Why I'm Not a Christian

steve7150
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by steve7150 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:02 am

though, I usually end up feeling both disappointed and delighted after reading them. I'm disappointed that arguments so confused, so weak, and so shallow are part of present day dialogue. Yet I'm also delighted that such arguments seem to be the best the non-Christian world has to offer against Christianity (this fact sometimes strengthens faith).








Why should i believe a bunch of letters from authors who people don't even know? No one knew Matthew or Mark or even Luke and we are not even sure which John is John. The rest of the NT is written by a few guys who could have believed what they wrote because they were swept up in the excitement by the others. We look at Paul with authority but he could have just bought in to what Luke said and Luke could have bought in to what was told to him. Many people in a state of euphoria think they saw a vision, like today we have thousands of people who swear they were taken up in a spaceship. Why shouldn't we believe them too if we believe Paul. No one heard of Paul before Luke wrote about him. Maybe Luke was gullible and Paul being zealous for God and knowing Isa 53 just made himself believe something. Maybe these guys wanted Jesus to be true that they embellished a real person to change from Jesus into "the Christ." The mind can do powerful things.
Another thing is Christians think it's a big point that Paul referenced "the 500" but we never have heard the response from the Corinthian church. They may have said "Paul you must have had a dream."

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mattrose
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by mattrose » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:37 am

steve7150 wrote:Why should i believe a bunch of letters from authors who people don't even know? No one knew Matthew or Mark or even Luke and we are not even sure which John is John. The rest of the NT is written by a few guys who could have believed what they wrote because they were swept up in the excitement by the others. We look at Paul with authority but he could have just bought in to what Luke said and Luke could have bought in to what was told to him. Many people in a state of euphoria think they saw a vision, like today we have thousands of people who swear they were taken up in a spaceship. Why shouldn't we believe them too if we believe Paul. No one heard of Paul before Luke wrote about him. Maybe Luke was gullible and Paul being zealous for God and knowing Isa 53 just made himself believe something. Maybe these guys wanted Jesus to be true that they embellished a real person to change from Jesus into "the Christ." The mind can do powerful things.
Another thing is Christians think it's a big point that Paul referenced "the 500" but we never have heard the response from the Corinthian church. They may have said "Paul you must have had a dream."
That is certainly a different sort of objection altogether, in this sense: Hypothetical Matthew's objections to Christianity were based on poor definitions (what is unity? where should I expect to find joy/fruit?), but the objection raised here understands a very key component about Christianity... did it really happen? The questioner rightfully wants to base his beliefs on actual history. He may never become a Christian (that depends on his response to the Holy Spirit as he diligently searches), but he is no threat, really, to become a liberal Christian (in the sense of claiming Christianity but not believing essential Christian beliefs like that Jesus is who He claimed to be).

In answering the question, I would just point out that it doesn't much matter whether WE know the authors, but whether THEY knew Jesus. Once we establish that, the weight of the evidence is on the side of all 4 Gospels being written early and by people closely connected to Jesus. Matthew was 1 of the 12. There's no good reason to doubt the early tradition that Mark's Gospel was basically the Gospel according to Peter. Luke was able to interview many eyewitnesses (seemingly including Mary, the mother of Jesus). John (or Lazarus, however you want to argue it) was obviously one of Jesus' closest companions.

The rest of the NT has authority insofar as it is a faithful response to the Jesus. They should be given great weight, as we remember that they were written very early in Christian history. I have found that those who see a HUGE difference b/w Jesus and Paul (and subsequently question the authority of Paul), are always misunderstanding Paul (or possibly Jesus). The bottom line is, Peter (and the other Apostles) accepted Paul's authority. The other bottom line is, though this might not be comfortable for many, we could do without Paul. I could still be a Christian even without the Pauline corpus. It is JESUS who is the true revolutionary... the founder of the faith... the reason for being a Christian... of course.

It seems to me that pretty much anyone arguing against the reliability of the New Testament has a pre-determined bias and almost certainly doesn't hold other historical literature (that they trust without much question) to the same standards in regards to rules for reliability.

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steve
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by steve » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:19 am

Paul's conversion is one of the great facts of history with which the skeptic must contend. His writings are earlier than Luke's—earlier, in fact, than any of the other New Testament writings, and the authenticity of most of them is accepted even by liberal scholars who accept the authenticity of little else in the New Testament.

Within 25 years of the crucifixion, Paul gave a list of resurrection witnesses, most of whom were still living (1 Cor.15:1ff). This list had been circulating even earlier, because he received it from earlier sources. By his appeal to these witnesses, it is evident that Paul at least believed that the resurrection of Christ was a documentable historic fact. This rules out any likelihood of Paul pretending to be a convert, while secretly being an unbeliever.

