Is It Possible for Evangelical Scholars to be Objective on the Evidence for the Resurrection When They Believe the Spirit of this Dead Man Lives Inside Them?

Image result for image of mike licona, gary habermas, and craig evans
Michael Licona, evangelical New Testament scholar

 

Did you know that I am an Elvis Presley expert?  Yes, I am.  I am considered the premier Elvis Presley expert in the world.  I have researched the life of Elvis Presley for many decades.  I have interviewed every surviving member of his family, his childhood friends, the members of his band, and the studio executives that have produced his many records.  I know more about Elvis Presley than any other human being on the planet.

I also believe that God raised Elvis Presley from the dead.

I believe that the back-from-the-dead Elvis Presley makes supernatural appearances all over the world.  What’s more, I believe that the spirit of Elvis Presley lives inside my body, giving me secret wisdom, secret insight, and secret life direction.  Dear Reader:  Do you believe that it is possible for me to objectively evaluate the evidence for the claim that God raised Elvis Presley from the dead if I believe that Elvis Presley is communicating secret information to me each and every day?

I don’t think so.

So why should we believe that Mike Licona and other evangelical Christian New Testament scholars—acknowledged experts on the texts which describe the life, death, and alleged post-death appearances of Jesus of Nazareth—are capable of objectively evaluating the evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible, and more importantly, the reanimation (resurrection) of Jesus, if each and every one of them believes, often since he or she was a small child, that the spirit (ghost) of this man lives inside their bodies, giving them secret insight into universal truths?

 

 

 

End of post.

 

90 thoughts on “Is It Possible for Evangelical Scholars to be Objective on the Evidence for the Resurrection When They Believe the Spirit of this Dead Man Lives Inside Them?

      1. Well, I realise that, as you are a deconvert you have a wooden heart. Nevertheless, I’m all shook up reading this in my room in Heartbreak hotel. We skeptics tend to have suspicious minds, as you know, so you can understand why such a thought is always on my mind.

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  1. Ahh, I can’t keep up on a daily basis. 😄 Oh well. I had actually prepared this comment for one of your blogs yesterday about the Christian Resurrection, but I’ll just post it here. 🙂

    Gary, apologies for this comment’s late date. Have been quite busy of late, but thought I could contribute a little bit here to Mr. Licona’s unfortunate biasness and tunnel-vision.

    As you are probably aware, I have thought for well over a decade that modern Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominational Fundy Christian apologists have all missed the boat regarding the conception, gestation, and birth of their religion/faith. How? They either ignore the complete historical context or they’ve never been taught its entire historical context.

    Very very few Christian apologists, let alone traditional Xian laypersons, know ANYTHING significant about the Second Temple Period (516 BCE to 70-73 CE) and how much it influenced Jesus’ (Yeshua bar Yosef’s) life, education, teaching, and later attempts at reformation of his Arabic-Hebrew (homeland) Jews. During this 5+ centuries period Judaism developed a diversity of beliefs concerning the resurrection, a minimum of four distinctions of what defined “resurrection” within Judaism of the period. The Synoptic Gospels of the Western Christian Canonical New Testament alone are wholly inadequate to reveal EVERYTHING about the real historical Yeshua bar Yosef’s background, upbringing, education, and very short ministry of reformation. One aspect of 1st-century Sectarian Judaism that Yeshua/Jesus would’ve been educated in, exposed to, and himself taught to his followers was resurrection of the dead.

    • Samaritan (Pentateuch) Haazinu
    • Judean (Torah & Mishnah) Minhag-Mitzvah and other liturgies
    • Palestinian or Homeland Targum on second death
    • Mixtures of various Pharisaic (Pharisees) definitions

    Of the above known 4+ distinct definitions of “resurrection,” which one did Yeshua’s/Jesus’ most likely inherit and teach? And yes, this matters tremendously in order to better understand the confusion, controversy, errors, unreliability, and instability that was the conception and birth of 4th-century CE Hellenic Christianity/Christology.

    The Christian scriptures claim that their leader, one Jesus of Nazareth, was crucified by the Romans and that as a result of this he died. These authors of the Christian scriptures tell us that after Jesus’ death he was sighted by some of his followers alive and well. According to these men, this miraculous event is the sign that Christianity is the true religion. Some Christians look at the alleged resurrection of Jesus as a solid foundation upon which to base their faith. These people feel that there exists solid evidence that proves that the resurrection was an actual historical event. Although this event supposedly took place many centuries ago, still these Christians feel that they can honestly be sure that Jesus really was seen alive after his death on the cross.

