A Facebook Conversation With a Theist Pastor

Posted: October 23, 2014 in Conversations With Theists
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Hi Mike, I would like to chat some time. No judging – just want to know where you are at spiritually. It is good to question…I left church at your age for all the wrong reasons…so wherever you are – you are still my almost nephew

By the way – I think your beard and ‘stache look awesome.

May 21st, 7:17pm
Hi ______, It’s great to hear from you. Thanks for the compliments. The beard disappeared last week but it may come back at some point. As far as how I’m doing spiritually and the answer is I’m doing great; although we may have slightly different definitions of the word.

About four years ago I started to ask myself why I believe what I believe and I couldn’t come up with an answer that would satisfy me so I decide to follow the evidence and began to examine my beliefs from different perspectives including the historical record, biology, and the Bible as literature. In the beginning I thought that the evidence would corroborate what I had been raised to believe as truth, but I found quite the opposite: I discovered that there is actually no contemporary historical record of the man Jesus ever existing outside of the stories that are found in the canon of Scripture and the Gnostics along with a number of other historical problems. I found that biology does not validate the creation story at all but rather proves that life came about through the process of evolution by natural selection over the course of billions of years. This is no longer a hypothesis, but held as scientific fact. I also found that the Bible as literature is full of additions after the fact, multiple mistakes in translation and contradictions. I have come to the conclusion that in order for me to believe in what I once did, I would have to ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and have not yet been presented with enough or any evidence to demonstrate the existence of a God although I would be open to it if it could be found.

Friday 8:34am

I love your questioning mind…I just wish we had had this conversation four years ago. I will try not to brainwash you but would love to challenge some of your statements. Under the historiical record category…Josephus – a Jewish historian recorded that Jesus was not a fictional character – and although a contemporary was not a Christian at the time of his record – to the best understanding of historians. Under the biology category – that is a HUGE discussion where I have more questions than answers. It is also where my faith starts. While I do not totally disagree, my faith is in the statement “and he breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul”. How that biological process took place – I was not there Dinosaur bones do not destroy my faith as they did for much of the western world – they just raise more questions as to how/why/etc. Faith is always a choice – it begins where sight (physical evidence) ends. Conversely, no amount of evidence can force people to believe. Reasonable faith is possible, in spite of the great minds who do not believe and who argue so loudly against the existence of God.

Looking back at the three or four years I spent as an agnostic, I realize now that the existential philosohy that so influenced me to NOT believe had its origins in a philosophical argument to prove the EXISTENCE of God. Rene Descartes died in 1650 but his doctoral thesis “I think therefore I am” became the fulcrum of almost 400 years of existential thought…that has more atheists than believers arguing points…

The science that rocked my faith more than anything was the statement that “God is a God of order” Mathematicians have discovered that there is as much chaos as there is order in the universe – and that messes them up, since mathematics is trying to explain the physical universe by measuring it. Chaos, by its definition, evades formulas. I would love to continue the discussion, if you would and either way challenge you to keep searching.

Suggested reading – Phillip Yancy – books like “What Good is God?” or Lee Strobel “A case for Faith” or “”A case for Christ”.

2 minutes ago – Mike Greenslade
I finally got a day off so I can get back to you. You have presented many points and I will try to hit them all. The Testimonium Flavian, a passage from Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, is often cited by apologists as independent, 1st century confirmation of the existence of Jesus. An article on Iron Chariots puts it best: “Although apologists sometimes bring this up in response to claims that there is no independent verification of the existence of Jesus, Josephus was born around 37 CE, which is after the purported life of Jesus. Thus, Josephus was neither a contemporary nor an eyewitness, but was reporting information received from others. The actual Testimonium Flavianum appears in Antiquities of the Jews which was published c. 94 CE, 60 years after the purported death of Jesus. Additionally, this passage is largely considered to be a late Christian interpolation. While scholars used to think that the entire passage was a forgery written in the 4th century, they now believe that the Testimonium was based on an authentic core but was embellished by Christian writers. That is, Josephus did write something about Jesus but whatever it was, it was massively embellished by later Christians.” http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Testimonium_Flavian