If Paul (whose pre-christian history as Saul was well known among the first century inhabitants of Jerusalem—Acts 22:3-5) had become a believer, there would be no reason for him to lie about the means of his conversion, since he condemned lying as a sin (Eph.4:25:25) and swore in the name of God that his testimony was true (Gal.1:20). Most people are satisfied to tell the truth about their conversion when giving their testimony. There would be no reason for Paul to lie about his, since his true conversion story would be dramatic and impressive in any case (as is that, for instance, of Chuck Colson). Besides, Paul's account is rendered the more credible by it not being a unique case. Sundar Singh, some North African villages, and some others have testified to similar appearances of Christ bringing about their conversions.

The facts known to all are that he was an established opponent of Christianity until he commenced his campaign against Christians in Damascus. Strangely, when he arrived in Damascus, he had changed his attitude and was baptized as a Christian. To what can such a bizarre change be attributed? I can imagine only two possibilities:

The first is that which was the original suspicion of the other apostles, when they heard it. They believed his conversion story was a fake. Apparently, they believed the persecutor had changed his strategy, seeking to gain some advantage over the church by infiltration. They weren't buy it (Acts 9:26).

The other possibility is that he had an encounter such as he described on the road to Damascus. He was not alone at the time and his companions heard a noise and saw a light from heaven—Paul mentioned them as witnesses (Acts 9:7; 22:9). He was then struck blind for three days—which was also apparently witnessed by his companions (although, admittedly, blindness can be feigned).

Though the second story involves a miracle, and is thus less likely prima facie, yet this is the story that the skeptical apostles eventually, and grudgingly accepted. This acceptance meant not only making the whole church vulnerable by trusting Saul as a brother, but, even more, it threatened the unique, privileged role of the apostles in Jerusalem, since accepting Saul's testimony also involved accepting his position as an apostle on the same level as the chief leaders of the church. Human nature alone would have made this recognition unlikely. What changed the minds of the cautious apostles about the genuineness of Saul's story? Three things are mentioned:

1) Paul's character as a Christian was exemplary. False preachers usually get caught with their hand in the bag or in bed with the wrong woman. Paul traveled with young men, whom he invoked as witnesses of his selfless and morally upright behavior. The churches themselves were witnesses of this. He charged no money for his ministry, but earned his own (and his team's) keep through manual labor (Acts 20:33-34).

2) Paul worked miracles, similar to those of the other apostles—raising the dead, striking a false prophet with temporary blindness, healing diseases, casting out demons (so that even the demon testified: "Jesus I know, and Paul I know..." Acts 19:15).

3) Paul suffered for his convictions through his entire ministry, proving his sincerity (Acts 15:5-26; 1 Cor.15:30-32; 2 Cor.11:23-33). While men will often suffer willingly for a delusion, this usually requires that they are the victims of the deception, not the perpetrators.

It is easy to explain the facts of the case, if Paul really met Jesus on the road and was commissioned, as Paul consistently claimed. The known facts are considerably more difficult to account for by any other theory.

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mattrose
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by mattrose » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:29 am

It's time to talk to myself again! A couple of weeks ago I posted a note titled "Why I'm not a Christian" in which a hypothetical version of me (a non-Christian Matthew) gave his objections to Christianity. Essentially, his critique was that Christianity has little to no unity, joy, or fruit from his point of view. As a result, that Matt sees no real reason to give Jesus more than a passing glance. Having responded already to his points about unity and joy, I come today to the issue of fruit. Here's what hypo Matthew said:
Third, I can't believe in Christianity because Christianity doesn't seem to be making a difference. The Bible itself says that we will know the truth of something by its fruit. What is the fruit of Christianity? I don't see many churches really making a difference in their local communities. In fact, what difference would it make if churches just disappeared tomorrow? I'm not sure it would make much of difference. It might even help because, at least then, some other institution would build something on their land and pay taxes!
I like it when non-Christians quote Scripture as part of their critique of Christianity (whether it be an apparent contradiction between one verse and another OR ESPECIALLY between the Bible and those who claim to live by it). If the see a contradiction in Scripture, I actually enjoy researching (when necessary) and talking through such issues. If they see a break in the bond between the Bible and believers, it might be an interesting insight (and even a potential sermon!).

It would be hard to argue with the suggestion that the fruit of Christianity looks pretty rotten these days. The USA, for instance, is a nation of professing Christians (is it still over 70%?), but looks very little like Jesus from multiple vantage points. Of course, one COULD rally some support to the claim that American Christianity has been fruitful. You could talk about how many missionaries we send, our charity levels, or the biblical worldview supporting our founding documents. It's not like there's no fruit at all.

But there's also a lot of bad fruit... way too much to ignore. And there's also not enough good fruit... way too little to take pride in. So what is there to say to the objection that Christianity fails by its own standards of evaluation (you will know them by their fruit)? As usual, it's best to go back to take a closer look at the verse being utilized. In this case, we must consider Jesus words in Matthew 7 where He says: "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit... by their fruit you will recognize them."

Jesus is providing a way to RECOGNIZE true and false Christians (specifically in that passage, teachers). You may recognize them by their fruit. Hypothetical Matt's problem is that he is recognizing them by their profession of Christianity... and then judging Jesus' tree accordingly! Jesus is saying we can identify what fruit actually comes from Him by how much like Christ they are. Once you accept Jesus' method of identification... you will inevitably find fruitful Christianity (who can be Christ-like without making a difference in the world?).