    Source for above quote: Resurrection, at https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/resurrection/

    Nevertheless, after the near annihilation of Homeland (Palestinian) Jews in 70-74 CE, particularly any dissenting against Rome, these inflaming issues/arguments followed over the next 2-plus centuries:

    • The Resurrection isn’t unique in the ancient world.

    • Early Christians vehemently disagreed about whether Jesus had a Resurrected full body or partial body.

    • Not all of Jesus was Resurrected.

    And then there is a bigger broader problem of a literal resurrection.

    The principle of proportionality demands extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims. Of the approximately 100 billion people who have lived before us, all have died and none have returned, so the claim that one (or more) of them rose from the dead is about as extraordinary as one will ever find. Therefore, is the evidence commensurate with the conviction? No. Licona and most all other modern Christian apologists MUST be fair and incorporate the exhaustive historical evidence and contexts surrounding the centuries before, during, and after Yeshua’s/Jesus’ execution. Otherwise, their positions and arguments are amputated, incomplete, and too often unsupported, unreliable. Period.

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  2. Is it possible that paleontologists believe in a 65 million year gap between the dinosaurs and hominids (humans) when there is evidence of living, flexible tissue inside triceratops horns found in Montana by Mary Schweitzer? They wrestle with a way to even speak of this discovery because it assaults their normalcy bias for an old earth. We don’t know too much science, IMO. We know way too little.
    Link: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7195-blood-vessels-recovered-from-t-rex-bone/
    You can find academic papers of hers if curious.

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    1. Contraire.

      There is MASSIVE evidence to support the very old age of the earth and Darwinian Evolution. Attempting to debate these issues with us would be tantamount to asking us to debate Heliocentricity, the Law of Gravity, or the spherical shape of the earth. These issues are no longer in dispute. I personally would no more debate you on these issues than I would debate a flat-earther. I recommend you read some science books. I would suggest, “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne.

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        1. Sorry. You are asking me to disprove a conspiracy theory. It would be like asking me to prove that the video and photographs of the moon landing are not fakes, as some conspiracy theorists believe. This issue is not worth my time. Please read some good science books such as the one above that I recommended. It is short and very interesting reading. You owe it to yourself to be informed. You should know both sides of an issue. Read Jerry Coyne’s book, “Why Evolution is True”.

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          1. I’m fine with stopping the conversation. I’m a bit shocked that you assume I haven’t read science. That’s Ok.
            My life and outlook has been extremely shaped by the history if the 20th century.
            I was in the Soviet Union before, during, and after the Coup of 1991.
            I have seen nations of people steeped in Marxism and dialectical materialism try to cope with freedom of thought.
            I share your belief in the possibility of mass delusions because I experienced one of the greatest in human history.
            Thank you for hearing me and engaging!

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  3. My response is a response to your assumption that the death of Jesus of Nazareth was final. Except there is no body, bones or evidence in his tomb. There are oceans of evidence for his resurrection. Have you ever wondered how his disciples: overcame a squad of Temple guards, a squad of Rome’s finest guards, rolled a multiple ton gravestone away, and took Jesus’ body without a trace? It would be like a rag tag squad of fisherman, philosophers, and former prostitutes dueling Bond, Bourne, the MI6, the CIA, and the Terminator and winning. Not just winning, but leaving no trace of a battle. Maybe you could lay out a little proof of the Messiah’s death for me sometime? No pressure, just curious as to your train of thought. Thanks!

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        1. Good. Evidence matters. Good sources matter.

          At best, the Gospels are disputed sources of historical information. For instance, even many Christian scholars doubt the historicity of “Matthew’s” guards at the tomb. I’m sure you believe that the Gospels are historically accurate. However, it would be a waste of both our time to once again beat the dead horse of whether or not the Gospels are historically reliable. The fact is, the historical reliability of the Gospels is disputed among the experts. Disputed historical texts are NOT good sources of evidence. We need GOOD evidence, not disputed evidence.

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                1. I don’t understand what you are saying. Most scholars reject the eyewitness or even the associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. So the fact that a small minority of almost exclusively evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants do believe them to be eyewitness sources is not good evidence in my opinion. It is worse than disputed evidence, it is fringe evidence.

