Before I continue on with further snapshots of my faith(less) journey, I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge the significant population, including some reading this, who generally accept and acknowledge modern scientific conclusions regarding origins and find this no obstacle to their belief in a deity.

This group will say “of course” to my evidentiary findings about cosmology, geology and biological evolution, and perhaps be dumbfounded how such facts could be new to me. With them, I find some kinship in the embrace of reason and non-denial. If we can celebrate our ever-expanding scientific knowledge of the natural world together, then I consider any differences of opinion on the supernatural to be matters of taste and we have no quarrel.

That said, in the spirit of the internet, please allow me to expand on our narrow band of difference for just a minute.

At the risk of broadly generalizing in an area where no two humans hold identical positions, it seems to me that science-and-faith harmonizers interpret portions of the scripture as purely (or partially) allegorical rather than historical. They say the Old Testament tales are there to teach a divine truth to the original audience, in the same vein as the parables of Jesus. A historical good Samaritan isn’t important to the lesson being taught, and neither is a historical Adam. Or Noah. Or Moses.

Probably the best-known modern Christian allegory is C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Certainly students and scholars interpret nuggets of “truth” and “spiritual insight” amidst the take of a lion who is killed in place of another. A comic series I wrote, Neozoic, is an allegory for Israel under the reign of Saul and David all told with dinosaur-kill-squads. On what basis can one say that the clearly-written-by-humans-as-a-product-of-their-time allegories of Genesis are any more divine than these?

The absurd opinions in the writings of Answers in Genesis played a key role in turning me away from Biblical literalism, but I find myself agreeing with them when it comes to the slippery slope of picking-and-choosing what parts of the Bible one chooses to accept.

Once Christian leaders concede that we shouldn’t interpret the Bible as written in Genesis, why should the world take heed of God’s Word in any area? Because the church has told the world that one can use man’s interpretation of the world, such as billions of years, to reinterpret the Bible, this Book is seen as an outdated, scientifically incorrect holy book not intended to be believed as written.

As each subsequent generation has pushed this door of compromise open farther and farther, they are increasingly not accepting the morality or salvation of the Bible either. After all, if the history in Genesis is not correct, how can one be sure the rest is correct?

And despite my skeptical view of the gospels, I’m particularly inclined to agree with these words attributed to Jesus.

“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

Since the gospels have Jesus speaking about Noah (Matthew 24:37-39), I can’t believe him on earthly things. (OK, that could maybe be Jesus talking about the legend of non-historical Noah, like we might talk about Sherlock Holmes as a common literary communication point. But Jesus also affirms the likely-allegorical Moses and Jonah, said the moon gave light, expected figs out of season, and came out against hand-washing a few times, to mention but a few shaky earthly details. And he may be allegory himself.) 

Why would anyone provide leniency on the earthly things that can be verified, but take the non-verifiable heavenly things at face value? If someone claimed to have a dog and a spaceship, but had no dog, would you still pack for his promised trip to Mars? And how could one begin to choose? Is the Bible a buffet where you load up your plate with only what is palatable? To me, such an exercise is to create a personal God in one’s own image.

If the falsifiable claims of the Bible are to be considered allegorical to be relevant, then one is left to rely on whatever remains without evidence… also called faith. (And Hebrews 11:6 applauds you.)

For me, I will start with that which can be demonstrated with evidence to be true and remain skeptical of the rest.

How do you reconcile? How do you choose?

16 thoughts on “Reduction to Allegory

  1. Paul,
    I can empathize with a lot of what you say. Certainly as a scientist I especially can’t take much of Gen 1 – 11 literally. For years I tried to find a way to read Gen 1 – 11 in a concordant fashion, but I had to eventually admit that any such hermeneutic becomes too contorted. However so much of the Christian faith explains the human experience in a nuanced way, and I had experienced what I considered real spiritual experiences, so I wasn’t going to reject the Christian faith.
    In reading more about Genesis, I came to the conclusion that the issue is two fold, the genre of Gen 1 – 11, and how the ancient Hebrews would have understood the stories. I realized even the conservative, Evangelical OT scholars consider Gen 1-11 as its own genre – primitive history. As for the genre Gen 1:1 – 2:4, it is even more clear that a literal interpretation was not intended. Two books I found helpful are “How to Read Genesis ” by Tremper Longman III and “The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate” by John H. Walton. I think scholars like these honor the inerrancy of the Bible with nuanced and context- and linguistic- conscious interpretation.
    I also find the pure materialist view of science and humanity less explanitory and less satisfying. I think many of them make non-scientific assertions that are less justified than a Christian worldview.
    I would be glad for dialog more about specific issues. I do appreciate your honesty – bring it on.
    Peace to you,
    Michael Huster

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  2. I agree with you 100%, you cannot pick and choose parts of the Bible you like and decide that these are true while others are not for whatever reason. If one was to accept the Bible’s claims that it is the inerrant Word of God then to pick and choose passages, this would disregard the Bible as an authoritative source placing yourself as primary authority … yourself as god. You cannot be a part-time Christian, the Bible is clear that It is the source of absolute truth, you are not. If you think otherwise you are not a Christian. That’s what the Bible says.

    That said, perhaps what George Bernard Shaw said is pertinent to the discussion “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.”

    No you cannot allegorize the whole bible, but there needs to be recognition that the Bible is a collection of 66 books with numerous authors (divine authorship we’ll discuss later). Within these texts are numerous genres of literature. Therefore you will find parts that are historical, others that are stories, and so on.

    “If the falsifiable claims of the Bible are to be considered allegorical to be relevant” -Paul Ens
    It appears to me that you have created unnatural rivalry between science and the Bible. The Bible is not a science text book, nor does it claim to be. As Shaw suggested, I think you are trying to force upon the Bible a requirement to answer questions it does not give answers to and then lambasting it for failing your test. When talking about creation (falsifiable claim?), the Bible tells us that God created, it doesn’t tell us how. The Christian is therefore open to allow science to describe the how as best it can.

    “For me, I will start with that which can be demonstrated with evidence to be true and remain skeptical of the rest.” -Paul Ens
    I’m curious, do you require for all that you believe things to be tested/demonstrated yourself or do you rely on third party affirmation. Would me writing about my grandmother’s experience in Nazi Germany be reliable considering I’m writing about it after the fact and I’ve gathered my information from someone else and not seen it myself?

    The fact is that you have made a choice “by faith” that in this case the Theory of Evolution is true. Yes there are facts and evidence that the Theory uses in its explanation, but there is no exhaustive proof that it is true. Moreover when going back to the farthest point, the point of singularity, there is no explanation as to what started it all or why. So by faith again you decide to accept that it just happened. How is your choice of faith different than one who chooses to believe that God was the starting point and evolution took over under His directive hand?

