Ask a Question

This page is for questions that do not find a home anywhere else on this blog. Ask away. I will do my best to answer and if I do not have an answer I will simply respond, “no hablo ingles.”

185 thoughts on “Ask a Question

  1. Thanks Eric for this page. Hope it gets some use in due course,, other than mine.
    So, continuation of earlier question that was without a proper home! Re. ‘resist not evil’. Eric, I must clarify that it’s not a matter of finding answers I ‘want’, but finding ones I can understand and apply. You could have meant it this way but need to defend just in case!

    Your reply says that we do not resist an evil ‘person’. Then, that elsewhere, we are told to resist the devil and right injustices, but ‘not necessarily’ when we are personally attacked. It seems to be a confused bundle to me because injustices and the devil come through the person. And ‘not necessarily’ leaves more open to question. How could you clarify when to act and when not to? (The instruction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you does not leave me with this confusion). However, I knew I had previously, forgotten one thing in my understanding, which also helps me, and this is to ‘judge’ the action and not the person. We could perhaps extend the ‘judgment’ also into resisting the action rather than the person, especially as our thoughts are said to be equal to our ‘action’. Perhaps you can now see why I have some difficulty reconciling this. I do not have anxiety over it though, as, I have long since, resigned myself to doing the best that I understand at any given time, whilst seeking further information……..What to offer any more or just “no hablo ingles.” ? I imagine it means ‘I have no idea’ but I’ll look that up now!

  2. We are to resist the devil and injustices, yes. The devil may indeed work through others, but primarily he works on people through temptation. Injustices are also worked by mankind and when they are worked against others, one should come to the aid of the ‘others’. It is when injustices are done to ones self that he is to “turn the other cheek.” This verse is explicitly teaching that a believer is not to engage in revenge – an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. He is to not resist the evil one, that is, the evil person. The Church Fathers understood this case of the Greek “evil one” as an evil person, not the devil. The way I understand it is this: if someone wants to do you an injustice – steal your coat, slap your face, etc. – offer him whatever he wants as a testimony against the evil in this world and the cleaving to God. However, if someone wants to beat a child in the street, get up and go kick his ass. If you are married with children and someone breaks into your house intend on doing your wife and children harm, have your gun loaded and aimed appropriately. We are called to defend the defenseless. 🙂

  3. Thanks. That indeed is, (more or less), as many of us do. I’m not sure about the gun, (probably glad I don’t have one, even bearing in mind the potential consequences of not having one); and is it appropriate for you to aim away or towards the heart or head? Would you merely intend to lame or kill? I assume lame, but to kill, if necessary.

    I do see the coat/face instruction as meaning more though. Indeed, we are to give more than is asked for. I have found that this usually surprises and leaves such people in a different state of mind. Perhaps it fits with the ‘heaping coals on their head’, though that’s not my intention.

    This conversation has left me where I began – doing what comes naturally, but still questioning some of the ‘battles’ we are confronted by. But I’m glad to have had it as it does sift out some dust, especially when I consider it all on my dog walk in the Welsh hills, with an expansive view of the sky and the village below. Thanks again. Back to the tennis!

  4. My thinking is that if a person is willing to take the risk to enter my home intending to do my family harm, they assume the risk of dying in the process. One can never know the intention of an intruder and, unfortunately, has to assume the worse if he is going to fulfill his God given duty to protect his family. Again, that’s just me.

    But, back on point, I’m sorry if you didn’t find the deeper meaning you were hoping for. Like I said, I think this verse is very straight forward. Do you find a deeper meaining in “turn the other cheek” or is it just saying, “turn the other cheek”? I think in practice these are some of the most challenging commands in all of Scripture. That, for me, is deep.

  5. Yes, challenging to apply but ‘resist not evil’ or the evil person is for me challenging to understand. I’ not sure if you are actually asking me personally how I read ‘turn the other cheek’, but in case you are, I see it the same as the other examples of giving more than is asked for or taken. The question is why, how does this show/give love to the recipient. The principle of love is fundamental to all that we think, say and do, so, I look for it all we are asked to do, including ‘resist not evil’.

    Please do not feel you have let me down in any way. On the contrary.
    I’m not hoping or wanting any particular response or confirmation, I’m just keen to understand properly. Even discussing helps to challenge the mind and perhaps find some weaknesses and something better. I’m never disappointed by your efforts, only grateful my friend. 🙂

  6. Eric, this is a fresh question, not a reply. (Perhaps there needs a box to enter new ones?)

    Is it any nuisance to your ‘Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail’ if I paste for Pavlos, a pdf file of an essay on Kierkegaard vs. Nietzsche on this subject.
    (It is about 14 pages on a Word document).I will include the link but would like to send it on a word doc. as I’ve entered some of my responses which are in simple language and tie to the replies I previously gave Pavlos).

    Can you let me know if this can create any problem? If so, no worries?

  7. Dear Eric, some time ago, I was inspired by your “finest argument against atheism” (https://ehyde.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/the-finest-argument-against-atheism/). After re-writing a much simplified version, I had an actor dramatise it for a short Christian film full of local volunteers (still learning to make films though so realistically not expecting any real audience) – funnily, mostly non-Christian actor volunteers… and even an atheist who plays the atheist… although it might break the dramatic tension and may still be rather complicated to the average person unaccustomed to any kind of philosophical thinking and may end up as a “deleted scene.” I don’t know yet because the whole thing isn’t finished… Even so, would you like to see it when it’s 100% finished? Do you mind me adapting the material like this? (FYI, I live in Australia…)

  8. Hello Pia,

    I just returned from vacation for a week, sorry for the late response. I’d love to see final product and don’t mind you adapting it one bit.

    Cheers!

  9. #2: The theistic argument is attempting to prove the existence of God by suggesting the universe must have been caused by God, because everything has a cause. But if everything needs a cause, that would suggest God must have a cause as well. But when this is pointed out, to suggest God is eternal is to suggest an attribute of God before actually proving his existence. If God is eternal, one can also suggest this is an attribute of the universe.

  10. Hi Jerry. Your post would be better placed under the article from which you critique, however I’ll give a quick rebuttal here. The Absolute – God – produces the contingent, i.e., material substance/existence. If something produced God then that something would be the “Absolute,” i.e., God. In addition, it might be helpful to point out that Orthodox Christianity and classical theism in general do not hold that God is eternal in the sense of mere duration, but in the sense of being the ground and being of all existence.

    Does that help?

    At some point deductive logic requires the Absolute for the source of all contingent things – which is everything in nature – otherwise you wind up with absurdities: absolute contingency, unconditional conditionality, and uncasused effect.

    Why isn’t the universe itself the eternal absolute? First I would like to hear an atheist explain why such an argument is logically superior to classic theism: i.e., why is it more logical to believe in a non-intelligent eternal something (nature) than in an intelligent eternal something (God)? The built in teleological principle of all existent things seem to logically favor a purposeful existence, hence a God. It would also be fun to hear the infinite explanatory regress in explaining the origin of the Big Bang, that is, what preceded it, and what preceded that, etc. You seem to be arguing against infinite explanatory regress, so you’d probably not be game. But, again, nature simply doesn’t allow for the absurdities mentioned above to exist. Everything in nature is contingent. Contingent eternality is a logical absurdity.

  11. Best reply, I ever read. I agree entirely but could never put it in such excellent choice of words and description.

  12. So that’s why your photographer wants you to avoid eye contact – he thinks you should appear coy. He’s wrong, you deserve to be noticed!

  13. Hey, I’m a catholic and I enjoyed one of your posts on expiation. I prefer the Latin rite, but I’m Eastern Catholic in my theology. So I believe in the Christus Victor (classic) model of the atonement. However I do see how the eastern and the western models of the atonement/salvation complement one another.
    The East tends to emphasise the subjective, the West the objective. Ideally I think we need a balance of both.
    Salvation is the idea of all things being reconciled to God, this includes both sanctification (things being transformed from the inside out) and justification (God declaring something to be good).
    For Catholics, justification and sanctification have always been completely tied to one another. It was only in the Protestant reformation with sola fide that Luther separated the two of them and Calvin introduced the penal substitutionary model to go with it (which introduces a ‘forensic salvation’ idea and gets believers off the hook). Alselm’s satisfaction model is very different from Calvin’s model. Christ’s perfect obedience and death as being satisfactory for our sins simply means that God saw it as the perfect thing to reconcile man back to God.
    So with OT sacrifices, they cleansed man of sin (the subjective) and God found them pleasing because of what they accomplished (the objective).
    In the Catholic catechism there is a mix of the Eastern and Western Catholic models (nothing of Calvin’s model of course) we use the expiation translation there also.
    But I feel that expiation (the subjective) and propitiation (the objective) go hand in hand.
    Do you think perhaps you’re overcompensating from the Protestant view of things, and the satisfaction model can actually give a more objective slant to the eastern model? And maybe what the real issue is, is sola fide?

  14. Quick questions, if God is all powerful, how’s come he needed Jesus to be the “Sacrificial Lamb” just so he could allow people into heaven?

    If God allowed people to have free will then hows come he burn’t down that city full of gays? If it was their “choice” (as it depicts in the bible that being gay is a choice) then how’s come he violated their free will, it was their “free will to be gay.”

    If God is all knowing then hows come he made Lucifer if he knew what he was going to do, and where did Lucifer even get sin? If Lucifer was made by god, and god made all of what he is, then God must have made sin. – (for Lucifer to get the idea) God could have taken away the thought of sin since he is all knowing, and none of this would have happened, unless he couldn’t then he isn’t all powerful then. (Kind of a paradox in a certain sense)

    (You’ve probably got this before) If god is all knowing, then he knows what we’re gonna do, then what’s free will if he knows what we’re gonna do? Like for instance he knew I was gonna be an atheist then hows come he still put me on earth then threw me in hell? It’s either he isn’t all knowing or we don’t have free will, but I’m sure you have an explanation.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. (if you do)

  15. Hello Robin. I’ll try to give a quick response to each of your questions in the order you gave them:

    1. This question reveals a strong deficiency in understanding historic Christianity. Christ was not “needed” by God, for He is the second person in the Holy Trinity, i.e., He is God. God came down and assumed the flesh of a man in order to make flesh holy. His sacrifice was to destroy death by His own death and resurrection. As an Orthodox Christian I do not accept the atonement theories presented in the West, predominately by Protestantism and many facets of Roman Catholic theology such as Anselm’s satisfaction theory – that is, that Christ’s sacrifice placated God’s wrath in order to win His affection for the human race. God never quit loving us, rather we were lost due to our own sin and turning away. Christ’s death and resurrection restored us to God, not God to us.

    2. You’ll have to help me with this second paragraph, I honestly don’t know what you are asking.

    3. Lucifer did not “get sin,” as if sin has its own source of existence. Sin is non-existence – sin is a turning from life, it is death, a no-thing-ness. Lucifer turned from God. It was somehow his choice, the same choice given to us. Yes of course God could have made it so that no one could have ever turned from Him, but isn’t that more like a puppet-puppeteer relationship than a Father-son, or Husband-wife, as it is presented in Scripture? Love relationships require two active parties. He gave us choice, we failed, then He gave us Himself in the person of Jesus Christ to be restored once again – if we choose.

    4. Foreknowledge is not causation. You chose to be an atheist. God did not choose it for you, but the future is not written – known by God yes, but not written – you still have a chance.

  16. Matt pleasure to write you and to have you on the blog. Always nice to meet a well spoken Catholic of whatever stripe. 🙂

    If one is to reduce the ideas of expiation and propitiation down to “subjective” and “objective” workings of the atonement, well and good. But expiation and propitiation – at least as far as my education has shown me – are not so easily reducible. The idea of placating God to gain His affection (propitiation) and God doing the work of cleansing and removing the stain from His children (expiation), for me are irreconcilable. The first one is healing God and the second man. I also would not reduce the problem to sola fide, though that has caused plenty of trouble for Protestants, and the world through them.

  17. 2: God gave us free will, we have to free will to sin or to not sin, we have the free will to do as we please, but it matters in the end, if we did or didn’t ask god for forgiveness in the end is what matters right? In Sodom and Gomorrah God killed everyone in that city/town because there were gay people in the city/town, it was their “free will to be gay” i:e it was their free will to sin. But God violated their free will to sin by killing them all.

    3: The question was more like where did sin come from before Lucifer, did God create it cause it claims in my bible God created everything.

    4: I don’t understand how that really remotely made sense to me, I really don’t want to come off as rude I apologize I’m really sorry I’m just trying to come off as someone who can express what they say in the way they say it, but there must be a scripture written in the bible about it I hope cause I don’t see how he knew what was going to happen when he had the idea of me way before I was born, knowing I was going to die an Atheist, yet still made me? I don’t know I guess it’s a question only God knows. (if he exists)

    I hope you know it cause a lot of atheist’s have been asking this question lately and haven’t been getting the answer that fully answers the question, I’m sure you’ll know it (or find it out) though.

  18. As it says in James 4:8 “you draw nearer to God and he’ll draw nearer to you”
    The idea is that as humanity as a whole had turned from god so he’d also distanced himself from us. Anytime we move back to him he moves toward us. No he does not need sacrifice, they were designed to draw us nearer to him, I am on the same page as you there.

    Don’t you think this liberal idea of: ‘Gods hand is really close to everybody, just reaching out. All you need to do is just move yours a little to touch it’ just isn’t true biblically?
    It doesn’t work with what James is saying.
    The idea of the atonement is that Christ brought man and God nearer to one another. It is not about Christ absorbing gods wrath as Calvin said, I agree with you there.

  19. 2. God can judge at any point. He chose to judge Sodom and Gomorrah when He did. That didn’t violate their freewill anymore than any sin ended by death violates freewill. We all die at some point; dying in sin is not a violation of freewill just because we were unable to continue sinning.

    3. Sin is turning from God. Lucifer turned from God, God did not turn Lucifer away from Him. Does that help? You and I turned from God, etc.

    4. Knowledge of what is to come is not the same as causing something to come. God did not cause you to be an atheist but he knew you would choose it. However, you may very well chose to return to God at some point; God also knows the future in this respect, but that doesn’t mean He has scripted the future for you. Again, God did not create puppets to do whatever the divine strings told them to do. He created beings that were capable of love. I’m keeping this ultra simplistic, if you want to dive deeper let me know. Cheers.

  20. But the fact that God would take flesh and die for us is proof enough that God was never far from us in the sense that we are from him, if that makes sense.

  21. It shows how far God is willing to go to turn us back to him. It shows how he is willing to overlook all of the wrongs we’ve done.
    You still didn’t really answer about the James verse.

