jump to navigation

Did Jesus exist? September 9, 2005

Posted by roopster in Bible, Christianity, faith, Jesus, Religion, spirituality, Theology.
trackback

In Brian Fleming’s documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There,” he makes the case that Jesus never existed.

In the Christianity Today interview with Flemming entitled “Debunking Jesus“, Flemming refers to himself as an “Atheist Christian.”

An Atheist Christian? What does that mean?

Fleming explains:

Once you’re a Christian, I don’t think you ever shake being a Christian, and personally I don’t want to. When I realized that the first-century science that Christianity proclaims is basically completely wrong, that didn’t mean Jesus was evil. It didn’t mean Jesus was bad. Jesus is in many ways still a great character. As you see in the movie, when he calls for everybody who doesn’t want him to reign over them to be killed, that’s not the Jesus I’m talking about. But the Jesus that I hold in my mind as the Jesus who taught me my moral values in many ways, I don’t want to lose that. I like Jesus. When I see a picture of Jesus that doesn’t make me feel bad, it makes me feel good. I’m an atheist because I only believe those things that can be demonstrated and proved. I don’t believe that faith is a good thing at all. But I’m a Christian in that I love Jesus.

I have to say that I have recently become fascinating with the line of thinking that Jesus was a mythical figure vs. being the Jesus we read about in the Gospels. I believe this line of thinking merits investigation and discussion. I know that many of us have been discouraged from questioning, but I believe this is healthy for our faith and beliefs.

As Randall Arthur (I believe) said,

“Truth cannot be destroyed by questioning or scrutiny. It will always stand unbeatable. Questioning only confirms truth making it visibly stronger; it never crumbles it.”

So if you’re interested in taking this journey of exploration with me, stick around. I believe it will be a fascinating journey. I do not know if we will discover the right answers, but at least we’ll learn to ask the right questions.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. Paco - June 10, 2005

Roopster, I’ve always maintained if something is real it can stand scrutiny. I’ve always been a cynic (I prefer realist -grin-) and that has always made me an “outsider,” particularly with those in our mutual past. As part of your journey, and if you haven’t already read it, I’d suggest CS Lewis’ “Surprised by Joy”. It’s his story from atheism and I beleive it’s pertinant to evrything on your Bog…

Paco

2. Paco - June 10, 2005

or “Blog” as the case may be!

3. Roopster - June 10, 2005

Paco,

I don’t believe I’ve read this thoroughly even though it’s in a box somewhere 🙂 However, if I recall correctly, this book is about his journey from atheism to a belief in God… not in Christianity. I’ll dig it up and check it out. However, I’m far from being an athesist. I very much believe in God. I contend that whether the Bible is his word or not is irrelevant to my belief in God or in the basic truths found in Christianity.

Paul

4. Roopster - June 10, 2005

BTW, Any thoughts on the Flemming interview?

5. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - June 10, 2005

“Once you’re a Christian, I don’t think you ever shake being a Christian…”

I’d have to agree with this, to a point. The “Christian experience” will always be part of my own personal history. It is what has brought me to where I am now. I really see it as adding to my own overall culture.

I do wonder though, that if I had not ever known of the teachings of Christ, nor any Christian influence what-so-ever, would I have still been taught about the things he talked about? Love, compassion, acceptance, etc. Would I know of these without Christ? If I had lived in another country, during another time, where Christianity wasn’t sold, would I still know of these things? Without any religious or reasoning indoctrination, is it possible that I may have been a “good” seeking person anyway? Just a thought.

6. Stellar - June 10, 2005

DB,

I believe humans would be better off without any type of religion. Quite frankly I see very little good coming from organized religion, while an immense amount of evil can be attributed to almost any religion.

Please note that I do not regard religion as the same thing as spiritualism. I do hold spiritual pursuits as being a vital part of the human experience, though I believe those pursuits can be accomplished outside of the framework of organized religion.

Now to prove my point. The concept of good and evil is not subject to religion. These notions are inate in humans, part of our make up, if you will. Further, man does not need a religious dogma to establish laws against humanity or to govern with justice. Justice and goodwill are insticts most of us have regardless or religious upbringing. So yes, we can function as a civil society without the interference of religious doctrines looming overhead.

