November 27, 2015 § 12 Comments
Noted author, lawyer and orator Robert G. Ingersoll, also known as “The Great Agnostic,” famously expresses his religious skepticism in his 1872 work, The Gods:
“We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact. We beg at the doors of your churches for just one little fact. We pass our hats along your pews and under your pulpits and implore you for just one fact. We know all about your mouldy wonders and your stale miracles. We want a this year’s fact. We ask only one. Give us one fact for charity. Your miracles are too ancient. The witnesses have been dead for nearly two thousand years.”
This same sentiment and challenge is echoed by many atheists and agnostics today in different forms, distillable to something like, If God is real, why doesn’t He show Himself? Why doesn’t He make Himself more obvious? They look to Old Testament examples of God physically manifested in a cloud, fire, an angel, or an audible voice. Or the New Testament miracles of Jesus and His apostles healing the lame and raising the dead. If only God demonstrated Himself in the same way today, we might believe the Bible and decide that God, in fact, exists!
The reality is, no, they probably would not believe, no matter what evidence they see. For the many who believed God from the evidence, or followed Jesus because of His miracles, there were also many who remained in unbelief. Jesus acknowledged this in His parable of a man in Hades wishing to have Abraham send someone to warn his brothers of the same fate. “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).
“Evidence” is always subject to interpretation through our worldview, the filter of what we already believe. Because of this, there were many atheists and agnostics despite living in a time of more “obvious” signs and miracles. And today, there are billions of theists living in a world with relatively far fewer “obvious” signs and miracles. Conclusion? Obviousness (and obliviousness) is relative.
Given the fact that most people in the world are theistic, is it more likely that most people are seeing something that isn’t there than the minority missing something that is there? Why is the reality the opposite of what we should expect if there is not some kind of God or supreme deity?
The problem isn’t lack of evidence, but lack of belief. There are plenty of good reasons to believe in God and ways to show that our faith is logical and coherent, that Christian Theism alone makes sense of the world(1). But if you’ve already determined there is no God or no way of knowing if He exists, nothing short of the power of God will open your eyes to the truth. Worldview always matters.
April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
This discussion stemmed from an article I posted from Relevant Magazine of a defense Tim Keller gave for the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection. The article can be found here.
I read it. The title “A Case for…” and the word “proof” is at odds with each other.
It is simply an argumentative point of view.
True that “evidence for/a case for” does not equal ”proof”, although the definition can be broad. The word proof is not in the actual article. The descriptive text above was apparently written by someone other than the author. Although an “argumentative point of view” would not necessarily include evidence, which the case for Christ’s resurrection does.
The bible also alludes to there being giants, but aside from the book saying it, no evidence appears to exist to quantify it.
I can buy “because I believe it” from people, but the evidence the believers provide is often lackluster in the influence or subjectivity of that belief.
What the Bible states (not alludes) about giants we don’t have evidence for other than Old Testament manuscripts that have shown themselves to be otherwise very reliable. While giants aren’t proven, it’s a reasonable belief. The validity of Christianity rests on Jesus Christ defeating death. Giants don’t make or break any critical doctrine. Proportionately, there is a lot more evidence for a risen Christ than fallen giants, and that’s good news.
I agree with you on the lackluster defense by many Christians. We are called to give a reasonable defense (1 Peter 3:15). Some don’t get that. What is lackluster about Keller’s defense?
All of what you wrote and asked of me require belief that there was a Jesus-as-deity, that the bible is more than a book of allegory mixed within the framework of accepted and/or verifiable history.
Being that I do not subscribe to these beliefs personally, I see all references to the bible-as-fact/truth as suspect and argumentatively invalid outside Judeo-Christian belief system (or other religions that have a historical overlap in the timeline, such as Islam).
I know you believe, and that is cool. I am of the acceptance that belief in the bible equates to truth or evidence, and as I said before, I am not of the mind to change anyone’s belief as I am not compelled to change my own.