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    1. IT APPEARS TO ME THAT YOU HAVE CREATED UNNATURAL RIVALRY BETWEEN SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE. THE BIBLE IS NOT A SCIENCE TEXT BOOK, NOR DOES IT CLAIM TO BE. AS SHAW SUGGESTED, I THINK YOU ARE TRYING TO FORCE UPON THE BIBLE A REQUIREMENT TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IT DOES NOT GIVE ANSWERS TO AND THEN LAMBASTING IT FOR FAILING YOUR TEST. WHEN TALKING ABOUT CREATION (FALSIFIABLE CLAIM?), THE BIBLE TELLS US THAT GOD CREATED, IT DOESN’T TELL US HOW. THE CHRISTIAN IS THEREFORE OPEN TO ALLOW SCIENCE TO DESCRIBE THE HOW AS BEST IT CAN.

      I’m not forcing the Bible to answer questions it doesn’t answer. I ask it no science questions at all. I do take the claims it makes and test them. If the Bible were silent on such matters, I would have no quibble. The Bible is specific on creation ordering, for example — an order we know to be false. (The Earth is much younger than then sun, the opposite of Genesis 1.) I think you would tell me that Earth-first-creation is not a scientific claim, and that’s precisely what I mean by considering the passage to be allegorical to be relevant. I think we agree here.

      As my entries go along, we will have the same discussion about the Bible’s authority on matters of history.

      I’M CURIOUS, DO YOU REQUIRE FOR ALL THAT YOU BELIEVE THINGS TO BE TESTED/DEMONSTRATED YOURSELF OR DO YOU RELY ON THIRD PARTY AFFIRMATION. WOULD ME WRITING ABOUT MY GRANDMOTHER’S EXPERIENCE IN NAZI GERMANY BE RELIABLE CONSIDERING I’M WRITING ABOUT IT AFTER THE FACT AND I’VE GATHERED MY INFORMATION FROM SOMEONE ELSE AND NOT SEEN IT MYSELF?

      The evidence required for the acceptance of a claim is proportional to the extraordinary nature of the claim and also to the consequences of making a wrong judgement.

      In your example, it would depend on the nature of the experiences presented. I have enough external evidence to accept the historical reality of Nazi Germany and some basic facts about the second World War. Based on your age, I could estimate that your grandmother is believably in the age range to have had such experiences. If any of her claims were extraordinary (like Germany winning, witnessing Captain America, surviving a Nazi robot attack), I would certainly require additional evidence beyond your writings. If the claims in your writing were ordinary, I would treat them exactly as a second-hand interpretation of possibly exaggerated, fallible recollections of events decades old.

      As the consequences to me of being deceived by a completely incorrect article are relatively low, I would leave it at that. If the article made negative assertions about my family, was going to be the basis of my own works, or promised me the key to Nazi gold, more consideration would be required.

      THE FACT IS THAT YOU HAVE MADE A CHOICE “BY FAITH” THAT IN THIS CASE THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION IS TRUE. YES THERE ARE FACTS AND EVIDENCE THAT THE THEORY USES IN ITS EXPLANATION, BUT THERE IS NO EXHAUSTIVE PROOF THAT IT IS TRUE.

      The English language has many shortcomings. Faith can mean “confidence” (warranted or unwarranted), but it also means belief without sufficient evidence. This latter kind of faith is a Biblical virtue. (John 20:29) Christians are proud of it. We don’t know, so God.

      I became convinced by the preponderance of evidence that evolution by natural selection is the best known explanation for the variety of life on our planet. It explains all current evidence and no known evidence contradicts it. It is the evidence that leads to the conclusion, like a guilty verdict in a court of law. (The sufficiency of evidence will be different for different people, but I will not take on your assertion that I knowingly have insufficient evidence.)

      Only math receives exhaustive proofs. Even the theory of gravity has not been proven, but I doubt you consider it a matter of faith.

      MOREOVER WHEN GOING BACK TO THE FARTHEST POINT, THE POINT OF SINGULARITY, THERE IS NO EXPLANATION AS TO WHAT STARTED IT ALL OR WHY. SO BY FAITH AGAIN YOU DECIDE TO ACCEPT THAT IT JUST HAPPENED. HOW IS YOUR CHOICE OF FAITH DIFFERENT THAN ONE WHO CHOOSES TO BELIEVE THAT GOD WAS THE STARTING POINT AND EVOLUTION TOOK OVER UNDER HIS DIRECTIVE HAND?

      No, you mischaracterize. I don’t accept on faith that “it just happened”. There was a cause. I would make no claim about that cause because I do not know what happened in the microseconds before the Big Bang (so terribly named as there was no explosion at all). No one does (yet).

      I suspect that it was a material cause, because there is no evidence of a supernatural cause and proposed material causes seem sufficient. But I make no claim in which to have faith. Some deity may well have kicked off the whole process, without leaving any fingerprints.

      As I mentioned in this post, I would have much in common with the person you describe and salute their evidence-based conclusions. I would merely wonder why they add the unnecessary supernatural assumption.

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  3. I fear that regardless of which side of the debate you may fall Shaw’s statement is relevant. “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.” If you come to a text with any preconceived notions you will find what you are looking for. Reviewing the Genesis text under the presumption that it is wrong will give you what you are looking for regardless of what the text actually says. We have seen this throughout Christian history where with a particular world view in mind and a specific agenda sections of the Bible are touted as “proof” of a particular thought, when in fact any amount of intelligent scrutiny would say otherwise.

    “THE BIBLE IS SPECIFIC ON CREATION ORDERING, FOR EXAMPLE — AN ORDER WE KNOW TO BE FALSE. (THE EARTH IS MUCH YOUNGER THAN THEN SUN, THE OPPOSITE OF GENESIS 1.)”

    Perhaps I am simple minded, but I do not see the order of creation you see and consider wrong. When reviewing the creation account it is important to recognize the center of the focus is not the rest of the universe but rather the earth and its inhabitants. This means that it is possible that there are background things happening/ in process that are not directly relevant to the context of the creation story.

    Genesis 1:1-“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – God is the point of origin of all things

    Gen. 1:2 “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” How can the earth be formless and empty yet contain water? What was the beginning of the earth? It started from nothing. What are these waters? Could they be the primordial soup of evolution or perhaps this is what was before the point of singularity.

    Gen 1:3-5 “Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Why is light created here and then again later on day 4, are these different lights? Perhaps this light was the point of singularity, where it all began. If this references the point of singularity obviously the existence of stars, planets … and the earth came into existence.

    Our frame of reference is now the earth.

    Gen 1:6-8 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.” Pretty straight forward, the creation of an atmosphere and body of water below. How water got here is not detailed, only that it was here and separated.

    Skipping to Day 4

    Gen 1:14-18 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
    We see here that lights in the sky become visible. Is it possible that before this point the atmosphere was to dense to allow for the visibility of sun, moon and stars? Perhaps. If there was a greenhouse effect due to a dense atmosphere would there have been seasons prior to this? Perhaps not. We see the creation of seasons and potentially time.