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  4. Another question, why didn’t the detractors of Jesus, Rome and the Sanhedrin, simply produce the body of Christ and put the myth of His resurrection to rest? Wouldn’t they have saved the world a lot of trouble? What stopped them from doing a Mao or Lenin style public display of his dead body? They had all the political, legal, and religious power to do so; why didn’t they nip this legend in the bud?

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      1. They kinda cared enough to crucify him to stop His ideas.
        His Jewish detractors had a motive that he perverted their faith and committed religious crimes.
        The Romans seemed more indifferent. They just wanted insurrection to stop in Jerusalem, everyone give allegiance to Rome, and keep the tax coffers full.

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        1. Where do you get this information?

          Answer: From Christian texts which specifically state that their purpose is: “that you might believe”. These are works of evangelism. As I said above, their historical reliability is in dispute.

          How do you know that this is not what happened:

          Jesus was crucified. His body was hurriedly placed in the tomb to avoid desecrating the Sabbath. Then on Saturday evening, the Sanhedrin moved his body to a “pauper’s grave” without notifying anyone else. The burial in the rock tomb near Golgotha had been a temporary measure. Sunday morning the women arrive at the tomb, find it empty, and run away in great fear “telling no one”. They eventually tell the male disciples once they get back to Galilee. The empty tomb triggers wild speculation as to its cause, which eventually leads to vivid dreams, false sightings, and illusions of Jesus appearances. The Resurrection Belief is born!

          By the time the disciples (allegedly) show up in Jerusalem again for Pentecost, approximately 50 days later, what is the body going to look like? Would the disciples have believed the Sanhedrin’s claim that they had moved the body Saturday night? Of course, not. They would say that the Sanhedrin was making up a lie to explain away a resurrected body. Dragging out a rotten corpse fifty days later would not have convinced anyone. And that supposes that the Sanhedrin even remembered where they had buried the body.

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            1. They never did. “Matthew’s” guards at the tomb is theological fiction, possibly even an invention for apologetics purposes. Skeptics at the time of “Matthew’s” writing may have been saying, “Someone took the body” and Matthew invented a story to plug that hole in the Resurrection Story. No other Gospel author mentions guards at the tomb. Even many Christian scholars believe it to be a theological/apologetic invention.

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                1. How do you know that one of the disciples of Jesus wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

                  The authorship of the Gospels is disputed. Most scholars doubt that they were written by an apostle or any eyewitness. Even evangelical New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham rejects the idea that Matthew the Apostle wrote the Gospel named for him in our Bibles. So I am not going to debate you on this issue either. I’m sure you believe you have good evidence to believe that Matthew the Apostle wrote this gospel. Most experts say you are wrong. Bottom line: It is disputed and disputed evidence is not good evidence.

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  5. No, it is not possible for anyone to be completely objective about anything. We all reflect bias. The best thing we can do is to examine our bias as critically as possible, examine other possibilities, and be open to discussion and debate. Happy Holidays, Gary, and to everyone here.

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    1. Good advice, Becky, with one caveat. We should examine other reasonable possibilities. Life is too short to examine every possibility. There are hundreds if not thousands of different religions, cults, and sects on the planet. It is not possible to thoroughly investigate every one of these possible truth claims. I suggest we only investigate those religions, cults, and sects which present really good evidence for their beliefs. So far, however, none have done so. Disputed eyewitness testimony from 2,000 years ago is not sufficient evidence to overturn the assumption that brain dead corpses do not come back to life. I suggest we reject and ignore this claim until, and if, better evidence is presented.

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  6. Gary, I know we’ve talked many times before. So, won’t hang out too long. Know you can’t agree, but I’ll share my honest opinion. Could be wrong. This is a subjective opinion. What better evidence would really suffice than the witness of creation and the apostolic witness of the resurrection as well as the witness of God’s spirit in our heart?

    I’ve thought about this in a deep way. Suppose Jesus showed up in our bedrooms tonight and performed some notable miracle. How would we know it was truly Him, and not the result of mental illness, trickery, drug-induced hallucination, even some occult experience, etc..? There would always be some question.

    The only way around this would be for God to somehow influence our minds so that we would believe unquestionably. But, if God is love and wants co-laborers with a free will who chose Him willingly, this would be totally self-defeating.