In fact, this scenario is even more desirable. Think of how many people have died at the hands of governments that were prompted by religion. The crusades produces deaths galore, witch hunts burned people at the stake if their beliefs varied even slightly with what was considered “orthodox,” and even today we have Islamic extremist flying airplanes into buildings.

The religious right of American is nothing short of a fanatical group wanting to force there belief system on the rest of us – and if we won’t conform, they’ll try to get Mr. Dimwhit in the White House to make us conform.

In India, people starve while cows walk around everywhere. Why? Because their religion considers cows holy.

The oppression of women by almost every major patriarcal religion is a disgusting stain on the human race, even in today’s so-called “enlightened” society.

Slavery has been justified by scripture.

Animal and human sacrifices were a daily event in most religions.

Body mutilations for the sake of piety.

I could go on and on. And for what? So that we can feel better than another sect or religion? I’m going to heaven and you aren’t? We include so few and refuse so many because an invisible god somehow told one lunatic man this was right? Truly religion is the worst possible thing to ever happen to mankind.

People say that a god changed their lives and give him (always a him) credit for something they should have (or could have) done on their own. They then live in some type of euphoric state and spiritualize everything they do instead of living in the here and now with the rest of us on earth.

Anyhow, this is my two cents on what life would be like without religion. A lot better…

7. Stellar - June 10, 2005

Ooops, when I said “laws against humanity,” I meant laws against inhumanity. (grin)

8. Paco - June 10, 2005

I finished reading the article. It’s amusing on the one hand the filmaker can dismiss the idea that Jesus existed yet on the other hand know the motivation’s of those from the same era regarding they why’s and how’s (from his pov) of their “creation of Christianity”… this sort of contradiction is laughable!

“I’m an atheist because I only believe those things that can be demonstrated and proved. I don’t beleive faith is a good thing at all.” OK, I accept that, though I could easily argue everyone has “faith.” Regardless, his ideas there are basically consistant. He continues; “But I’m a christian in that I love Jesus.” Huh? How can you “love” the Jesus that never existed, unless you love an “idea” of Jesus, but if the idea is a myth than to love a myth is, well, pretty sad… sort of like the boy and his Playboy magazine… juvenile! The mental gymnastic’s required to absorb the contradiction’s that are this filmaker aren’t worth the time… he needs to really make up his mind what he is. Then he’d have something worth listening to. As it is, to borrow the words of Jesus (big cheezy grin here)”he’s neither hot or cold.”

I respect consistancy.

Paul, BTW, “Surprised by Joy” is Lewis’s life story from atheism to Christianity…

9. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - June 10, 2005

Stel,

I think in ancient times religion was a necessary control (over a population of mainly pagan, uneducated peasantry). It was the one thing that remained universal (at least within the believing group) for all to cling to, and for the leadership to maintain control. The “civilised” society of modern times exists because of the religious influences in our cultures. So, I guess it had its purposes. Like anything, you take the good with the bad. The good comes naturally, the bad comes from evil men manipulating the good people.

Evil appears to be a universal outreach program that is not barred by religion, culture, or nationality. It isn’t prejudice, partisan, nor respective of position. But good is the same way. What makes good, in my opinion, more abundant, and easier to dispense is that it’s innate within each of us. I know that I would prefer to do good than to do evil.

Also, if I were to have been born and raised in India, I would prefer to be the cow rather than the human;)

10. Paco - June 10, 2005

Roop, as a “WOF’r” (smiling really big here!) you know it’s irrational to have faith in something/someone without substance for your faith. Belief doesn’t come from a vacum. OK, maybe a better way to say it is, “specific beleif doesn’t come from a vacum.” One may generally have a sense of “God” and morality or “right and wrong” but to specifically be a christian requires the “evidence” found in the NT. If you reject that evidence as untrustworthy you’re not in a position to be a christian. It’s really that simple. I have no dog in that particular fight. I like you no matter what you are! I think Baron Del touched on it… if you weren’t raised around christianity would you, could you, have a “relationship” with God apart from Jesus? I’m putting it in less abstract terms than Baron Del might be happy with, but isn’t that what we’re ultimately asking here?

More Later…

11. Paco - June 10, 2005

Steller, as many people have been killed for ego’s sake or in the name of a political philosophy or nationalistic ideology as have been in the name of religion… perhap’s more. People are basically evil. I contend we need a savior as it’s undoable by oneself. It’s easy to assume one is “good” until one is in a “bad” situation. I’ve known a few death camp survivor’s and one survivor of Stalin’s Gulag’s. To a person they’ll tell you what evil a bad situation can bring out of seemingly “good” people. Many are ashamed what they did to those around them in order to survive. Of course it’s a greater evil (and, BTW, political and philosophical) one that put them in the situation.