    Interestingly this these comments/ observations have been based on a linear horizontal view of time. What if the God who is outside of time completed these activities outside of time? What effect would that have on the timeline and the scientific evidence we find today?

    Are these musings the ravings of a simpleton? Perhaps. Do these contort scripture to say something that it does not? I don’t think so. What is evident is that you cannot off handedly dismiss the biblical account because upon a cursory read you see the sun on day 4 and the earth listed before it, just as you would not allow me to dismiss the Theory of Evolution because it is “just a theory”.

    THE EVIDENCE REQUIRED FOR THE ACCEPTANCE OF A CLAIM IS PROPORTIONAL TO THE EXTRAORDINARY NATURE OF THE CLAIM AND ALSO TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF MAKING A WRONG JUDGEMENT.

    Let’s be intellectually honest here. First, regardless of the evidence, the Theory of Evolution has an extraordinary claim, that out of nothing and chance the ordered world we live in today was created. “Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science has calculated the odds against our universe randomly taking a form suitable for life as one out of 10,000,000,000^124 [power] – a number that exceeds all imagination. Astronomers Fred Hoyle and N. C. Wickramasinghe found that the odds of the random formation of a single enzyme from amino acids anywhere on our planet’s surface are one in 10^20. Furthermore, they observe, “The trouble is that there are about two thousand enzymes and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trail is only one par in (10^20)^20,000= 10^40,000, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.””(Ravi Zacharias. The End of Reason.pg 35)

    Regardless whether you choose to accept the magnitude they are suggesting, one thing is clear, the probability of this happening is extraordinary (understated). So not only is the claim of Evolution extraordinary but the consequences to you are immense. If things did not happen by chance but rather by design the consequences to your atheism would be devastating. Moreover in the face of these odds it is inescapable that you would be classified has having made a choice of faith to accept this proposition. Faith as belief without sufficient evidence … sufficient evidence for astronomical probabilities would require astronomical evidence, I’m sorry I just don’t see it. You’ve got faith.

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    1. IF YOU COME TO A TEXT WITH ANY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS YOU WILL FIND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. REVIEWING THE GENESIS TEXT UNDER THE PRESUMPTION THAT IT IS WRONG WILL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE TEXT ACTUALLY SAYS.

      But my journey began as one completely dedicated to affirm that the text was true. Where does that leave me in this hypothesis?

      Would that also mean that the scriptures are useless as anything other than a mirror?

      LET’S BE INTELLECTUALLY HONEST HERE. FIRST, REGARDLESS OF THE EVIDENCE, THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION HAS AN EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM, THAT OUT OF NOTHING AND CHANCE THE ORDERED WORLD WE LIVE IN TODAY WAS CREATED.

      I think we’ve identified part of our disconnect. The theory of evolution says absolutely nothing at all about cosmology (the origin of the universe) or about abiogenesis (the origin of life from non-life). I specifically used the phrase “evolution by natural selection is the best known explanation for the variety of life on our planet” in case you were perhaps adding these things where I was not.

      As I mentioned, no scientist will tell you that we know anything for certain about the microseconds before the big bang, nor do we have direct evidence about which specific method of abiogenesis happened to be the one that brought us Earth’s first replicating life — though the ability for this to happen through purely material processes has been demonstrated.

      The actual theory of evolution (or, the unifying theory of biology) has robust evidence beyond its relatively meager claims.

      The strawman definition you give it… sure, science doesn’t know. It’s good to say one doesn’t know when one doesn’t know.

      “DONALD PAGE OF PRINCETON’S INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED SCIENCE HAS CALCULATED THE ODDS AGAINST OUR UNIVERSE RANDOMLY TAKING A FORM SUITABLE FOR LIFE AS ONE OUT OF 10,000,000,000^124 [POWER] – A NUMBER THAT EXCEEDS ALL IMAGINATION. ASTRONOMERS FRED HOYLE AND N. C. WICKRAMASINGHE FOUND THAT THE ODDS OF THE RANDOM FORMATION OF A SINGLE ENZYME FROM AMINO ACIDS ANYWHERE ON OUR PLANET’S SURFACE ARE ONE IN 10^20. FURTHERMORE, THEY OBSERVE, “THE TROUBLE IS THAT THERE ARE ABOUT TWO THOUSAND ENZYMES AND THE CHANCE OF OBTAINING THEM ALL IN A RANDOM TRAIL IS ONLY ONE PAR IN (10^20)^20,000= 10^40,000, AN OUTRAGEOUSLY SMALL PROBABILITY THAT COULD NOT BE FACED EVEN IF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE CONSISTED OF ORGANIC SOUP.””(RAVI ZACHARIAS. THE END OF REASON.PG 35)

      An interesting side note… Page’s Institute for Advanced Study is located in Princeton, NJ, but it is not in any way associated with Princeton University. I wonder why Zacharias phrased it so?

      These creation scientists you cite do not seem to understand how statistics work, as one must have a denominator in order to calculate odds. As we have observed only one universe, the best odds we can calculate is that there is a 1-in-1 chance that this is the only kind of universe that can come to be.

      Obviously astronomers are more scientists than I am, but their calculations about biology don’t seem to be cited by biologists. Nor do they seem to understand that natural selection is not chance. No biologist anywhere claims that enzymes formed by chance, so this number doesn’t hold any significance. It is calculating something not claimed.

      REGARDLESS WHETHER YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT THE MAGNITUDE THEY ARE SUGGESTING, ONE THING IS CLEAR, THE PROBABILITY OF THIS HAPPENING IS EXTRAORDINARY (UNDERSTATED). SO NOT ONLY IS THE CLAIM OF EVOLUTION EXTRAORDINARY BUT THE CONSEQUENCES TO YOU ARE IMMENSE.

      I might have said the same thing several years ago, before I began my own search. I knew only the creationist versions which it seems you have repeated here. I would encourage you to investigate the actual claims of these scientific theories, as opposed to Ravi Zacharias’ unrecognizable versions.

      IF THINGS DID NOT HAPPEN BY CHANCE BUT RATHER BY DESIGN THE CONSEQUENCES TO YOUR ATHEISM WOULD BE DEVASTATING.

      I couldn’t disagree with you more. Some finding could take place tomorrow that completely invalidates everything science knows about cosmology, abiogensis and evolution… and that would supply not one hint of additional evidence toward the existence of any deity.

      God doesn’t get to exist just because areas of science remain unknown. God is not the default position. God is a claim for which evidence is required.

      Per my article above, proof of one does not disprove of the other.

      P.S. FAITH AS DEFINED BY THE BIBLE IS NOT A BLIND CAPITULATION OF ONE’S BRAIN, OR WITHOUT EVIDENCE. AS HEBREWS 11:1 STATES “NOW FAITH IS THE ASSURANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE CONVICTION OF THINGS NOT SEEN.”