    Also, with regard to the catholic cachecism as I said we use the expiation translation and don’t fully ascribe to Anselms model. Only elements of it. I’m trying to say this isn’t an East vs west thing but rather a Luther & Calvin vs all of the church fathers thing.

  22. Sorry, to the James quote, I interpret it in light of the prodigal son and his father, among other passages.

    Also, I wholeheartedly agree that Protestant atonement theories are a totally different animal than what the average Catholic ascribes to. That said, Eastern Orthodox is even further away from the Protestant view than Rome.

  23. Some of the things you already mentioned, such as Anselm’s invention, but much earlier than that even starting with Augustine’s understanding of Romans 5:12 where he interprets the Greek to mean that all of man sinned with Adam, thus developing the idea of original guilt. The Orthodox do not believe that anyone is guilty of Adam and Eve’s sin; we are guilty of our own and suffer from the effects of the original sin both physically and psychically. Most Protestants are all for Augustine on this point.

  24. I’ll start a new comment so that things don’t get stretched out too much.
    The catholic church no longer accepts the idea of original guilt. The catholic catechisms explanation of it shows very little difference to the Eastern idea of ancestral curse aside from the title.
    The only aspects of Anselms theory that are really accepted is that Christs perfect obedience substituted Adams disobedience, so he became the New Adam, the high priest in heaven who is the head of a new covenant and a new humanity actively working to redeem all things.
    It sounds as if you may only be using straw man arguments against the catholic understanding of things. The catholic church has always allowed room for a lot of mystery with God and there have been a lot of Mystics within Catholicism. Do you think it’s possible you haven’t fully looked into the modern catholic understanding of sin and redemption and are just listening to old untrue fables by the Eastern Orthodox folk (that are keeping us in schism)?

  25. Wow, no kidding? I’m the first to admit that I have not kept up with Catholic theology. This is a good sign. When did they do away with original guilt?

    Also, is this how you see the Orthodox Church, as spreading fables about the Catholic Church in order to keep up the schism? There are a wide range of issues that keep the two separate. The atonement theory doesn’t even make the top three as far as I’m aware.

  26. No, I think there is a misunderstanding and distortion of information on both sides.

    I think it would be a good idea to look at catholic doctrine and practice, as many Catholics are educating themselves on Eastern Orthodoxy. Jesus prayed that we might be one, and I think a reunion is something we need in a time such as this. Eastern Orthodox and catholic relations have been going very strong in recent years.

    The eastern (Byzantine) Catholics are able to keep majority of their theology and traditions, the main difference between Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox is the acceptance the primacy of the bishop of Rome. Negotiations between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox in 2007 showed that the Eastern Orthodox do agree agree with the primacy of the bishop of Rome and the catholic interpretation of the chair of Peter they just disagree with the way that power was used after the schism, and wish to alter the way it functions.

    This is more of a discussion to soften the barriers between the two of our churches in the hopes of a reconciliation one day in the future. False ‘forensic salvation’ Christianity is rampant and those who believe in a continual increase in holiness or theosis need to work together, reaching out to spiritual seekers stuck in new age movements after disillusionment from a false Christianity.

    With regard to original guilt being taken away, I’m not sure. It seems to be something done quietly. It now simply states something along the lines of mans conscience and control over himself being somewhat marred, but he is not totally depraved nor guilty of Adams sin. Simply suffering the effects of it. An exert from the cathecism:

    “400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”,285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.286″

  27. Sorry to place this unrelated question here Eric but i can’t see a personal email address. I can never see the last couple of words on the emails I receive of your blog (I do on others). I have to go on-line every time, (my online time is limited), so, would you be able to ask WordPress (or whoever sets your email pages), to move it about 2cm left on the screen? Hope so and thanks. BTW, I’m not sure if you’re feeding the little’uns or if they’re feeding you – it works both ways as you say!

  28. What are your thoughts on N T Wright’s position on Justification and his refusal of imputed righteousness?

    Do you feel that Wright might offer some help in building the bridge over the division that exists between mainstream evangelical Protestantism and the orthodox church as well as Roman Catholicism ?

  29. Hi Christian, unfortunately I’ve read very little NT Wright (only two books, “Simply Christian” and “Evil and the Justice of God,” and both some time ago), so I can’t tell you much. However, I think he is one of the most balanced and well spoken theologians from what I have seen and read. Sorry I’m not more on it with this one.

  30. Eric thanks for the quick response. I have not read fully either one of those books. I am just now finishing his book “Justification” and I’m embarking on his 4 volume work. His book “Surprised by Hope” is incredible and I am sure being orthodox you would agree with most of it. I came across your blog through google after having a lengthy discussion with a pastor who contends “obedience is effortless” so i googled that title and your blog came up. I enjoyed reading much of what you have said and lovingly disagree with some of it but also was refreshed by your trust in the redemptive work of the human condition through the power of the Holy Spirit. Wright is probably one of the most balanced I’ve read well worth your time. Look me up on facebook would love to exchange thoughts if you have time

  31. “No hablo ingles” in its full form is “Yo no hablo ingles.”

    Yo = I; No = Do not; Hablo = Speak (present, self referring conjugation); Ingles = English

    So, in full, the sentence translates to “I do not speak English.”

    Eric, I believe that you do speak English. The problem is you do not speak Spanish. You may want to change your I-don’t-have-an-answer response before you make yourself look too foolish. I’ll suggest some:

    – Tu no hablas ingles = You do not speak English
    – Yo no respuesta = I have no answer
    – No se = I don’t know
    – ¿Va a reformular la pregunta? = Will you rephrase the question?

    Just to name a few. I speak Spanish pretty well, so I thought I would help you out. I actually enjoy reading your blog, even though I’m very against religion. It puts up a few interesting arguments, and you actually seem approachable unlike many other religious preachers one would find on the internet. You seem quite intelligent and you don’t spew your religious rebuttals without thought.

    Also, I’m wondering how you approach people who worship Satan? Hell probably doesn’t seem like much of a punishment to them, so I’m not sure how you would scare them into your religion. Thoughts?

    See you in hell,
    Sofia

    P.S. Everything written above is written with warm regards, no matter how sarcastic it may seem 🙂 .

  32. Greetings again,
    On # 8 of your debate on atheist I have a thought on it.
    Since adam and eve then noah were first teaching spiritual matters in line with Gods ways. And Satan wanting to counterfeit and or distort his ways . These other religions were off shoots so to speak of the real deal. Paganism and its other forms came from Gods true ways which were here first with Adam and eve and then Noah. These others got their ideas from Gods system.
    Christianity did not get it from paganism,, paganism got it from Gods way of spiritual/religious matters, beliefs, rituals…
    That’s how I am seing it.
    Have a good one !
    Richard

  33. Yah, the point I was making is that paganism throughout the ages had a faint glimps of the truth and then built stories to fit what they could only see in the foggy representations of their dreams and visions. God is the God of the whole earth and all people have access to Him as Christ said, “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” It’s no wonder that many ancient myths have some resemblance to the Gospel account.

  34. Hi Sophia

    I can’t see any reply from Eric so I offer mine in the hope of helping. No-one in their right mind would do wrong. Wisdom (related to your name), will show us why, but wisdom is not always responded to when people have not experienced its lessons for themselves. Because of this fact, the way that may help such people is found in the words of someone in the bible called Jesus, and this is, perhaps, the best way to respond to people who do not care about their idea of hell, (the simple one that they have interpreted it as being because they look no futher than what meets them).

  35. Hi Eric/Richard
    I’m glad to hear what Richard and you have said simply because I was born into the family name of Balaam. So, I have long since been puzzled about an explanation I once found on the biblical Balaam which said he had ‘some’ knowledge of God. Also, I’ve pondered on a comment some-one once said to me (I believe as an unwarranted personal criticism (due to their ego)), that the biblical Balaam was a pagan. Now, I believe, I can rest assured!

    Hope you are both enjoying a bit of a rest over Easter.

  36. Given your field and what I know of your faith, I would be very interested if you wrote an article directly addressing the homosexuality question (though not necessarily the political side) and what a nuanced and charitable Christian understanding might look like. Just putting that out there, if you feel like dipping a toe into the controversy.

  37. Corvus, I jumped on your site and read your book review of the John Gray book. Wow! Incredibly written. I think you may be able to do a better job than me considering your skills. The reason I haven’t written one as of late is because I still feel somewhat unqualified. I have as many gay friends as the next person and have studied the subject from both a psychological angle and a theological one, but I’m still in process.

  38. Hi
    I’d like to present my reply to this now that Eric has declined for his good reason. However, mine will be very simple and basic as I do not have any advanced literary skills or associated ones.

    So, I once went into a ‘religious’ persons home for a meeting and found the male owner disappeared when he found that i was prepared to state that there was no apparent good reason why a person of high religious standing should be required to step down from his office simply because he was homosexual. I had evidently, offended the owner of the house and rather than ask me to leave, he left the room. I was then asked why I thought this, to which, i replied that if you wait for a perfect substitute for that particular position, you will be without one, and further questioning led to me saying that I felt the position was suited to someone who knew how to love his brother (fellow mankind – in case anyone wants to jump down my throat!),
    This,of course, means to love another whatever their sins maybe.

    My view from all those years ago has not found good reason to change. I will now add that not to think and act in the said manner, is (according to the reason I have found/been given), to repeat the mistakes of Jesus’ times when they insisted on the Law and therefore ‘washed the outside of the cup, but neglected the inside’ – the most important part.

    I hope this helps in some way and that in may bring division in order to bring new life.

  39. Thank you for the compliment on my essay. As regards homosexuality, my thoughts too are, if not quite in flux, certainly at an immature stage of development, and I have not taken time to study the issue at any great depth. Perhaps someday I will write a meditation on the issue.

  40. Hi, my name is David and I’m an Orthodox Christian who recently discovered your blog. Over the last few months I’ve been reading several books on apologetics by men like William Lane Craig and C.S. Lewis. I’ve really learned a lot and I find it fascinating. I’ve really come to realize how reasonable our faith is, how well it makes sense of the world around us. My question is, does apologetics conflict with the mystical theology of the Orthodox Church? Is it okay for me to engage in apologetics as an Orthodox Christian? Please help, because I feel so confused and conflicted.

  41. Great question, David. I’ve never thought of apologetics coming into conflict with the mystical theology of our faith. Apologetics is an art and one can wield it in innumerable ways. My particular approach does not require me to sacrifice the mystical. For example, take discussions on the Eucharist. It almost never comes up in my discussions because I don’t let it. We pray in liturgy to not speak of this mystery to Christ’s enemies. I think we pray this because (a) the uninitiated could never understand what we’re doing, and (b) giving them an inside scoop only makes their alienation worse. I believe the prayer is to protect the unbeliever, not the Eucharist.

    In a similar vein I try to treat all the mystical elements of the faith. One can spend many hours debating on philosophical-scientific-theological grounds without ever needing to cross over into the mystical.

  42. i shouldn’t really get involved with this, but surely, one does not ‘cast ones pearls to swine’ (so to speak0, bcause they are only capable of treading them underfoot into the ground. Meaning, they cannot make proper use of them which makes them, (eg, the Eucharist), wasted on them and, furthermore, disrespected. Hence, one is protecting both the hearer and the Eucharist etc.

  43. Yeah, I would completely agree. And my apologetic approach is to defend what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity” which would be to defend the central beliefs shared by all major Christian denominations. That would include the existence of God, the defense of miracles, and the resurrection of Christ. And while I’m prepared to defend Orthodoxy against other Christians, I’m more concerned with defending against atheists and other non-believers. Therefore, in defending the central doctrines of Christianity through arguments I have never veered into the mystical. If some atheist were to accept my arguments, then I’d begin talking about specifically Orthodox Christianity, but I’ve never gotten that far and it’s likely I never will.

    In that case, would apologetics be okay as long as I’m not trying to explain/understand the mysteries of the Church? And are the things I defend alright to defend (the existence of God, miracles, and the resurrection)?

  44. Yes, of course. But the Eucharist never comes up in my dialogues with non-believers. They’re more concerned with the external questions like “does God exist?” or “are miracles possible?” or “did Jesus rise from the dead?”. And because of my apologetics I’m more than prepared to defend those central Christian beliefs with arguments and evidence. Therefore, my debates with atheists never get into more complicated things like the Eucharist. In fact, I wouldn’t even mention Orthodoxy unless they first accepted the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus. I try to make a case from the ground up.

  45. Hi David, just a quick point before the rest. Although blogs are usually meant to be open to anyone, I find it useful, (when i remeber!) ,to begin with the person’s name to whom I am specifically responding (even though I’m open to one and all), partly because the replies often do not follow in terms of time. Hence, i think I’m answering your ‘come-back’ to me, and may take the time to respond to anything else.
    So, having, i believe, pressed the ‘reply’ button, I didn’t start with his name, so, I was specifically asking him about his comment to you- ‘ I believe the prayer is to protect the unbeliever, not the Eucharist’. but, I am very pleased to respond to you by saying that, as, i was asking Eric, there is no issue with what you have said, and ithe rest, i commend you for! Hope that helps – there wasn’t a question in your comment to me, as far as i can see. If i missed it, please do let me know.
    On your other question to Eric, I’d like to say (while waiting for him, as i know he is very busy and about to go away for a little while), – if we worry about everything we do, we get tied up with worry and it causes us to come unstuck in one way or another. I believe,tthis is explained somewhere in the Bible also. So, as long as you speak the truth, as you believe it to be (and all within calmness and good manners), you need not fear anything else beyond this. Betond this, God will amke all thing right. He also recognises all your efforts to speak the truth as you know it (and it says, he will reward you for it). The only thing worth remembering is the very thing in subject, that it is utterly pointless to ‘cast your pearls amongst swine’. Not literaaly meant to call anyone a derogatory term but just to mean those who will not yet recognised it (they wiil in due course, of that, i am convinced. Sometimes it takes time to find out who this may be and you may suffer hardship, (possibly much), by crossing the wrong types, but God will sort it all out in His time. So, don’t worry too much, Eric and others won’t, necessarily, be there to answer you before each step, just do your utmost to speak the truth as you believe it to be (preferably with as much manners as you can muster at the time), try to use your judgement (which will include advice from Eric and others), and then speak. Let God do the rest. Just my opinion, really hope it helps. We’ll all look forward to hearing from Eric, of course.

  46. David – I love to boil things down to their essence, so, here it is:
    An old qoute handed to me from my wise parents – ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. So, if anyone shows willing, help them as much as you personally are able, if you can’t answer their question, show them a book. (But try your best first, because they are closer to you than the author of the book you recommend them to, and the moment may pass without your due effort for them – don’t be too lazy on their behalf!).

  47. Sorry to bother, but just a real quickie! Not sure if you are still connected with us Eric. No worries, if not, But, only, if your immediate memory serves you -Can you tell me the name of the fantastic male harminising group you once introduced us us to? (i think it was a quartet and sung on stage with some other older man as well). i just need their name for my own purpose and cannot seem to find where i have it stored! No worries if not. Hope you’re having a good week.

  48. David, yes, it is a thing of wonder just how uninformed both atheists and Christians are concerning Holy Orthodoxy. I remember at my Protestant Christian University one could hardly write even a term paper on Orthodoxy since almost no material existed on the topic in its library. A tiny section was devoted to some of the more popular Orthodox writers, a tiny section that was surrounded by isles of works on Augustine.

    Anyway, I think what you’re doing is great. All the things you mentioned need to be argued/articulated today in our religiously ignorant culture. The mysteries are a matter of wooing, not debate. A non-believer should encounter the mysteries of the faith like one encounters the mysteries of the opposite sex as a teenager – not through a point-counterpoint debate, but through the attraction of the beautiful unknown.

  49. Haha, wow! Sorry, I read this some time ago and meant to respond but it somehow slipped through the cracks. To answer the first part, from my first 25 years of life surrounded by Spanish speakers and having traveled all over Spain and Mexico I can tell you that I have almost never heard Spanish speakers use the textbook form you dictated. My experience is that they use the “yo” when its needed for emphasis.

    But to your actual question:

    “I’m wondering how you approach people who worship Satan? Hell probably doesn’t seem like much of a punishment to them, so I’m not sure how you would scare them into your religion. Thoughts?”

    Not sure why you believe that one must be scared into “my” religion. Could you help me understand where this assumption comes from?

  50. Eric- 2 questions:
    1.What about a SEARCH box on your home page for those who want to find a previous article quickly and know the words in the title? Or, even a full alphabetical list? (Perhaps you already provide one/both of these and i missed it in my hurry).
    2. I posted my previous comment at 12.17am and it came up as 11.17am. I presume America doesn’t have the UK ‘summer time’ of putting the clock one hour forward. Sorry if its common knowledge but just mentioning in case something can be done to show the time in each country. You are getting rather famous around and about! 🙂

  51. There should be a search option already programmed into the page. It shows up on my side. If not on your side it could be the computer you’re using, but I’m no IT guy so don’t quote me on it. As far as the time, I believe it goes by wherever WordPress is based out of. The WordPress world revolves around them. 🙂

  52. You say:

    [Start quote]

    Arg 1 There is no evidence for God’s existence.

    Their argument against a physical God is actually applauded and defended by Christians.

    Arg 3 God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.

    The Orthodox doctrine of God is much different. Christians (at least Orthodox Christians) view God’s ontology as subject to His perfect free-will. Why is He good? Because He wills to be good. Why does He not lie? Because He wills to be honest. Why does God exist as Trinity? Because He wills it. He could just as easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no commentary on whether He could.

    Arg 7 The gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at mankind because of sin so he decided to torture and kill his own Son so that he could appease his own pathological anger. God is the weirdo, not me.

    The Orthodox have no concept of a God who needed appeasement in order to love His creation.

    [End quote]

    On Arg 1, is this sentence from you all right, I mean I find it hard to get what you are trying to say with these words: “Their argument against a physical God is actually applauded and defended by Christians”?

    Forgive me, but please rewrite the sentence to make it more simple and clear to understand.

    The construction of the sentence can be simplified and clarified; anyway, please just explain what you are trying to convey by using an active voice sentence instead of a passive voice sentence.

    On Arg 3, you say: “He could just as easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no commentary on whether He could.”

    Do you really mean that God can will Himself into non-existence, and also will to lie?

    On Arg 7, you say: “The Orthodox have no concept of a God who needed appeasement in order to love His creation.”

    Is that really the doctrine of the Orthodox churches? You mean Orthodox churches do not have a doctrine of redemption, the doctrine of the sacrifice of the cross by which God is appeased with the sin of Adam and Eve?

    Forgive me, but please produce some official doctrinal texts from Orthodox churches to that effect, namely, no redemption, no appeasement by the sacrifice of the cross of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for a good article though; but I will just say that atheists insist on not getting the correct concept of God in the Christian faith, namely, that first and foremost God in concept is the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning.

    If God is not in concept as described above, then I can’t myself accept Him as deserving of any attention from me, or from any thinking person who uses reason to establish the truth and existence of something by grounding himself on facts and logic.

    As regards the myths of the Christian faith, like God regretting that He created man, etc., Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, etc. That is all right with mankind at the time of Genesis; but today we have to accept them as figurative language, and seek to determine what in substance is the Christian faith trying to convey with them myths, taking into account today’s knowledge of mankind.

  53. Hi Marius. Let me do my best to answer you with the time I have at the moment.

    Arg 1. I’m not sure why this is not easily understandable, especially given that I spent some time in the article qualifying it in, what I thought, was a fairly coherent manner. To make it more simple, Christ said that God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. Now to claim that God is physical would be in direct opposition to this, thus Christians do not claim that God is simply one more physical being in the sum total of physical beings in the physical universe. Does this make God unreal? No, it makes Him ultimate reality in that He created physical reality from nothing by His own Word.

    Arg 3. The point here is that God is not a captive of fate. He is not like the ancient Greek Gods who were ultimately subservient to cosmic fate. It is not be fate or anything outside of God that determines who He is. He is who He is according to His own person, I.e., His own will. If He could do no other than to exist then He would have something else dictating his existence and would not be God. Whatever was dictating his existence would be God instead.

    Arg 7. You quoted “The Orthodox have no concept of a God who needed appeasement in order to love His creation.”

    And then wrote – “Is that really the doctrine of the Orthodox churches? You mean Orthodox churches do not have a doctrine of redemption, the doctrine of the sacrifice of the cross by which God is appeased with the sin of Adam and Eve?”

    The problem here is that you are conflating “appeasment” with “redemption.” Redemption in the Orthodox faith, so far as I understand it (if that helps), is not about appeasing God so that He will love us, because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). God loved us in that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). God loved us prior to Christ’s sacrifice, which means something else was at stake other than trying to win God over, to appease Him, to placate Him. Christ’s sacrifice was “Christus Victor”, that is that Christ’s death trampled down the powers of evil and freed us from its bondage – Christ trampled down death by death. If you need doctrinal proof please feel free to Google search Christus Victor.

  54. I wonder what you think about the reasonableness of metaphysical arguments, like Kalam’s cosmological argument. I have been reading some of your other work, and in one of them you pointed out that the universe requires a cause, and that to you that cause must have been God.

    For one, I’m curious how it is that you know it must be God? We could potentially be talking about a 12-dimensional reality outside of our universe (as proposed by string theorists), or perhaps something beyond our comprehension entirely. In either case, it could be that various non-conscious mechanisms exist outside of our universe through which universe(s) are created. We can easily postulate that these mechanisms exist or operate periodically for eternity, in the same way God does. However I should point out that “eternity” doesn’t actually make that much sense here, since it is often written in the context of time. But an infinite amount of time can not pass, so these mechanisms and God would have to act outside of time (though we can say they are both uncaused). This makes the generation of the universe all the more confusing, as how can a mechanism, or God’s mind, operate when it is frozen in time? Personally I find this to be compelling reasoning that we simply don’t know what we’re talking about and that no claim should be made on what caused the universe, beyond our speculations.

    Secondly how can you know God is even possible? What you’re talking about is an ‘infinitely’ (or just extremely) powerful being localized outside of spacetime as a floating, incorporeal mind. Its not even clear whether such a thing is possible, let alone whether it can generate universes as a function of its will. If we somehow knew that there were no alternatives, then by logical deduction I could agree with you, but as I pointed out above I’m not sure why any claim to the effect that “nothing else except God is capable of creating a universe” is reasonable or justified, partially because it requires you to believe that your brain knows all of the possible ways in which universes can be generated.

    Thirdly I still find your claim of causality and special pleading confusing. If you say it is possible for God to be uncaused, why exactly is it unreasonable to say that the universe is uncaused? Why is it that God must be ontologically necessary, but not the universe? You state the latter is magical thinking but to me it sounds like *both* of them are magical thinking. And again, it demonstrates even more than before that we probably shouldn’t make any definite claims about what does and does not exist outside of our universe, or what caused it, because we have know way of having any certainty that our ideas are right. And if science has taught us anything over the last few centuries, its that the vast majority of our ideas are wrong, and the only way we have determined which are right is through the use of evidence. If the only thing you have to make these metaphysical claims on is your intuition, I generally feel like its plain insufficient to base any meaningful argument on.

    Hope that wasn’t too much. You’re probably tired of these questions. If you have time to respond I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

  55. Oh yeah I should have edited the third paragraph a little. I meant to say that it demonstrates how we shouldn’t attempt these types of proofs, because proposing that God (or the universe) existed uncaused, or that it had an infinite chain of causes are both logically absurd. I think this is what immanuel Kant noted as well if I remember correctly. It strongly implies that our minds simply aren’t capable of comprehending the true reality, something that I find strangely lacking in all of these debates.

    I just feel like all of these metaphysical comments, bereft of any evidence, are entirely unjustifiable. How can anyone take metaphysics seriously? It just sounds like a bunch of speculation. How are we supposed to take our intuitive speculations seriously when science has shown that most of our ideas are false, time and time again?

  56. Hello Eric, I am glad to see that there are some interesting theists out there in the cyber world. Just for information, I run a blog named ‘refuting god’, here’s the link: refutinggod.wordpress.com . It will be very nice if you give your opinions on my articles.

    The question I wanted to ask is, which one do you think is the most powerful argument from atheism? And in contrast, which one do you think is the most weak argument from theism?

  57. Hi Peter. Great questions. I’ll number your paragraphs in an effort to keep the discussion clear:

    1. “I wonder what you think about the reasonableness of metaphysical arguments…”

    I think the cosmological argument for God is quite reasonable. Is it scientifically verifiable? That’s a separate question. As to the origins of the universe science will likely never be able to verify any position (it’s one of those built-in limitations of natural science).

    2. “For one, I’m curious how it is that you know it must be God?… We can easily postulate that these mechanisms exist or operate periodically for eternity, in the same way God does. However I should point out that “eternity” doesn’t actually make that much sense here, since it is often written in the context of time. But an infinite amount of time can not pass, so these mechanisms and God would have to act outside of time…”

    That God created everything from nothing is a statement of faith (one that is reasonable and logical as well). It is not a statement of demonstrable fact. But you seem to be asking why it is more reasonable to believe God is eternal rather than the physical world. Hart, as I noted in the article, makes a logical water-tight argument why the physical cannot cause physical existence – i.e., if something is physical then it already exists, hence it cannot be the cause of physical existence. Why then is God more likely? Well, the reason it makes more sense to someone like me and not someone like you is our differing understandings of what God is. This takes us to a lengthy discussion, with the time available I can only say that I do not believe God is a disembodied mind, floating outside space-time, essentially frozen in eternal non-movement.

    3. “Secondly how can you know God is even possible?”

    I could again go into a very lengthy discussion on the very fact that I can “know” anything is a hint that God is real (consider the logic behind our minds evolving from non-organic material into “truth” deciphering entities). But take the very basic foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith: we believe in God because He has revealed Himself to us in an innumerable amount of ways, Jesus Christ being the epitome of such. How can I “know” it scientifically? Science would never be so ridiculous as to pretend to comment. Only scientists abusing their field claim to know anything about God based on their particular science.

    4. “Thirdly I still find your claim of causality and special pleading confusing. If you say it is possible for God to be uncaused, why exactly is it unreasonable to say that the universe is uncaused?”

    For the simple fact that everything material is contingent. What is it contingent upon, i.e., what is “necessary,” what is “absolute”? Answer that and you wind up where the ancients and billions of people since have landed: God.

  58. I’ll be straight with you, I don’t find any arguments from atheists powerful. However, agnostics have some powerful arguments. The greatest of which is also the most ancient: If a good and all-powerful God exists how can pain and suffering exist?

    The weakest argument from theism is too general a question to know where to begin. From the Christian perspective, I’d say the young-earth creationist crowd have some of the weakest arguments, or at least the most easily defeatable ones.

  59. I think one of the best exercises for one to come to grips with what they believe metaphysically is this:

    The idea that the universe suddenly appeared from nothing – with no antecedent cause – is as illogical as 0+0=1. So we are left with one of two basic ideas: either an eternal God created everything, or the physical reality has existed eternally. Then the question: Why is it more logical to believe in an eternal non-intelligent something (physical reality) than an intelligent eternal something (God)?

  60. In that the Kalam Cosmological argument claims that the universe began to exist at a definite point, yes. Science is basically in agreement with this notion per the Big Bang. I’m not sure if Kalam’s brand of the argument argues that time and space were created at the same time (in that one requires the other). Atheists are always trying to flip the argument on its head and claim that creation could not have a specific time since time is only relevant to the time-space existence. But this is to confuse eternality with infinite time.

  61. Eric, why would you describe the most ancient agnostic argument as ‘great’ – what’s so great about any argument that can be answered by logic and understanding? Do you just mean that the logic and understanding that is necessary is greatly difficult to comprehend and explain? I’ve settled it by my logic and understanding and I’ve had to attempt to explain it to some others in my layman’s terms, do you have a particular way of explaining it to others which I can read?

  62. Certainly, yes. If your words implied the wrong message to me a believer, maybe, it could have a greater effect on the agnostics and atheists who may read it. Just a thought, no reply needed. And, do you have a set piece for explaining the existence of pain. I do, more or less, but would be interested to see what you use, if available and relatively brief!

  63. I think pain has a fairly needed biological function. But perhaps I should have qualified by saying the pain and suffering of the innocent. Clearly those who abuse nature, themselves or others will experience much needed pain and suffering that do not need defending, but what about the child who suffers? That sort of question is very powerful to set one’s unbelief into stone.

  64. Sorry Eric, mine was meant to come across as two seperate comments. The first was about qualifying perhaps being necessary, not about pain, but, when you say the argument is ‘great’ (as it’s not the argument that is great but its effect as you agree).We wouldn’t want anyone thinking they had a great argument which could be a stumble block for all. It is great at causing those with no or weak faith to turn away, but not great against those who persevere to find their answer or those who already been given an answer which is acceptable to them..The same answer can be applied to all, children included. Do you have a set answer for those asking, which i can compare to my rather lengthy & laboured layman type answer?

  65. Sure, the short answer is that the earth was given to mankind to tend and to make of it either paradise or a pit. We have collectively made it a pit and suffering was introduced with the introduction of sin. We all suffer, even the innocent, as a result of sharing in the same humanity. That is the extremely short version.

  66. Yeah I know that one and it does not lead the imagination very far and hence it frequently fails. I dio appreciate that i did ask for your relatively brief one though. It was merely in hope of an inprovement over my longer version which i have to recall to mind each time, step by step. But, no worries then, I’ll have to rely upon my own wording and brush up on it maybe.

  67. Hey thanks for the reply :). Very nice too unlike a lot of these atheist-theist debates. I wish people were more respectful.

    I am also happy that you agree that many of these things can’t be proven scientifically. To me science is really the only reliable test of truth, besides personal experience that you believe can’t be explained via hallucinations etc. Although the latter only works for one person of course.

    So in my interpretation that is tantamount to agreeing that metaphysical arguments are ultimately unsound in that they can not be definitively proven for everyone. I totally agree that science has some built-in limitations; in my mind that is the basic reason why metaphysics can’t be trusted – because it can never be tested, and our intuitive hypotheses are not reliable. It seems like you agree. I also agree that the God hypothesis is quite reasonable, but many people use the cosmological argument as a proof, or even a probabilistic argument, not just as a reasonable hypothesis. And so they add far more credibility to it than I feel they should add. We can have hypotheses on string theory for example, but no one takes it seriously until evidence is found confirming the idea that we live in an 11-dimensional universe. It may be a perfectly reasonable theory, and indeed it explains *a lot* about our universe, but we don’t take it for granted just because its reasonable! I think you’d agree.

    For paragraph #2:

    I think we should also consider the possibility that there may be higher-order, or higher-dimensional, forms of matter or something analogous to matter which could exist outside of our universe. Beyond that I strongly feel that in these debates it is tacitly assumed that only the things we can currently imagine actually exist. But it could be that we can only comprehend 1% or less of actual reality within and outside of our universe. Theists will often claim it is a miracle that we can understand as much as we do; I’m not sure how such a claim is justified exactly, but I agree that we can’t have any guarantee that our minds will be able to comprehend everything. If you do share in that belief however, it would be (probably) even more miraculous that we can even comprehend anything outside of our universe.

    In that sense, making a probabilistic claim (or any sort of claim that acts as “strong evidence” for God) seems hard to take seriously. Could it be that there is something beyond matter and energy, but which is not God either? Per your beliefs, you already believe that something beyond matter and energy is possible (God) – so I am simply taking the hypothesis one step further and considering the possibility of higher-dimensional forms of matter, or something totally unlike matter which we can not yet comprehend. These non-conscious objects or ‘mechanisms’ may have unique properties that enable them to create universes. In that sense I don’t see why God is more or less likely than any other such cause. But you say that involves defining God. If that is still true in light of what I’ve said, that’s okay, I am happy leaving it at that.

    #3 I am so happy to hear your response. I agree it would be absurd for scientists to comment on this, and that no more need be said.

    #4 I suppose I agree that everything within our universe appears (scientifically speaking) contingent, or determined. I suppose that the big bang, containing all of material reality, would probably be contingent as well. So maybe I will concede your point here as it seems pretty reasonable. But what it is contingent upon seems really up in the air for me. I would at this point refer to my response for #2 again, and basically throw my hands up and say “I don’t know”. The problem of really knowing what could exist out there just seems to fundamental to me, something which I don’t feel can ever be overcome.

  68. Cheers Eric, Must read it again asap and see. Perhaps my language will be all I’ll need; somewhere something of truth clicks for someone, no matter who says it, or how, or even, what is actually being discussed! Wonderful!

  69. Peter Bartnicki says: ‘I wish people were more respectful.’
    I send my heartfelt agreement in response. And since it is SUCH an IMPORTANT thing to recognise, and always try to remember, I must employ capitals letters and elaborate upon it.

    When respect is not given, we lose our opportunities, and, despite the fact that we will all get others, it is lost time and slows the healing process for all. It is also on the head of the offender and, as such, I believe, we have a duty, where possible, to speak up about it in defence, not of ourselves, but the truth. We can but try and we learn as we will. We certainly should not retaliate with the same offence; as we all know, that ‘Two wrongs do not make a right’. That principle is put here in layman’s terms and, so, once again, in defence of truth, I must say that PRINCIPLES can be equally, if not better, understood by the layman. The difference is that he did not need to understand all God’s (The HIGHEST PRINCIPLE), other LAWS first, in order to understand the FUNDAMENTAL ones. That’s DEFINITELY worth remembering, otherwise we/you commit another offence. My case defnded!
    Ps. Learning the other laws serves us also 🙂 We are equal and must not forget it.

  70. Peter B. Please hear me out:
    To keep the logic running from your comment that some things ‘only work for one person’. Absolutely true! This is the rub – It does not turn the concept into a probability. Let me try to explain myself please:
    That energy exists is commonly accepted by all, (we see movement and movement requires energy, at least, as we call know and call it). In the same way, religious people have felt (perceived) this energy in a way that some others have not yet, and, they give this energy the name God. So, you are right to think that perhaps this energy does exist in some way, but, this is actually irrelevant, because, it does not matter what we call it. And, as far as perceiving it, because religious people have a little, taste of it, (the ‘little’ taste is the cause of all the argument between them about what it actually means and how we should interpret it!, and the argument makes non-tasters think the taste can’t possibly exist!) So, back to it being a mere probabiltiy,-it appears to be a probaility when we cannot give it a name or agree on it’s name and how to interpret it, but, religious people have one thig in common about it and that is simply that it is more powerful than us, we must recognise this, and when we do we will realise it is love, we no longer live in fear of it, or anything else bad in life, we can be at peace even with physical pain. When we finally confront it in full, we get it right and we have peace on earth for ourselves, but not for all at once in this earthly experience as this one is merely for each individual’s learning.

    I may or may not need to explain any more than this and you may already think there is nothing new in it for you. But, I hope it may drop a seed sometime.for you or anyone else who may take the trouble to read it sometime. At such time, the ‘probability’ turns towards assurity, as it has for each religious person who is getting a little more tast of it. We all, at some time and place, have more to learn about this love, (God or energy), regardless of our current level of peace or otherwise.

  71. I appreciate the thoughts. As much as I try to be a logical dude who values evidence when pure logic does not suffice (i.e. most of the time), I do value personal experiences quite a bit. I only want people to take care that the feelings they have, the perception you have, of God are actually true perceptions and not just generated feelings out of a need to be more than a collection of cells. I will give you a personal anecdote to show you how I feel people should go about this though.

    I personally have had some experiences, I don’t if it was with God or not, but I call them “spirit guides”. Basically I heard a voice in my head, and it was clearly distinct from my own – it was like someone had formed a telepathic bridge and was sending me their thoughts, clear as a bell.

    Secondly, I knew I wasn’t suffering from some split personality disorder, because I had a pack of cards on my windowsill. It sits randomly shuffled (at the time, I was trying to develop psychic abilities by getting my guides to read the numbers on the cards as I held them upside down, and tell them to me. Then I would flip the card over and read it to test whether I (they) were right).

    I guess my guides knew this, because they immediately started reading off the numbers on the deck of cards, one by one, seven in a row. In a 52-card deck, the chances of getting each card correct is roughly (1/13)^7 – that is, 1 over 13 to the power of 7. This is, in terms of a percentage, possible by random luck 0.00000159 % of the time. Put it another way, I could have 99.99999841% certainty that I was actually talking to my guides. This is what I mean by having certainty and using evidence :P.

    If you feel your experiences, your communications, are sufficiently clear that is fantastic. But I thought I would share my experiences on how I go about such things. If you’re curious, they did send me a message. I wrote it down at the time in paraphrased form. It was on how to use the law of attraction (that new age thing). They told me to pretend I had what I wanted. Ever since it has been very hard to apply, but I still try to this day.

    Besides that I have had some incredible experiences. I have felt and overwhelming sense of joy, while walking down the street trying to be ‘present’ in a meditative way. I don’t know what caused it, but its hard to believe my mind freaked out randomly. The lady walking opposite to me somehow felt my extreme state of joy, as if it just permeated the air. Anyway. That’s all…hope you find what you are searching for. I’m still searching 🙂

  72. Maybe I’ll add a little more to the last paragraph. It was such a strong state of joy my body seemingly could not handle it. I had to stop and take a breath, I had to force myself to think of something else. I can’t describe how extreme it was, but it was extreme. This universe…it is strange!

  73. Oh Peter, thanks for responding by sharing. i’m writing this quickly as I’m taking on much lately so, I could, no doubt say more and with more skill (but the energy source guides us!). So, just a quickie to say your experiences are shared by many of us and it is said to be a connection and a grace from the high energy. Let’s face it, if nothing else it does make us stop in our tracks and adds to the ‘strange’ness of our lives. The point i actually want to make is that this ‘strange’ energy force attracts us through the things we are attracted to in all sorts of ways. Your has been, and apparently still is, is in ‘developing psychic abilities’. It’s brilliant the way IT works, and, one way or another, IT will most certainly bring us back to it (& to my personal thinking, it may not be apparent to some in this life). I’ve found that energy or, as some call IT/God/all sorts of other names(!), by my chosen interests/attractions. Now i have to listen more to do what is in the universe’s prime energy source interest (‘cos now i realise it is in mine, and yours, and all interests as well as just the prime energy source). We’ll all get there in the prime mover’s due course, of that I am perfectly sure – and, I’m sure only, like the scientist, through trial and error. I’ll see you later when we both get there – keep up the good work for all our sakes Peter, my good friend 🙂 BTW ALL things, however bad they seem, work for the good of the prime energy source’s good and by God 😉 we need it! Happy journey! See you later when we both arrive.It will be a new birthday! Hope that said enough.

  74. Hello,

    I’ve read you article “Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail” and I must say, well done sir.
    I am agnostic myself, but I am not an ignorant. I really love your mature arguments on both sides, which opened my eyes, and made me think.
    No, I still do not believe there is a god, but I really appreciate arguments like you have written, because they are mature, honest and logical. I don’t like when people argue with thoughts like “There is god, and everything else is false.”

    Keep writing good articles 🙂

    Have a nice day,
    David

  75. Hey Eric,

    I am a 16 year old dutch girl, and i am reading your blogs with a little smile on my face. But i still don’t know if it is true.. If God does exist.. First i believed everything from Him, i knew it was true. But then i thought i could forget Him for a while so i could do sin stuff.. U know, going out, watch all kind of movies and listen to music that isn’t really okay.. It’s so bad. I know that. But now i think i became an atheïst! I think that is is all a fairytale, and also with your good posts i still don’t know it. I never see a miracle. I don’t even know if there actually even are ghosts. I mean like bad ones from the devil, nor our God.. I’m sorry for my not so good argumented post and my bad english, but i really hope that you can help me.

    Bye;)

  76. Hello Dutch girl. Sorry for the late reply. Yours is an interesting though common story. I think we all do what you describe at some point in our lives, your age is prime time for such things. I understand your situation well. My period of teenage rebellion only served to eventually push me closer to God. I saw how shallow my relationships were, how empty of meaning everything we called “fun” was and it just encouraged me to seek higher ground. When I came to Christ at around your age I was pretty much convinced the secular world had little to offer me – God was more real than anything else in my life. I can’t say I ever saw a miracle either, but I experienced certain things that could not be explained without God. The articles on this blog concerning atheism are not so much geared to “make” someone believe in God but rather allow the reader to question their assumptions about God and Christianity. It takes far more than a few blog articles for someone to come to the faith. My advise is to keep your mind open and ask the tough questions – why are we here; what is meaningful; is meaning real, if so how; what is the ground of all existing things; why do I believe in good and evil, right and wrong, etc? those types of questions. Visit a few churches (I highly suggest Eastern Orthodox Churches), read Scripture, read some of the Fathers and/or saints of the faith, etc. Even try praying simple, honest, heartfelt prayers. None of this will cost you anything, but might give you everything. 🙂

  77. Hi ‘Me’
    I find this thought interesting – if people cannot say that they know a God DOES exist, then, how can they know a God does NOT exist?
    They do not know how to make a universe (a sun, a moon, an earth and all the rest), or a sperm in a man or an egg in a woman but they think they know there is NOT a God who might have made the universe, the sperm, the egg and everything else. This is not sensible. It is stupid. There is no such thing an atheist. It is just people who do not know and will not agree to this.

    So, I say to you. Just say you do not know. Just keep the question open always. Many people feel sure at one time and not sure another time. Sometimes they finally feel sure. Sometimes they are not sure until they are very old.

    This is the other important thing – to care about social justice. It is quite clear that it would not be fair to want a healthy life (in all ways), for yourself and not care if others have it. If we care about each other all over the world we also must care about the planet we all share (if we do not we will all become very ill and many die before they ought to). Sharing is the most important thing on earth.

    So, ask yourself ‘Do I care about myself, others, and our world?’. If you do, make sure you show it. This is the way to know that a God can exist. It sometimes takes a long time to know for sure. God will let you find him when you show you want to care about God and his creation (the universe, people and animals).
    You may change your mind sometimes but you will remain with Him when you know Him.

    Be sure of this – If God exists, He is with you always whether you know it or not.

    Love to you, from Dichasium.

  78. Hey Dichasium, long time. 🙂

    I appreciate the reply you gave above. Just a heads up, this page, “Ask a Question”, is more or less reserved for me to answer direct questions about issues that do not seem to find a place elsewhere on the blog. I would prefer to keep the dialogues between myself and the questioner. I’ve not been straight forward with this request before, but I want to make it known now.

    Thanks again!

  79. Hi Eric (I’m not contravening your request, merely replying to be polite).
    Yes, sorry, I seem to have missed your point (rather funny as this page came about at my suggestion!). It won’t happen again.
    Strange you should say ‘long time’ as I’ve had nothing from your blog (I’ll check it out). Cheers!

  80. Thank you both a lot for the answers! Oh and i know i can’t be converted(if that is the word) by just an article and that i really have to go to God. It’s hard, but i hope God does want to come in my life if i release myself for Him and that i’m not telling just a story to myself. I really want to believe, cause it feels indeed so empty without Him. I am going to read even more in the Bible and do the things you said;) Oh and we are protestants, that is a right way to believe too though? I really hope God is there, i feel that i need Him..
    Thanx again;)

  81. Is Protestantism a right way to believe? I love the pointedness of this question, haha. As an Orthodox Christian I would have to say that in the Orthodox Church is found the fullness of the faith, that doesn’t mean that various Protestant faiths don’t have truth, they just lack the fullness of the truth. Orthodoxy presents and invites the believer into the full paradigm of the faith; it does not choose this or that element of the faith to elevate while demoting others. One is called into the full liturgical life of the Church as it has been from the beginning.

    Hope that answers your question. 🙂

  82. How do you keep thinking should keep my faith when I read so much on Christians being dickheads and using God to justify their actions and the atrocities committed by God in the Old Testament and the contradictions in the bible

  83. Difficult to answer, I don’t know what you are reading. But, should your faith be determined by the actions of others? Can’t one always find poor examples of people claiming to be one thing or another? For instance, I know a lot of doctors who aren’t worth the paper their degree is printed on. Should I then quit believing in good doctors?

  84. What about Old Testament god he was cruel and punished people for the slightest of things e.g And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Sam 15:1‑3)

  85. Tyrick, I’m not sure how almost 400 years of oppressing and attacking Israel makes what the Amalekites did a “slight thing,” but I would be happy to answer your question to the best of my ability if you will first answer for me a very simple question: where do you, Tyrick, get your standard of morality and why is your chosen standard authoritative?

  86. I get my moral authority my conscience which is developed by personel experiences and defining moments I was alive that shaped me

  87. Tyrick, then your morals are no more authoritative than any criminal or psychopath sitting in the nearest padded cell. How then do you judge God?

  88. Tyrick, here are some things to consider regarding your initial question:

    “The Amalekite initiative looks like an ordered annihilation.

    This is what the LORD Almighty says: `I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'” (I Sam 15.2f)

    The situation is thus:

    1. The Amalekites are a predatory, raiding, and nomadic group; and are descendants of Esau (and hence, distant cousins to Israel).
    2. They would have been aware of the promise of the Land TO Israel, from the early promises to Esau’s twin Jacob.
    3. They did NOT live in Canaan (but in the lower, desert part of the Negev–a region south of where Judah will eventually settle), and would NOT have been threatened by Israel–had they believed the promises of God.
    4. As soon as Israel escapes Egypt–before they can even ‘catch their breath’–the Amalekites make a long journey south(!) and attack Israel.
    5. Their first targets were the helpless:

    Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. 19 When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deut 25.17-19).

    6. Before the attack on Amalek is initiated by Israel, the innocent are told to ‘move away’ from them: Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites. (I Sam 15.5f). This action would have also served to give the people of Amalek plenty of notice (i.e., time to ‘move away’ themselves), and the impending attack by Saul–especially with the troop counts reported!–would hardly have been a surprise. Some of them would likely have fled–we KNOW all of them were not killed, since they ‘lived to fight/raid again’ in David’s time (I Sam 27,30) and even in Hezekiah’s time (200-300 years later!, 1 Chr 4.43).

    Kaiser notes in EBC: Exodus 17.8:

    Amalek’s assault on Israel drew the anger of God on two counts: (1) they failed to recognize the hand and plan of God in Israel’s life and destiny (even the farther-removed Canaanites of Jericho had been given plenty to think about when they heard about the Exodus–Josh 2.10); and (2) the first targets of their warfare were the sick, aged, and tired of Israel who lagged behind the line of march (Deut 25:17-19).
    But Amalek continues to repeatedly oppress, terrorize, and vandalize Israel for between 200 and 400 more years! And yet, Amalekites were freely accepted as immigrants to Israel during this period.

    Let’s note again that (1) they had plenty of access to ‘truth’ (at LEAST 400 years since Jacob and Land-promise), plus enough information about the miraculous Exodus to know where/when to attack Israel; (2) even their war conduct was cruel by current standards(!); (3) the semi-annihilation was a judgment; (4) God was willing to spare the innocent people–and specifically gave them the opportunity to move away; (5) children living in the households of stubbornly-hostile parents (who refused to flee or join Israel earlier) died swiftly in the one-day event (instead of being killed–as homeless orphans–by a combination of starvation, wild beasts, exposure, disease, and other raiders; or instead of being captured and sold as foreign slaves by neighboring tribes, for the older ones perhaps?)–they are victims of their fathers’ terrorist and oppressive habits toward Israel; (6) the innocent members of the community (Kenites) and any change-of-heart Amalekites who fled are delivered (along with their children of the household).”

    *Source: http://christianthinktank.com/qamorite.html

    That’s a good start to getting some context of the passage you quoted.

  89. Hey Eric!

    I’m new here, and I really like how you make your points concerning Christianity and atheism. As an atheist myself who was raised as a Roman Catholic, I have some questions that I would like to ask you, questions that have received either insults or circular, empty reasoning by other Christians. I would like to hear your thoughts and hopefully better figure out my own thoughts on religion.

    How is God good? The God in the Old Testament seems pretty scary – causing global floods and starting genocide left and right. It seems pretty weird that He would create an entire human race but favor only the Jews. And everyone else was just born screwed? It may just be my biased 21st century views, but it seems to me that God is racist, misogynistic, and arrogant beyond reason. Why would God allow us to hurt and hate each other when hating and hurting others is supposed to be wrong? Why would God show Himself to us on a normal basis thousands of years ago just to hide from us today? Why does he not help the Third World? I know that is the fault of colonialists in the 1600s, but I would like to think that if God were to help anyone in the last 500 years, it would be those in the third world. Why does he value faith over things like honesty, selflessness, and integrity? And if we are sent to Hell for eternity, what lesson does that teach us? How can any action deserve something that horrible? How are we supposed to know which god is the right God? How can God complain about Satan’s pride while forcing everyone in existence to worship Him? And how can God even pretend to make a loving relationship with us if He hides and won’t see us unless we love Him unconditionally? How can He love us if he would send us to Hell for not solving His “Religions-Riddle” aka “Life” correctly under His opinions and not our own? Why did He send His Son when He could’ve sent Himself? Why make death on a cross necessary? Why all the rules?

    And one biggie: what gives God the right to judge us? What makes Him better than any of us? This may seem harsh and maybe even selfish, but I don’t think that anyone can be perfectly good or evil. They just are. Most people try to do the right thing, or at least what appears to them to be the right thing. Hitler wanted to slaughter millions of Jews as a scapegoat to make Germany great again after the country was wrongfully blamed and ruined by the Great War. Is he evil? Bin Laden warped Islam into an American-hating cult designed to cause as much death and hate as possible, but when considering what the US did to the Middle East to create Israel (we basically used eminent domain without previously owning the land and with no compensation except useless desert), it seems reasonable that so much hate for America would exist over there. Are they wrong for hating us and wanting us all dead? I personally don’t believe in good and evil, but I have the opinion that humankind should strive toward more overall happiness as a whole. I stress that if you can’t at least understand why people believe differently than you on a topic (not that you have to agree, just understand), then you have no right to judge them. Blind accusations seem to be most people’s way of argument, but it does not lead to conclusions, learning, or resolutions. Trying to pinpoint motive is how I reason, sympathize, and understand good and evil, but even then I cannot judge who is absolutely right or wrong, only my opinion of it. This reasoning is the basis for my “morals”, so when certain social/ethical conundrums occur (such as stem cell research vs saving a life), I cannot even begin to think about a side to pick, much less defending it. However, there are many types of thinking that are considered evil by many(not all) religious followers that don’t hurt anyone, such as homosexuality, my taste in music (metal), lust, masturbation, and contraception just to name a few. I admit, lots of them have to do with religion hating sex in general. Christianity (and other religions) just seem like ways for certain people to manipulate other people. In fact, religion has a bloody history of being used as a controlling device to take over a large amount of people who know no better.

    But even assuming the fact that God exists, what has He done to deserve our respect? In my opinion, nothing. He is actually guilty of a lot of messed up things(as mentioned above), and it seems weird that no one else seems to think so. If God exists, then I may consider myself a dystheist/maltheist. At any rate, I would fear for my soul and that of everyone else in the world.

    Given all of this, what do you think of my questions and opinions of religion? What answers does Christianity have (mainly for the one in the last paragraph)?

    By the way, I don’t want to come across as rude, so I just want to apologize if any of this sounded offensive. By no means do I have a negative opinion of you or other Christians for your faith, but I simply have problems with the faith itself. I hope that nothing above is aggressive or insulting; I only wish to ask you these things in both academic and philosophical (and possibly spiritual) interest.

    Thanks, Eric! Hope to hear from you soon!

    ~ Hyron Valkinson

  90. Hello Hyron,

    I’m not insulted in the least. I’m sure I had everyone of your questions at some point in my journey and they’ve all been answered along the way, sometimes through asking others, but mostly through very difficult and committed study over the last 20 some odd years. I’d be honored to help you wade through the tide of questions, but there’s no chance all your questions could be answered in the ease with which they are asked. We can start with one or two questions and work from there. Out of all the ones you posted above, which would you like to tackle first?

  91. Well, I think answering this question may make other answers more clear: Why does God hide from humanity?

    If I made a list of reasons NOT to, it’d be longer than the first post I had. It just seems like a dick move and causes loads of problems. What is the reason behind this?

  92. Hyron, I really like this question. In fact, it would be worth writing an entire article on, which I might do if I can find the time over the next week or so. In lieu of this let me offer a short parable that might help answer the main question.

    There was once a king who held a ball in his royal palace. Many people from the surrounding villages were invited. One such guest, a beautiful woman, drew the attention of the king. It was love at first site. The night wore down and the people returned to their villages but the king’s love for the woman continued to grow. He wanted to marry the woman but he was caught in a dilemma: If he were to approach the woman as king she would be sensually overwhelmed with his majesty, and if she chose to marry the king she would do so based on conformity to her sense experience and not out of love. Appearing to her in his true nature would forever spoil the chance for the woman to fall in love with him. The king resolved to travel to the village dressed in common clothes and appear to the woman as a regular man in order that she might fall in love with him in truth. The king did not desire the woman to merely comply to be his wife out of obligation, but to truly love the king as much as he loved her.

    I stole this parable from Kierkegaard and put it in my own words. He presents in much better, but I hope it makes the point. God does not appear in all His splendor because for us, in our sensual disposition, His appearing would lead us into a false relationship with Him. Instead He came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, that is, incognito. He appeals to our true Self, not merely our sensual intellect. As I said above, this question of yours deserves a full article which I hope to write soon.

    Cheers.

  93. It seems as though the reason He wants to be hidden is to develop a relationship on a personal level before granting us with His gift. He wants us to love Him for His love and not His power.

    This… sounds pretty bad. He wants us to believe that He is an all-powerful, all-knowing being, and this is supposed to be His down-to-earth and personal self? It looks as though the exact opposite of His intentions are true. People “love” Him to avoid Hell. I’m sure most people would just say thanks and walk away (humans are an ungrateful lot) if they were allowed into Heaven either way. However, holding a gun to someone’s head (actually, this is even worse than that!) and saying that (1) they have the free will to love Him but (2) will get shot if they don’t, that isn’t love, but fear. And given the fact that He’s hiding, it feels more like a sniper who will only spare your life if you manage to find him (despite him being completely invisible to you) and tell him that you love him and would like to have a relationship. Its completely ludicrous. By doing this, he can’t earn real love. For an all-knowing being, He has no idea how to create relationships.

    Also, going back to your metaphor, its as if this king comes to a village that has tons of problems due to a monarch failing epically at their job. Homeless people jam the streets, but no jobs are available. Robbers, rapists, and murderers are loose, but no soldiers or patrols stop them. They exist, they watch, but they do nothing to stop the perpetrators. Sanitation is awful, people are dying in droves of a plague, corrupt nobles steal from the poor, everything is falling apart. The worst part is, the king has unlimited wealth, infinite resources, and the power to know all, see all, and be everywhere. How do you think the beautiful woman will feel about the king once she realizes who he is? Especially considering the fact that if she turned him down for another suitor or no one at all, he would reveal himself as her king and order her execution? He may seem like a great person at first, but he cares nothing of his people despite it costing him nothing to save everyone. He may want people to feel like they have freedom, but in doing so he allows for evils to exist. Governments today have this problem because they have limited powers and everything they do helps some and hurts others. God, however, is all-having but non-giving, all-present yet does not interfere, all-seeing yet somehow blind to His own ignorant ways, all-knowing yet not intelligent enough to see the major flaws of His creation much less Himself. If I were Him, I’d be hiding because I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

  94. Hyron,

    The problem I am having with replying to your posts is that they are drowning in poorly constructed and misunderstood Protestant theology. I am an Orthodox Christian, not a Protestant, so the vast majority of your critique and/or problems with Christianity simply don’t apply to the Orthodox understanding of the faith.

    For example, the metaphoric example of God holding a gun to a person’s head and saying “love me or I’ll shoot” is a highly immature, finger painting, caricature of Christian theology. It’s difficult to know how to respond because I would first have to remove layer after layer of ignorance and misinformation you have about the faith.

    I’ll continue responding if you are truly interested to have questions answered but you will need patience as there is much, much, much more to the faith than you seem currently aware of.

  95. Ah, I hadn’t thought of that.

    I will admit, everything I know about Christianity comes from a Protestant or Catholic viewpoint. Therefore, my reasoning came from a flawed understanding and a lot of ignorance. Sorry about that.

    I know the historical, origin differences between Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism (and then later Protestantism and Catholicism), but I’ve never heard of the actual differences of beliefs. I’ll do some research on my own before asking what the differences are (I know you’ve got more to do than answer questions that are easy to find answers to), but if I may ask, what exactly in my last post was solely Protestant-based and what is the Orthodox view on those parts?

  96. Hyron, sure, like the example I note about God holding a gun to ones head, “love me or die!” This caricature rises from the Protestant belief in what’s called the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement (derived from the Roman Catholic “satisfaction” theory). This theory poses salvation as something like a courtroom drama (this example is an oversimplification on my part, but it gets the idea across). In the courtroom is the Father God on His throne. Convicted sinners are brought before Him by the Accuser, i.e. Satan, who demands their eternal damnation. On the sinner’s side is Jesus. Jesus offers to take the penalty of the convicted person’s sin and dies in his place thus soothing the wrath of the Father, and the sinner goes free into heaven (to any Protestant readers, forgive my own caricature of this theory).

    In short, this idea of salvation is “love me or die.” One is expected to somehow love this crazed, bloodthirsty, offended, mafia-like, God or be struck down like a worm.

    The orthodox view of salvation is what’s known as Christus Victor, “Christ’s Victory.” It is the view that Christ’s death on the cross defeated Death and evil which held mankind captive since the original sin entered the world.

    Jesus did not die in order to save you from His offended Father, as in the Penal theory, but rather to save you from death and eternal corruption. The death and corruption that torments mankind is a result of mankind, not God. God seeks to restore His creation because He loved it and created it good; He seeks to return it to good.

    Must one love God in order to be saved? Yes. Without loving God and turning back to Him one remains in death. There is no other way to receive His gift of salvation because He is, as Christ said, “The way, the truth, and the life.” There is no life outside of Him. The one who does not turn to God is not struck down by an angry God, but remains in what is already a reality for the person – death and corruption.

    I’m leaving out much more than I am putting into this reply, but I hope that gets your investigation off the ground. 🙂

  97. Hi Eric,

    Thanks so much for this space to inquire 🙂 I’m currently a student studying medicine, while concurrently an Orthodox inquirer. I have been deeply moved by my experiences in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, but a mentor of mine who is Orthodox is opposed to the practice of psychiatry as it currently stands today. I do not know all the reasons for the opposition, but I know some are spiritual in source. I know you answered this in part in a post of yours on Fromm, but what has your experience been as an Orthodox Christian involved in mental health with the field of psychiatry? Does it hold particular traps for the Orthodox believer as opposed to other disciplines? Please let me know your thoughts, and thanks for your input!

    Peace,
    M

  98. Hey Mark, I can tell you this, in our somewhat small congregation (maybe 200 if everyone showed up on the same day) we have 2 child psychiatrists, 2 child counselors, and 1 psychologist, plus our priest is a major voice in our community for bioethics – and this is the trend I’ve noticed at most Orthodox Churches I’ve visited. They would be pretty bummed out to hear that they were somehow offending the Church by being involved in the mental health field.

    I guess I would have to know what the “practice of psychiatry as it currently stands today” means to your mentor, which has convinced him to oppose it. He may have very legitimate points to make. But if the point is merely that Orthodox Christians shouldn’t be in the mental health drug business, period, then I think the view would be narrow minded.

  99. Hello Eric, I came across your post on questions that are commonly asked by atheist and then found your blog. I just recently decided that I’m atheist despite being Catholic and going to a catholic school for 12 years. The downfall of my “faith” is when I started to put earth into perspective. I dont understand why humans are so important when they are such a ridiculously minuscule part of the universe.

    And I don’t understand why people are so devoted to a book that was written by HUMANS the most evil manipulating and greedy creatures on this planet

  100. Noah, your assessment of the human race without a belief in God is a logical straight shot. If there is no God and if the human being is not made in His image then what is the inherent dignity in the human being?

    Did you have a question?

  101. The inherent human dignity is just human hubris. I do have question, how can you invoke logic when all of your arguments are circular?

  102. Hi Eric, its me again!

    I have a couple of questions that have all sorts of weird interpretations online, and I would like to hear your opinions on these matters.

    1) Can people have children in heaven? If so, since faith could not be a necessity for them to belong in heaven (they’re already there), what would?

    2) Is there sin in heaven? It would seem that a sinless heaven would be one without free will (if I’m not mistaken, God gave us free will as a gift; does He want it back?), and a sinful heaven would be exactly like another earth, which would ruin the whole point of afterlife. Also, just because only good people go to heaven doesn’t mean that they stay good, right?
    Even angels in heaven (example: Lucifer) have sinned and therefore had been cast out. Humans, who are less perfect beings than angels, will, with any free will whatsoever, find a way to sin. Even in Eden, when Adam and Eve were too ignorant to even understand good and evil and could only comprehend one sin, even when they knew God was real and conversed with Him often and knew He was watching, humanity still managed to commit sin. It seems as though the only way to stop heaven from becoming spiritually corrupt is by turning people into mindless robots.
    Because of this, I’m confused as to whether heaven is a good idea or not. I mean, it beats the alternative by a lot, but what’s really the purpose of heaven when considering these possibilities? Or is there another alternative I have not yet considered?

    Thanks again for your help!

    – Hyron

  103. Hello again, Hyron. Always a pleasure.

    1. No. Orthodox Christian teaching does not teach that we can have children in heaven. Some outfits like the Mormons believe so, but it is not a Christian belief.

    2. Is there sin in heaven, and if not are we then just mindless robots in an eternal moral straightjacket? The Orthodox understanding of salvation is that of theosis, which in a nutshell means recovering our original state of being – made in the image and likeness of God. Salvation is a recovery of the latter, the likeness of God. This happens by becoming one with God through Christ’s body; we are not made part of God but rather a “partaker of the divine nature,” as the apostle Peter put it. Theosis is not a robotic like state but the exact opposite – its perfect freedom to live according to one’s true nature, that is, in the likeness of God. Sin for humans is against our nature which is why it is so devastating. Sin is enslavement and the true robotic life.

  104. That actually makes more sense. Just one more question: How is sin possible when it is against our nature? I know that after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, sin became possible for all of us, but how did they sin in the first place?
    Everything I’ve heard on this subject is about how temptation, which if I read correctly, is not a sin, is still possible in a sinless human being while sin itself is not, which explains how Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan yet was able to resist evil. If humans are inherently good yet can be tempted, what exactly did temptation mean back when humans could not sin? In other words, how can one feel the urge to do that which is impossible? It sounds like something that would have to be left to imagination, like having the urge to fly or breathe underwater.

    Yet despite this, Adam and Eve (and even former angels like Lucifer/Satan) were able to do that which was against their nature, which in turn led to sin being a part of our lives, unnatural as it is. If all beings were originally perfect, what caused that first step into immorality that allowed for all of this to happen if it were supposed to be impossible in the first place?

    As always, thanks!

    -Hyron

  105. Hey Eric,

    I just read your very nuanced, reflected and intelligent article “Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail”. I myself am an atheist and have spent a fair amount of time researching and thinking about religion. I wonder if you would perhaps be interested in a more in-depth exchange. Maybe at the end of the discussion you have gained another supporter for your/God’s cause. I have had such a debate via e-mail with another Christian and it was a very enriching experience for both of us. If you are interested and if you have the time, just write me. I am from Germany by the way.

    Best

    Max

  106. Hey Max. Thank you for the invitation. I love such exchanges, hence why I have a blog. But as you may have guessed from the lack of any new article posting in the last several months, my time is not as free as it use to be. I’m not sure how much I could devote to an email exchange, but maybe I will hit you up in a few days using the email address you used to make this post.

    Cheers.

  107. You say that you are not religious, but spiritual. Which is it? Are you not spiritual, one label or the other…spiritual…sounds like the same thing to me….you seem confused. Ask your maker who you are, not what you are. Wait for answer. Be surprised!!!

  108. eric why chose christianity.
    There are over 3,000 gods in human existence why makes you think your one is the correct one.

  109. ty, I’ve met Him.

    And there is not 3000 Gods. There is exactly one. It’s not about choosing which god, its about responding to the only one who gave you existence. It’s like asking me why I chose my mother and father to be my parents.

  110. Well first off for taking your time.
    How would you respond to criticisms such as…
    1. Saying that we need a creator, like building need architects, falls flat because we know the architect exists but we do not know God exists.
    2. God not being physical makes him irrelevant.
    3. No evidence exists for God being eternal.
    4. Claiming everything but God needs a creator is basically a “god gets out of jail free card”.

    Again thank you for your time.

  111. mrcredible, sorry for the delay. Been quite busy, wish I had more time to blog like I use to. Yah, the article you linked is interesting. Somehow he got the original version of the article from years ago. I’ve had a revised version up for over a year now but he chose to use the other one to rebut. My wonder is whether he did this because the original version is a much easier one to attack. But regardless, I’m sort of back handedly honored that he would spend 4 full articles attempting a rebut. He presents many contradictions in his own thought and flat out misses the point on many other fronts, but I’ll address the four you brought up.

    1. If the other author is a Christian I’m surprized he so quickly parts with what Paul the Apostle himself said is a great witness of God’s existence, that is, the natural world. He apparently thinks himself a better apologist than the apostles. But the fact remains, matter cannot be the cause of existence of matter for the simple fact that matter is matter because it already exists, therefore matter cannot be the cause of its own existence (as David Bently Hart puts it) thus it is logical to look beyond the world of matter to some “super-matter” world, i.e. supra-natural world. This is a reasonable take on the matter. The atheist has this conundrum on his hands: a) we all believe in something eternal, it is wholly illogical to believe that everything spontaneously appeared from absolutely nothing. The theist believes in an intelligent eternal something (God) and the atheist a non-intelligent eternal something (nature). The atheist must answer why it is more logical to believe in a non-intelligent eternal something. There are far more reasonable arguments favoring the belief in the intelligent eternal something. Arguments that I have written on before and don’t have the time a present.

    2. “God not being physical makes him irrelevant.” Yah, this is the most half-baked, thoughtless critique I’ve ever heard from an atheist or theist. My point in the article, regardless of the version, is that there is no physical specimen of God that might be extracted from the natural world. The fact that there is evidence of God all around was fairly clear I think. God is immaterial. If He was strictly material He would be irrelevant. Why? Because all material things are contingent on something else for their existence. Nothing material exists of its own power. If God’s existence is contingent on something else then He would not be God.

    3. “No evidence exists for God being eternal.” Forgive me but this statement is ridiculous. Is the point that one must prove God is eternal before believing in God? Honestly it doesn’t seem like a challenge worth addressing.

    4. “Claiming everything but God needs a creator is basically a “god gets out of jail free card”. This is the argument that making a case for God not having a begining like everything else in the known universe is committing the logical fallacy of special pleading. Here’s what I wrote in the current version of the article (had the author read it he may have not brought it up, but whatever).

    “For those who would cry “Special Pleading” at this must defend the alternative, which is strictly illogical, that of absolute contingency and/or unconditional conditionality of the physical universe (assuming they believe in the eternality of nature; if not, if they believe the universe had a beginning, then they must defend an even more fantastic illogical leap, that of “just-thereness” of the universe, which differs very little from pure magic). But the belief that God is eternal is not special pleading to begin with for the simple fact that the subject matter is something truly unique, justifiably “special”. If one cannot claim that at least one thing is Absolute, or “Necessary” in philosophical parlance, then reality as we know it is irrational.

    Better to be wrongly accused of a logical fallacy then rightly accused of a logical absurdity.”

    Hope that helps. Feel free to shoot me follow up questions. I’ll do my best to respond promptly.

    Cheers.

  112. How can anyone including your self debate that God/Gods are real or not if everyone on this planet has different definitions of what God/Gods are. Thus, without a descriptor to explain the abstract concept of God/Gods how can there be any evidence to prove the truth if God/Gods exist or not. As the thing that is trying to be proved has no one single meaning and weight behind it to be substantiated as everyone contradicts the meaning of what God/Gods are. Therefore, doesn’t it seem more logical to say I don’t know rather then claiming God/Gods exist or not. Saying that God/Gods exist or not what does that even mean? Currently, it seems God/Gods is a word that is so vague that it doesn’t having any context to truth because its meaning is still pending. I just don’t know and it seems you don’t either, thus to claim otherwise seems meaningless.

  113. Someone, I’m curious if you could give me a perfect description of yourself, which everyone could agree on otherwise I’ll have to assume you don’t exist.

  114. Someone, the Orthodox Church has a fairly definitive view of God one that has been held for 20 centuries. It is this revelation of God as given to the Church that we defend. There are plenty of attributes about god in general that many/most can agree on similar to how most can agree on what the human “self” is but there is by no means consensus. However it seems foolish to therefore believe the idea of “self” is meaningless. In some ways the lack of agreement and ability to fully define it makes it all the more meaningful.

  115. Hi Eric! I just recently stumbled over your blog after having an argument with a militant atheist on facebook, starting with your Top Ten Most Common Atheist Arguments, And Why They Fail, which was more than a delightful read, especially since the militant atheist used every single one of those flawed arguments. I really don’t think it was coincidence I found that article, especially considering how I got into that argument just after suffering from terrible anxiety and a near lose of faith, which I happened to rekindle.

    The militant used several other nonsensical arguments as well though, and I wanted to get your opinion on the matter. One of the arguments he used, and you’ll get a kick out of this, was ‘if your god exists why can’t he prove his own existence?’ Quoted verbatim. Really I think I’ll just link you to the argument itself, it’s rather quite the entertaining read. I’ll permalink to the militant’s first comment:

    I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. Regardless I thought you’d enjoy this militant’s flawed logic and clear bias against Christianity. Have a lovely Wednesday!

  116. Fair enough, I’ll cherrypick a few of them and paste them below:

    “You can believe in Gandalf the wizard for all I care but it still doesn’t mean its not bullshit.”

    “Do atheists go door to door preaching? Do we have atheist representitives in the house of lords? How many people are repressed by atheist laws and how many atheist wars have there been? Science for the win!! Reality is better than self delusion (unless you’re an idiot).”

    “Lol denying science whilst using technology that relies upon it. There are no atheist in the house of lords who are there purely as representations of atheism, the same cannot be said of religion. I think I’d prefer to live in a world based on science (like this one) rather than one based on religion. We used to have that it was a time known as the dark ages.”

    “Lets see your proof of jesus then? Infact better to show it to the Nobel institute and receive the $1m reward they’ve been offering for the last few decades.
    Your ‘argument’ is a joke, just because science hasn’t yet perfected everything in life then its no better than some made up mythology which it has all but completely disproven, But of course religitards hang on to their feeble threads of scientific criticism which are being eroded by the day. As long as your bronze age mythology is causing oppression and holding back progressive thinking I’m going to give it and those dumb enough to believe it the ridicule they deserve.”

    “Again where are the 2000 yr old artifacts, where is the 2000 yr old documentation.
    If there was any it would be the worlds most famous item, it would be more well known than Tutankamuns death mask or the marble works of Caeser in Rome.
    Yet we have no evidence for the alledged son of god alive at a time when society was advanced enough to have a census, and even tax records, not even 1 2000 yr old sculpture or painting of him, let alone any recorded literature from a society that had their own daily journals?”

    “You make yourself look more stupid with every reply, you don’t need personal artifacts how about just a 2000 yr old reference. We know exactly what was happening 2000 yrs ago and much earlier.”

    “A man being killed for his religious beliefs is entirely plausible, but for that man to actually be a divine deity who carried out all the miracles in the bible is almost as ridiculous as the invisible unicorn. So if you’re now going to claim that jesus existed as a historical figure but was just a ordinary preacher they you are just serving to undermine your own religion.
    Either the buybull is 100% true and the word of god and all of it is true exactly how its told because god is divine almighty and onipotent, OR its just an old made up fairytale with no credibility.
    But its strange that a divine being wouldn’t be able to even offer any evidence of their own existence.”

    “atoms and wind can be proven to exist they can be measured recorded felt and seen. They exist physically. To try and compare the 2 things is ridiculous. The entire concept of your religion is something that has had to have been put upon you, if you had grown up not exposed to the indoctination your religion you wouldn’t have it, its that simple. And with that indoctrination now having to compete against higher levels of rationality anf knowledge I wouldn’t be so sure about it lasting too far into the future, just like all the old religions that have now become extinct only this time it”ll be logic not just some newer version that replaces it.
    This is the 21st century “I believe” is not enough anymore we live in a world that demands proof, why? Because we’ve progressed past the stage of belief. That was for a time when we knew nothing.”

    “there are NO atheistic policies so you can’t put the blame for anything on non belief in god.
    Neither can you attempt to suggest that your religion has the moral high ground. It certainly doesn’t.”

    “And just remember in order for me to have ‘attacked’ you, you had to have first publicly stated your beliefs. Therefore the message should be if you don’t want your beliefs attacked keep them to yourself, but that’s something you theists find impossible to do it seems.
    And the fact that an omnipotent creator can be so easily attacked by mere mortals and have no defence just proves the point.
    But don’t worry its not like I’m going to burn you at the steak or even threaten you with eternal damnation is it?
    Its not personal I see your religion as damaging to society and to human progression. So I’m going to do all I can to hasten its inevitable demise.”

    (Just after that last one he posted a meme quote from Penn Jillete, specifically his ‘If all science were wiped out it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.’ speech.)

    “And just think about it, what kind of sadist creates a planet where creatures have to eat each other alive? Why would any omnipotent being create that? If they are all powerful why would they even create the need to eat?
    Nature is insanely cruel, just look at parasites and diseases. – And yes most living things die slowly and painfully either through hunger, disease or being eaten alive. Enough evidence there to prove that either god doesn’t exist or he/she/it is one sadistic freak who loves torturing things.”

    “And still your going on about pollution being to blame for cancer. You do know cancer isn’t a new thing right? Its always existed its in human genetics and always has been long before we started using pestacides and explain to me why god is letting innocent people and children get it, cant he do anything to prevent that?
    Well I doubt it since he cant even prevent his own preists raping kids in church.”

    “The only thing that is helping to turn otherwise integrated society against each other for no reason at all is religion.”

    “Firstly where did I claim that the world would be at peace without religion?”

    “-a complete lack of being able to handle the realities of life so making up fairystories for comfort. Your belief of living forever in some wonderful paradise is just wishful thinking, I could just as easily claim that I know I’m going to Narnia and will live happily forever in a candy house with a chocolate river. And I’d have exactly the same amount of legitimacy. But let me guess if I actually said that, you’d think I was stupid to believe it?”

    (I’m going to paraphrase the next one since he repeated it multiple times all to the same effect. To give it context though, he makes the argument that religion is bad and science is good, yet I pointed out moments in history where science was used to cause attrocities like the bombing of Hiroshima.)

    “Comes on the internet to tell us how bad science is, genius! In that case get off the internet, how many people use it for fraud? As I keep saying if you don’t like science stop being a hypocrite by using it.”

    “I have no fear of no longer being alive, I have already experienced that state for billions of years and it didn’t bother me then.
    Why can’t you handle hearing about your own insignificance? Do you have an ego problem?
    The day when people realise this is the day when the world can finally start to run on logic and fact and we begin to move forward rather than being held back by primitive suspersticions. Which will benefit everyone overall.”

    “I don’t celebrate religious holidays” (That one gave me a good laugh.)

    “So which would you prefer modern world or primitive world where most people died before reaching 40?

    And being over 40 makes you crippled old husk does it?

    My response to him: My father, at 72 years old, has skin that is wrinkled and leathery, hair that is silver in color, is balld on top of his head, has diabetes and high blood pressure, he’s losing muscle despite being active, and he suffers from severe arthritic pain in his back. That’s just physical, he also has trouble thinking and remembering, his eyes have cataracts and he’s deaf in one ear. So yes, the longer we go, the more crippled old husk we become. As a matter of fact a study has shown that cognitive decay starts to set in as early as 24.

    And since the internet and all the devices and systems used to access it were invented by atheists its ours I’m afraid! And I’m not the one who’s been criticizing technology so why would I get off it. – You continue to be a hypocrite on the matter not me.
    Your dad is 72 not 40, so are you going to kill yourself at 40 in order to avoid all this ageing and what comes with it? – Again Hypocrite.

    You know what fuck this, you’re just too stupid to even try to educate.”

    “To sum it up if your god exists why can’t he even prove himself to be real? Evidence vs delusion, and fact and logic always win.
    Until you have some real evidence we’ll just say you’re wrong. Kind of like the law does.”

    And there you have it. I actually forgot how cringeworthy some of this is, I certainly which I had knowledge of your article before this had started, I could have saved myself the headache.

  117. Josh Smith, yah this was a pretty painful read. My hunch is that the author is somewhere around the 13-15 years old stage, if not chronologically, intellectually. He has clearly spent a lot of time Google searching his way through “truth” all the while missing out on the thing which is his very mode of being – subjectivity. He hopes that by taking a distant, objective, rational view of life he thereby will understand it more, when in fact life requires a person to be subjected to it, to live as close as possible to it. No objective distancing will bring him to this place.

    Anyway, I’m guessing that you’re not opposed to science the way the author kept chiding you for. My guess is that he is confusing methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. Many atheists imagine they are one and the same when the former is simply an approach to matter which allows one to manipulate it to his liking, whereas the latter is pure philosophy – an enchanting leap of faith – in making the grandest of metaphysical assertions, that is that physicality is all there is and all known phenomenon are wholly explainable in purely material terms. If that be the case then our very function of reason relies not on true logical premises but on firing neurons reacting to a purely physical causes. Theists can be wholly engrossed in methodological naturalism without their faith effecting the outcome of their scientific work, which is why theists not only invented modern science but have always been of the greatest scientific minds. The main difference is that the theist is not stumped by the obvious inherent telos in nature (something impossible for mindless nature to produce). Nor is he confounded by the great mystery of origins. He is free to focus on the true work of science without having to defend philosophical absurdities.

    Also, Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China are foremost examples of what happens to a people group when atheistic informed philosophies have the right of way. If 10’s of millions of slaughtered innocence are not enough to turn the atheist’s stomach then nothing will. People kill for whatever they strongly believe in. To think that atheists will not kill for their own strongly held beliefs is ignorance gone deceived.

  118. Correct, I don’t actually oppose science, as a matter of fact I have a lot of respect for scientists. I even grew up watching Bill Nye. I was also quite adept at general science in school, I watched a lot of the Discovery Channel as a child. I actually see science as a gift from God that allows us to understand how the universe works, while I use my faith in Him to understand why it’s all here.

    His constant decrying me as someone who hates science was him strawmanning my turning his own logic against him by pointing out some of the attrocities people have used science for in regard to his comments that religion is the major cause of suffering and oppression. Funnily enough I exist as a contrary to that view, considering I am homosexual and all the friends I have are Christian like myself and love and accept me, not hate and oppress me.

    I actually brought many of your points to his attention, with little effect. In regard to his decrying physical evidence of God I pointed to the atom and the air around us, the atom exists but it cannot be seen with the naked eye, smelled, tasted, held in the hand or heard, much like the air we breathe. That’s where his ‘the atom exists physically’ comment comes from. I also pointed to the giant squid, okapi and gorilla, all three of which were creatures of myth and legend, they existed long before they were scientifically discovered even though they had no evidence for their existences. It fell on deaf ears, unfortunately.

    That’s why I loved your article about the arguments atheists typically used, your first point would have been useful in that. Him asking me to provide tangible evidence of God’s existence would be like me asking him to pull an atom from his pocket and present it to me, utterly nonsensical.

    I also made a point of mentioning Stalin’s Russia when pertaining to his assertion that the world would be better off without religion and that atheism was better. As a matter of fact as a homosexual I would likely suffer just as badly if not worse under the Marxist-Leninist atheism of the Soviet Union. Blaming religion for the attrocities people have commited with it is like blaming a gun for a mass shooting.

    Humorously, as a ‘deluded religiotard’ I used more logic and reasoning against him than he used against me, and I actually partially have God to thank for that. I began suffering existential death anxiety mid-December and well into January. I prayed for guidance and mercy during that time, since my Aunt Lorene was losing her four-year fight with Cancer. After nearly five years without dreaming, I began having dreams again, and a familiar peace and comfort washed over me, resulting in my panic disorder waning away over time. I also learned forgiveness and overcame PTSD brought about by bullying in school, so through prayer I actually became more wise and less emotional.

  119. Wonder if you have ever given a listen to the Capuchin monh Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Papal household preacher for a couple decades. He is very clear and concise in explaining theological things…also Fr Al Lauer, (deceased), whom started Presentation Ministries outside Cincinnati, and whose teaching can be found on Classic Daily Bread…also Raniero Cantalamessa said this:
    —Before talking about the Baptism in the Spirit, it is important to try and understand what the Renewal in the Spirit is all about. After the Second Vatican Council, many things in the Church’s life were renewed – the liturgy, pastoral care, canon law, the constitutions of the religious orders and their dress. Although all these things are important, they are only external things and woe to us if we stop there and think the task is finished, because it is not structures but souls that are important to God. “It is in men’s souls that the Church is beautiful,” writes St. Ambrose, and therefore it is in men’s souls that she must make herself beautiful.

  120. Okay, so I’m new to your blog and love what I see. I grew up in a Christian environment in a Christian school then off to the Marines which tore apart my foundation. I have recently ( last several months) been grounding myself back to scripture and journeying through what it really means to live like jesus. I am learning how to mentor and I keep facing a returning argument. I try to research not only nkv, but have a few study bibles that go through both Hebrew and Greek translations and meanings. GOD knows in Greek there are varying levels of words which mean different things. The argument is simple: How is it we read scripture from a bible in circulation that has been rewritten several times and in several thousand years. How do we come to believe in something that could not be entirely accurate. If they put the bible together out of scrolls from ancient. Numbered chapters and verses for easier understanding. Is it possible important contradictory things have been left out of our current understanding. Also with the revelation of the dead Sea scrolls could there be more out there and maybe how likely is it that everything in our bible is 100% .accurate.

  121. Hi Anthony, I’ve read your post a few times now and part of it is still difficult for me to understand, specifically starting with the sentence: “If they put the Bible together out of scrolls…” But I think I get the gist: How can one believe Scripture when there is not one complete document, unchanged, stretching back to ancient times? or something to that effect.

    First, you mention the Dead Sea Scrolls and the interesting thing about them is that we have in them the oldest copy of the book of Isaiah in existence and it lines up in almost every way with our current text which has been circulating and supposedly rewritten for 1000s of years. So the idea that it has been changed innumerable times is not quite accurate. Have there been scribal errors throughout the text, particularly with things like numbers and narrative historical accounts? Sure. Do such errors destroy the meaning—the lesson—of the text? Not in any way.

    But there is something of much more importance here from an Orthodox Christian perspective. Orthodoxy does not teach Sola Scriptura, which is prominent in Protestant circles—the idea that Scripture is the ONLY source of authority for doctrine and worship. Scripture is “prima” Scriptura, first and foremost among our sources of authority and teaching, and is contained in Holy Tradition. Scripture alone will become whatever anyone wants it to become, say whatever someone wants it to say, and this is how Protestantism now has 1000’s of splits. It is important that one understands the Church’s role in interpreting Scripture. Scripture itself says that the Church is the “ground and pillar of truth.” The Church is the Holy Spirit’s activity and life in the world and it alone has the authority to interpret Scripture.

    As it turns out, if every Bible disappeared from the planet tomorrow, it could be entirely reconstructed based on the writings of the Church Fathers. Scripture is believable and authoritative because the Church says it is, as the Church has been its witness for 20 centuries (and more if one understands that Israel was the original Church).

    It is not so much important that every word of Scripture is, as you put it, 100% accurate. The Church is Christ’s body, and just as Christ was all man and all God the Church is both divine and human. Humans make mistakes. Errors are in the Bible. And? If one is looking for a 100% accurate literal text about history from the Bible he will be sorely disappointed. Christ’s words, as He said, are spiritual. The Bible is a holy book not because it has 100% accurate historical narratives—such as Genesis—but because its revelation is 100% accurate of truth. God is one God. He is the maker of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is His Son, who died and rose again and trampled down death by death, etc.

    Scripture without Holy Tradition is just another epic fable in that without HT it would lack all authority; likewise there is no Holy Tradition without Scripture. In short, read the Bible as if you are the characters. You are Adam, you ate of the tree of knowledge, you turned your back on God, you are Peter who denied Him, you are Thomas who doubts Him, and you are the thief on the cross who pleads with Him, “remember me in your kingdom.”

    Does that all make sense? Writing this late at night and I’m not going to proof read it so hopefully it flies, Lol.

    Please feel free to post again with a reply if you like. Cheers.

  122. Hi Eric,

    I just saw that you were raised LDS. I am also a convert to Orthodoxy from a Mormon background. I would love to connect with you, and perhaps introduce you to other Mormon-to-Orthodox converts. You can e-mail me at cam.davis32@gmail.com

    Best,

    Cam Davis

  123. Wow how cool. Yah, I had a 19 year interlude with Evangelical Charismania between Mormonism and Orthodoxy, but it still fits. I’ll try to email you this week. Cheers.

  124. Eric, I just came across your piece ‘Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail’ – I know you had closed the comments section, but from the perspective of a Muslim I just wanted to say I thought it was absolutely brilliant, and remarkably well written.

    I appreciate that many have already questioned you on certain points, so I will not bother you with further questions. I do not agree with every argument put forth, however I do overall agree considerably more than disagree, and I wanted to thank you for sharing your rebuttals! I have thought of some of those rebuttals myself, however I had not been able to put them into words as eloquently as you have.

    In my perspective, it was brave, especially when so many ‘atheists’ are all too ready to consider a believer ‘backward’, ‘brainwashed’, or not intellectually capable of understanding science.

    Apologies that I am commenting on an older post of yours, I just wanted to express my admiration of that piece.

    God Bless

  125. Thanks scintillation! Glad you liked it. I’ve rewritten parts of it several times so I hope it’s a better piece than when I first published it.

  126. thank you Eric for responding to my question. I’ve never really thought about the fact that you cannot just rely on the bible as be all end all. sometimes i get to far into my own head as far as literally goes.

    Another queation that was brought up in my men’s group: was fasting. we were trying to understand the reasoning behind it. I believe in the new testament there is only one place that brings up fasting. a character was wondering why things did not happen and Jesus said to him because you have not prayed or fasted. I was wondering if you could give some theological insight on the reason it may be important from time to time to fast. thanks again for your time.

  127. Hi Anthony. Oddly this is the third time this week that I’ve been asked this. I think I’ll try to post an article tonight answering the question. But let me say this at least, the new testament is full of lessons on fasting. There is certainly more on fasting than reading scripture. If one measures the importance of spiritual disciplines according to the sheer number of mentions of particular ones, this should be born in mind.

  128. I couldn’t figure out where on your site to post a question, so I’m hoping this is it. I just finished reading your essays on “The ten most common” atheist arguments and the question of “why does a good God allow bad things” which I very much appreciated. The issues that I wrestle with – and which you may have addressed elsewhere – are more fundamental: (1) Why did God create man in the first place? and,(2) why did God create this temporary human existence to include the presence of evil, which he could have easily prohibited? These questions are concomitant with many of the dilemmas that we humans wrestle with in regard to understanding and trusting God. I believe that most of my questions about God would be resolved if I could adopt His perspective on this life, but that requires an appreciation of his grand plan. Would appreciate any help you can provide on this.
    Thanks.

  129. Hi Earle, sorry for the delay. Love to answer these questions.

    “(1) Why did God create man in the first place?”

    I don’t think anyone knows the heart of God to fully know the answer to this but David asks the same question and gives one of the answers (I believe the answers are many): “What is man that you are mindful of him… You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands” (Psalms 8:4,6). This combined with Genesis where it says that God created man in His own image and likeness gives me the understanding that God created man to be a priest and king over His creation, to be something like a mediator between nature and God since only man possesses both soul and body.

    “(2) why did God create this temporary human existence to include the presence of evil, which he could have easily prohibited?”

    I think you’re right, He could have easily prohibited evil but then He would not have needed to create anything but simply place mankind in heaven to begin with and be done with it, since such a place would be nothing short of heaven. You asked why he placed us in the “presence” of evil which I have to take issue with. He placed us in a creation that was “good” down to the last drop as God claimed following each successive day of creation. There is no “presence” of evil in the sense that evil has its own existence. Evil is a possibility for a rational creature endowed with free-will. Follow God or turn from Him. The “turn” doesn’t exist as a substance, it exists only once the will decides to turn. Now, post-fall, we are born into a world that is fallen and we receive the effects of our predecessors sin, but we still have a choice whether to join in. I’m sure you’ve heard this all before, but the question is a simple one and the answer is likewise simple. Now, the question of why is there calamity and natural destruction, such as childhood cancer, that’s a different question and is vexing for the theologian to no end. Somehow simply saying that illness and tragedy is a concomitant to living in a natural universe and thus we are similarly affected since we are of the natural universe doesn’t usually suffice. I wrote an article touching on this in depth which you may have already read.

    Would love to hear your push back to this. Cheers.

  130. Hello Eric. Something that I have always questioned is predestination. If God is omniscience and knows all them he know the future. That means he already knows everything I will do in my lifetime, and whether I go to heaven or hell. So how do we have free will? If he knows everything and is always right, is it possible for us to truly have free will? I’m sorry if you already wrote on this topic but I have not seen it so I thought I’d ask. This has been troubling me for quite some time

  131. Hi Sam. The question really is this: is foreknowledge to be conflated with predestination? I say no. The fact that I can pretty well guarantee my chihuahua will pee in my closet if I leave the door open while I’m gone doesn’t mean I made her do it. God surely knows all but His knowing what we will ultimately do with our free-will is not the same as making us do what we will. Or so it seems to me. What’s your take?

  132. Sorry for asking something that was already asked and answered. But different question on same topic: If God already knows the future why would he create people he knows will go to hell? Even if it is there free will, why create them in the first place just to have them die and go through eternal suffering in hell?

  133. I’m having technology problems tonight… So my last comment makes no sense… But I guess I just had this mental block. I get what your saying now that just cause he knows doing mean he is making me do it. Thanks for the reply

  134. Perhaps people really do choose during this life the sort of life they want for eternity. If one wants nothing to do with God in this life wouldn’t God be unjust to sentence them to a life with Him for eternity? But I get your point, why create humans at all. Why plant a garden if you know it will produce weeds?

  135. Ya I see what you are saying. Still a little confusing. I guess I won’t understand certain things until the day I meet my creator. Also would like to say I really like your blog. Stumbled across it yesterday and have been reading non-stop. And I have another question. How could God punish Adam and Eve for eating the fruit. Sense the fruit gave the knowledge of good and evil then they had no knowledge of good or evil before they ate it. So wouldn’t that mean they have perfect innocence? And if they did how could God punish them for that?

  136. Eric I would like to know your opinion about the future of Christianity and religion as a whole

  137. Hi Eric. My mom was Serbian orthodox. We lost her just two months ago at 65 yrs old. Your blog has been one of the few comforts I have found in my life now being forced to go on without her. Thank you and I will continue reading.

  138. Eric,
    If someone managed to prove with 100% certainty that God does not exist what would you do

  139. Hey Eric. What are your thoughts on “mortal” and “veil” sins the Catholics believe in? Does the Orthodox Church also believe in that? Do you think all sins are equal or no? Thanks

  140. Hi Josh. Unfortunately I’m not fully up on the Orthodox rendition of the Catholic “mortal” and “venial” (I think you meant) sins. There is certainly levels of sin as Scriptures speak of, but how we deal with them in depth I’m not sure. Great question. I will look into this.

  141. Ya I meant venial. Thanks I look forward to see what you come up with. The reason I was wondering is because in James he says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). Does this not mean if you sin at all you are guilty of all sins? Doesn’t this mean all sins are equal? Or is that not what’s James was trying say? What James said seems to go against the belief of mortal and venial sins.

  142. Just watched a show called mr. Robot and a very interesting scene came up where the main character told us his thoughts on religion
    “Is that what God does? He helps? Tell me, why didn’t God help my innocent friend who died for no reason while the guilty ran free? Okay. Fine. Forget the one offs. How about the countless wars declared in his name? Okay. Fine. Let’s skip the random, meaningless murder for a second, shall we? How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope. His followers, nothing but addicts who want their hit of bullshit to keep their dopamine of ignorance. Addicts. Afraid to believe the truth. That there’s no order. There’s no power. That all religions are just metastasizing mind worms, meant to divide us so it’s easier to rule us by the charlatans that wanna run us. All we are to them are paying fanboys of their poorly-written sci-fi franchise. If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the fuck should I listen to yours? People think their worship’s some key to happiness. That’s just how he owns you. Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality. So fuck God. He’s not a good enough scapegoat for me”

  143. Tyrick, sorry that I am late to seeing this post. It’s all familiar lines of attack these days, nothing new except the fashion in which the author strung all the hate together. I could discuss each line of it but it may be a fruitless way to go about it. I’d be curious to know which of the thoughts in particular got your attention the most. If I know what you are most effected by I could better answer your question, since my thoughts are many.

  144. What gets me the most is the lines “That’s just how he owns you” and “How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope”

  145. So the premise is that if it weren’t for belief in God – or rather “organized religion” – no one would be racist, sexist or have any phobias? If not for belief in God there would be no “exclusive groups created to manage control”? Seems like a pretty tall accusation. I wonder what the author’s view of human nature is. Are humans all good until they start believing in God? Seems like an odd idea; people demonstrate selfish, clannish, fear-driven behavior from the earliest, non-religious, non-philosophic stages in life. They are this way from the nursery school to the nursing home – particularly, one could argue, when one utterly lacks belief in God. Perhaps we could look to the animal kingdom to see if some animals form exclusive groups with one another within their species, if one needs such models of proof. Seems the author may be most against belief in good and evil, as this is a mainstay in all organized, and disorganized, religions. Maybe he considers belief in good and evil as evil, but that would be a tad self-contradictory. Without getting into a specific “Christian apologetic” it seems that the accusation falls under its own weight of short-sighted’ness.

  146. Eric I’m debating this atheist and we are talking about why doesn’t God show himself when we can still trust him and love him even if we know he is real I will show you his reply.
    Are you sure about that? How do you know that?

    It doesn’t really make sense to me. So there is this omnipotent being watching everything you do — I thought that’s what all Christians believed. Why would that stop them from trusting Him? Why would it prevent them from loving Him?

    Also, you know the Bible says almost the opposite about feeling intimidated? For example:

    Luke 1:50: “And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.”

    Psalms 33:8: “Let all the Earth fear the Lord: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”

    Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

    Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

    So it seems to me like intimidation is kind of the point.

    Which makes me wonder: How much of Christianity is choosing a conclusion before you have the facts? And then trying to fit the facts into your conclusion? Discarding inconvenient facts that can’t fit, and maybe gluing the facts you have left together with a few made-up guesses. I’m not accusing you — it seems like a natural way of thinking. But it’s backwards. It’s a great way to reassure yourself that you’ve got the answers. But it’s not actually a reliable way of finding out what’s really true.

    For that you’ve got to start at the beginning and work forwards, instead of guessing the end and trying to work backwards. What do we actually know? We collaborate across our senses (because sometimes our senses miss things or make things up), and by communicating with each other, to learn about the world around us, and by testing our hypotheses every step of the way. We discover maths, and physics, and chemistry, and biology, and neurology, by building on top of a growing structure of tried, tested, and established knowledge.

    That’s how we know things. Anything more than that seems to me to be guesses: pretending to know things, trying to convince ourselves and each other that we have answers that we don’t actually have.

    Or am I missing something? Is there a better way of knowing things? How would we test that another way is better?

  147. Not sure I completely understand the conversation but assuming I do the thing is is God did appear in the form we need to see Him in most of all if we are ever to love Him – in the human person of Jesus. “If you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.” If someone will not believe in Christ in the flesh he will not believe even if he sees God in all His glory. He may be overwhelmed by such but being overwhelmed in the senses is anything but having a relationship of love. The one who does believe has already achieved “seeing” God in the only way that matters. Besides how is a physical eye supposed to see He who is beyond all categories of physical being? That’s my quick, typing from my cell phone version of an answer.

  148. We need faith to trust anything whether we have a visual of it or not. When it comes to God the Orthodox Church holds that God’s essence cannot be looked on or known even to the angels. It is by His energies that He reveals Himself to us and by which we “know” Him. Beyond that I wouldn’t know what else to tell the person.

  149. Can I debunk 1200+ “arguments” that claim to debunk Christianity? A cursory view of the list tells me it wouldn’t be difficult. How bout you pick your favorite one and we’ll volley it for a few rounds.

  150. Hey Eric,

    After five or six years of passive atheism (I hadn’t thought about it much since I read The God Delusion when I was sixteen), I recently found your blog and read through all of your Apologetics posts and many of the others. You’re a very good writer, and your arguments have reinvigorated an interest in Christianity I thought had sort of died off.

    Can you recommend any books of Christian apologetics that you have found most illustrative or insightful? I recently read Mere Christianity, which was a good starter, but now I’m looking for something a little more rigorous.

    Thanks in advance!

    —Ryan

  151. Hi Ryan. I’m honored to have you as a reader. Some apologetic books I like most are: (1) Miracles, By CS Lewis, (2) Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss, by David Bentley Hart, (3) The Everlasting Man, by GK Chesterton, (4) Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith…, edited by Licona and Dembski, (5) there are a ton of Orthodox books that might not be specifically apologetic stuff but almost fits the genre like The Freedom of Morality, by Yannaraz; Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, by Andrew Damick; For the Life of the World, by Alexander Schmemann, and The Mountain of Silence, by Kyriacos Markides.

    I could give a lot more but this is a good starter list.

  152. Eric, what is your opinion of paranormal? I was curious because psychology tends to be skeptical of paranormal experiences, but Orthodoxy is a more mystical denomination. I have experienced some paranormal, but I also have had some mild psychosis at times. I have talked to friends who have experienced ghosts – sometimes with multiple witnesses. I used to be Orthodox while I was having religiosity, but then I lost my faith along with my mental illness. I have been very confused after going through that psychosis, and psychotherapists seem to be uncomfortable discussing my confusion. … So I saw your blog with Orthodox and psychology, and I thought you might have some opinions on paranormal.

  153. I tend to be skeptical of “reported” paranormal experiences, but not the paranormal itself. It’s difficult to not believe some reports, particularly when they are accounts experienced by multiple people at the same time. For example, I have a friend who he and his wife claim to have many paranormal experiences in the house they are living in (where apparently there was a gruesome death some years ago). One such experience was when they had a party at their house one night, and after the night was underway and the subject of the home’s haunting came up in discussion my friend, jokingly, said out loud, “If there is a [ghost] presence here make yourself known.” Immediately, as he and his wife explained, all of their boardgames, which were sitting up on the shelves lining the main hallway, suddenly jumped off the shelves and onto the floor. He and all his guests were a little freaked out as you can imagine. I believe him because I know him and his wife and do not doubt their story. I’ve personally experienced some unexplanable things in various homes I’ve lived as did those I was living with at the time, so I’m forever a believer.

    Now as to whether or not your own experiences are real or the results of some psychosis there’s no way for someone like me to know. I’d be interested to hear more about these psychotherapists who seem uncomfortable with your “confusion”.

  154. Eric
    I’m a beginner translator from Egypt and i want to translate your articles to Arabic my name is Alber Ibrahim but i don’t know how or what to do or just translate you articles on face book should i open a blog if you agree of course
    I will do that as training for free

  155. Hello Eric,
    This section of your blog is probably not the right place to simply write that I enjoy reading your articles, but I couldn’t find a direct e-mail link to do so. Your blogs are very insightful and I enjoy reading them. Thank you.

    -Dan

  156. Eric can i hear how you would defend the last commandment “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour” 2 things I find wrong with this the first it that it treats women as property of men and secondly it makes no mention of adultury from a woman to a man

  157. Not sure that I understand how your first point follows from the passage. Is it that being a wife is the same as being property of a man? To your second point, if taken in context, is most surely speaking of not coveting from both sides, male and female. Women are held to the same commandment. Also, there is no explicit mention of adultery here. It’s more like “lusting after” another man’s wife.

  158. Ty, this is one of the most obscure passages in all of Scripture and it is above my head. All I can say is that circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and his people, a sign of putting away all evil and a sign of dedication to God. Its possible that without the sign then the dedication was not complete and the child was in danger due to the extremely important relation which Moses had as a link between God and Israel at the time. Anyway, I’m not sure is the most honest answer. If ancient Jewish commentators had trouble with the passage you best believe the rest of us will.

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