Regarding politic’s, I’ve no particular party affiliation. All legislation is “moral”… it just depend’s whose “morality” it is! However, I’m more of a pragmatist politically than an idealist.

12. Roopster - June 10, 2005

Paco,

I’m a nutcase about consistency also. This is probably the main reason that I started having issues with the Bible.

I too saw the inconsistencies in the article however to me it doesn’t invalidate his scholarship on the subject at hand. He’s obviously struggling with his past and truth he believes he’s discovered. To me, it’s ok to agree with a philsophy of a religion and not believe it to be historically or factually accurate.

It is reported that Jesus spoke in parables to make points. Were his stories true? It doesn’t really matter because that isn’t the point of the story. The point is more the meaning.

This seems to be the way Flemming looks at the N.T. and I tend to agree with this view. Why can’t the substance to your faith be the agreement with a philosophy? I agree with the basic teachings attributed to Jesus. I choose to place my faith in those teachings as the way we should live our lives.

On the subject of people being basically evil, I have a question. How then do people become good? If you answer is through a personal relationship with Jesus then I will disagree with you. Experiencially, I’ve met many ‘evil’ people who have a personal relationship with Jesus and I’ve met many good people who do not.

More later ….

Paul

13. Roopster - June 10, 2005

Paco,

P.S. In regards to your comment on religion being “human”, I agree. I then take it a step further in that the Bible, even though it is our Holy Scriptures and should be respected as such, is also very human.

Paul

14. Paco - June 11, 2005

Roop, I guess I’m saying if Jesus didn’t exsist and if the New Testament is essentially a fabrication, then why give it more than passing attention?

Great moral teachers can be found in every culture at nearly every time in histroy. Those individual’s writing’s and historical presence are varifiable… why not adopt them as a model of a good life? Heck, I beleive I could lay down principal’s that would lend themselves to a happy and “good” life!

The Buddha spoke many truth’s that parralel many that can be found in the New Testament. The point of Jesus’ life was death. A substitution. It was not moral teaching or pontification per se. His claims, if you accept them as real, were there is no other way to God except to be “born again” through him… to “eat his body and drink his blood”… that’s radical. I’m not sure how one can avoid that elephant in the room. It is the central point of the Old and New Testament’s… it truly is a “bloody religion” that requires innocent death for guilty life. Many “liberal christian’s” do reject this… I’ve never understood that as it’s impossible to avoid!

I believe it’s more intellectually honest and, frankly, easier to be a Budhist or follow another way than avoid this central theme which, btw, cannot be found in any other religous teaching.

As far as “goodness”… I agree. From an external pov I’ve met just as many “good” non-christians as I have christian’s. Frnakly, most christians I’ve known over the years are pretty boring! I genuinely like intersting people and have never cared a fig what they believe about God. My best friend happens to be my father who’s a committed agnostic and follower of Bertrand Russell!

There is, however, a spiritual dimension to “goodness.” IE, right standing with God through “new birth”. I, of course, believe this only comes through accepting the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as per his words. The spiritual quality of goodness is cultivated through a life of devotion to God through Christ. When push comes to shove I believe it is those who have submitted to this process that will show genuine goodness in very bad situation’s… remember Betsy Tenboom? I believe it takes more than normal human goodness to abound in such goodness in the midst of such evil.

I’ve been to India, I’ve been in communist Romania, I’ve walked through the gas chamber’s of Mauthausen, I’ve looked into the survivor’s eyes… no, I don’t believe in the goodness of mankind apart from divine intervention. I think it’s an easy philosophy from a comfortable armchair that doesn’t bear up to the scrutiny of genuine, spiritual evil…

15. Paco - June 11, 2005

Paul, I’ll also say your questions are honest and refreshing. They remind me of my own question’s before my conversion. In some ways I believe christian parent’s do their children a disservice by overly insulating and training them to the point they never question or think for themselves. Faith is always a personal thing and arrived at personally… there are no second generation christian’s. I feel very fortunate to have arrived at faith independantly of my parnet’s… frankly, it was in contradiction to their wishes! I can’t imagine what it was like for you becuase I wasn’t raised as you were.