      “Things hoped for” and “things not seen” are the very definition of belief despite lack of evidence.

      WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THAT THE TERMS WE USE ARE CONSISTENT, AND WITH THIS DEFINITION OF FAITH… CONFIDENCE IN AN OUTCOME BASED ON EVIDENCE … WE WOULD BOTH HAVE FAITH.

      If you think that faith is belief based on evidence, why are you so insistent that I have faith?

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      1. Just a couple comments.

        In my so far limited purview of atheistic thought that I’ve scanned on the internet a reoccurring theme seems to be that scientists that are Christian have their credentials questioned and are considered to be practicing pseudo-science as opposed to atheist scientists who practice real science. This seems weird to me that by believing in something this then can completely invalidate ones intelligence and credentials.

        THE BEST ODDS WE CAN CALCULATE IS THAT THERE IS A 1-IN-1 CHANCE THAT THIS IS THE ONLY KIND OF UNIVERSE THAT CAN COME TO BE.

        That’s like saying after observing a cocoon for the first time that all cocoons produce monarch butterflies with broken legs (this is what we observed). Or, that if I do action A my wife will always respond the same (fatal mistake). The likelihood of these being true are low. Even Stephen Hawking acknowledges this.

        In his commentary on Life in the Universe (http://www.hawking.org.uk/life-in-the-universe.html) he provides 4 possibilities for why intelligent life has not visited us. Two out of his 4 possibilities recognize that the development of intelligent life could have a low to unlikely probability (which he indicates there is scientific support for).

        Moreover, in his Ted talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_hawking_asks_big_questions_about_the_universe/transcript?language=en) he suggests that we are the only civilization within several hundred light years. A cursory search shows that within 16 light years there are 56 solar systems with at least 12 of these to have planets. This is only a small % of his several hundred light years he suggests. According to Stephen your 1 to 1 chance would be incorrect.

        What difference does this make? (I am going to generalize here…atheists who cared to have selected evolution for origin of species) It seems odd to me that atheists are critical of Christians for having faith, which as you defined earlier as believing in something without evidence. This then leads to the conclusion that Christians are without reason and to be an atheist is superior because they only operate on evidence. The truth is that neither of these statements are entirely true. Biblically defined, taking a step of faith is not blind faith, rather throughout the Old and New Testament it is a step into the future having confidence the past evidence of God’s character and works (which I’m sure you would contest). For the atheist, you as well must take a step of faith because you are working on evidence which is incomplete based on random probabilities. I guess I see it disingenuous for the atheist not to own up the uncertainty of their position while criticising the uncertain positions of others. … rant complete…

        I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO INVESTIGATE THE ACTUAL CLAIMS OF THESE SCIENTIFIC THEORIES
        I am not opposed to science, and I do not see a disconnect between science and holding the Christian beliefs I hold. In some ways it could be compared to how a Theory functions. A theory gives explanation and describes the how and why of various laws and hypothesis. My Christian faith describes the how and why of the science you are a proponent of.

        I have appreciated your challenges to my status quo, although I would prefer you space out your commentaries out a little more … I need time to work, my wife hasn’t stopped spending money.

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  4. P.S. Faith as defined by the Bible is not a blind capitulation of one’s brain, or without evidence. As Hebrews 11:1 states “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This assurance and conviction is not without context, rather it is based on the evidence of the past workings of God and confidence in His character to remain consistent. Whether you choose to accept this evidence is not material. What is important is that the terms we use are consistent, and with this definition of Faith… confidence in an outcome based on evidence … we would both have faith.

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    1. IN MY SO FAR LIMITED PURVIEW OF ATHEISTIC THOUGHT THAT I’VE SCANNED ON THE INTERNET A REOCCURRING THEME SEEMS TO BE THAT SCIENTISTS THAT ARE CHRISTIAN HAVE THEIR CREDENTIALS QUESTIONED AND ARE CONSIDERED TO BE PRACTICING PSEUDO-SCIENCE AS OPPOSED TO ATHEIST SCIENTISTS WHO PRACTICE REAL SCIENCE. THIS SEEMS WEIRD TO ME THAT BY BELIEVING IN SOMETHING THIS THEN CAN COMPLETELY INVALIDATE ONES INTELLIGENCE AND CREDENTIALS.

      The difference is a concept called “peer review”. In all academic sciences, a researcher must submit their work to scrutiny by peers… and these peers would include the greatest and most knowledgeable minds in those given fields. This rigorous review is relentless, never expires, reduces bias, and is intent on disproving the claim. A failed hypothesis is put in the spotlight as valuable learning. If a paper stands up to peer review, you know that significant objections have been vetted.

      Obviously there are many scientists who are Christians, and their work goes up for peer review. Such work is taken every bit as seriously.

      But what I would call “Christian Science” does not put itself up for peer review. It does not invite scrutiny. It cherry-picks to support an immoveable presupposed conclusion. Proven-false hypothesis are hidden. It is packaged only for an audience who want affirmation. It hides. Ironically, it does not create. That is why it is questioned and not respected.

      THAT’S LIKE SAYING AFTER OBSERVING A COCOON FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT ALL COCOONS PRODUCE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES WITH BROKEN LEGS (THIS IS WHAT WE OBSERVED). OR, THAT IF I DO ACTION A MY WIFE WILL ALWAYS RESPOND THE SAME (FATAL MISTAKE). THE LIKELIHOOD OF THESE BEING TRUE ARE LOW. EVEN STEPHEN HAWKING ACKNOWLEDGES THIS.

      As a scientist in isolation, you would be right to say that your calculated odds of monarch butterflies born with broken legs is 1-in-1 after your first observation. On what basis could you support any other numerical odds? (1 in 2? 1 in 100?) Those would be unscientific guesses. You should absolutely hypothesize that some monarchs are born with in-tact legs, but you could not calculate the odds. You would be a poor scientist to not seek further observations to test frequency.

      Any probability you might give me that your wife will act in a certain way would have to be based on multiple observations to be useful. (I certainly didn’t glean enough observations in my time in Saskatoon to predict her.)

      (HAWKING) PROVIDES 4 POSSIBILITIES FOR WHY INTELLIGENT LIFE HAS NOT VISITED US. TWO OUT OF HIS 4 POSSIBILITIES RECOGNIZE THAT THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTELLIGENT LIFE COULD HAVE A LOW TO UNLIKELY PROBABILITY (WHICH HE INDICATES THERE IS SCIENTIFIC SUPPORT FOR)… ACCORDING TO STEPHEN YOUR 1 TO 1 CHANCE WOULD BE INCORRECT.

      Well sure, again he can have a denominator in his calculations about alien life because there are multiple planets to observe and on the one planet we know of that has life, we can observe how many species become “intelligent”. A ratio can begin to form.