    Do you think it possible that there can be such a strong emotional bias against the Christian faith, that people are truly unable to even in some measure objectively examine the evidence? Of course, the converse could also be true.

    I think I can accept that some people may find the evidence insufficient or not conclusive, but if someone says there is just no evidence at all, I think something else is going on with their heart and mind.

    But, like I said, I could be wrong. Either way, we need to care for each other, and support one another in open discussion and respectful dialogue.

    I can tell you that if I thought the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax, I certainly would not bother either with the Christian faith. Who would want to follow after lies?

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    1. The members of every religion on the planet believe that there is good evidence for their supernatural beliefs. You reject the evidence claims of all other religions as insufficient. I simply reject one more claim than you.

      I reject the sufficiency of the evidence for your supernatural beliefs (superstitions).

      According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with “faith” or “belief system”, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. –Wikipedia

      Why have you rejected 4,199 religions, Becky? Have you investigated the supernatural and historical claims of each and every one of them? If not, why not?

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      1. Well, I’m no expert by any means, but my undergraduate major was cultural anthro. focused in comparative religion at a secular university. So, I have studied a number of religions and philosophies, not all, of course. This was super interesting for me.

        Here’s my thinking in a nutshell. First, I think many people are simply conditioned by their culture and truly do not take time to give thought to evidence relating to their faith. It’s simply accepted as part of their identity.

        I don’t know, though, if we have to examine every belief system in the entire world to become convinced of the truth of Christianity. I mean, if someone becomes persuaded that Jesus is more than a mere man, but also truly God and Lord, risen from the dead, this, by default, kicks out other religious claims that would deny this. Would you agree?

        Muslims believe that it is blasphemous to suppose that Jesus could also be fully God or that He was crucified. They do revere Him as a great prophet. But, clearly, based in reason, all contradictory claims cannot be equally true.

        However, CS Lewis, states something interesting in this regard. ( I’m leading a discussion group relating to his life and writings right now.)

        What do you think concerning this statement?

        “If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.”

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        1. I am not a “hard” atheist. I do not know as a fact that gods do not exist. I assume that they do not exist for the same reason that I do not believe that leprechauns and unicorns exist: lack of good evidence

          I accept the possible existence of a Creator, I just reject the claim that a first century peasant is the Creator due to a lack of good evidence.

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          1. I have honestly not kept track over the years. Have read some of Bart Ehrman. I also have listened to debates and dialogue between various skeptics and Christian apologists.

            What proved the most interesting and challenging was to study with scholars from various religions and philosophies. I remember one Islamic scholar who was very adamant against the Christian doctrine of the trinity, or the idea that God would allow Jesus to die on a cross. This was considered a terrible blasphemy. We read and studied the Qur’an as well as other religious texts. In a sense, most of my teachers were skeptics relating to the Christian faith.

            Graduating from a more progressive seminary, none of the scholars held to the inerrancy of the Scripture or would have found any of Ehrman’s opinions in this regard very remarkable. But, they also were not led to atheism, either.

            Gary, what books written by skeptics have impacted your thinking the most? I have no doubt at all that you are more widely read than I and quite knowledgable.

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            1. I am currently reading “The Case Against Miracles“, edited by John Loftus. I highly recommend it. It gives excellent arguments against belief in magic (miralces).

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        2. Becky, you wrote: But, clearly, based in reason, all contradictory claims cannot be equally true.

          What are “contradictory claims” except things that don’t fit a person’s belief system.

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          1. Hi, Nan. I was thinking more of concepts of God that would contradict one another, not so much thinking about views that might contradict someone’s personal belief system. To give an example, can theism and pantheism both be equally true at the same time? To reason in this way, wouldn’t make sense to me. It would seem illogical.

            But, what do you think?

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            1. Using your examples, I would say yes, they could both be true. They are simply different ways of looking at the same thing. From the web …

              Theism: belief in the existence of a supreme being, i.e., a “personal” god
              Pantheism: belief that god is part of all-things, i.e., not a “personal” god

              IOW, Theism simply zeros in on an actual “being” where as Pantheism spreads it out a bit and considers reality as “being.” Yet both beliefs center around the existence of a “god” so in essence, they are not contradictory. Just different ways of looking at the same thing.

              As I intimated, “contradictions” based in religious beliefs tend to be more about personal beliefs rather than actualities.