Whatever your choices I consider it an honor to be counted your friend.

I’m really not hung up on what you believe and really feel no compulsion to get you to see anything as I see it… seriously! I’d never be much of an evangelist cause I can’t muster the sort of fervor necessary to convince anyone!

Zealot’s… people with no doubt’s, no crack’s in their armor, no humanity, no dirt under their fingernails… those people scare me! That’s why I could never warm up to JP…

16. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - June 11, 2005

One thing that still vexes me is that I’m not completely sure “what” to have faith in. What I’m trying not to do is plug a replacement motive, feeling, experience to parallel the past ex-Christian ones. But, at the core of my search is “who,” or better yet, “what” is Source of all life and creation? If I’m not buying the Judeo-Christian explanation then what? It’s kind of like eating a stew that you are not sure of its contents, but enjoy the taste just the same. I’m searching for the ingredients.

17. Roopster - June 11, 2005

paco,

Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve not actually arrived at any conclusions on this issue so I’m not sure how it will all play out.

BTW, have you read Stella’s rants during the early days of the war Click Here.

Oh, quick question… Historically speaking, do you believe for a moment that Flemming and other “scholars” have any credible points on this subject?

Paul

18. Paco - June 11, 2005

Baron, your post gave me an enormous smile… I liked your “stew” analogy!

Roop, I look at the gospel’s as the writing’s of multiple reporter’s reporting on the same incident, some of whom were there and some who weren’t. Some collected the accounts of those who were there and are therefore “historian’s” of the event’s while other’s reported from their unique perspective and filter as personal witnesses. Just like the proverbial car crash, all witnessed the same event’s in a different way and reported as such. The gospel’s really aren’t “the new testament”… they’re a record of the life of Christ prior to the inauguration of the new testament.

As to Flemming’s perspective and that of “actual” scholars (he ain’t, smile)… In the nineteenth century skeptic’s launched their expedition’s to the near east in order to disprove biblical history… as you know, that is the genuine origin’s of what we today call archeology. Of course, and to their everlasting surprise, not only did they not disprove the historical accurateness of old testament account’s, they proved their authenticity. Egg on the face was had by all.

History, however, is an elusive and cunning prey. As the saying goes, “history belongs to the conquerer.” When the battle against faith couldn’t be won with physical proofs, intellectual arguments became stronger and more carefully crafted. I’m fully confident in America we’re on the precipice of a secular, post christian era not unlike that which has been in Europe for a century. The “new history” belongs to the “new historians.” I still see it as spin that is ultimately unverifiable.

I waded through doubt and cynicism as a young man and found faith. My ability to reason through the issues was not at your level… there’s no way possible for that. Yet, perhaps that was a blessing. I’ve found reason and intellect will lock you out of the room (the kingdom of heaven) only faith can take you into. My faith took me into that windowless, doorless room and I found that inside was everything I’d been told would be there, yet before belief was entirely abstract. After belief it was reality. That’s not hyberbole.

July 4, 1977. I was backpacking the Appalachian trail all summer with my best friend (who gave me my handle “Paco”!) having started in GA. We generally seperated during the day as we walked at different paces. I was miles ahead of him, alone. I crossed a road which had a scenic overlook (this was in the Smoky Mtn. NP). At this overlook, and being the 70’s, a Hare Krishna had set up a table to hand out literature and proselatize hikers and tourists. I talked with him and looked at his literature… it was at that moment I decided I believed in Jesus Christ… isn’t that odd! I quietly told him “Jesus is the only way.” I actually surprised myself with what I said! I had been thinking a long time about it and decided on fatih at that moment. I walked away from him and down the trail… after I’d been walking for about a mile suddenly something I’d never experienced before enveloped me… I literally felt heaven, God, embrace me. I experienced a measure of God’s Glory right there in the forrest alone. It took my breath away and I remember thinking, “my God… you’re actually real after all.” I clearly recall thnking, “before You were an idea… now I know better… You’re real afterall!”

How can I explain that? It was spiritual and personal.

How can I explain the fact there’s a dear friend who’s a pastor in Cambodia with four kid’s and a wife because in 1983 “God told me” to go to Sarajevo, Yugoslavia where I would meet somebody at the train station and that person’s salvation was the reason I was to go.” I did, he was, it happened.