      My 1-to-1 chance (not mine, really) referred to the odds that a given universe can support life. We’ve never seen a universe that couldn’t support life. There is no reason to think that any of the so-called “fine tuned” properties of our universe could actually be different from what they are out of physical necessity. There is no denominator with which to calculate odds of a non-life universe.

      WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THIS MAKE? (I AM GOING TO GENERALIZE HERE…ATHEISTS WHO CARED TO HAVE SELECTED EVOLUTION FOR ORIGIN OF SPECIES)

      Or, presumably, the millions of Christians who also accept evolution… carry on…

      BIBLICALLY DEFINED, TAKING A STEP OF FAITH IS NOT BLIND FAITH,

      Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

      Have not seen (blind) and yet believed (faith) = blessed

      RATHER THROUGHOUT THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT IT IS A STEP INTO THE FUTURE HAVING CONFIDENCE THE PAST EVIDENCE OF GOD’S CHARACTER AND WORKS (WHICH I’M SURE YOU WOULD CONTEST).

      What evidence supports claims of God’s works or character?

      FOR THE ATHEIST, YOU AS WELL MUST TAKE A STEP OF FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE WORKING ON EVIDENCE WHICH IS INCOMPLETE BASED ON RANDOM PROBABILITIES.

      An atheist doesn’t need any faith. An atheist is merely unconvinced of the claim that a God exists, just like a judge or juror may be unconvinced that there is sufficient evidence for guilt. That’s the whole definition.

      I GUESS I SEE IT DISINGENUOUS FOR THE ATHEIST NOT TO OWN UP THE UNCERTAINTY OF THEIR POSITION WHILE CRITICISING THE UNCERTAIN POSITIONS OF OTHERS.

      Here, once again, we would disagree. I find atheists to be the least certain, least dogmatic in what they claim to know. They test everything as thoroughly as it can be, and even then hold that position to be tentative barring new information. There is good reason why a common synonym for atheist is “skeptic”.

      This is in sharp contrast to the certainty of someone holding a religious claim.

      Ask an atheist what would change their mind. The answer is almost always “evidence” (in one form or another).

      Ask a theist what would change their mind (and I do, constantly) and the answer is almost always “nothing”.

      Clayton (or anyone reading), what would it take for you to change your mind?

      I AM NOT OPPOSED TO SCIENCE, AND I DO NOT SEE A DISCONNECT BETWEEN SCIENCE AND HOLDING THE CHRISTIAN BELIEFS I HOLD. IN SOME WAYS IT COULD BE COMPARED TO HOW A THEORY FUNCTIONS. A THEORY GIVES EXPLANATION AND DESCRIBES THE HOW AND WHY OF VARIOUS LAWS AND HYPOTHESIS. MY CHRISTIAN FAITH DESCRIBES THE HOW AND WHY OF THE SCIENCE YOU ARE A PROPONENT OF.

      That’s excellent. That’s my goal… that people will have good reasons for believing whatever it is that they believe. As a subset, that they don’t reject evidence because it conflicts with faith. Perhaps you will one day join the science-embracing theists.

      I HAVE APPRECIATED YOUR CHALLENGES TO MY STATUS QUO, ALTHOUGH I WOULD PREFER YOU SPACE OUT YOUR COMMENTARIES OUT A LITTLE MORE … I NEED TIME TO WORK, MY WIFE HASN’T STOPPED SPENDING MONEY.

      Sorry. On both counts.

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  5. For me to change my mind (the existence of God) it would take significant evidence to the contrary, because I have personally experienced significant evidence that He does exist. That said, I cannot think of any evidence that could negate those previous experiences. This is what the verse you quoted is talking about.

    THEN JESUS TOLD HIM, “BECAUSE YOU HAVE SEEN ME, YOU HAVE BELIEVED; BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET HAVE BELIEVED.” JOHN 20:29
    HAVE NOT SEEN (BLIND) AND YET BELIEVED (FAITH) = BLESSED

    Obviously if you see or experience something it would be significantly harder to refute than if you hear it second hand. Hearing it reported by others is still evidence, and does not require “BLIND” faith. These people who were not there to witness it firsthand are who Jesus is talking about. It’s pretty hard for one not to believe that Jesus was dead and rose again when he stands in front of you in vivid color, the evidence is overwhelming at that point. I’m surprised that you would interpret this out of its context like that with your “religious” background.

    RATHER THROUGHOUT THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT IT IS A STEP INTO THE FUTURE HAVING CONFIDENCE THE PAST EVIDENCE OF GOD’S CHARACTER AND WORKS (WHICH I’M SURE YOU WOULD CONTEST).
    WHAT EVIDENCE SUPPORTS CLAIMS OF GOD’S WORKS OR CHARACTER?

    In the Bible, the rest of chapter 11 of Hebrews gives a fairly good overview of the Old Testament examples, you could move on to numerous chapters in the book of Psalms which retell the history of God interacting with His people by providing for them and saving them (ps. 105 would be an example). Then throughout the rest of the Old Testament we see God’s interactions with His people. Through the interactions that God has with his people throughout the Bible as well as through specific descriptions of Him we understand His character.

    Going back to what could change my mind, above and beyond what I have already mentioned, if there was even a reasonable possibility that God existed 50% or maybe even 30% what would be the worst that could happen? I would die and as the atheist claims and there is nothing afterward and my life is done, but during that life I have improved the lives of those around me and even people across the world. Best case is that I’m right and live eternally with the Creator of everything.

    Alternatively I live as an atheist, a life void of hope, best case scenario I die. Worst case scenario I was wrong and live eternally separated from God (not a good place).

    Looking at these two options it seems to me like a no brainer which I would choose. Would this be intellectually dishonest or hypocritical? Not if there was a reasonable possibility that God existed. As I indicated above, personally I’ve seen evidence of His existence on top of the fact that I do believe it is reasonable that God exists and He is the God of the Bible.

    What are your good reasons for choosing the second option?

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    1. FOR ME TO CHANGE MY MIND (THE EXISTENCE OF GOD) IT WOULD TAKE SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, BECAUSE I HAVE PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE THAT HE DOES EXIST. THAT SAID, I CANNOT THINK OF ANY EVIDENCE THAT COULD NEGATE THOSE PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES. THIS IS WHAT THE VERSE YOU QUOTED IS TALKING ABOUT.

      This is extremely honest, and a consistent answer to others I’ve spoken to. Your belief in the existence of God is based primarily on personal experience and not external evidence. Unfortunately, as real as they are, your personal experiences are just here-say for everyone else. I can’t use your personal experience as a basis for me to believe.

      What do you say to those who use the very same personal experience rationale to believe in other religions like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Scientology?

      I’M SURPRISED THAT YOU WOULD INTERPRET THIS OUT OF ITS CONTEXT LIKE THAT WITH YOUR “RELIGIOUS” BACKGROUND.

      I stand by my usage of the verse as fully in intended meaning and context. In it, Jesus exalts faith without direct evidence over believing with evidence.