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                1. Hi, Becky,
                  Re:
                  ”I can tell you that if I thought the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax, I certainly would not bother either with the Christian faith.”

                  I’m very interested in exploring your evidence for the resurrection of Jesus as this seems to be a crucial point regarding your acceptance of the claims of veracity for your religion./faith.

                  Do you have anything specific, and preferably what is considered verified history one can read/study?

                  Regards
                  Ark

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                  1. Ark, I honestly don’t think that I could offer any evidence that you have not already studied and reviewed.

                    What I do think deeply about is why a level of evidence that is acceptable to one person is not to another. Clearly, there are also other factors at play. I also would oppose a blind indoctrination into anything. I think it is a great enemy of Christian faith, actually.

                    However, people can also be blindly indoctrinated into naturalism/materialism, for example. This works both ways.

                    Also, I don’t think the enemy out there is all types of spirituality and religious faith. It does not follow for me that because someone is faithfully attempting to follow Christ, they are somehow providing encouragement and support to forms of mindless toxic faith that would counsel people to blow up buildings.

                    Instead, they are actually acting as a counter to this, IMO.

                    Also, I don’t feel that because people are religious they are all throwing reason and science out the window. I don’t see this at all. It doesn’t make sense.

                    Another concern I have, Ark, and this is huge…Suppose it is true that people are innately spiritual. “God has put eternity in our hearts. ”

                    Conservative Islam is on the rise in Western Europe. Surely this is partly due to immigration. and higher birth rates. But, I also think the absence of a robust and balanced Christian faith centered in the ethic of Jesus has very much created a kind of spiritual vacuum to allow more repressive and authoritarian forms of spirituality to better take root and to grow. ( I swear it is like shooting oneself in the foot.)

                    At the very least, the evangelical atheists need to do a better job of actually promoting something like humanism rather than to simply curse what they feel is the darkness.

                    Thanks for listening to my rant, Ark. Will go for now and let you have the last word.

                    With sincerity,
                    Becky.

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                    1. Ark, I honestly don’t think that I could offer any evidence that you have not already studied and reviewed

                      To date I have never seen any evidence for the foundational claims of your faith and certainly never seen any evidence for the resurrection for the character Jesus of Nazareth.

                      In essence, I suspect that you do not have any evidence to provide, and as is the wont of almost every Christian fundamentalist I have engaged, you prefer to mask your reply in silky smooth obfuscation, and then immediately go on the offensive, taking a swipe at Islam and atheists.

                      Well, I’m sorry, Becky, this is just plain dishonest.
                      However, if lying for Jesus was good enough for Eusebius then I suppose it should be good enough for the more lowly minions.

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    2. I think I can accept that some people may find the evidence insufficient or not conclusive, but if someone says there is just no evidence at all, I think something else is going on with their heart and mind.

      Nothing wrong with my mind at all ….
      The entire problem lies with you,Becky as you simply refuse to acknowledge what evidence is and the fact that, there is no evidence for the primary claims of Christianity.

      But, like I said, I could be wrong

      The complete lack of evidence tells us you are.

      I can tell you that if I thought the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax, I certainly would not bother either with the Christian faith. Who would want to follow after lies?

      It is a hoax, and the reason you will not see this is because of indoctrination, and it is this indoctrination which ensures you consider every other religion false.

      Regards

      Ark.

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      1. Ark, you and I don’t know each other at all, really. Except, that I will tell you that I share your deep love of the natural world.

        I think it is very difficult to know why people believe and think as they do. It really is. I can only say that I did not come to Christian faith merely as a result of blind indoctrination, but have given my convictions much careful thought and study.

        Leave it all at that. Blessings and peace to you, Ark.

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        1. but have given my convictions much careful thought and study.

          One is then drawn to ask; why did you only study Christianity? (Maybe a presumption on my part, but a reasonable one nonetheless, I’ll venture.
          And the first answer that comes to mind is: cultural indoctrination., whether overt or tacit.
          Westerners have traditionally only ever been exposed to Christianity, albeit via numerous sects and denominations so why would you exercise ”…much careful thought and study” towards a religion such as Jainism for example?

