Thursday, September 25, 2014

The convoluted Resurrection accounts

Gary said:
This story is more convoluted that a Mexican tele-novela!

I agree it's not the most straightforward account I've ever seen.
1) Truth is often stranger than fiction.
2) It's hard to empathise since I've never given up everything to follow a guy around for 3+ years, watched Him silence the most learned people of His day with a word, cast out demons and heal people by the hundreds, teach me with crazy authority I've never heard, predict His own death, then get tortured, die in the most humiliating way possible, get buried, and then start to understand that He may well have risen from the dead. I have no idea how I'd react, how logically, how many times I'd go back to the tomb to check again, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

41 comments:

Gary said...

I had a very surprising "epiphany" while reading, The Resurrection of the Son of God, by conservative New Testament Christian scholar, NT Wright: Early Christians never preached that a human being had been raised from the dead. Early Christians preached that a god, in human form, had been buried, and three days later, that same god walked out of his grave in a god-like, supernatural, human-in-appearance-only form.

Jesus was never truly human, if we are to believe what the Gospels tell us about him.

Christians can claim that Jesus was fully human and fully God but there is a problem: human beings do not walk on water. Human beings cannot command the raging sea and winds to be still. Human beings cannot raise the dead. Jesus was never a real human being. He was a god in the form of a human, or at a minimum he was a demi-god; half human from his mother Mary and half god from his father Yahweh.

For Christians to claim that no one in the first century, pagan or Jew, would have believed that a human being could be raised from the dead, without seeing this resurrected dead man with their own eyes, is a false argument. Christians never claimed that a man rose from the dead. Christians claimed that a god rose from dead. People living in the Roman World in the first century had all kinds of wild, superstitious beliefs about what gods and demi-gods were capable of doing.

And here is another "epiphany": Would Christians ever state that God was dead for those three days while the human body of Jesus lay in the tomb? Of course not. So if Jesus is God, as Trinitarian Christians claim, then Jesus, the Son of God, eternal as the Father and one with his Father, the Creator God of the universe, never died. The human form in which he chose to abide for 33 years "died" and was placed in a grave...and disappeared...ceasing to exist. That human form did not walk out of the grave and appear to witnesses, did it? The "body" that did walk out of that tomb was not human.

A god walked out of that grave. A god who is eternal. A god who is incorruptible. A god who cannot be killed...if the Bible story is true.

So Jesus never died. Jesus was never resurrected. A god in human form went into that grave...alive, as the Trinitarian God of the Bible cannot die, and the same god in god-like human form walked or teleported out of that grave. The Christian claim that a dead man rose from the dead on Easter Sunday is completely false.

Rhology said...

Early Christians never preached that a human being had been raised from the dead.

Yes they did. Read the New Testament.


Early Christians preached that a god

"A" god? Ehrman's exegesis is as good as his book about the problem of evil - lousy.


Jesus was never truly human, if we are to believe what the Gospels tell us about him.

A mere assertion, with no evidence.


human beings do not walk on water.

God-men do.


at a minimum he was a demi-god; half human from his mother Mary and half god from his father Yahweh.

OOORRRRR He was 100% man and 100% God.


Would Christians ever state that God was dead for those three days while the human body of Jesus lay in the tomb? Of course not.

You don't know what "dead" means. Death is not cessation of existence, nor unconsciousness, nor soul sleep. It is the separation of the spirit from its body. Jesus, the God-man, was dead for those three days.


A god walked out of that grave

Not "a god". THE God.
The God-man.


Gary said...

Insert "Mohammand" for "Jesus" in all your above statements and suddenly all the supernatural assertions change from "fact" to "nonsense".

You have not proven that Jesus rose from the dead. You have not proven that Yahweh is the Creator God. You believe because you WANT to believe, not because there is evidence to prove it to a rational, educated, non-superstitious person.

Rhology said...

Huh?
No Muslim claims that Mohammed was divine in any way.


You have not proven that Jesus rose from the dead

I don't have to.
And you haven't proven that your worldview isn't completely absurd. In fact, you ran away screaming when challenged.


You believe because you WANT to believe, not because there is evidence to prove it to a rational, educated, non-superstitious person.

Pot, kettle.
One of us has analysed his faith with sober examination. The other has not.


Gary said...