      IN THE BIBLE, THE REST OF CHAPTER 11 OF HEBREWS GIVES A FAIRLY GOOD OVERVIEW OF THE OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES, YOU COULD MOVE ON TO NUMEROUS CHAPTERS IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS WHICH RETELL THE HISTORY OF GOD INTERACTING WITH HIS PEOPLE BY PROVIDING FOR THEM AND SAVING THEM (PS. 105 WOULD BE AN EXAMPLE). THEN THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT WE SEE GOD’S INTERACTIONS WITH HIS PEOPLE. THROUGH THE INTERACTIONS THAT GOD HAS WITH HIS PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE AS WELL AS THROUGH SPECIFIC DESCRIPTIONS OF HIM WE UNDERSTAND HIS CHARACTER.

      This tells me that you view the stories of the Old Testament as historical… but there is no evidence that the characters listed here ever existed or that the events happened. Cain, Abel, Noah, Joseph, Moses and David are all figures I’ve specifically researched and there isn’t evidence that they existed (and worse, evidence that their stories as told could not have happened) at all.

      The Christians that I speak about in the article above (along with Jewish scholars) agree with these findings, and so treat such stories as allegory. Is your confidence eroded if these stories were merely stories without historical merit?

      GOING BACK TO WHAT COULD CHANGE MY MIND, ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT I HAVE ALREADY MENTIONED, IF THERE WAS EVEN A REASONABLE POSSIBILITY THAT GOD EXISTED 50% OR MAYBE EVEN 30% WHAT WOULD BE THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? I WOULD DIE AND AS THE ATHEIST CLAIMS AND THERE IS NOTHING AFTERWARD AND MY LIFE IS DONE, BUT DURING THAT LIFE I HAVE IMPROVED THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND ME AND EVEN PEOPLE ACROSS THE WORLD. BEST CASE IS THAT I’M RIGHT AND LIVE ETERNALLY WITH THE CREATOR OF EVERYTHING.

      Pascal’s wager? Did you choose Christianity because it has the best heaven, or was it because it had the worst hell? (I hear Islam’s hell is worse… did you look into that? You might want some insurance.)

      Did you improve those lives? I feel strongly compelled to apologize and make amends to the hundreds of teens who I had a hand in misleading and directing their lives in ways I can’t even know.

      ALTERNATIVELY I LIVE AS AN ATHEIST, A LIFE VOID OF HOPE, BEST CASE SCENARIO I DIE. WORST CASE SCENARIO I WAS WRONG AND LIVE ETERNALLY SEPARATED FROM GOD (NOT A GOOD PLACE).

      Void of hope in eternal life? Is a life worth less because it is finite? Isn’t it true that something finite is more precious?

      Is it better to hope in something false? Am I better off not knowing that I have cancer, or am I better off accepting the reality that I have it?

      WHAT ARE YOUR GOOD REASONS FOR CHOOSING THE SECOND OPTION?

      I didn’t “choose” the second option. I don’t believe. I don’t have evidence to believe. I can’t. Could you just will yourself to believe in the tooth fairy? One cannot pretend to believe… or at least I assume that the God of the Bible would know the difference between someone pretending and someone who is sincere.

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      1. YOUR BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD IS BASED PRIMARILY ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND NOT EXTERNAL EVIDENCE.

        This is not entirely true. The personal experiences that I spoke of could be corroborated by others that were present. In a court of law, testimony of witnesses is an important part of determining truth. Yes, physical evidence can be more convincing, but without the physical evidence the testimony of the witness(s) are crucial. The experiences I spoke of were external of myself and could be verified.

        I would agree that truth cannot be determined by the sincerity of belief someone holds, or a feeling they had (perhaps it was indigestion from the pizza). Reason and evidence should be deciding factors in the selection of one’s world view.

        VOID OF HOPE IN ETERNAL LIFE? IS A LIFE WORTH LESS BECAUSE IT IS FINITE? ISN’T IT TRUE THAT SOMETHING FINITE IS MORE PRECIOUS?
        As an Atheist I find it odd that you attribute value “more precious” to life at all. If life is the result of random changes to life that have brought us to where we are today there are some dire implications. First, at best, the only real possible value life could have is if it is a transitional species that would evolve our species to the next step. If you do not fit that category, regardless of your lifespan, your value is little if not detrimental (using resources that important lives could use). Second, meaning and purpose are lost. There is no ultimate purpose or meaning for your life, even Voltaire, Sartre, and Nietzsche recognized the pointlessness of everything in an atheistic world. You could pretend to have a meaning or purpose, but they really don’t amount to anything.

        This is a stark contrast to Christianity where every life has intrinsic worth with meaning and a purpose.

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  6. In my short foray into atheistic arguments against the Bible I have identified that they generally fall into 4 categories.
    1. Lack of Understanding. This lack of understanding can be on multiple levels.
    -First and most basic, is someone that does not understand that the Bible was not written in English, it was translated from its original languages. Yes, some words in these other languages can mean more than one thing (like most languages).
    -Second, when reading a text ignoring contextualization. You cannot expect to understand what a text is saying if you disregard the immediate surrounding text, the literary genre, cultural and time period understandings, and the rest of the bible to interpret the passage. A good explanation is here:
    http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/a/Quoting-Out-Of-Context-Fallacy.htm

    2. Missing information. On the surface it appears that there are contradictions but with more information the text is clarified to remain consistent with itself and or accurate. Another assumption that could fall in this category is that because the Bible doesn’t explain how something happened that it must then be wrong.
    -The missing information can be part of the contextualization discussed above or could be information from outside the Bible.

    3. Supernatural or Fantastic events dismissed.
    -This is not surprising because there is rarely “evidence” for these or goes beyond the atheist’s box of understanding.
    -Yet the fantastic happens around us all the time.
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a5197/4344037/

    4. Historicity of the Bible
    You previously touched on this which I now respond to.
    THE CHRISTIANS THAT I SPEAK ABOUT IN THE ARTICLE ABOVE (ALONG WITH JEWISH SCHOLARS) AGREE WITH THESE FINDINGS, AND SO TREAT SUCH STORIES AS ALLEGORY. IS YOUR CONFIDENCE ERODED IF THESE STORIES WERE MERELY STORIES WITHOUT HISTORICAL MERIT?
    The ramblings of some Liberal theologians or Jewish scholars do not concern me. Being of simple mind, first I ask myself if the Bible claims to be the inerrant word of God this would be a ludicrous claim if it could not be substantiated. If it were not true, I would make sure that the text was as vague as possible so that it would be impossible to prove to be untrue. Yet, this is not what we see in the Bible. The Bible is specific, naming names, locations, time & dates. It makes sense to me, that if the Bible is specific about something that the people /event would be real.

    I did not have time to give you a full accounting of the historicity of the whole bible, but if you want to read more Holden’s book would be a good start (I stole most of the info below from Him).