In short, he was preaching to the choir. To me, he was just expounding or trying to add validation to a religious story.
You may not believe in Him, but He believes in you. Just ask Him!
Christine, how can I ask a him I don’t believe in? I know you are being nice, and Christians sure do like to save us heathens, and I appreciate the spirit of that. I don’t believe in vampires either, and I see it as being identical, despite the Vlad the Impaler inspiration for Dracula which could have as easily carried on to a current day religion with the right authors and some dictatorial mandate. Instead of that Twilight stuff. I digress…
I think of all the current day followers of Scientology and their Xenu character. I don’t want to stop them from what they believe either, despite how utterly goofy it is. I am sure it could be said Xenu believes in me too by those guys, they just don’t have enough time in. The Mormons have come a long way since that guy read those magic writings in the hat. They come over a lot with name badges and mountain bikes, and dress like the Geek Squad at Best Buy. I asked one to clear a virus off my computer but he wasn’t going for it.
“I see all references to the bible-as-fact/truth as suspect and argumentatively invalid outside Judeo-Christian belief system”
Dave, if I understand this right, you’re saying there’s no believing in Christianity unless you’re already a Christian?
What’s significant about the case Keller presents is that it requires no Christian presuppositions to follow the logic of the argument and eventually conclude that an actual resurrection is the most likely answer. If accepted, the conclusions become what Christians presuppose: That the Bible is true and that Jesus really was who He claimed to be. One of the questions the article poses is how a belief that has pervaded every part of the world could start as Christianity had if its leader were dead. Consider the historical roots that few irreligious will dispute: The church began with a handful of followers who faced torture and death if they preached a resurrected Savior, and they did so anyway. Did they persist for a lie, hoax or delusion, seeing their belief, unlike any other, spread globally against the tide of opposition instead of shrinking to nothing? The only rational alternative is that they had seen and believed in and were driven by a living Jesus whose mortal wounds they could see and touch. If that is true, the floodgates open for a host of other truths regarding Jesus’ power over death, His deity, and His word that changes everything, leading to a heart and soul commitment.
Not all Christians arrive the same way; for some it’s more faith than rationale. But one CAN make the journey without any of the axioms Christians hold to: No religion required along the way. The fact is, whatever we are—Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, or our own customized ideology—we did not always believe as we do now. At some point, we all have inquired of something we didn’t believe in.
This is how world wars are started, Mike… posts of escalating length. We are at leaflet now, but soon it will be books then volumes, then the bomb. I don’t have a bomb, Mike. They are very expensive.
Anyway. We all come to our own conclusions. There is a spin and/or plausible answer to most things from our humble vantage point, and these evolve (and occasionally de-evolve) over the ages.
What I meant is to be a believer you have to buy the story, and accept the bible as a set of facts. If you don’t, the bible isn’t a reference book… It is just a book of stories. It is more to those who believe in it. I have one… a Freemasonry edition from when I was active in it. It was an important text to those who believed in it throughout history, and I am not totally ignorant of its contents or impact on the world.
I believe in Christianity because I know there are those who do subscribe, therefore validation by the existence of a number of people who then are ascribed the moniker. Like I know there are Jehovah’s Witnesses because they keep ringing the bell while I am having dinner.
Believing something doesn’t make it true. That’s relativism, which no one actually lives out. An event (Christ’s resurrection, Superbowl XLIII, earthquakes in Japan, Charlie Sheen) either happened or didn’t regardless of whether we saw it or believe it. If truth was relative, there would be no point to discuss. Like any big purchase, we research to determine the absolute truth of something, then weigh the cost of buying/not buying. Christians are the effect of the resurrection, not the cause (unless it didn’t happen… But it looks as if it did).
Back down to postcard length! War averted (although I don’t have a bomb either so I think the world is safe ;).
Dave didn’t respond after this post. The article in question can be found here.