Archive for August, 2010

So, you came back for more.  Curious to read my response to my Agnostic friend?  (See last week’s post – Part 1 of 2 – for his side.)

Here is how I responded to my dear friend:

I know you said you couldn’t help but think that it (one of my own blog posts) was specifically directed to you.  Honestly, yes, a small portion of it was written with you in mind as well as knowing that I have many friends and family who could possibly be reading it that think very much like you…

I must say, I am glad to hear that you took me up on the challenge.  That’s more what I was fishing to find out than anything.  Did you read the whole book, or did your gauntlet stop you “in the beginning”? (That was a pretty good pun, if I do say so myself!)

Seriously, though, as far as answers to all of your questions and points made…I do not and will not pretend to have them.  (As I have said before, I have had many of the same thoughts and questions myself over the years.)  Neither will I attempt to proselytize you, as I know you likewise are not doing to me.  I merely am here to share with you the Essence of who I am – Jesus in me.  Though I cannot begin to battle wits with you in the intellectual realms, nor do I want to – battle with you is the farthest thing from what I would ever want (I, of course, mean that in a very complimentary and endearing way.)…I merely can share with you why I am the person that you know and are kindred spirits with.  How you chose to respond to that is, well, not something I intend to try to force a certain direction, nor is it of my concern. I respect your very thoroughly contemplated and eloquently expressed views and honestly do not feel it is my responsibilty to change them.

  • Yes, I do whole-heartedly believe there is a God and that He loves me (and you and all of the world – John 3:16) and that He is working out His divine plan in my life (as in everyone’s) every minute of every day.  (I know all of that opens up several more cans of worms, but I am just stating who I am and what I believe.  I leave the cans of worms up to Him.)
  • My life is not defined by my death, rather by His death on the cross for me (John 3:16).
  • And because my life is defined by my acceptance of His gift of His death on the cross, my life is truly now and forever an eternal life.
  • And, because of His death, I may die a physical death (even before I have the chance to see you again, or not) but I now and forever am free from having to pay the ultimate price of spiritual death and eternal separation from God that is the price of my inherent sin-nature.
  • I at one time worked very hard to believe that there was nothing beyond this life and no meaning to my existence, because that for me was much easier (in a sense) than living with the knowledge that I would one day face my Maker and have to give an answer as to why I did not choose to accept His costly-to-Him yet free-to-me gift.
  • Honestly, though, for me, convincing myself of the nothingness of life and existence was a very tiring and difficult struggle. Something always, deep down, ate at me and would not let me ultimately and deeply believe what I was trying so hard to believe.  I had many of my own “gauntlets”, as you so cleverly and accurately call them, that would be thrown down in my face right and left.  I was just never at peace, not once, the entire time I was trying so hard to believe in a way that seemed to lend itself to the most peaceful, freeing, and consequence-less life possible.  I read things, even in the Bible, that I attempted to use to prove what I so wanted to believe, but ultimately, for me, it was all a dead end…a dead end that lead to life, that is.
  • I cannot begin to explain to you in words what it feels like to have “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), but I can only hope that one day you may come to experience that for yourself.
  • I cannot begin to describe to you in words what it is like to know and feel “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) who is always with me – Emmanuel.
  • I cannot begin to accurately explain to you in words what it is like to pray, not just seeking an answer – though those often do come, rather just to pray – to talk to the One who knows me better than anyone on this earth ever could (because He made me just the way I am, my faults and all, just like He intended for me to be) – to cry to Him, knowing He understands every struggle I face and that He, because He was once on this earth as a human (as is so well chronicled in the Book of John), understands so truly those human emotional as well as physical experiences that I have.
  • These are all things I cannot explain to you in words as much as I may try, because they are things you just have to experience for yourself to understand.
  • I realize you may not agree that there is any legitimacy to experiences such as these, at least in your own life, but all I can say is that they are very real and very legitimate in my life.
  • I would never want to nor try to force you to feel these things for yourself by succumbing to agreeing with me on anything or everything I have put forth.  However, because of what I know in my heart to be true, I can only hope that you, my very dear friend, can and will also one day come to experience my God for all He is and even come to a point that (one can dream, can’t she!?!) you will even call Him your God one day. Not because I want so bad to be right, nor that I want to say “I told you so” or anything at all like that, rather because I know the love and peace and freedom that comes with knowing and accepting Him and the gift He offers us all.
Again, I must remind you that, as much as it may sometimes seem otherwise, I truly am not trying to proselytize you, rather I am merely sharing my heart and the Essence of who I am with you, for all it is worth.
Because of Who He is,
Haelie

Remember the challenge I issued a few posts back?  The one in which I challenged you to read the Book/Gospel of John in the Bible.  If not, you can click HERE to go back and read it briefly.

