I have been reading a book called “One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven” by Mark Cahill for my church’s book club. We have not met to discuss the book yet but I am looking forward to when we do! Writing to Christian readers; Mark points out that there is something that we as Christians will NOT be able to do when we get to heaven. So, what is it? “One thing you cannot do in Heaven is share your faith with a non-believer. Why? Because everyone in Heaven is a believer.”
I have had many opportunities to share my faith with others in my life. Unfortunately, I have not acted on all of those opportunities. It is easy for us to share our faith and tell what we know of God and the Bible with those who already believe. It is much harder to share it with those who don’t. For me it is because of fear. I fear being rejected and/or laughed at. I fear not being able to answer questions that come my way. I fear that people will see my faults and think I am being hypocritical. I want people to like me! Maybe it was to people like me that Jesus spoke to when he said:
“Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man [Jesus]. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven…” Luke 6:22-23
There has been one time or another where all of my fears mentioned above proved to be things that happened when sharing my faith. I remember a guy in middle school calling me names like “holy roller” or “Bible thumper” because I carried my Bible with me at school. I have encountered several people who have just been plain smarter than me in almost everything who threw questions at me that I had no clue how to answer. I have also been called hypocritical. I can think of a specific example where I was living in sin and a person I worked with knew of my sin and what I claimed to believe. Needless to say, to that person, my actions spoke much louder than my words. I may have been in that person’s life for the sole purpose of sharing Jesus. It breaks my heart knowing that (because of how I lived my life at that time) I may be the reason that they won’t get to go to heaven. I can only pray that God will send someone else to that person who is a much greater example of who Jesus is.
Throughout the past seven months; I have had the privilege of sharing my faith and beliefs with someone who I now consider a friend. We talk two or three times a month and most of the time we end up on a spiritual related topic. Her beliefs about the spiritual world and life in general are very different from mine but I truly enjoy talking with her whenever I can. She asks a lot of good questions and I have been able to dig deep into the Bible and do research in order to answer them to the best of my ability. This has caused my faith to get stronger and has made me more educated about my personal beliefs. Did you know that God calls us to be educated believers?
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15
I can give my basic foundational beliefs and personal testimony to anyone who asked me about them at any given time. But when the hard questions come (whether Biblical, scientific, hypothetical, etc.); I am not afraid to answer a question with “I don’t know.” If I do not know an answer to one of my friend’s questions; I go and search out the answer and bring it back to her either through e-mail or the next time I see her.
Speaking of questions; Mark Cahill mentions several common statements or questions that non-believers say or ask when a believer presents the gospel to them. He also explains how we as believers can answer them. It was nice to read the answers to them all in one place. I think I have covered most of these questions with my friend at one point or another; either because she asked the question or I brought it up to explain something I was talking to her about. In today’s and tomorrow’s blogs; I am going to quote most of Mark Cahill’s chapter called “Good Answer!” because I think he explains the answers much better than I can.
(Everything indented is quoted from the book “One Thing you can’t Do In Heaven” written by Mark Cahill. The questions are in bold and the answers follow. Anything that I inserted to the quotes, including scripture, I put in [brackets]. )
“There is no absolute truth.”
“Always remember that all truth, by definition, is very narrow. It has one right answer and many wrong answers. For example, 2 + 2 = 4, not 5, not 11, not 67 (one right answer and many wrong answers). There is only one person who is the president of the United States right now (one right answer and many wrong answers). I would expect when it comes to eternity that there would be one right answer and many wrong answers. And that is exactly the case. There is one truth, and it’s found in the Bible. We must continue to steer people toward the eternal truth of God’s Word… It doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what is true. People need to think about truth rather than just belief. I might believe that the earth is flat, but it isn’t. I might believe the sky is green, but it isn’t…”
“In explaining his spiritual beliefs, [Jim] said that, as long as he believed in his heart that something was true, then it was true. One issue you’ll encounter frequently… is the concept of absolute truth versus relative truth. The belief that truth is relative to a given situation. Here is one of the arguments that I use: “Adolph Hitler killed six million of God’s chosen people. So as long as he believed in his heart that it was an okay thing to do, then it was definitely okay to do, wasn’t it, Jim?” At this point Jim is in a bind. I have had only three people answer yes to that question. Some people get caught in their argument an don’t want to admit that they are wrong. Jim answered, “There must be some absolute truth.”… “Jim, if you ever want to find absolute truth, you can find it in the Bible…”
“In what situation is rape okay?” … Think about it. Can you think of one situation in which it would be okay? Since it is wrong for all people, in all places, at all times, then the statement “rape is wrong” would be an absolute truth. And if there is one absolute truth, there can be two, three, or more.” [Definition of rape: noun-the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.]