Whether my world view is absurd or not is not the issue. The issue is and has always been: Is there evidence for the Resurrection.

You are desperately avoiding debating this point because you know you will lose.

Rhology said...

Yes, there is tons and tons and tons of evidence for the Resurrection... in a worldview that is not absurd, that can account for evidence. Which yours can't.

You still don't get it.
Before we discuss evidence, I want evidence that evidence is a good way to discover truth. Your worldview can't give any. So your worldview automatically is out.

Gary said...

"He was 100% man and 100% God."

Thank you for admitting that Jesus was not a human being. Human beings are not supernatural beings (gods) in any way, shape, or form. Jesus was a demi-god if we are to believe the Bible. Demi-gods are not normal humans. Demi-gods and gods have magical powers. Jesus had magical powers.

Therefore, Christians cannot claim that a "man" walked out of his tomb. Instead, they must admit under cross examination that a demi-god walked out of his tomb. Ancient pagan lore is full of gods and demi-gods doing all kinds of wild supernatural acts.

The claim that a god/demi-god had walked out of a tomb would not be inconceivable to first century pagans. It would have been inconceivable to most first century Jews...and that is exactly why the overwhelming majority of Jews did not buy this superstitious fable.

Rhology said...

Huh?

Gary said...

Muslims claim the Muhammad ascended into heaven, but I feel sure that you do not believe this claim. You probably think that it is a myth. Why is it strange to you that others might think similarly about the similar claim relating to Jesus?

Why is it that when Muslims claim miracles, Christians are rightly skeptical but when Christians claim miracles they are indisputable fact.

Gary said...

Christians have had 2,000 years to come up with some of the most mind-boggling double talk when it comes to Jesus' divinity. However, if you compare the Christian claims about Jesus to other pagan claims about gods, demi-gods, and humans of the first century this is what you will find:

1. Jesus was a god who chose to live on earth in the form of a human being.
2. The human form that he took functioned in most ways like a human (the need to eat, drink, sleep, urinate, etc.), however, this human form retained his divine powers. It could still defy the laws of physics by walking on water, teleporting to mountains and the top of the temple with Satan during his temptations, etc.
3. Upon the death of his bodily form, his spirit left that form and went to Hades to preach to the "prisoners" there, then on Easter Sunday, his spirit appeared to his followers in a human-like form, but not a true human body as he had occupied before. It looked in outline like the old corpus but did not have human qualities, but god-like qualities.

Jesus was a god, who temporarily became a demi-god, shed his human form as does a snake, and then appeared as a god in a human-in-form only divine body.

Jesus was never a true human being. A human being did not rise come out of the tomb, a god did, and the shell he had inhabited disappeared...if we are to believe the Bible.

Rhology said...

Yes, he ascended to heaven but then came back again, and later died. Not comparable to Jesus at all.


You probably think that it is a myth.

Yes, I do, b/c the Qur'an is not the Word of God, Mohammed was a false prophet.


Why is it strange to you that others might think similarly about the similar claim relating to Jesus?

I never said I thought it was strange. I say it's rationally indefensible.


Why is it that when Muslims claim miracles, Christians are rightly skeptical but when Christians claim miracles they are indisputable fact.

Let's see if you've learned anything from our discussion.
Answer this question from my perspective. Can you?

Gary said...

Sure, I'll answer: You and other fundamentalist Christians believe that what the Bible says is indisputable fact because your all-knowing, perfect god says it is fact, and the manner in which you know this is that the Bible tells you that he says this.

This is a circular argument. You are appealing to the Bible to validate the Bible, just as a fundamentalist Muslim would appeal to his holy book to validate his holy book.

Admit it, Rho. Your beliefs are based on blind faith and that is it. The problem is this: many fundamentalist religions on this planet demand blind faith to believe their supernatural story. Why should we believe your supernatural, magic-filled story over theirs?

Rhology said...

You are appealing to the Bible to validate the Bible,

You were doing fine until here.
No, we appeal to GOD. But the Bible doesn't need validation. It is the presupposition. One doesn't validate one's fundamental presupposition. It's impossible.


Your beliefs are based on blind faith and that is it.

We've been over this in the other thread, and you performed so miserable that you abandoned the debate entirely. So I don't think you want to go back toward that territory.



Why should we believe your supernatural, magic-filled story over theirs?