So, have you taken the challenge?  Have you started to read John, finished reading it, or do you at least plan to read it?

My dear Agnostic friend did.

I have a close friend who is a professed Agnostic and is also one of my most faithful blog readers.  Upon reading my first few posts (on my separate blog “To Not Decide…Is To Decide“), he replied in length to some of my points.  Here in today’s post, I will share with you one specific response I received from him.  Then, in Part 2 of this, I will share with you my reply to him.

Without further adieu, here is his very thorough, intellectual, Agnostic thought process about God and things related to Him:

Upon reading your last entry I couldn’t help but think that it was specifically directed to me (for the rest of you this is based on other off-line conversations). It’s not so much that the gauntlet has been thrown by you its more that it has been there already, in front of me, for a long time now. Yes, I began reading the Bible. Yes, I began with John 1 as found on the site you mentioned. And, yes, I immediately stumbled over my gauntlet. Who would have guessed!

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

Short. Sweet. But fraught with nagging uncertainties (my gauntlet). God is used in the singular, with the presupposition that this one god was there from the beginning. If so, why did he decide to allow the ancient cultures to practice polytheism and pantheism for so many millennia? When did he decide “Ok, enough of this fun. Let’s get down to business…” If he was there from the beginning why was he so loathe to make it apparent that he was there? What ever happened to all these ‘other gods’? Weren’t they real for those who believed in them? Is the belief in many gods any more false/true then the belief in one god? (For an interesting perspective on where these gods are, I’ll challenge you to read the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman.) Then…

What relevance, if any, does God (any god, pick a god) have today? This question, for me, goes way beyond Belief and Faith. Strip away B/F and it runs to the pure, elemental core of the matter – existence. Why do we exist at all? This is a terrifying question when taken on its own, in freefall with no ground below, for us to answer. It causes anguish. It causes dread. This Nothingness we face, out of which all else emerges and where all returns is the cause of this dread and anguish.

We truly exist. But concomitant with this is the crushing onus of inescapable uncertainty; save for one thing – our eventual annihilation, our death (and taxes if you’re a comedian). Our life is defined by our death. We wonder why there Something rather than Nothing. We are always afraid that the notion of what-is (our being-here) will slip into the what-is-not (our being-not-here).

Our being-here, the Something, is continuously being defined by Nothingness. Humans have the remarkable capacity of self-creation. This is a standard feature of human existence. We are the only beings that can define our essence. We can be what-we-are. Essence follows existence. We create the purpose of the Something.

We have the ability to become what-we-are-not-today. It’s our choice to become what-we-are-not from what-we-are. You are not the same person you where twenty years ago. You will not be the same person you are today twenty years from now. Temporality places further stress on this process of becoming. This also is quite onerous to accept – a total commitment to self-responsibility, self-determination. We were thrust into Somethingness as freewheeling entities; free to exist as being-here for ourselves. (This is does not come capriciously… there is an element of moral obligation… yet another troublesome burden to shoulder). Sometimes all this self-authenticity is just too much to comprehend, too much to bear. This now leads back to the thought began two paragraphs ago.

God (any god, pick a god) solves many of these existential problems because with him at the helm of the Universe the conflict between Something vs Nothing is suddenly ‘answered’. It comforts us that some greater power is handling all these messy details of our being-here. It’s all a matter of how our being-here, existence, is interpreted. With god in the mix, our Humanness is explained by essence preceding existence.