“Can you prove that there is a God?”
“People frequently ask this question, implying that our faith is blind while reason is on their side… God has never asked us to have blind faith, and He never will. Blind faith is what leads people into cults. We use calculated faith for most decisions in life, and we should do the same for eternal decisions.”
“I was… chatting with a theater professor as he was walking to class. He asked, “Can you prove there is a God?” I said, “Sure, I can.” … I explained… “Every time you see a shirt… you know it has a creator. Every time you see a watch, you know it has a designer. Every time you see art… you know there is an artist. Every time you see order, like twenty Coke cups in a row, you know there is an order. When you look around the universe, what do you see? You see creation, design, art, and order. If every other thing has a creator, a designer, an artist, and an orderer behind it, why would you not think that there is a Creator, a Designer, an Artist, and an Orderer behind this universe?” …
“Romans 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse…” [KJV] People will have no excuse before God if they claim there wasn’t enough evidence for Him, because the creation speaks of a Creator. How do we know a building had a builder? Just by looking! The building itself is the proof that there is a builder. This universe itself is the proof that there is a God. Period.”
“How do you know the Bible is true?”
“1. The Bible is the best-selling book in the world. That alone doesn’t mean that the Bible is true, but because it is the best selling book in history, we should take a look at it. Approximately 150 million Bibles are printed each year! No other book even comes close… there is a good chance the Bible contains at least some truth; reading is a great way to find out.”
“2. The Bible claims to be written by God… people believe that man wrote the Bible, but the Bible claims that God is the author: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” 2 Timothy 3:16 [KJV] “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21 [KJV] However, just because the Bible claims God as its author, does that mean He is? Actually, no it doesn’t… We need more proof than that…”
“3. Historical evidence supports the Bible. No one has yet been able to identify a single historical mistake anywhere in the Bible. That in itself is amazing. If man wrote it, we would certainly find historical errors after all these years–but there are none. So that you can study more on this point, as well as on the next two, I recommend that you read any of the following books: *New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, by Josh McDowell *The Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel *The Signature Of God, by Grant Jeffrey. All three books provide powerful evidence that the Bible is not from the hands of man, but from the hand of Almighty God…”
“4. Archaeological evidence supports the Bible. To date, archaeologists have not discovered a single thing in the Middle East that has proved the Bible wrong. As a mater of fact, each additional discovery continues to prove it true. There have been 25,000 archaeological finds relating to people, places, and events in the Bible, and not one has contradicted anything in the Scriptures. That’s incredible proof of the Bible’s trust worthiness. The three books mentioned above contain numerous quotes and great information about this archaeological evidence… If you can believe the historical and archaeological evidence for the Bible, why can’t you believe the spiritual part of the book?…”
“5. Fulfilled prophesies validate the Bible… Fulfilled prophecies not only prove the Bible true, they also are a proof for God… “What is the only book in the world that contains hundreds of very detailed prophecies?” The correct answer is the Bible. The Book of Morman doesn’t; the Koran for Muslims doesn’t; the Bhagavad Gita for Hindus doesn’t. I ask, “If the text contains prophecies that do not come true, what does that say about the book?” People will answer that the book is false. And that’s absolutely right… If a book predicted something that didn’t come true, the book could not be trusted. I point out to people that when the Bible was written, 25 percent of the content predicted future events. And every single one of those prophecies has come true in the minutest detail, except for the few remaining prophecies about the return of Jesus Christ to earth. Statistically, there is no way that man can predict the future with 100-percent accuracy. I then ask people, “Who is the only one who can do this?” One time I asked this question of an atheist, and he answered “God” –and he doesn’t even believe that there is one! But he recognized that only God could know the future…”
“Sometimes the person… will ask what some of the prophecies are. I usually use the following three:
*The Book of Micah (5:2) [Micah prophesied sometime between 750 and 686 B.C.] tells us that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem–not in Jerusalem, Atlanta, or New York [“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (KJV)]. And Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7) [“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (KJV)].