I agree the biology category is a discussion is one that could be very lengthy indeed. I read a book recently though that I would recommend that explains the evidence backing evolution by natural selection; The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. In his book Dawkins (a renowned biologist and professor at Oxford University) makes a case for evolution and demonstrates that there is no other scientific theory that possesses as much evidence. With regards to faith and the argument from ignorance that so many apologists and great minds of the past have argued, I just can’t put stock in an unjustifiable belief. Neil Degrasse Tyson brings up a good point on this subject in a recent interview: http://youtu.be/yy5yWdVHv3o?t=6m28s

Conversely, if there were any evidence of a God existing which one would he, she or it be? One could argue that every religion in the world is based on some measure of faith. How do we know which one is right? How do we know that any of them are right? Each belief system would have a very similar answer to support their beliefs. History has shown us that as the frontier of our understanding of science expands superstitious and religious beliefs fall away because we now do not need a god or unknown character to explain what we now understand.

As for Descartes’ thesis; I have heard of it and know that it is the basis of much discussion in the field of philosophy, but I have not yet read it and therefore cannot yet comment on it. I will add it to my reading list and get back to you on the subject. I think that we are in agreement that the statement “God is a God of order” is somewhat misleading and I would be curious to find its origins. To make this pronouncement about his character puts him in direct conflict with reality and does not give an explanation for the actualities that exist in our universe that demonstrate disorder like the chaos you have mentioned. Additionally one doesn’t have to look as far as the universe to see even more compelling evidence of chaos as Seth Andrews portrays in one of his videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v83X9-oJ-w&list=PL1DA0C8985FAE1C22&feature=share&index=1. I think we can agree that if God exists he is certainly not a god of order.

I haven’t read What Good is God, But I will add that to my reading list as well. I have, however read Lee Strobel’s A Case for Faith, A Case for Christ and A Case for a Creator. Although they were compelling at the time that I read them while in Bible College, I now see that Lee has a very misleading and dishonest approach to how he presents his “evidence”. When one takes a skeptical look at his writings and in particular the claims that his “experts” offer, most are outright lies and an affront to real scientific evidence. An example is his continued use of Discovery Institute as his source for scientists to back his claims. One of these scientists was Jonathan Wells http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Wells_%28intelligent_design_advocate%29 who “Some reviewers of Icons of Evolution have said that Wells misquoted experts cited as sources and took minor issues out of context, basing his argument on a flawed syllogism. Also, Wells’ views on evolution have been rejected by the scientific community.” In A Case for A Creator Wells presents an outright lie about Stanley Miller’s 1953 experiment to demonstrate the spontaneous formation of simple organic compounds in an atmosphere similar to that of the early earth’s.

The Discovery Institute is an advocate of intelligent design and favors religious beliefs above the actual science involved and has been found to twist and distort actual science to advocate their views. I would evaluate Lee Strobel’s works as those of a Journalist with a presupposition who will only use references that support that presupposition and ignore the actual evidence to create a story that fits within the parameters of his views. I will still keep searching. I have a feeling this search will last a lifetime, but is an interesting one none the less. I am always open to new information or evidence.

5/29, 10:34pm
Mike, I appreciate how you have read volumes of material (perhaps more than I have!). I also appreciate your willingness to discuss – for the record I do not consider myself a great apologist-I am more concerned about being a Book of James Christian (“true religion is this…”) than even answering my own questions. But your points are intriguing and I will review and try to read the sources you mentioned in the next week or two. Hope we can chat from time to time.
5/30, 1:01am
Thanks for your insight, I can see by your language that you truly do care about people. I admire and respect that. Please do not misinterpret my words as any sort of attack on Christianity. I am still searching and don’t have all of the answers
I look forward to chatting in the future.

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