1) Because mine is true.
2) Because theirs are false, and one way we can know they are false is that they are internally inconsistent.
3) Another way we can know they are false is that they do not provide the necessary preconditions for reason and intelligibility.

Rhology said...

magic-filled

This is false.
Does it bother you, that you misrepresent my position often?

Gary said...

Dear Readers:

Imagine if someone wanted to debate Rho on the historicity of the Holocaust. However, instead of discussing the evidence for this event, Rho insisted that the other party first present his worldview, specifically how can one know if ANYTHING is real or historical. In other words, "How do you know that the chair that you are sitting in his real or just a figment of your imagination?"

Wouldn't this seem ridiculous? However, this is Rho insists on doing with me, before he will discuss the "tons and tons of evidence" for the Christian claim that a dead man was reanimated, walked out of his grave, and eventually levitated into the sky and was teleported to the outer limits of outer space.

If there is "tons and tons" of evidence, why does Rho need to resort to this silly philosophical nonsense?

Gary said...

"Because mine is true."

Prove it. Right here, right now.

Rhology said...

I already did prove it on the other thread, and you ran away screaming. Anyone can read it.
The Bible is the highest form of evidence, anywhere. It says the Resurrection happened. That is sufficient.


However, instead of discussing the evidence for this event, Rho insisted that the other party first present his worldview, specifically how can one know if ANYTHING is real or historical.

The Holocaust is not central to redemptive history and the question of whether God is real and such. It's not a good analogy.
And yes, if atheism is true we can't know whether the Holocaust happened, and that's b/c we can't know ANYTHING.


why does Rho need to resort to this silly philosophical nonsense?

LOL - asking whether the external world is true and whether our senses and reasoning are valid is "silly" and "nonsense".
It's clear who cares about the truth here.

Gary said...

Rho, you are being downright ridiculous. Now, exactly where did you give me the proof that the Bible is the inerrant word of the Creator God? Please copy and paste your statement from the other post that made me run off "screaming".

Gary said...

Have you been caught telling a fib, Rho? You never did give me evidence, did you? I never did "run away" from your evidence, did I?

If you still want to claim that I did, and prove that you did not tell a non-truth, prove it by copying and pasting it here for all to see.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary,

The field of economics has an axiom of rationality. I.e., that man is rational, and will rationally choose the better alternative.

I always laughed at this presupposition because people choose badly so often, and oftentimes deliberately.

But let's assume that you're a rational person, and when you're confronted with choices about God or no-God or maybe-God or Jesus is God, you rationally choose the one that stacks up the best.

Reasonable assumption about you? Or not a reasonable assumption about you?

If reasonable, then I propose this: Subject your worldview of agnosticism to your Christian therapist Rho for thorough examination. If it's shown to be hopelessly flawed and incoherent, then you are left looking for alternatives as a matter of intellectual and moral integrity, are you not?

If your current worldview or current belief system or current faith is left in shambles, then asking Rho to make a positive case for Christianity amidst the competing voices of Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, etc.... is reasonable once your worldview is shown to be self-contradictory and intellectually untenable.

Accept?

Gary said...

Silence.

I think we all can see why? Rho told a lie and has been caught.

Rhology said...

Yawn. Let the reader judge by the contents of the thread.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary,

Atheism and agnosticism are rejected by many/most people because of the lack of reason, evidence, and logic to support atheism and atheism-lite (aka agnosticism).

On the other hand, Biblical Christianity coheres wonderfully with reason, evidence, logic, truth, and beauty.

Submit your worldview to the magnifying glass, Gary, and have Rho put it under deep magnification and examination.

Accept Gary. You have nothing to lose except your blustering stupidity.

Gary said...

Tuad,

You are so pathetically brainwashed it is scary.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary,

You're fearful and afraid of answering Rho's questions. Admit it.

Gary said...

Tuad,

What evidence do you have that causes you to believe that a divine ghost resides in your brain (soul)?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary,

Why are you afraid of Rho's questions? Are you afraid that they'll reveal the intellectual vacuity of what you now believe?

If not, then put them under examination.

Gary said...

Why don't you fulfill your promise to discuss the evidence (or lack thereof) for the Resurrection? I never agreed to debate the reality of the existence of the chair I am sitting on, which is the philosophical nonsense Rho wants to chase.

