Christians: Please Use Critical Thinking Skills When Evaluating Your Beliefs!

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Rachel, conservative Christian:

Of course you dispute Paul’s authorship by saying “Paul allegedly saw!”  Why “allegedly?” Why use that word as if to infer or imply that the Apostle Paul is somehow in error or at the very least lying? …What is next? I address [one issue], and then you add some more, and I address that…vicious cycle!

Paul is not “allegedly” saying anything [when he claims to have seen the risen Jesus], he is being factual and clearly staking his reputation as a Christian and being truthful about his encounters with the Risen Christ Jesus. When you say to me what Paul “allegedly saw” you do not say, what Paul “heard.” Does that matter?

The Apostle [Paul] was not speaking to a dead person! Paul (Saul) asks: “Who are you?” And the Person talking to Paul (Saul) says: “I AM Jesus of Nazareth whom you persecute.” Paul describes his encounter with the Resurrected and glorified Jesus as a heavenly vision.

Galatians 1:20 Now, what I (Paul) write to you, behold, before God, I do not lie.

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Rachel, I am not trying to create a vicious cycle. I am simply encouraging you to use critical thinking skills to evaluate your beliefs.  Critical thinking skills involve analyzing sources of information. Is the source reliable? Is the claim made by the source corroborated by other sources?

With these points in mind, what is the evidence supporting your belief that Paul of Tarsus literally saw a bodily resurrected Jesus? Well, we have his statement in Galatians “have I not seen the Christ”. The other evidence comes from the Book of Acts in which a non-eyewitness third party quotes Paul as describing events in a “heavenly vision”.

In neither of these accounts do we have any details of what exactly Paul saw—other than possibly a bright light. A bright light, even if it is a talking bright light, is not a body. And seeing a talking bright light in a “vision” is not reality. Therefore by using critical thinking skills we must come to the conclusion that Paul had a fantastical experience in his mind and came to believe that he had seen the resurrected Jesus.

The principles of Critical Thinking help us to see that your belief that a first century man named Paul really did see a walking, talking (resurrected) corpse is based on faulty reasoning and insufficient evidence.


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End of post.


4 thoughts on “Christians: Please Use Critical Thinking Skills When Evaluating Your Beliefs!

  1. re: “Therefore by using critical thinking skills we must come to the conclusion that Paul had a fantastical experience in his mind and came to believe that he had seen the resurrected Jesus.”


    By using critical thinking skills, we must consider that Luke may not have represented Paul’s story correctly. Paul himself says “have I not seen our Lord”. He claims to have seen Jesus. We don’t have a better description from Paul, and Luke’s description, which cannot even be second-hand, cannot be held to the same degree of reliability.

    Critical thinking, then, would require that we either conclude that it is uncertain what Paul saw, or, that even if uncertain, it is more likely that Paul’s simple statement of having seen Jesus is the more reliable.

    If one wishes to debate whether Paul saw an objectively-verifiable “Jesus”, with his eyesight (as you are seeing these words), or if Paul had some type of intra-mental “experience”, that is altogether a different matter.


    1. I agree, we should give very little creedence to the Damascus Road Story found in Acts. If we use our critical thinking skills we realize that most exerts doubt that the author of the Book of Acts was a traveling companion of Paul. Therefore, the Damascus Road Story found only in the Book of Acts is simply a story. For all we know it is a legend (gossip and hearsay) or it is a complete fabrication by the unknown author of Acts, invented for theological and evangelization purposes. In his seven epistles, Paul never once discusses his conversion. So for all we know, Paul “saw” Jesus on the ceiling of his moonlit bedroom one night. We will never know.

      Even if Paul’s use of the Greek word for the English “to see” was intended to convey a literal sighting of a real object (a body), this is no assurance that he really did. Just because Paul sincerely believed he saw a back-from-the-dead body does not mean he did. Experts tell us that most people who experience a visual hallucination believe it to be real—even after the hallucination has ended—even though, by definition, a visual hallucination only occurs in the brain.

      If tomorrow, someone tells us that he really and truly saw his dog Fluffy abducted by three-foot tall, green, anntenae-toting space aliens, most of us are not going to believe him. So why do Christians believe a similar fantastical “sighting story” from 2,000 years ago???

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      1. This is one of your few responses that I actually agree with – for the MOST part.

        “If tomorrow, someone tells us that he really and truly saw his dog Fluffy abducted by three-foot tall, green, anntenae-toting space aliens, most of us are not going to believe him.”

        Totally agreed.

        “So why do Christians believe a similar fantastical “sighting story” from 2,000 years ago???”

        Whether the story of a dead man coming back to life and leaving the grave happened 2000 years ago, or, whether it was just reported by people yesterday, as having happened in the last week — it’s still an unbelievable story. Dead people stay dead. People “back then” knew that just as much as people nowdays know it. Nobody denies the unbelievable-ness of the story.

        So, what DID cause people “back then” to claim it to be true? Clearly, that claim was being made before Paul ever came along, so even if we don’t know the names of those that were telling the story, the story preceeded Paul (and, preceeded his persecution of “the church”, and his “conversion”).

        Didn’t those people realize how ridiculous such a story is? Didn’t they realize that dead people stay dead? OBVIOUSLY, a whole big bunch of the world saw that. So, what was “wrong” with those that claimed the story to be true?

        Well, I don’t know if there was anything “wrong” with any of them. And, as you know, there are some important, modern-day scholars that conclude that those early “Christians” truly did believe they saw Jesus alive again after his crucifixion and burial. So, they weren’t “lying”, and, in fact, there may not have been anything “wrong” with them at all. Maybe they were simply mistaken.

        So, sure, they might have “seen” something, but, it was only in their minds. Hallucinations, illusions, even mistaken identities are all things “in the mind”.

        Tell you what, though: Take a look at Ludemann, Ehrman, and Carrier, in regards to their hallucination theories. Each one of these fine scholars give examples of people who had had extremely convincing hallucinations.

        And then, note: Not a single one of these scholars gives ANY example of a person – ANY person – who had had an extremely convincing hallucination, and then claimed, based on that experience, that the deceased person whom they hallucinated was actually alive again, having risen from the dead.

        Not ONE of those scholars give any such example. And, trust me, they most certainly would have, if they could have found it.

        But, I have spent months searching through the databases for any case history in which a person has hallucinated seeing a deceased person, and then followed that with the delusional belief that the person had come back to life. There are NONE. The closest thing I’ve been able to find is instances of people who have Alzheimers (or other similar dementia-related conditions) that have had hallucinations of deceased people, and who believe they are still alive. BUT – they don’t believe those deceased people have “risen from the dead”. They have simply forgotten that they died in the first place.

        The fact is, there is no “causative” connection between hallucinations and delusional beliefs. A person can have an hallucination, and never have a delusional belief at all. And, a person can have a delusional belief without ever having had an hallucination.

        So – no matter how well-worded the “theory” about hallucinations goes, there simply is no scientific support to show that bereavement hallucinations lead, by any necessity, to delusional beliefs, and in my own research, I discovered the EXACT same thing Ludemann, Ehrman and Carrier MUST have discovered — that there are NO examples in the med/psych databases of someone who hallucinated a deceased person, and then, on that basis, believed the decease to have risen from the dead and left the grave. It’s just not there. And that’s why those three fine Academians don’t produce any such examples.

        If that 1 Cor 15 Creed is actually a very early creedal statement (which is a statement of values, beliefs, facts, etc, as pertains to a group or even an individual), and if the point of a creed is to communicate those values, facts, beliefs, etc with simplicity and clarity – then there were a number of people who (a) claimed to have “seen” Jesus, and (b) who evidently believed that Jesus had come back to life and left the grave.

        This would be TRULY exceptional. If, in our modern database records of case studies we can’t find a single instance in which just one person had an hallucination of a deceased person, and then insisted that the dead person had come back to life (not as a ghost, but as a corporeal being) and left the grave, then how on earth are we going to find SEVERAL people who have had hallucinations, and who then insist that the dead person had bodily come back to life, and left the grave?

        WHAT I’M GETTING AT IS THIS: The story that a dead man has come back to life and has left the grave is no more “unbelievable” to us than it was to people 2000 years ago (which is, of course, one of the biggest reasons the story has gotten so much “push-back” over the centuries).

        Whatever it was that caused that bunch of people, 2000 years ago, to make the claim that a dead person had come back to life and bodily left the grave, it was Exceptional.

        But, if it could be accounted for on the basis of hallucinations or bright lights, then there should be some type of evidence that such delusions (of a person bodily coming back to life, and leaving the grave) have happened to others on the basis of hallucinations, illusions, or “bright lights”. But, again, it appears that the only people that have such delusions are those with Alzheimers, or with some other mental condition (such as schizophrenia and certain forms of dementia).

        The question “So why do Christians believe a similar fantastical “sighting story” from 2,000 years ago???” is the wrong question.

        The RIGHT question is “why did THEY (the earliest Christians) believe it, 2000 years ago?”

        Tell me something: In all your many “religious years”, did it never once cross your mind how “impossible to believe” the story of the resurrection is? Or, did you just blindly accept it as “fact”, being someone who just followed the crowd, like a little lemming, and believing whatever they believed?


        1. “[The RIGHT question is “why did THEY (the earliest Christians) believe it, 2000 years ago?”]”

          The main reason the “earliest Christians” believed in people coming back from the dead aka a Resurrection is that it was in their history and by that I mean the miracles in the Old Testament by the Prophets of God and one of them was a resurrection. The “earliest Christians” were Jews, not Gentiles and many were alive and had seen the 3 resurrections that Jesus the Christ had performed. It was in their history, in their lifetime and in their personal experience.

          Therefore, when they are told by the Apostles that Jesus had resurrected and come back from the dead, they believed it! It was a non issue to them. Furthermore, why would the Apostles whom they knew personally (especially in those few days, weeks, and months) lie to their loved ones: family, friends, business associates, etc. Why would they lie to them and preach a dead man, a hallucination, etc, why would they endanger their lives? None of the Apostles on threat of death after they saw the resurrected Jesus recant or lie to save their lives. None!

          And again, not one of these apostles placed their loved ones in danger of the wrath of Rome, Herod, the Pharisees, etc and all on a lie! I would not, would you?


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