It is only within this latter notion that B/F can take hold. It is much easier to allow our being-here to be in someone else’s hands; divine or temporal. It allows prayer to be meaningful. For, after all, praying is a statistical coin toss with only one of two options available to it every time it’s employed. Either the prayer is answered or the prayer is not answered. If answered to your satisfaction it then strengthens the belief that there is a god. But, interestingly enough, the opposite corollary is not assumed – if the prayer is not answered the one praying does not announce that it disproves god but rather the blame is placed on the one praying. The faith was not strong enough (doubt), some past event was viewed unfavorably (moral failing), disingenuousness in the request, etc. But, worst of all, prayer can be the complete abrogation of our responsibility, the annulment of self-determination, if you allow its answer to be the final arbiter. (The answer it self, is totally meaningful/meaningless due solely to your interpretation of it. Hmmm, back to that troublesome Self again.)

For when I choose to decide or not to decide I am still responsible for the decision I make. Only within the realm of Self can I choose with any authenticity to follow whatever advice I receive from whomever I ask it of.

So, now that you have read the true and deep thoughts of an Agnostic–some of which may be your own thoughts as well–I challenge you to continue to come back here on What If…Wednesdays (and anytime in between) so that you can catch Part 2 of this Conversation between an Agnostic and a Christian.

After all, there are two sides to every story, and you have not yet heard my heartfelt, respectful reply to his side.

Come back to read it soon…

So let’s have a quick look at some of the claims of the Bible.  The Bible makes so many claims that are sometimes hard to believe so what are these claims?

1. There is only one God

2. Jesus is the Son of God

3. God created all things

4. Jesus died to bring us back into a right relationship with God

5. God consists of 3 persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in one

6. Jesus was fully God and yet fully man – he was also without sin

7. Jesus is the only way to God

8. God is all powerful, all knowing, ever present, all loving.

9. Jesus died on a cross but defeated death and rose again, he is now in heaven

10. Jesus will come again

11. If we believe and trust in Jesus He will forgive all our wrongdoings

12. Jesus healed people, cast out demons, raised people from the dead, forgave sins, calmed the sea, turned water into wine

13. God spoke to His people through the prophets

14. One day those who have put their trust in Jesus will live with God in heaven

15. Jesus was born of a virgin

Now these are just the first 15 claims that came to mind, there are hundreds of others on almost every page of the Bible. I can’t prove to you that any of these claims are true.  I can’t produce evidence that shows that there is truth in any of them.  However, in the time since the Bible was written no-one has been able to disprove any of the claims.  Don’t you find that quite remarkable?  That a book written by over 40 people spanning thousands of years, some being simple people, some had great learning, all claiming outrageous things, but all unable to be proven wrong even thousands of years later.

In fact as our learning has increased, as technology has developed more things are being discovered that substantiate the claims not contradict them.  For example the Bible claims that most of the New Testament was written by Jesus’ disciples.  However, many people have disregarded this and have said that the New testament was written 60 or 70 years after the death of Christ therefore making it unlikely that they were written by the disciples.  However, it is now agreed by many scholars that the New testament was written much earlier than first thought and well within the lifetime of Jesus’ disciples. This not only backs up the claims of the Bile but it also brings something very important into play – the reliability of the New Testament content.

If I write a book about events that happened hundreds of years beforehand – especially if it is on a subject not written about before – there may be some murmurings about the reliability of the facts but it would be fairly hard to disprove them.  Even if the facts sounded completely wrong it would be very hard to collect evidence to speak against them.  However, if I were to write about something that took place last year things would be very different.  If my facts about an event were wrong people who were there would speak out against them.  People who wanted to investigate could ask people who were involved, produce witnesses and put together a case.  So if the disciples of Jesus had decided to make up these stories people would have spoken out.  Even if Jesus’ disciples had been so deluded as to really believe these things had taken place, others would have spoken out about them. Christianity in it’s early existence would have been snuffed out. Yet you had thousands of people who were willing to die for these claims.  If the disciples had spent three years with Jesus could they have been that taken in by him that they would rather die than renounce their faith?  If they had made it all up would they have died in order to keep a hoax going? If the disciples of Jesus had written the new testament only a short time after it had happened and the events and things written about hadn’t taken place huge numbers of people would have spoken out about it.  The disciples would have become a laughing stock and the Christian faith would have died on it’s feet.

We’ll have a look at more of the claims in part three.