*The Book of Zechariah (11:12-13) [Zechariah prophesied between 520 and sometime after 480 B.C.] says that this Messiah will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver [“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” (KJV)]. Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15) [“And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.” (KJV)].
*The Book of Psalms (22:16-18) says that this Messiah will be pierced in His hands and His feet. [“…they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”] This prophecy is amazing because it was written 800 years before crucifixion was ever used as a means of punishment, yet Jesus was pierced in His hands and feet (Matthew 27:35) [“And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” (KJV)]…”
“The Bible is not just a single book, but a compilation of sixty-six books written by some forty authors over 1,500 years. Its internal consistency and fulfilled prophecies prove its divine origin.”
If you haven’t already; I recommend reading my continuation of this post: “Do You Know The Answers? (Part 2)” Part 2 includes the following arguments and questions that non-believers often say or ask:
“Doesn’t evolution prove the Bible false?”
“How can Jesus be the only way to God? Aren’t there many paths to Heaven?”
“I don’t believe in Hell, so there can’t be one.”
“The Bible says we are reincarnated when we die.”
“Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?”
“When I am old, I will get right with God.”
“How can there be a God when there is so much evil and suffering in the world?”
“What about someone in Africa who has never heard the Gospel? Is he condemned to Hell?”
“The church is filled with hypocrites.”
“There are so many different religions; how do I know which is the right one?”
I highly recommend that all Christians read Mark Cahill’s book “One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven.” You can purchase it at Christian Book Distributers here.
Overall this book has made me more aware that our time here on earth is short compared to eternity. I know where I am going to spend eternity because of God’s grace and mercy that he has extended toward me. I pray that Christians (me included) who read this will be able to better defend their faith in Jesus and be more intentional about sharing their beliefs. I also pray that non-believers who read this will at least have something to think about and maybe get some answers that they have been looking for. Friends, I truly care about your search for eternal answers, and hope that I will someday see you in Heaven where we can worship our Almighty God together in eternity!
If I can answer other questions, or at least lead you toward more resources, I would be happy to do so. Please feel free to e-mail me at: email@example.com
Categories: Bible Study, Books, Defending Christianity, Life
I’m an atheist, and none of those arguments look like ones I would use. They might be conversations I would have with believers, but none of them represent my reason for not believing.
Doesn’t seem like Cahill spoke to many non-believers, if this is any indication.
I do not know Mark Cahill personally but in his book’s author’s page it says that along with speaking to thousands of people a year at churches, retreats, conferences, camps, etc, “his true vocation is witnessing, whether at malls, music and art festivals, beaches, sporting events, bar sections of towns… wherever the lost can be found.” Also, throughout the book, he talks about a lot of specific conversations that he has had with people (on planes, in bars, in prisons, on the streets, etc.)
I’m curious though. What arguments would you use?
It has been my experience, and I can only speak on my personal experience, that those who ‘witness’ are much better at talking than they are at listening. And often much more prone to telling the non-believer what they believe instead of asking what they believe.
My argument is simple…the lack of empirically verifiable evidence for the supernatural claims made by religions.
I agree with your statement that often people who witness or share their faith with unbelievers are better at talking then listening. In high school I was like that (and sometimes still am). I think for me it is the excitement of sharing what I believe to be truth! In high school I also had the “holier than thou” attitude with anyone who disagreed with me. I hope that my friend who I mentioned in my post would be able to say that I am not like that with her. I feel that I listen to her but I still don’t fully understand her beliefs probably because they are so different from mine (and trust me she isn’t the type of person who would let me do all of the talking anyway :)).