    Joseph M. Holden;Norman Geisler. The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible. Kindle Edition.

    Below is a short list of the numerous evidences and authentication of the Biblical text (this list is Old Testament focused)

    Carchemish & Boghazkoy- Hittite nation (Genesis 15:20; Exodus 3:8,17; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 1:4; Judges 1:26, etc) previously considered mythical proven with thousands of documents & monuments to have existed and been a powerful nation in time period discussed in Bible.

    Lachish (Isaiah 36:1-2) – 1847, discovery of Assyrian king Sennacharib’s palace wall relief in Nineveh depicting siege of Lachish

    Beth Shan (1 Samuel 31:8-13; 1 Chronicles 10:10)- excavated since 1920; location where the bodies of King Saul and sons were fastened on the city walls

    Kurkh Monolith Inscription – erected commemorate victory in battle of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III recording that Israel’s king Ahab contributed troops.

    Winged Bull of Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1)- inscription describes the conquering of Samaria and the deportation of 27,280 people by Sargon II

    Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III- panel depicts and reads of King Joram (Jehu) paying tribute to Shalmaneser III

    Ziggurat at Ur (Gen. 11:27-29)- discovered 1924

    Shebna (Isaiah 22:15-29)- discovered 1870, lintel according to inscription he was steward over the household of king Hezekiah

    Cylinder of Nabonidus-discovered 1854, 4 clay cuneiform cylinders written by Babylonian king Nabonidus (6th C BC), includes prayer for him and his son Belshazzar (Daniel 5- refers to him as king). Previously doubted because there no extrabiblical sources recording Belshazzar as king, but now evident that he was a co-regent king as father away.

    Prayer of Nabonidus- Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q242)- Aramaic document- tells of Nabonidus’s affliction and mentions that it was an exorcist- a Jew from among the exiles of Judah- who ultimately forgave his sins. Gives independent corroboration of the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 29:10-12) that the Jews lived in Babylonian captivity during 6th Century as well as provides historic and social background sistent with books of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

    Royal Bricks- Clay bricks used to build some of the large structures in the past had a handwritten inscription or stamp bearing the name of the builder. Archaeologists have found such to include kings listed in the Bible such as Shalmaneser, Sargon, Esarhaddon, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and others.

    Ekron Inscription- discovered 1996, 7th C BC inscription at philistine city of Ekron names Padi as one of the kings of the city.

    Sennacherib’s Annals (Taylor Prism)- discovered 1830 in Nineveh- mentions Padi (above), and how the inhabitants of Ekron surrendered Padi to King Hezekiah (of the Bible- 2 Kings 18-19). Annals describe Sennacherib’s military campaigns against Hezekiah)

    Azekah Inscription- 2 tablets discovered in Nineveh contain the history of Assyrian attack (either by Sargon II or Sennacherib) on biblical city of Azekah (2 Chronicles 32:1-2, 21-22). Mention the name of King Hezekiah as individual who fortified Azekah. Attests to Assyrian wars in Judah ( 2Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32)

    Tel Dan
    Tel Dan Stele- broken stone discovered 1993-94, 9th C BC, inscriptions of a king boasting of his victories over the king of Israel and his ally the king of the “House of David”- First time name of David found outside the Bible
    Golden calf alter established by Jereboam (1 Kings 12:25-31)
    Weld-Blundell Prism- discovered 1922. Lists Sumerian kings who ruled from 3200-1800 BC, written about 1800 BC. Text references the kings who ruled before and after the Flood. Also the superhuman life-spans given in Genesis 5 & 11, which decrease after the Flood, are comparable to those in the inscription on this prism.

    Ras Shamra Tablets- (15th C BC) discovered 1928 with excavations periodically since. Script previously unknown determined to be Canaanite. Describe religious practices including 1) burying children alive 2) child sacrifices 3) male and female religious prostitution 4) malice and jealous gods 5) absence of morality among the gods 6) idol worship. Also addresses denial that Moses could possibly write the sophisticated religious law code as early as 1440-1400 BC. Several Aramaisms found within the text counter previous arguments that Moses’ writings did not develop until after the exile to Babylon (6th C BC) due to Aramaic words in Moses’ writings.

    Madaba Map (6th C BC) discovered 1884- Ashkelon and other locations verified
    Nuzi Tablets (1500-1350 BC)- Contradict critics’ claims that Genesis was written at much later time, texts describe practices similar to those recorded in Genesis 15-21. The close parallel to the cultural practices of the patriarchs confirm that the Genesis narratives are historical because of they fit the cultural practices of their time. Nuzi tablets also confirm that written records pertaining to family were faithfully kept.

    Ebla Tablets (2300 BC)- Excavations of Tell-Mardikh produced more than 15,000 clay tablets of a previously unknown empire called Ebla. These helped provide information on language and culture of the patriarchal period (3300-1600BC). Testifies against previous arguments that words used in Genesis stories were developed late long after the stories Genesis describes and therefore must have been written around 700 BC. Rather, the Ebla tablets reflected many of the words, names, customs and locations of the Genesis stories. Moreover personal names and locations are consistent with accounts in Genesis and the Old testament including Adam, Ishmael, Israel, Eber, locations such as Megiddo, Hazor, Gaza, Dor, Zared, Nahor, Shechem, and Jerusalem and deities such as Dagon, El, Baal, Molech, Ya.

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    1. IN MY SHORT FORAY INTO ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE BIBLE I HAVE IDENTIFIED THAT THEY GENERALLY FALL INTO 4 CATEGORIES.

      1. LACK OF UNDERSTANDING.

      Is this the same frustration I feel when someone who doesn’t understand evolution argues against it?

      THIS LACK OF UNDERSTANDING CAN BE ON MULTIPLE LEVELS. (TRANSLATION) (CONTEXT)

      You could put some atheists in this category, for sure. But you know me somewhat. Do you believe that I don’t understand these concepts from my 25 years of Bible study? I slow-danced with them. I delved into them in desperation to salvage my faith. I fully get the apologetics game… I simply reject it now as irrelevant as those who argue ways to smooth over continuity errors in their favorite movies.

      2. MISSING INFORMATION.

      Indeed, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This can also be the fallacy of Argument from Ignorance. This is why it is the party affirming a claim who requires the burden of proof. The time to believe “Zeus lives on Mount Olympus” is when sufficient evidence has been shown in the affirmative, rather than accepting it until disproven.

      3. SUPERNATURAL OR FANTASTIC EVENTS DISMISSED.
      -THIS IS NOT SURPRISING BECAUSE THERE IS RARELY “EVIDENCE” FOR THESE OR GOES BEYOND THE ATHEIST’S BOX OF UNDERSTANDING.
      -YET THE FANTASTIC HAPPENS AROUND US ALL THE TIME.