How can I explain “laying hands” on my mother crippled with pain, only to have God’s power come out of me and into her body making her instantly well while she looked at me stunned, asking, “what was that?”

How can an “open vision” of the “angel of the Lord” whom I saw with my own eyes with another witness be explained intellectually.

You see, I’m a believer. I said yes so long ago and I’ve seen and experienced so much that nothing can move me from what I know. That’s not to say I haven’t struggled and sufferd… God knows I have. I am, however, ruined to not believing.

As I’ve said before, reason will lock you out of the place only faith can grant you access to.

Paul, there are as many reason’s to believe as there are reason’s to disbelieve.

What I’d say to both you and the Baron is please don’t find your identity as a “seeker” but not a “finder.” By that, I mean someone who only gathers information but cannot make a decision about what that information means. Someone who lives in the armchair of specultion not the pathway of action. That’s in no way to say the journey you’re on should be rushed, or that it is wrong, irrelevant or anything of the sort. Coming from where you both do I’m fully aware you’ll be more than a while sorting it all out. I’ve been sorting out churchianity for a couple of decades and have finally made my peace with the subject! My faith is, however, more intact than ever.

Regardless where you end I thank you for your consideration in allowing me to share my life with you in a small way.

In order not to inhibit your freedom to explore any line of inquiry, wherever it takes you I’ll refrain from posting much… I think you’re very clear where I come from (LOL!) and in no way would I consider it being a real friend to be overly intrusive with my POV…

Anyway, I’m loooong winded tonight.

I’ll go roust Stella and we can bang away on this insane war together!

Good night my friend’s…

Brad

19. Roopster - June 11, 2005

Brad,

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on for participating in this blog. A conversation you and I had (that you probably won’t even remember) at the first SLFC retreat had a dramatic impact on me for many years.

I know the experiences you’ve had are real. My issue is that my faith has always been based on the Bible. I grew up the son of an AG missionary/pastor/Bible School Principal and fell in love with the Word at an early age. I was consumed with it. It was with this heart that I discovered the WOF movement and their portrayed love for the Word really appealed to me.

The breakdown first started when I saw Jeff Perry’s blatant hypocricy. I began to search the Word for scriptures regarding church leadership, etc. Out of this quest came SAFEchurch.com back in November 1999.

I then began to study the many inconsistencies of WOF doctrine and how so much of it was against the Word itself (see Stella’s CRJournal site for many of those initial ideas).

Then my journey led me to many scholarly questions about the authenticity of the Bible itself and it’s own internal contradictions and issues. In other words, the basis of my faith began to crumble. If I had a radical life transforming experience, I guess I would have a different basis for faith.

I do have spiritual experiences but none that I can point to a blantantly “Christian” and not in line with experiences that many people from all different religions have. I was on the mission field for 4 years and have some great stories to tell. I guess I do not consider the emotional responses to Campmeeting or Rodney meetings as authentic spiritual experiences.

If you were to corner me now I and ask where I am on my journey, I would say I’m a universalist. I have a strong belief in God and spirituality but I do not narrow it down to Jesus being the “only way.”

I honor and respect your journey and experiences and believe that God led you to Christianity. However, there are also many other similiar testimonies of radical life transformations, unexplained ‘coincidences’, etc. among those who do not accept Jesus as the Christ.

Where this journey will take me, I do not know. However, I hope I meet many more “Pacos” along the way.

God bless brother. I consider you a mentor and a friend.

Paul

20. Paco - June 11, 2005

Good morning Paul!

I hope you didn’t take in anyway the sharing of my experiences as some sort of badge of spiritual authority… they ain’t! I almost never share any of those things and never with someone without a frame of refrence like you. I also know you’ve experienced much and I’m accutely aware how you grew up (Guyana, etc).

Funny about the WOF… in some ways I see them nearly as “Biblioloters” ie, “worhipers of the physical bible.” A good definition I found is De Quincey’s 1847, “… a superstitious allegiance – an idolatrous homage – to the words, to the sylables, and to the very punctuation of the bible.” It does get a little freaky in those circles, and yes I agree, much is actually opposed to the bible. Even as a 20 year old kid I used to chuckle at the scriptural contortion’s these “teachers” (including Hagin at times) would go through to make a point that really couldn’t be made, at least in any accurate and sound way.