Where's your evidence, Tuad? Why don't you just admit that you have none and we can call it a day? Or has the virgin-impregnating invisible ghost residing in the "soul" compartment of your brain telling you not to?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary, the evidence for one of the facts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was provided to you on the prior thread:

"Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea's Tomb"

You rejected the overwhelming evidence (28-2 in favor) of Jesus buried in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb.

Moreover, this illustrates that you're not an adequate judge of evidence.

Given how pathetically poor that you are at evaluating evidence, I provided a HIGHLY eminent scholar and expert on the assessment of evidence who took the time to examine the evidence for Jesus' Resurrection for you to read: Simon Greenleaf, Harvard Law Professor.

He's FAR, FAR, FAR more capable than you are on what constitutes good and sound evidence. His conclusion: Jesus Physically and Historically Resurrected.

Given your inability to reason things through honestly and intelligently, the next step is to examine why this is the case. Hence, the offer to submit your worldview to Rho for cross-examination. Again, you run away screaming, just like you ran away from the evidence.

Gary, why do you willingly shame yourself like this?

Gary said...

This idea struck me as I was reading this fascinating article from the contributors at Freedom From Religion Foundation: here

How do Evangelicals and the Reformed answer this question:

"If Jesus' resurrected body has been in one location only ever since his Ascension---seated at the right hand of the Father---as all Reformed denominations, including Evangelicals, teach, how did Jesus appear bodily to Saul of Tarsus (Paul) on the Damascus Road???"

Either the Reformed and Evangelicals must admit that Jesus' resurrected body can be in more than one place at the same time (the right hand of the Father in heaven and at the very same time on the Damascus Road), which would mean that the Reformed criticism of the impossibility of the bodily presence in the Holy Sacrament of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox is in error, or, the Reformed and Evangelicals must admit that Paul could not have seen a body on the Damascus Road...or at any other time in his life...as Jesus had already years before ascended to the Father's right hand!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary, Jesus as God the Son obviously has a great relationship with God the Father.

So Gary, how is your relationship with your father, a Baptist/evangelical minister? Is your dad alive?

Gary, how would you assess your relationship with your own father growing up and now? Did you guys have a close relationship?

Is your dad still alive? If so, have you told him that you reject Christ as your Lord and Savior? That you firmly believe that Jesus is NOT God?

If your dad has passed away, what do you think your dad would say to you rejecting Jesus Christ as God?

Gary said...

Hey Tuad,

How about you stick to the subject and answer my question: How was Jesus' resurrected body able to be at the right hand of the Father and on the Damascus Road at the same time.

Trying to change the subject back to me isn't going to work.

Rhology said...

"If Jesus' resurrected body has been in one location only ever since his Ascension---seated at the right hand of the Father---as all Reformed denominations, including Evangelicals, teach, how did Jesus appear bodily to Saul of Tarsus (Paul) on the Damascus Road???"

He hadn't ascended to Heaven when the Emmaus road encounter occurred.
And Paul saw a vision of Jesus. There's no necessity to think Jesus was physically present in the sky.

Gary said...

Excellent! Paul only had a vision. He did not see a real (but transformed) body.

You have just removed one "eyewitness" from your list of eyewitnesses to the Resurrection. Now, isn't it possible that all the other witnesses also only had visions?

Rhology said...

Huh?
He saw a vision OF THE RESURRECTED JESUS.
He saw the real Jesus. In a vision. His vision was supernaturally tele-viewed to look at Jesus where He was at the time.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary, have you told your father and mother you're an apostate?

The holidays are coming up, Thanksgiving and Christmas. When are you going to tell your dad and mom that you've rejected Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior?

Have you told them yet? If so, how did that go?

If not, when are you going to tell them? Before the holidays? On the day of the holiday? Or never.

Are you going to keep your apostasy secret from your dad and mom, Gary?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Famous British Author G.K. Chesterton is rather prophetic when he wrote of the misery of the apostate who despises what he formerly loved:

"They cannot get out of the penumbra of Christian controversy. They cannot be Christians and they cannot leave off being Anti-Christians. Their whole atmosphere is the atmosphere of a reaction: sulks, perversity, petty criticism. They still live in the shadow of the faith and have lost the light of the faith.