Here is a link to several articles that show evidence of the supernatural:
(If you respond to this; please know that I am not ignoring you if I don’t respond back right away. It is almost midnight here in Japan and I am heading to bed for the night.)
My apologies for seeming to brush you off, but the link you provide is nothing new to me. And it isn’t convincing in the least. It is full of more testimony and somewhat arbitrary information (believing in an afterlife may be beneficial to your state of mind, but so would believing that you had billions of dollars…the belief, of course, doesn’t mean that you actually have that money or that afterlife). Anecdotes are the worst form of evidence out there, and if we are to consider them worthy to cause one to believe, then every religion should be believed along with every person claiming to have been abducted by aliens.
Atheist’s that I have encountered before; believe that there is no God at all and they back up their beliefs by saying that there is no tangible proof of God. (Please feel free to tell me if that isn’t what you personally believe).
To that I would ask; what tangible evidence have you found that proves to you that there is not a God?
I find that everything in nature has a creator, design, artist, & order behind it; which to me proves that there is a God. I have historical evidence, archaeological evidence, and eye witness accounts (all of which are used in a court of law to prove innocence and crimes) that backs up my belief in the Bible. I also have my personal experiences of hardship, living in sin, being close to death, being in the pit of depression, etc. all of which I feel that I have been pulled out of by the grace of God. I know that he was my support and comfort during those times. I know that because of Jesus’ sacrifice my sins have been forgiven and because of God’s grace and mercy I will one day spend eternity in heaven.
I don’t expect that what I have said will change your mind (and you may have even heard all of what I said before) but maybe it will give you a glimpse into my heart and why I believe what I do. If it turns out that you are correct; then the worst that would happen is that I would die, go to my grave, and that would be the end. So, I will have lost nothing by keeping my faith and living my life with my eyes toward heaven.
Forgive me for jumping in here. This is not an accurate summation of the atheist’s position. Atheists don’t “believe there is no God at all,” but rather, atheists lack a belief in god(s). When you write “God,” you have a particular deity in mind (Yahweh). But the number of deities are innumerable. Perhaps the best way to understand the atheist’s position is to examine your position with respect to say the god Thor. Do you believe there is no Thor? Not really. You simply lack a belief in this particular deity. The same as atheists. We simply lack a belief in any gods, Thor, Yahweh, or otherwise.
This is a favorite theistic response, to which we can reply, “What tangible evidence have you found that proves that there is no Thor?” It’s not incumbent on us to disprove your assertion, but on you to provide evidence in support of your assertion.
This argument – the Argument from Design – is used by almost every religion to support the existence of their particular deity. Muslims use it to say Allah exists. Hindus use it say Vishnu exists. And so on. Even assuming that everything around us is “designed” (a notion I reject), the argument only gets you so far as claiming the existence of come kind of creator or creators. The identification of this creator(s) has never been determined with any degree of probability, which is why there are so many possibilities (e.g., Zeus, Allah, Mazda, Yahweh, etc.)
Unfortunately, none of these evidences come close to supporting the Christian’s extraordinary claims. If you’d be as open to reason and evidence as you desire non-believers to be, you’d quickly see why.
The practitioners of many other religions say the same thing as you. Do you regard it as evidence for the existence of their particular god(s)? Why not?
You don’t know these things; you only believe them. The Muslims who flew the airplanes into the Twin Towers certainly “knew” they’d spend eternity with forty virgins in paradise forever. I’m sure you’d agree with me, they were almostly certainly mistaken. Might you be too?
“This is not an accurate summation of the atheist’s position…”
*I apologize for not being clear. I should have put a lowercase g and added an s (“believe there are no gods at all,”). Yes I do have a particular God in mind but I also understand that an Atheists lack of belief in “God” extends to all other gods as well.
“This argument – the Argument from Design – is used by almost every religion to support the existence of their particular deity.”
*Because I was replying to an atheist; I was pointing out one reason why I believe that there is a God. If I was replying to someone who believed in a completely different god; then there would have been no point in using that argument because they would already agree that there is a god.
“If you’d be as open to reason and evidence as you desire non-believers to be, you’d quickly see why.”