          Thus, Becky, your assertion is most certainly not based on evidence and is left wanting I’m afraid.
          Regards
          Ark.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Gary, I came to faith as a teenager out of agnosticism. I was reared in a more progressive church within what today is known as the ELCA. In this type of congregation, there is not generally a huge push for kids to make a personal commitment to Christ at a young age. I don’t recall ever hearing a message relating to the dangers of Hell, for example. Questioning is not really discouraged. And, I was a very questioning and inquisitive child relating to spiritual things.

    My parents were nominal Christians. I think, for them, at least during this time, their attendance was more of a cultural thing. When I did come to personal faith, I think the concern was more that I might be going “off the deep end.” Looking back, My “conversion” or as Lutherans would put it, “affirmation of the covenant of baptism” was more a gradual process over time not involving a more extreme traumatic or emotional experience.

    We’re all different. My husband became a Christian in his thirties. For him, it was very emotional and quite dramatic.

    To skip ahead, I don’t think I understood the implications or thought deeply concerning the hope of the resurrection until I was older, probably in my twenties or thirties.

    It does seem to me that faith and understanding progress and mature over time. Or at least, this is the hope. Along that line, have you read anything concerning Fowler’s Stages of Faith? It is very interesting.

    I’ve been part of a variety of denominations through the years including some fundamentalist and evangelical churches when I was younger. Also, spent a fair amount of time in the Episcopal church.

    We moved a few years ago, so I have returned to my roots and currently attend an orthodox, moderate kind of church within the ELCA in my area. We are pretty “high church” and liturgical with plenty of covered dish suppers.
    Don’t get me started on my weight gain. 🙂

    In some ways, my good pastor reminds me of “Father Brown,” LOL, if you’ve ever watched the popular British cozy mystery series.

    So, there’s my story in a brief nutshell. Probably have included too much information, but also left a lot out.

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    1. How many books written by skeptics did you read prior to believing that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead in circa 30 CE and currently reigns as Lord God of the universe?

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      1. I read no books by any skeptics rejecting the resurrection before receiving Christ. Instead, I sat in church going through the motions while quietly mocking the people who could believe such a fantastic thing. I thought I was intellectually superior and that they were really fools. I was just a young girl who before coming to faith was a natural skeptic. You might actually say that it was like my default position. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to formally read books written by Christian apologists and skeptics alike. And, then I began to think about the foundation of my faith in an even deeper way.

        Although, I do have to say that as a teenager the writings of CS Lewis made some impact. I also had a mystical experience with God which was very impactful as well.

        But, what about you Gary, were you ever questioning or skeptical when you were a kid? Or, do you always remember believing?

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          1. Umm, not in the sense of hearing an audible voice or experiencing visions….I have many times intuitively sensed God’s presence during prayer/meditation particularly if I am out in the natural world. I’ve known His comfort through difficult times and a sense of joy and thankfulness, other powerful experiences.

            Of course, this is certainly not always the case. There have been plenty of times when God has seemed distant and my prayers feel like they are balancing off the ceiling, metaphorically speaking of course. 🙂

            Have you studied anything from evolutionary psychology relating to all this? Of course, evidence can always be interpreted in different ways. But, here’s an interesting link.

            https://biologos.org/articles/does-evolutionary-psychology-explain-why-we-believe-in-god

            Appreciate the discussion and your openness to want to hear other thoughts and experiences.

            I’m also impressed by your deep study of the issues. You should probably be teaching in a seminary or university Department of Religion. I’m serious. 🙂

            I’ll drop by again as long as that is ok.

            Becky.

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            1. So Jesus has never spoken to you in a “still, small voice”? You have never experienced the Holy Spirit “lead you” or “move you” to do or to believe something?

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              1. Yes, I hear a still, small voice telling me to stay off the internet. LOL

                There have been times when I’ve felt God impressing me to, for instance, work with refugees and immigrants. I think that is God’s leading, but I also think that it’s something that I want to do. it seems to me that if our hearts and minds are bent toward God, He will lead us most often through our natural gifts and inclinations.

                I don’t sit around waiting for the burning bush. I simply live my life and trust and know that God is in it.

                That being said, Gary, I think that our culture is strongly conditioned toward naturalism.

                It’s something we get in our mother’s milk, so to speak. We are naturally suspicious of anything that smacks of the miraculous. And, this is partly a good thing. It would not be wise to be gullible, throw reason under the bus, and accept any mystical experience someone has out there as being objective truth.

