savior god in the spiritual realm brings salvation.

There is no doubt that Paul was zealous about his religion. Many are zealous about many different religions. What is in question is whether Paul taught that his Jesus had recently walked on earth as a man. You will have no problem convincing me that Paul was zealous. The question before us is this: What message was Paul zealous for?

I look forward to reading your response.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What about Paul?

I have contended that the early records tell little about an historical Jesus. We have no record of anybody definitively writing of the earthly Jesus revealed in the gospels until about 70 AD when Mark wrote his book. If the earthly life of Jesus was so important, why did nobody choose to write about it until 40 years later? Could it be that Mark was simply writing a novel which was later adopted as truth, and that the story has very little basis in historical fact?


Here is a reader's response:

I just came across your website this evening and I must admit that I haven't read through everything yet. I'm curious though about what your thoughts are on the books of the new testament written by Paul. I read your comments on the gospels and how you question whether they are eye witness accounts or not. Paul on the otherhand is credited with writing much of the new testament. He describes his seemingly miraculous conversion to belief in Christ and then travels around until he is killed proclaiming Christ. What are your thoughts on these books and Paul himself? Are you skeptical that he was a real person? If you think he was a real person, why would he have fabricated the story he did especially unto death? The other option is that he was deceived by the Apostles but he seemingly would have had an easy time of validating their stories with other eye witnesses since he lived during the same time as the original Apostles. I can understand how zealots in our own modern age can be deceived and convinced by faith in whatever religion to give their life as a final act of obedience. They take the word of a man before them. If you read the writtings of Paul though, he comes across as a man of reason. It doesn't seem reasonable that he could be deceived given his proximity to others who could disprove the Apostle's claims. Even if he was deceived, why make up the lie about his conversion? And what could his movitation have been to perpetuate that lie and Christ? Before proclaiming Christ, he was apparently a rising star in the Jewish community, a roman citizen, a free man, with power, influence, and likely money. Why trade all that for a lie?




Yes I believe that "Paul" was a literal man, for we have a collection of books written by "Paul". Although we can't be absolutely certain that the person who wrote these books was called "Paul" by those around him, it seems obvious that a man existed who wrote these books.


The problem is that Paul does not testify to the fact of an earthly Jesus. Paul describes a Jesus in heaven, who is doing a work on a spiritual plane. If this Jesus had had an earthly existence before this heavenly work, the letters of Paul bypass it. Yes, Paul refers to a death and resurrection, but the experience he refers to appears to be a heavenly experience, not one that happened on earth. You can read more about this at Conspriacy of Silence.


So the books of Paul, rather than being a convincing argument for the earthly resurrection, actually support the view that Jesus was considered to be only a heavenly figure by the earliest Christians. Not until Mark came along do we have a record of anyone reporting that the story happened on earth.