*I pretty much answered this in my reply to your comment on Part 2: “Although I am recommending the book for Christians to read; I have never been under the assumption that non-believers do not read my blogs (your commenting proves that they do). I said: “I also pray that non-believers who read this will at least have something to think about” This does not say that I expect non-believers to covert immediately after reading what I have written. That being said; I have done some research (I wish that I had more time to continue researching it further), I have read atheist’s blogs, and I have had discussions with atheists… [In this blog] I talked about how I enjoy having conversations with my friend who has completely different views than me (her views lean more toward a Wiccan viewpoint). We completely disagree on a ton of things but we both listen to each other and have had very interesting discussions.”
“What tangible evidence have you found that proves that there is no Thor?… None of these evidences come close to supporting the Christian’s extraordinary claims…The practitioners of many other religions say the same thing as you. Do you regard it as evidence for the existence of their particular god(s)? Why not?”
*The evidences that I have read about, heard about, experienced, etc. are enough to make me to put my faith in my God and in the Bible. The same evidences might not be enough for someone else. For one person it may take a personal experience. For another person it may be reading a portion of the Bible. And for another it may take extensive and time consuming research into the scientific (and/or religious, historical, archaeological, etc.) worlds. That’s okay!
“You don’t know these things; you only believe them.”
*”Know” has several definitions: 1. (1) : to perceive directly : have direct cognition of (2) : to have understanding of (3) : to recognize the nature of : discern (1) : to recognize as being the same as something previously known (2) : to be acquainted or familiar with (3) : to have experience of
2 a : to be aware of the truth or factuality of : be convinced or certain of b : to have a practical understanding of
“I know that because of Jesus’ sacrifice my sins have been forgiven and because of God’s grace and mercy I will one day spend eternity in heaven” based on what the Bible says. I also know that the Bible is truth and I put my full trust in what it says. I perceive it to be true. I have an understanding of it (although not complete understanding). I have discerned it to be true. I recognize it to be true. I am acquainted with and familiar with the Bible and God. I have many experiences which confirm it to me. I am convinced and certain of it. So it is not inaccurate for me to say “I know.”
And as I said above to Morse: “I don’t expect that what I have said will change your mind (and you may have even heard all of what I said before) but maybe it will give you a glimpse into my heart and why I believe what I do. If it turns out that you are correct; then the worst that would happen is that I would die, go to my grave, and that would be the end. So, I will have lost nothing by keeping my faith and living my life with my eyes toward heaven.”
P.S. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂 When I started blogging; I knew some people would read them but I never imagined how many actually do.
Except that Mr. Cahill makes the same argument, and he’s subtly conflating a creator/designer god with the Christian god. As he writes, “People will have no excuse before God if they claim there wasn’t enough evidence for Him, because the creation speaks of a Creator…This universe itself is the proof that there is a God. Period.” But a “Creator” could be virtually any god, or gods, or a race of superintelligent aliens, or something we haven’t even experienced or thought of yet. The argument doesn’t get you to the Christian’s god. This is a error in Mr. Cahill’s (and the Apostle Paul’s) reasoning.
I appreciate the evidence-based journey you took to your belief. Unfortunately, it’s not a journey the Christian god condones, for if one takes a similar journey, but arrives at a different conclusion, the Christian god will torture them in burning fire for eternity. So, it’s not really “okay” in the Christian god’s eyes to weigh the evidence. This is why the Apostle Paul and legions of Christians after him have been so eager to stress that there’s “no excuse” to lack a belief in the Christian god. Yet, as we’ve already established, so-called creation doesn’t inevitably lead you to the Christian god’s existence.
Fair enough. However, I noticed you didn’t answer my question if you allow what you “know” to be mistaken. 🙂
Ah, Pascal’s Wager. It’s a fallacy, of course, because it presents a false dichotomy. There are countless more possibilities that the two presented here. For example, what if the Muslim is right? Then you burn in hell for eternity. So, it’s not really true that “you will have lost nothing by keeping my faith.” You could be setting yourself on a path toward damnation, or some other unenviable destiny.