Now the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows now what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard. . . . It would be better to walk past a church as if it were a pagoda than to stand permanently in the porch, impotent either to go inside and help or to go outside and forget. (The Everlasting Man, pp. 10-12)."

As Reform Pastor Kevin DeYoung says: "The severest critics of Christianity are those who, having walked away from the faith of their younger years, cannot help but camp out in the driveway of orthodoxy and throw bricks at the house they once inhabited."

Both G.K. Chesterton and Pastor Kevin DeYoung could easily be describing pastor's kid, Gary, now an avid Christ-rejector.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Christ-Rejector Gary,

The Wintery Knight has just put up a post that fits in so well with where you seem to be:

If You Find a Discrepancy in the Bible, Does That Mean that Jesus Didn't Exist?

"Even if we don’t know whether there was one angel or two angels at Jesus’ tomb, we can still know things about whether God exists and whether Jesus rose from the dead.

First, we can know that the universe was created and designed because of reliable, experimental evidence that the universe came into being and is finely-tuned for life. And second, we can know that Jesus was buried, that his tomb was found empty, that a variety of people had experiences of him appearing to them after his death, and that the Christian movement had an early belief that he was resurrected from the dead. We know those core things like we know anything – because we have good evidence. Other things that are more peripheral may not be as supported by evidence. We can remain agnostic about those peripheral things, but that agnosticism about peripheral things doesn’t undermine the things that we know.

William Lane Craig answered a question related to this problem for a person who accepted the minimal facts case for the resurrection but then though that someone this case couldn’t work unless he accepted inerrancy as well.

Here’s the question:

After re-evaluating my Christian faith and pruning it for two years, I can’t shake what seem like two disparate conclusions. One is that the evidence for Jesus resurrection is impecable. But the other is that there seem to be some very awkward realities about the composition of scripture (like errors or authors claiming to write by another name). Yet, the authors of the New Testament, including Jesus, seem to use Scripture in a way that assumes it is word for word from God.

While inductive logic is used to arrive at a strong historical case for the resurrection of Jesus, inductive logic can also be used to arrive at a strong case for many of the peculiaraties about Scripture previously mentioned.

It seems that the approach which many apologists take at this point is that, having established the authority of Jesus by the resurrection, if the argument being raised against scripture contradicts an opinion expressed by Jesus in the Gospels, then the argument for a contradiction must have no possible harmonizations for it to really stick. But I don’t see how this is fair to say, since (1) it seems unfair to use inductive logic to evidence Jesus’ resurrection but then not use it for criticisms against the Bible and (2) an inductive argument can be strong despite what Jesus as recorded in the Gospels says, especially since we cannot assume the precision with which many of the saying were recorded. And (3), anybody can cook up a harmonization of some verse that is possible but not plausible, which I am sure you have seen first hand many times.

Yet, holding these two positions in tension tends to be corrosive to my faith and ultimately leads to a certain bitterness against God for allowing the biblical writers to play fast-and-loose with his words and for not providing a clarity that brings more certainty about what is from him and what isn’t. Any help you can give to relieve this tension would be greatly appreciated.
"

(Cont.)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Now Dr. Craig has a long response on his Reasonable Faith web site, but I just want to quote you this:

But secondly, suppose you’ve done all that and are still convinced that Scripture is not inerrant. Does that mean that the deity and resurrection of Christ go down the drain? No, not all. [...]As you recognize, we have a very strong case for the resurrection of Jesus. That case in no way depends on the Bible’s being inerrant. This became very clear to me during my doctoral studies in Munich with Wolfhart Pannenberg. Pannenberg had rocked German theology by maintaining that a sound historical case can be made for the resurrection of Jesus. Yet he also believed that the Gospel resurrection appearances stories are so legendary that they have scarcely a historical kernel in them! He did not even trust the Markan account of the discovery of the empty tomb. Rather his argument was founded on the early pre-Pauline tradition about the appearances in I Corinthians 15.3-5 and on the consideration that a movement based on the resurrection of dead man would have been impossible in Jerusalem in the face of a tomb containing his corpse.

Evangelicals sometimes give lip service to the claim that the Gospels are historically reliable, even when examined by the canons of ordinary historical research; but I wonder if they really believe this. It really is true that a solid, persuasive case for Jesus’ resurrection can be made without any assumption of the Gospels’ inerrancy.