My argument with Steve is the same can be said for any flavor of christianity or “ism!” Whenever people gather together around something bigger than themselves, under a higherarchical leadership system (particularly with little or no accountability) there’s gonna be nothing but trouble, human nature being what it is. I’ve made my peace with it. I honestly believe there are very few “disciples” in christian leadership, rather a lot of half baked, broken vessels very needy and much impressed with personal oratory… it just isn’t christianity, imo.

I printed out your statement of faith when you started your church as I thought it was a good one. I happened to glance through it the other day when I was going through a box of my stuff… I noticed a conspicuos absence of anything referring to the scripture or cannon… it should have been my “big clue” as to your present “apostate” state, LOL, grin and wink!

I actually think we have far more in common than we have apart but regardless I think you know me well enough to know my friendship isn’t conditional!

I want you to know too Paul how much I respect you… you’re a risk-taker, highly intelligent, motivated, strong and focused… among your many others, these are great and admirable qualities.

Blessings,

Brad

21. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - June 11, 2005

Paul,

You should cherish every moment you can get with someone like Brad. It is rare to come across such a person, who can truly be a friend and mentor as well. Not to cast the heavy load of implied perfection, but it appears that maybe Brad, is a good example of someone who lives (and gives) his life by the principles that Jesus spoke of.

I really think it all comes down to unconditional acceptance of one another. There is nothing more damaging than to dismiss or disregard another human being.

22. Roopster - June 12, 2005

BD,

I agree. This actually is a failing of many Christians. They’re so wrapped up in being right that they do not allow someone to walk through whatever they’re going through in life. They’re quick to give cliche answers that just don’t really make a differene.

Brad is a humble man who I respect very much. His writings here are a reflection of the way he talks. In fact, Stella guessed that Paco was Brad a couple days before because she worked with him in the past and saw his personality in the writings of Paco.

Not to be over flattering but I rank Brad up there with Ghandi and my Dad as having the simple, caring attitude towards others.

Paul

23. Michael Turton - June 14, 2005

Roop, I look at the gospel’s as the writing’s of multiple reporter’s reporting on the same incident, some of whom were there and some who weren’t. Some collected the accounts of those who were there and are therefore “historian’s” of the event’s while other’s reported from their unique perspective and filter as personal witnesses.

Lots of people make that assumption, but they are not independent reports, and none of their authors were witnesses.

Mainstream scholarship identifies Mark’s as the first gospel written, with Matt and Luke dependent on him. We know that from linguistic dependence — of 11,078 words in Mark, 8,555 are reproduced by Matt, 6,737 by Luke.

We know that Mark was not an eyewitness for much of his gospel appears to be created out of the Old Testament. For example, read Mark 11:1-11, then go back to 1 Sam 9 and 1 Sam 10, and you’ll see how Mark parallels the story. Similarly, Mark created the story of the arrest in Gethsemane from 2 Sam 15-17,20. Much of the narrative of Mark is taken from 1 and 2 Kings, while Jesus trial and crucifixion and empty tomb appear to be based on Daniel 6. Ted Weeden, the ranking Mark scholar, has also identified Josephus as a source for Mark, showing that Jesus appears to be sourced from Jesus Ben Ananus, who appears in Wars, Book 6.

In other words, Mark’s work is fiction, and Matt and Luke are based on fiction. If Mark had any eyewitness accounts, he chose either to overwrite them, or ignore them in constructing his story.

Of course, and to their everlasting surprise, not only did they not disprove the historical accurateness of old testament account’s, they proved their authenticity. Egg on the face was had by all.

Alas, this is apologetic legend. Modern archaeology has demonstrated that, for example, Exodus never occurred and the Hebrews arose from existing stock in Palestine. No evidence suggests David or Solomon were great kings. A good place to start is The Bible Unearthed and then the various responses to that book, particularly Dever’s.

I waded through doubt and cynicism as a young man and found faith.

“Faith” is the strongest form of doubt and cynicism, for it brands human aspiration and intellect evil, and rejects the ability of humans to comprehend their own world. “Faith” as you use the word is a form of anti-human nihilism. It is evil.

experienced before enveloped me… I literally felt heaven, God, embrace me. I experienced a measure of God’s Glory right there in the forrest alone

How can I explain that? It was spiritual and personal.