My view is, if there is a god, it would be much more pleased with my search if it was concluded using the faculties of logic and reason that it granted me, than if I was simply a blind, devoted follower, taking on “faith” its existence. Thomas Jefferson perhaps said it best: “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.”
I appreciate your thoughtful and reasonable response!
“The argument doesn’t get you to the Christian’s god.”
*In my experience, it is typical for an Atheist to take the focus off of whether or not there is a god and move the focus to “how do you prove that your god is better than another god.”
“it’s not really “okay” in the Christian god’s eyes to weigh the evidence.”
*There are many examples throughout the Bible of people who asked questions in order to gain better understanding (Nicodemus, Jesus’ disciples, etc.). There are also a lot of people who have had beliefs contrary to the Bible but then after research have turned to follow the God of the Bible (C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, etc.). (Yes, I know that there are people who have turned away from Christianity to go to other religions or lack of religion. And that there are also many examples of people who were punished quickly). I believe that it is not for me to judge who will or will not go to heaven or hell; that is God’s job. I also will not presume to know the mind of God in order to try and understand why one person is allowed time and another is not.
“if you allow what you “know” to be mistaken”
*Didn’t I do that when I responded to you with the “Pascal’s Wager? I’m curious if you have thought about if you are mistaken?
“There are countless more possibilities that the two presented here. For example, what if the Muslim is right? Then you burn in hell for eternity. So, it’s not really true that “you will have lost nothing by keeping my faith.” You could be setting yourself on a path toward damnation, or some other unenviable destiny.”
*Again, I was replying to an Atheist who lacks belief in gods and afterlife. My statement is true based on what you believe. My statement would not be true if I used it to respond to a Muslim; so I wouldn’t have used it.
“I appreciate your thoughtful and reasonable response!”
*I enjoy a good debate on occasion 🙂 I admit that my replies are not always convincing. My memory is horrible (now that I have kids, I call it “mommy brain” :)) and it is sometimes hard to debate someone who is so much more knowledgeable than I am in pretty much everything (I’m thinking of a specific atheist friend that I used to have frequent discussions with). I don’t think that we are supposed to know all of the answers to every question. For me, there is nothing that will turn me away from my faith in my God.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a journey the Christian god condones, for if one takes a similar journey, but arrives at a different conclusion, the Christian god will torture them in burning fire for eternity”
God not only condones reason-based faith He encourages (see Acts 17:11, among others). There are 13 Gospel presentations in the book of Acts, and all involve evidence and reason. They never say to believe blindly. Biblical faith is faith in the evidence, not faith without evidence, or worse yet, faith in spite of contrary evidence.
The examples in the Bible note that some people aren’t interested, and we let them walk away. Maybe they’ll come back later. Maybe not.
“Except that Mr. Cahill makes the same argument, and he’s subtly conflating a creator/designer god with the Christian god.”
Not having read the book, I don’t know if Cahill did that or not, but it is possible. Some people do forget to go step-by-step — 1) Evidence for God, 2) Evidence for the real God of Christianity being that God. You are right that just proving God exists doesn’t mean that He is the God of one particular religion.
“This is a error in Mr. Cahill’s (and the Apostle Paul’s) reasoning.”
Definitely not an error on Paul’s part if you follow his whole argument: There is a God, He reveals himself in creation, people suppress the knowledge of him in unrighteousness, his law is written on our hearts, etc.
“My argument is simple…the lack of empirically verifiable evidence for the supernatural claims made by religions”
The demand for empirical evidence for God’s existence uses faulty logic. It is circular reasoning, because you can’t use empirical evidence to prove that you should only trust empirical evidence.
And I don’t know anyone who only trusts empirical evidence. Unless you design all your own test equipment from scratch and replicate all experiments you rely upon then you don’t just live by empirical evidence. You find what you think are trustworthy sources of information.
It is also a category mistake. You don’t use a scale to weigh the color blue, because colors don’t have weight. In the same way, you don’t use methods designed to test material things if you want to determine the truth about immaterial things.
And as much as some people try to dismiss it, the cosmological argument is very strong. I’ve seen atheists (not necessarily you) use the “multiverse” theory to rationalize away the cosmological and teleological arguments. As fanciful and completely lacking in empirical evidence as the multiverse theory is, I find it ironic that any atheist would admit to thinking it was more likely then the evidence for a creator God.