By contrast, the case for Jesus’ belief that the Old Testament Scriptures are inerrant is much weaker. I think there’s no doubt that (5) is the premiss that would have to go if biblical inerrancy were to be abandoned. We should have to re-think our doctrine of inspiration in that case, but we needn’t give up belief in God or in Jesus, as Bart Ehrman did. Ehrman had, it seems to me, a flawed theological system of beliefs as a Christian. It seems that at the center of his web of theological beliefs was biblical inerrancy, and everything else, like the beliefs in the deity of Christ and in his resurrection, depended on that. Once the center was gone, the whole web soon collapsed. But when you think about it, such a structure is deeply flawed. At the center of our web of beliefs ought to be some core belief like the belief that God exists, with the deity and resurrection of Christ somewhere near the center. The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture will be somewhere further out and inerrancy even farther toward the periphery as a corollary of inspiration. If inerrancy goes, the web will feel the reverberations of that loss, as we adjust our doctrine of inspiration accordingly, but the web will not collapse because belief in God and Christ and his resurrection and so on don’t depend upon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.


We have mainstream scientific evidence for God’s existence, and a mainstream historical evidence for a minimal facts case for the resurrection. None of that evidence depends on inerrancy being true.

So can we please just accept what can be known from experimental science and standard historical methods, and work our lives around that, and not nitpick about peripheral issues so much? I am inerrantist, and so is Dr. Craig. But you don’t have to be in order to accept that the mainstream evidence that shows that universe was created and fine-tuned, and that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead. Don’t let “one angel vs two angels “stop you from accepting things we can know. You can just stay agnostic about the things you think we don’t know.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gary,

Here's an article titled the Most Honest Atheist in the World.

The Atlantic has published a startlingly honest article by Crispin Sartwell, as you can see even from it’s title, Irrational Atheism: Not Believing in God Isn’t Always Based on Reasoned Arguments And That’s OK. In it Sartwell admits:

•The atheistic worldview “is similar to the worldview of religion—neither can be shown to be true or false by science, or indeed by any rational technique. Whether theistic or atheistic, they are all matters of faith, stances taken up by tiny creatures in an infinitely rich environment.”
•His view of the universe as a natural, material system is based on his interpretation of his experience not on a rational argument.
•“I have taken a leap of atheist faith.”
•Atheism can be as much a product of family, social, and institutional context as religious faith.
•“The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false.”
•Just as religious people have often offloaded the burden of their choices on church dogma, so some atheists are equally willing to offload their beliefs on “reason” or “science” without acknowledging that they are making a bold intellectual commitment about the nature of the universe, and making it with utterly insufficient data.
•Science rests on emotional commitment (that there is a truth), a passionate affirmation of desire, in which our social system backs us up.

What a refreshing blast of humble and honest air! You cannot but admire such a sincere, transparent, and honorable atheist.

But the article ends on a painfully sad note, which may partly explain Sartwell’s atheism, and maybe even his humility:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Cont.


Genuinely bad things have happened to me in my life: One of my brothers was murdered; another committed suicide. I’ve experienced addiction and mental illness. And I, like you, have watched horrors unfold all over the globe. I don’t—I can’t—believe this to be best of all possible worlds. I think there is genuinely unredeemed, pointless pain. Some of it is mine.

By not believing in God, I keep faith with the world’s indifference. I love its beauty. I hate its suffering…I’m perfectly sincere and definite in my belief that there is no God. I can see that there could be comfort in believing otherwise, believing that all the suffering and death makes sense, that everyone gets what they deserve, and that existence works out in the end.

But to believe that would be to betray my actual experiences, and even without the aid of reasoned arguments, that’s reason enough not to believe.


As is so often the case, the agony of suffering is a large contributor to Sartwell’s atheistic faith. There are many like him, young and old, who find personal and global pain an insurmountable obstacle to Christian faith. In my experience, quoting Romans 8:28, preaching God’s sovereignty, or offering philosophical arguments about suffering in such situations is usually ineffective.

If I had the opportunity, I’d take Crispin to the historic events around Calvary and especially to the sufferings of God’s Son. I’d try to keep him at the cross as long as possible, and I’d work at explaining what happened there and how this is the only way into the power and wisdom of God. It’s also the way God calls both religionists and atheists to saving faith. As the Apostle Paul said:


We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).