      Why would you link fantastic events to supernatural? The most ardent materialist acknowledges improbable events. In fact, you’ve criticized materialism for relying too heavily on improbable events. But the thing about improbable events is that they do not require the supernatural to happen. As you say… they happen all the time, like these fortunate survivors.

      The evidence is beyond the atheist’s box of understanding? If you already believe it, then there is evidence, but if you don’t believe then there is no evidence. Some call that Confirmation Bias. Faith is handy.

      4. HISTORICITY OF THE BIBLE
      THE BIBLE IS SPECIFIC, NAMING NAMES, LOCATIONS, TIME & DATES. IT MAKES SENSE TO ME, THAT IF THE BIBLE IS SPECIFIC ABOUT SOMETHING THAT THE PEOPLE /EVENT WOULD BE REAL.

      Did you know that the city of New York, the home of Spider-Man in Marvel Comics, is a real place on the east coast of the United States? Did you know that in The Amazing Spider-Man #583, Spidey meets a man named Barak Obama and that there is significant video evidence that the President of the United States at that very time was a man named Barak Obama. This is good evidence that Spider-Man is true.

      Did you know that the Iliad of Homer lists a variety of cities, like Athens, that existed? It even lists a town named Pylos which was never rebuilt after the Bronze Age and was later discovered by archeologists. This is good evidence that the Iliad is true.

      In the up-coming series, Keyser Soze: Scorched Earth, several of the characters are in attendance at the 1986 Iran-Contra hearings where they listen to Oliver North and other figures recite dialog that matches court transcripts word-for-word on extremely specific days. As the writer of this series, I included such details to the fictional tale to give it as much realism as possible. This is good evidence that Keyser Soze is real.

      I DID NOT HAVE TIME TO GIVE YOU A FULL ACCOUNTING OF THE HISTORICITY OF THE WHOLE BIBLE, BUT IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE HOLDEN’S BOOK WOULD BE A GOOD START (I STOLE MOST OF THE INFO BELOW FROM HIM).

      I’m aware of the book, but haven’t read it. I noticed that the list below doesn’t include the key figures I’ve studied and questioned like Adam, Noah, Moses and Jesus.

      I was going to go through each of the below with you, one-by-one, but I think that’s better served for a main article when I get to my historicity struggles. Per the above, the historicity of incidental locations or people does nothing to prove the events. It is the small handful that potentially affirm events (along with the one mention of David), that intrigue me.

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  7. Further discussion with Clayton…

    THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES THAT I SPOKE OF COULD BE CORROBORATED BY OTHERS THAT WERE PRESENT. IN A COURT OF LAW, TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF DETERMINING TRUTH. YES, PHYSICAL EVIDENCE CAN BE MORE CONVINCING, BUT WITHOUT THE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE THE TESTIMONY OF THE WITNESS(S) ARE CRUCIAL. THE EXPERIENCES I SPOKE OF WERE EXTERNAL OF MYSELF AND COULD BE VERIFIED.

    A quick check of Google scholar shows nearly 2000 peer-reviewed papers on the reliability of witness testimony from 2015 alone. Over 25,000 available to even we non-academics. It would seem that the degree to which it is important has some doubt. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-it/

    For course, it is the job of any judge or jury to analyze the reliability of any witness, with full authority to reject out-of-hand any testimony that does not carry an adequate ring of truth. The nature of the claims, the factors that may affect the sensory inputs during the initial event, factors that may effect recall since the original event, any biases (confirmation, or otherwise) of the witness, any motivation to be untruthful, and to what extent the claims are consistent with external evidence are all part of the equation.

    For example, the National UFO Reporting Center has received over 70,000 eyewitness reports since 1998. Certainly each has a story behind it, and you might agree that it is probable that none of them actually saw an alien spacecraft.

    Without specifics of what you describe, we will have to leave this in the realm of hypothetical.

    FIRST, AT BEST, THE ONLY REAL POSSIBLE VALUE LIFE COULD HAVE IS IF IT IS A TRANSITIONAL SPECIES THAT WOULD EVOLVE OUR SPECIES TO THE NEXT STEP. IF YOU DO NOT FIT THAT CATEGORY, REGARDLESS OF YOUR LIFESPAN, YOUR VALUE IS LITTLE IF NOT DETRIMENTAL (USING RESOURCES THAT IMPORTANT LIVES COULD USE).

    Value is obviously subjective. There are actions that are valuable to an individual, actions that are valuable to that individual’s community, and possibly beyond that the value to the individual’s species.

    With only one life to live, there is value within the context of any life to maximize the health of that life, to maximize the length of that life and to maximize the quality of that life. From the most objectionable parasite to the most vicious virus to the most altruistic human, these things are of value to every organism. This needs no external validation.

    As you suggest, there is value within a species to have one’s own species propagate. Typically, reproducing is the best way to do this as the number game is advantageous (obvious exceptions would include limited resources, etc). Beyond the numbers game, it is also advantageous for a species to propagate forward its best genes (as defined case-by-case by natural selection). This needs no external validation.

    Some organisms live in the context of a community. For such creatures, their value goes beyond reproducing, they may also need to contribute to raising offspring, protecting other community members, or raising the living standards of the group with food or other benefits. Humans have perfected this, specializing in such a way that lives can add to the value of other lives outside of the act of genetic propagation. This value is validated by the community itself.

    As you suggest, there are times when individual value, species value and community value can come into conflict… even though all are real. The value of different communities can also come into conflict, though some of Nash’s game theory comes into play. (What’s good for the rabbit population can be good for the coyote community, which is then bad for the rabbit community.)

    In all of nature, death serves life. This is reality. Nothing described here requires supernatural enhancement.

    SECOND, MEANING AND PURPOSE ARE LOST. THERE IS NO ULTIMATE PURPOSE OR MEANING FOR YOUR LIFE, EVEN VOLTAIRE, SARTRE, AND NIETZSCHE RECOGNIZED THE POINTLESSNESS OF EVERYTHING IN AN ATHEISTIC WORLD. YOU COULD PRETEND TO HAVE A MEANING OR PURPOSE, BUT THEY REALLY DON’T AMOUNT TO ANYTHING.

    In your view, anything without eternal consequence is pointless? All things finite are pointless? Momentary kindness is pointless? Learning a skill that you do not pass on is pointless? Enjoying the beauty of a moment is pointless?

    And, if so, this is an argument toward what? It is certainly not evidence toward truth. At best, it is an appeal toward how one might wish the universe to work. Purpose is neither guaranteed nor necessary.

    THIS IS A STARK CONTRAST TO CHRISTIANITY WHERE EVERY LIFE HAS INTRINSIC WORTH WITH MEANING AND A PURPOSE.

    You perhaps cannot see it based on your view, but it is beyond insulting when the only value one gives a life is what one attributes to it from an outside source. I love you because an authority told me to, and will punish me if I do not.

    But again, either way, purpose is not necessary for life, nor is a desire for purpose evidence of the truth of anything supernatural.

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