You see, the question really isn't "Why don't professing Christians produce more fruit?"... it's "Why aren't there more true Christians?" It reminds me of a quote from G.K. Chesterton: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." It's not that Christianity has been tried and found fruitless; it's that it has not often been tried at all. Hypothetical Matthew's point is flawed, but also convicting. Real Matthew's response (beyond mere words) is required.

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morbo3000
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:39 pm

mattrose wrote: It seems to me that pretty much anyone arguing against the reliability of the New Testament has a pre-determined bias.
<cough> So do Christians (have a pre-determined bias, arguing *for* the reliability of the New Testament.) <cough cough>
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morbo3000
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:19 pm

steve wrote:Paul's conversion is one of the great facts of history with which the skeptic must contend. His writings are earlier than Luke's—earlier, in fact, than any of the other New Testament writings, and the authenticity of most of them is accepted even by liberal scholars who accept the authenticity of little else in the New Testament.
Totally agree. I am one of those liberals. On my bookshelf is a copy of "The authentic letters of Paul," published by the same people who brought you (infamously) the Jesus Seminar. While their work is suspect to Evangelicals, the fruit of their work for me is <pounds hand on the book> these books are considered to be really and truly the letters of Paul. I'd say to any skeptic of Christianity who wants to discredit Christianity "these books really were written by Paul. Non-christian scholars, who do not have a pro-evangelical agenda attest to that. So.. if you really want to debate Christianity, you need to deal with these as historical texts."

Similarly, what the (liberal and often secular) scholars believe to be the most accurate words of Jesus. Mark and Q are the closest to that oral tradition, and the ones I pay the most attention to.

You can fight all you want with modern day Christianity. But if you are seriously pursuing God, you have no excuse to make an informed decision.

And it is my opinion that rather than erode Christianity into relativism (the evangelical accusation against liberal scholarship,) it leaves us with a more radical vision.
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mattrose
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by mattrose » Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:15 pm

morbo3000 wrote:
mattrose wrote: It seems to me that pretty much anyone arguing against the reliability of the New Testament has a pre-determined bias.
<cough> So do Christians (have a pre-determined bias, arguing *for* the reliability of the New Testament.) <cough cough>
Of course they do (did I say otherwise? or are you just in a fighting mood today? :) )

My point was that bias should be admitted and the facts examined with those biases in mind.

In this case, it turns out that there's no good reason for dismissing the Christian bias, and plenty of reason for rejecting the anti-Christian bias.

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morbo3000
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:55 pm

mattrose wrote: ... are you just in a fighting mood today? :)
Funny... my wife says that to me sometimes when we disagree... ;)
mattrose wrote: My point was that bias should be admitted and the facts examined with those biases in mind.
You will find me tilting at windmills from time to time. Most Christians (not yourself) won't admit to biases because they don't think they are biased; they just know the truth. The truth isn't a bias; it's the truth. This drives me up a wall.
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mattrose
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by mattrose » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:21 am

I was teaching Sunday School a few years back and a man jumped into the conversation to say that b/c he didn't grow up religious he was totally unbiased in all his theological opinions. I will never forget that moment!

Yeah, we are all biased. it's impossible to be neutral. But it is possible to be self-aware... and that can sometimes lead to a change in bias.

steve7150
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Re: Why I'm Not a Christian

Post by steve7150 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:10 pm

In answering the question, I would just point out that it doesn't much matter whether WE know the authors, but whether THEY knew Jesus. Once we establish that, the weight of the evidence is on the side of all 4 Gospels being written early and by people closely connected to Jesus. Matthew was 1 of the 12. There's no good reason to doubt the early tradition that Mark's Gospel was basically the Gospel according to Peter. Luke was able to interview many eyewitnesses (seemingly including Mary, the mother of Jesus). John (or Lazarus, however you want to argue it) was obviously one of Jesus' closest companions.





We don't need to know the authors but we need to know they are credible and how exactly do we know that? The supposed authors are mostly unknown characters outside of the bible, and if it has not been proven that the bible is credible then what credibility do these people unknown to secular history have?
Outside of the bible what evidence do we have about the bible authors? In fact what evidence do we have of Jesus himself? Luke said he interviewed many people but we only know that from Luke. How do we know Luke is credible, from Paul? How do we know Paul is credible, from Luke? We have some references to a "Christos" possibly in a couple of secular letters but it's not definite that "Christos" is even Jesus. What if the bible authors just conspired to make up a story and convinced others that a man rose from the dead. At that time in history 2,000 years ago people were very gullible to wild stories like resurrection, why don't things like that happen now?
The argument that for the existence of any character in history there may not be a lot of evidence yet for example we believe Alexander the Great was real isn't strong because the claims of Jesus are so extraordinary and demands life changing changes that there must be a stronger level of evidence then your typical character in history. Where is the evidence outside of the bible that Jesus rose from the dead?

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