                For myself, I try to keep an open mind. Our knowledge and understanding are finite. Perhaps I can evaluate my own experience, I don’t want to be super quick to judge another.

                To give an example, in my Sunday school class, I asked for the participants to share how they came to faith in Christ. One woman shared that she left the church as a young person and became an agnostic. She was very much a secular humanist. She further shared that her decision, in part, was fueled by a concern that religion can be abusive and cause harm. Now this person is very intelligent, highly educated…a professional woman., apparently sane and balanced..

                As it happened, she was taking a walk, struggling over an issue relating to a client, when suddenly she experienced an audible voice, “Be still..” The woman actually had to go home and google this before she realized that it was part of a quote from Scripture. “Be still and know..” The upshot was she came to faith and eventually united with the Christian church.

                Here is another example.. My own son has been agnostic for a few years. He has always been very sensitive and thoughtful, interested to explore a variety of faiths and philosophies.

                Just recently, I received a phone call sharing that he had returned to faith in Christ. How did this happen? It was through a dream that did not make sense to me, but that spoke to Him powerfully of the presence of God. He and his wife were in church the next week.

                What can I say? I’m naturally skeptical, but, yet I do not want to negate or judge someone else’s experience as bogus out of hand. I think “we all see through a glass darkly,” and a certain measure of humility is a good thing.

                Many Christians would disagree, but I fully believe that people in some real measure can have valid experiences with God even through other religions and philosophies. Who are we to limit Him?

                Now, this really is my last comment. I’ll read your response, though.

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                1. if our hearts and minds are bent toward God

                  IF … That’s the qualifier that makes all the difference. It really has nothing to do with any events or circumstances or dreams or visions or walks in the woods or …

                  It’s totally what each person is willing to accept as truth.

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. There have been times when I’ve felt God impressing me to, for instance, work with refugees and immigrants. I think that is God’s leading, but I also think that it’s something that I want to do. it seems to me that if our hearts and minds are bent toward God, He will lead us most often through our natural gifts and inclinations.

                  If I told you that the spirit of Abraham Lincoln impresses me and leads me to do this and that, what would you think about my mental state of health?

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  8. Oh, also when I was younger I was very influenced by folks like CS Lewis and Dr. Billy Graham. In more recent years, I’ve liked stuff by Dr. John Polkinghorne, Dr. Francis Collins, NT Wright, Alister McGrath, John Lennox to name a few. My favorite skeptic is Bart Ehrman. His wife is a devout Episcopalian or she was last time I checked. I would like to be a fly on the wall in that house.

    So that’s it. I need to get ready for Thanksgiving. God’s peace and every possible blessing.

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  9. Gary, I would suspect that you had mental health issues, and would try to encourage you to get some help.

    But, are you also able to see where this analogy can break down? Can we really compare an experience with the deceased man, Abraham Lincoln with the creator? Or, does it reflect a confusion of categories?

    To share further, I’ve never met a sane and balanced adult who accepts the existence of the tooth fairy or Santa Claus? Yet, I’ve known many balanced and thoughtful people who believe that their lives have been impacted by God. I don’t think indoctrination can fully explain this. I surely do not think all these folks are simply “delusional.”

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    1. Gary, I would suspect that you had mental health issues, and would try to encourage you to get some help.

      And what do the think the average non-religious person considers the best course of action for your – and every other openly fundamentalist religious individual – current position, Becky?

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      1. Ark, I’m not a fundamentalist.

        I think most non-religious people do not care one way or the other. They are generally respectful of those who disagree, and “believe in live and let live,’ as long as their civil rights are not being violated in some way.

        In general, I think comments across the blogs on the internet from both sides do not really reflect how most people think and interact with each other in everyday life and in real-time.

        At least, this has been my experience.

        I think even on the blogs where I have been asked not to comment, we could have been friends.

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        1. Ark, I’m not a fundamentalist.

          Five doctrines outline the basic beliefs of Fundamentalist Christians, according to The Thoughtful Christian. They are the virgin birth, the satisfaction theory of atonement, the bodily resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, and the unerring word of God.

          So yes, Becky you are a fundamentalist.

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          1. I don’t personally feel that the Scripture is inerrant or should always be interpreted in a literal way. Ark, who can understand the precise mechanics of the atonement? Every analogy falls short of the thing itself. Here is what I believe. God loves and cares for His creation. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. And, I think as a follower of Jesus, I also need to participate in healing and reconciliation.