….and common to the whole world’s population. Such experiences are generally cultural defined and limited. In India I met adherents of Sai Baba who’d had the same experience with him, and in Taiwan where I now live spirit mediums tell me that they have contacted the Ineffable and people like you are poor fools tricked by demons. Summary/bottom line: such internal brain states are fallout from the package of adaptations humans need to get along in a complex primate society.

was the reason I was to go.” I did, he was, it happened.

How can I explain 60 million dead in WWII, the thousands who starve to death miserably every day, tens of thousands killed by the recent tsunami, the unlimited cruel suffering that goes on each day… andeach one praying to the gods of their choice…yet not saved. Your point of view is incredibly self-centered: look! God re-arranged the universe just for me! The reality is that you have simply edited your memory to support your claims. Growth in understanding begins when we give up faith in our own subjectivity as a valid mode of understanding reality around us.

How can I explain “laying hands” on my mother crippled with pain, only to have God’s power come out of me and into her body making her instantly well while she looked at me stunned, asking, “what was that?”

My wife’s aunt had traditional healers in Taiwan do the same for her in the local folk religion. Chronic pain cures are common and unremarkable, they happen in all religious and supernatural traditions. Restore missing limbs and eliminate autism, and then I might be interested.

How can an “open vision” of the “angel of the Lord” whom I saw with my own eyes with another witness be explained intellectually.

Is this a serious question? Do you know how many examples of common hallucinations there are in world history?

You see, I’m a believer. I said yes so long ago and I’ve seen and experienced so much that nothing can move me from what I know.

Yes, that’s very common. Most people are quite satisfied with the subjective experiences, and never bother to explore or understand them from the depth and richness that modern cognitive science and social psychology offer. The result is a long litany of claims from people who, like you, start off with the “well, I ain’t book lurn’t but I seed the light, dang’ it.” That kind of condescending opening makes communication difficult.

It’s funny, though, how once you start understanding how the human mind regards its own subjective experiences, how it reconstructs and re-assembles memory, and how it integrates these into identity, how unreliable human experience becomes. It helps to meet others who have the same experiences, though, and see how they are actually cultural constructions of common human experiences, known to all, including atheists like myself.

As I’ve said before, reason will lock you out of the place only faith can grant you access to.

Actually, this is just compensation uttered by those too lazy to do the hard work of truly comprehending the fascinating and challenging experiences of their own mind — uttered by those who decided, like a pillbug, that if they made themselves smaller, the world would cease to be a threat to them and their identity.

Michael

24. Jeff - January 12, 2007

Go Michael! I want to add more but am at work. You’re studied, thorough and articulate. And I’m betting you didn’t develop those qualities in a conservative christian church. I started out in a Southern Baptist church (pretty much at birth), switched to WOF, followed by Covenent (Florida Five) and finally a Fundamental Bible Church in the D.C. area. I feel like I’ve seen it all. When I went to law school and started thinking critically I felt like I had squandered the first 34 years of my life on a fantasy one cut above Santa Claus. I have since come to appreciate the good that was instilled in me — the central tenets of Christianity are part of my core (e.g., “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…”) — but I still recoil at evangelicals who generally balk at honest inquiry and resort to parroting platitudes that, when examined, prove to be nonsensical. I enjoyed reading your logical, methodical response to Brad’s post. Thanks! (I’m afraid I found this blog too late — it’s just the sort of cathartic exchange I need.)

25. Roopster - January 13, 2007

Hey Jeff,

Check out xnforums.com.

Michael is a regular poster there.

Paul

26. Brett - September 15, 2007

I agree with being open to scrutiny – it only makes truth stronger (eventually, at least).

As to being Christian without recognizing Jesus as real, the God-man who lived on earth and became our savior, and the thought of not needing faith, it’s an oxymoron that simply cannot exist (even though it sound very convenient and appealing).

I understand what Flemming is saying – he’s come to a point where he doesn’t believe in God, or possibly the real biblical Jesus, but “the character,” as he puts it, still helped shape his life.

In other words, he appreciates Christian beliefs and morality, and even applies them, but he is not a Christian. That requires recognizing Jesus as the son of God, our savior and real. And that takes faith.

Great post!

27. Shane Vander Hart - November 16, 2007

You are right that it is ok to ask questions. Though I think there has been enough documented evidence that Jesus is more than a mythical character. He is a historical figure. The question that you ultimately face is what do you do with Jesus? He didn’t leave us many options.

Three to be exact – either he is Lord, or he is a liar or a lunatic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: