As far as I know, Christianity is the only world view that does not base one’s eternal destiny on a system that weighs an individual’s good actions versus their bad actions. That is an important and profound distinctive of Christian doctrine.
“As far as I know, Christianity is the only world view that does not base one’s eternal destiny on a system that weighs an individual’s good actions versus their bad actions. That is an important and profound distinctive of Christian doctrine.”
This belief may be distinctive of CALVINIST Christianity, but the majority of the world’s Christians believes that ones actions very much play a role in one’s eternal destiny. Not even Martin Luther believed in “once saved, always saved”. Quotes by numerous Early Church Fathers strongly indicate that although faith and belief in Jesus as the Christ was a necessary prerequisite to eternal salvation good deeds were absolutely necessary to KEEP that salvation. Calvinist Protestants love to read the Epistle of Romans but how often do you hear a sermon in a calvinistic church from the Epistle of James?
“Faith without works is dead.”
Calvinists can twist themselves into pretzels to claim that once one believes he has a Get-Into-Heaven-Free Card, but according to the author of James, no one gets into heaven by faith alone.
Christianity is therefore NOT unique among the world’s religions.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States expanded the interpretation of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Millions of LGBT people will no longer live in fear of being fired by their employer for their sexual orientation or gender identity. What a wonderful day for liberty and equality!
Of course, religious conservatives such as evangelical Franklin Graham are outraged! “How could Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch (and Republican appointed Chief Justice Roberts) betray them by joining with the four liberal justices to elevate sinful homosexual orientation to the same status as race and gender (sex)?”
Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth!
Religious conservatives were certain that with two Trump appointments to the Court, their conservative, bigoted, social agenda was safe from further erosion from liberal judges and courts. They miscalculated!
I was always curious about Neil Gorsuch for one reason: He is an Episcopalian. Why would a conservative judge remain a member of such a notoriously liberal denomination? I think Trump and his Religious Right supporters made a big mistake in selecting Gorsuch if their goal was to put a staunch anti-gay, anti-abortion Supreme Court justice on the Court. Any conservative willing to remain a member of such a very liberal denomination has some liberal sympathies lurking somewhere in his “soul”.
And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.
–Jesus of Nazareth
When asked for the best evidence to substantiate the core truth claims of Christianity, how often have you heard a conservative Christian apologist cite the Holy Spirit? In my experience, rarely if ever. Most will start off appealing to the opinions of fundamentalist and/or evangelical Bible scholars regarding topics such as the historical reliability of the Bible, the (alleged) eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, or the amazing accuracy in which ancient Jews passed down their oral stories.
But why no mention of the Holy Spirit?
If Jesus was correct that he would send his spirit to convict the world of the error of its evil ways—demonstrating to all that he really was the Messiah and God the Creator all wrapped up into one—why do most conservative Christian apologists fail to mention this important fact when they debate skeptics?
I’ll tell you why: They know it sounds wacko!
How many skeptics are going to be convinced that an invisible ghost (spirit) exists and is, at this very moment, swirling around them in the breeze, whispering in their ear that Christianity is true?
Here is the ugly fact for Christians: If this “spirit” were real, he would not need thousands of books written by human apologists to help him do his job! The desperate attempts by thousands of Christian apologists to write thick books explaining what Jesus, God the Creator, really meant for us to understand about him is the best evidence that the “Holy Spirit” does not exist.
The Holy Spirit is just another supernatural invention of this ancient tall tale.
(In his book, The Bonobo and the Atheist, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that morality is built into our species. Rather than coming to us top-down from God, or any other external source, morality for de Waal springs bottom-up from our emotions and our day-to-day social interactions, which themselves evolved from foundations in animal societies.)
Excerpt from a Christian blog:
Most people will agree that no matter how I manipulate that question, the holocaust was OBJECTIVELY wrong – and this is where the moral argument comes into play. When you say something is wrong or right it is always in comparison to a standard. For some, that standard might be a role model, for others it could be themselves! Regardless of what your standard is, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to have objective moral standards if everyone based it on different things. Certainly, many of the Nazi soldiers did not believe they were doing wrong because their standard of right and wrong was based on that which was dictated by the regime – does this mean that it was not wrong? Of course not!
This same argument can be flipped and reflected onto whether something is good or right and in the end, it boils down to the measuring scale we are using. If objective morals exist, God must exist. God is the standard upon which all deeds and actions are measured.
The Scottish philosopher W.R Sorely summarised the moral argument into three points:
1. If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist.
2. Morality is objective and absolute.
3. Therefore, God must exist.
You said in your post, “morality is objective and absolute.”
Says who? Murdering thousands upon thousands of innocent Jewish men, women, and children was a violation of the moral standards of civilized nations in the 1930’s and 40’s. But that has not always been the case in human history. Killing an entire race was not considered immoral in ancient times (just look at stories in the Hebrew Bible, for example). Morality changes with time, my friend. It is NOT objective. Morality is a product of the culture in which it exists. You assume there is something called “objective morality” only because ALL civilized nations today hold to that standard. Morality is nothing more than the rules of behavior of the “herd”, whether that herd consists of gorillas, elephants, or human beings.
Christian blog author:
You are suggesting that morality is subjective and relative. It sounds like you are saying that there is no right and wrong, but rather a set of learned behaviours which we have observed from society around us. The problem with your argument is that if there is no objective truth then you or I are in no position to say that something is wrong or right. If you want to go down the slippery slope of saying that rape is wrong in my opinion but not in everyone’s then do so at your own peril. If you truly believe that morality is just rules formed by society, you cannot say that racism, rape or murder is wrong… because then wrong and right wouldn’t exist, only opinions constructed by society.
Words obtain their meaning from human beings. Words do not have inherent meanings. For instance, the definition of “racism” is very different today from what it was 50 years ago and that definition was very different from the definition in the 1850’s. An abolitionist in 1850 may have perceived himself as very progressive, and NOT racist, due to his support for the abolition of slavery, however, at the same time, he would never have dreamed of allowing his white daughter to date, let alone marry, a black man. Today, for a white father to hold such a position is considered blatantly racist.
“Right” and “wrong” only exist in the mind of the person using those words, my friend. Those two words are not equivalent to “legal” and “illegal”, concepts which apply equally (at least in principle) for everyone regardless of what each individual may think of the rightness or wrongness of the law in question. So I can say that it is my opinion that rape is “wrong” but more importantly, rape is ILLEGAL. Most mammalian herds have rules when it comes to sex. Most herds have rules when it comes to killing other members of the herd. Herd members who violate those rules are punished, sometimes severely, by banishment or by being killed. Gorillas, elephants, and lions follow these rules because thousands of years of experience have taught these animals that having these rules increases the survival of the herd. Herds with order and tranquility tend to survive and pass on their DNA compared to herds that are constantly fighting and in turmoil. Morality is nothing more than biology.
From your first argument about the Holy Spirit, I don’t see how it disproves the need for God in any way, shape or form. Whether the Holy Spirit exists or not, shouldn’t be a factor in to whether God exists (there are many Christians who do not believe in the Holy Spirit, but this does not stop them from believing in God). Even if Christians have got it all wrong about the Holy Spirit (or even God), why should that mean that a God doesn’t exist?
Let me ask you this: Even if there were a mountain of evidence for the existence of a Creator, that does not prove that a first century Jewish peasant is that Creator. If you are honest, evangelical Christians believe that Jesus is the Creator primarily and overwhelmingly because of your subjective feelings and perceptions that he lives in your “heart”. That is not logical or rational, my friend. There is zero objective evidence for your belief that the spirit of a being who lived 2,000 years ago resides somewhere within your body.
Morality may originate from a Creator, but your belief is that morality originates from Jesus of Nazareth. You need to demonstrate that you have good evidence for your belief that Jesus of Nazareth is that Creator, or your entire belief system, including your views on morality, fails.
For the sake of the explanation, let’s assume that God does exist.
The first thing that I would like to point out is that there is difference between a deceased person and God. As I mentioned earlier, God is not bound by time, space, matter or any other physical construct (or else He wouldn’t be God). So the first thing to do is make a distinction between perceiving the presence of a passed relative, and the presence of God. If God exists and created us, it would be fair to assume that He has the ability to be in relationship with us.
Gary, if God exists, would it really be that hard to believe that He could have a relationship with each and every one of us. He is omnipresent and, like I keep saying, is not limited to the physical world we see (because He created it).
The question therefore should not be, if belief in the Holy Spirit is logical, but rather if God exists. Because if God exists, then belief in a personal relationship with an omniscient, omnipresent God is not illogical.
Thank you for the explanation.
I agree that if an omnipotent, all-knowing Creator exists, he (she, they or it) would by definition have the capability to do anything, including the ability to have a personal relationship with each and every human being. But just because that possibility exists does not make your proposition (that a spirit DOES dwell within you and communicates with you) true.
Let’s take a look at your proposition using critical thinking skills:
“Because if God exists, then belief in a personal relationship with an omniscient, omnipresent God is not illogical.”
Let’s do a substitution:
“Because if God exists, then belief that he has given me, Gary, the supernatural power to see through brick walls is not illogical.”
I’m sure you can see how illogical the second sentence is. Just because an omnipotent God exists does not in any way prove that I have supernatural eyesight. In kind, just because an omnipotent God exists in no way proves that you have his spirit living inside you.
What objective evidence do you have for your supernatural belief that the spirit of the Creator lives within you and has an intimate personal relationship with you?
I do believe that many Christians would indeed seriously listen to scholars of other religions, but the first problem is that no other religion provides the objective historicity that you describe. Additionally, a big point of difference between Christians and atheists is our perception of the world. Christians do not believe in an exclusively physical world, and therefore our faith in the Holy Spirit is both logical and reasonable.
God does not exist within the limits of space, time and matter (otherwise He would not be God) and therefore we have no problems believing that He can exist within us. God created each of us with the ability to have relationships, and He is able to have a relationship with us too! And the ‘feelings’ that you describe are not physical or tangible or even explainable, but you are absolutely right that feelings are not an indicator of truth – the Bible outlines this by saying, “the heart is deceitful above all things”.
Gary, at the end of the day, of course we all have our own biases, but please don’t let the bias of Christians stop you from investigating and finding the truth.
If I told you that the spirit of my deceased grandfather lives within me, giving me secret insight, wisdom, peace, and comfort—would you consider my belief logical and reasonable?
Where do we start to bring about social justice and equality for every person in the United States?
Outlawing certain police use-of-force methods such as choke holds is a good start but fails to address one important issue: the massive power of police unions. For example, are you aware that in some cities in our country the local police union has insisted that their contract with the city include clauses which stipulate that all complaints and disciplinary actions against “bad apples” in the department be completely erased from the record after only two or three years? That means that a bad cop could have a long history of civil rights abuses but the public will never know about it as long as he commits his crimes once every couple of years!
I believe that the only way police conduct is going to be reformed in this country is for police unions to be abolished or dramatically restricted. In their place should be a national formula for police compensation, with a base pay much, much higher than current salaries (start at 100K?) and very generous benefits (which will hopefully increase the availability of good candidates for police forces), and with that higher pay, a higher standard of expected conduct. In addition, every police department in the nation should be required to have a significant minority representation. I personally would favor requiring every police department to be at least 51% minority, at least for the next 20 years.
I support the overwhelming majority of police officers who are good people, risk their lives to protect us, and serve the greater good, but police unions too often protect the few bad apples. We need real, structural change to policing in this country. A few superficial changes is not going to solve the problem.
This is how every child in America should view a police officer. Unfortunately, for too many children of color, the policeman is a symbol of oppression and tyranny. That must change.
Would any Christian take seriously the research of a Hindu scholar who claims to be objective regarding the historicity of Hindu miracles purportedly performed by an ancient Hindu prophet and miracle worker, if that same scholar also professes that he perceives the presence of that very Hindu prophet living within him?
So why should anyone take seriously the scholarship of evangelical Christian scholars who claim that their research is objective regarding the alleged miracle of Jesus of Nazareth—his bodily resurrection—while at the same time claiming that they perceive the presence of Jesus living within them?
It may be true that all historical scholars have biases, but the overwhelming majority do not claim that they perceive the presence of a ghost (spirit) living somewhere in their bodies who gives them supernatural guidance and wisdom.
Evangelical scholars should be honest: Admit that they perceive Jesus living somewhere within them and admit that this perception completely disqualifies their scholarship regarding the alleged historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.