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                  1. Yes, I affirm the Virgin birth of Christ. Ark, I accept the Nicene Creed of the Christian Church as a basic statement of faith. Don’t feel this means I’m a fundamentalist though. But, I realize this term can mean different things to different people. No use debating the issue.

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                    1. So, 1. resurrection , plus 2. virgin birth plus 3. the bible is the inspired word of your god … and I’m going to take a wild stab that you accept the 4. miracles of the character Jesus of Nazareth. What does this leave? Atonement? ,I reckon 4 out of 5 seems a pretty good bet that you are a fundamentalist … as I already mentioned.

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              1. I need to think more deeply about this question, Gary. Right now, I would say that it is not either-or for me.

                I think objective evidence is very important. I would not be satisfied with a faith that was no more than an existential and impossible leap into the dark.

                On the other hand, the witness of God’s spirit is also very important since neither you or I was standing by the entrance of the empty tomb on Easter morning taking our own notes. 🙂

                But, as I’ve shared, there is no way that I would bother with the Christian church if I thought this was all just some huge hoax. What would be the point?

                But, your question is one to ponder.

                Do you feel that you would still be an atheist/agnostic if God’s Spirit in some way convinced you strongly of the hope of the resurrection of Christ? What evidence do you feel would suffice for you?

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                1. I do not believe that rational people should ever listen to internal voices to determine historical facts, universal truths, or for life guidance.

                  The fact that you cannot emphatically declare that historical evidence should always supercede inner voices demonstrates why it is not a valuable use of time for skeptics to debate most Christians regarding historical evidence regarding the truth claims of Christianity.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I can understand Gary. I think many Christians can also feel in a similar way. What type of historical evidence could ever suffice if someone has decided a priori that the miraculous cannot occur. I’m thinking about the resurrection of Jesus, for example. There would always have to be an alternate explanation that must be found such as Joseph of Arimathea moved the body or mass hallucination. But, I still think it’s good for us to talk with one another and to do our best to understand the other person’s thoughts.

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                    1. Why would you think that someone (Atheists?) would have an a priori assumption that the miraculous could not possibly occur?
                      I am not aware of any evidence that has ever been produced to demonstrate miracles?
                      Do you know of any miracles that have occurred, Becky?

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    2. I don’t think indoctrination can fully explain this.

      You are a religiously indoctrinated individual, for goodness’ sake,Becky, so in all honesty how do you think you can possibly evaluate your position objectively?

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    3. I wasn’t talking about the belief that a generic Creator exists. Since science has not determined the origin of the universe, the belief in an intelligent Creator is rational. I am talking about your belief that the spirit of a dead first century peasant lives somewhere inside your body and communicates with you in a “still, small voice”. That is irrational. I would even say it is delusional. I see no difference between your belief that the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth lives inside you and communicates with you with the person who believes that the spirit of Abraham Lincoln lives inside her and communicates with her.

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      1. Gary, it seems to me that part of the issue is in semantics. I’m not viewing this in a literalist kind of way. The reality of God’s presence and guidance in our lives, how this all works cannot be fully expressed or understood in human terms. I guess, I have to leave it at that. Our minds are not understanding and processing this in the same way.

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        1. No, you said that you believe that your god (Jesus) leads you and moves you on issues. That is what you said. Trying to make it “mystical” is not going to get you off the hook, Becky.

          Your thoughts about Jesus communicating with you are delusional, my friend. Believing that a ghost lives inside you and communicates with you is delusional.

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  10. Ark attempted to post before but lost the internet. I think you have illustrated a good point. It is easy for us to stereotype or to think in generalities. I’m sure there are many atheists/agnostics who are at least somewhat open to the possibility of the divine or what seems to us miraculous just as there are people of faith who are more closed/skeptical to mystical experience and very zeroed in on things like objective historical evidence that can be dispassionately analyzed.

    Probably most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

    Humans are wonderful and complex.

    Anyway, I’ve very much appreciated the discussion, guys. Take care. I am going to get more fresh pine to decorate.

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    1. They are not mystical experiences, Becky. They are superstitious delusions.

      As long as you continue to believe that a ghost lives inside your body giving you secret wisdom and insight, we cannot have a rational discussion with you on these issues.

      Abandon ancient superstitions, Becky. Embrace reason, science, and rational thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

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