*In my experience, it is typical for an Atheist to take the focus off of whether or not there is a god and move the focus to “how do you prove that your god is better than another god.”
Actually, this is typical of a theist. If this was truly the atheist’s focus, then she wouldn’t be an atheist, because she would be presuming a god’s existence in asking for “proof” of one god’s superiority over another. Right?
And no one is asking you. My point is that the flipside of “reasoning to belief in Yahweh” is the ability to reason to unbelief. If reason is a valid path, then why such severe punishment if reason doesn’t lead you to the “right” belief? Thus, reason cannot truly be a valid path to belief. It’s no wonder why major Christian theologians like Martin Luther were so critical of it.
No, your response was to make the question whether you may be mistaken essentially irrelevant.
As for myself, not only have I thought that I’m mistaken, I consider that I very likely am. However, the best I can do is ground my beliefs in what I see before me.
Your argument is still fallacious. If the atheist is wrong, it doesn’t make your position right by default. The possibility remains you could be wrong too.
Then I wonder, why engage in any debate at all? I enjoy debate because I like to test my views and modify them accordingly if I’m shown wrong. I think this is the path to finding truth. It’s more commonly known as the Socratic method.
This is doubtful, given that major figures in Christian theology condemned reason. Many of the instances in Acts, like the one you cite, follow the line that some heard Paul’s message, then believed. Others didn’t. Paul himself never claims Christian faith is reasonable. In fact, he characterizes it as something precisely opposite: foolishness (see 1 Cor. 1:18). It was on that basis that Church fathers like Tertullian boasted they believed.
In any case, my question to Alysa remains unanswered. If Yahweh allows you to reason to Him, then why does He condemn you to eternal torture if you reason wrongly? It’s like I say to you, “My name is John. Go ahead and see if that’s true. If you find that it’s not, I’m going to blow your brains out.”
Except that, we know the fate of those people who aren’t interested. Jesus makes it abundantly clear.
Again, conflating “a god” with its Christian conceptualization. Paul has a specific deity in mind when he makes his argument. But the argument from design doesn’t prove the existence of the Christian’s god, while–it’s important to note–simultaneously disproving the existence of other gods.
The Bible trumps named or unnamed “major figures in Christian theology.” If Christians want more verses about how the Bible applauds and encourages reason I’ll be glad to provide them.
First, torture is not the same as punishment. Second, see Romans 1. You’ve been given plenty to reason with. You are acting as if continued, willful rebellion against God is akin to missing a problem on a math test.
Agreed, but that has nothing to do with my point. Kudos for seeing what many avoid: Jesus taught a lot about Hell and why you should avoid it. Sadly, too many claiming the name of Christ ignore those teachings.
Not at all. You just have to keep reading.
Then why doesn’t Paul make the argument that the whole of creation–evidence which is about as empirical as one can get–testifies to Yahweh’s existence, so that one is “without excuse”?
In any case, that’s not my method. I rely on the empirical evidence because of its results. It has been extremely successful in unlocking the truths about our existence, the vast majority of which you accept too.
It seems you have a misunderstanding of “empirical.” It is “information gained be means of observation, experience, or experiment.” (emphasis added)
What device or method do you propose to determine the truth about immaterial things? The ones I’ve heard of so far from believers in the supernatural result in a dizzying array of conflicting claims. Empiricist methods, in contrast, arrive at truths that almost no sane person disputes.
Perhaps you’ve not read very good critiques. I recommend those by Dr. Wes Morriston. In any case, there’s nothing in the argument that mandates the “unmoved mover” has to be the Christian’s god, or any god for that matter.
If you mean “empirical” as in evidence, then that is a fair point, and of course you encounter that evidence 24×7. All the other atheists I’ve seen use that argument use it in the sense of being able to conduct repeated experiments. They refuse to consider evidence for the resurrection, for example, because you can’t do scientific tests on it.
I have nothing against empirical evidence, only the fallacious use of that requirement to ignore other evidence.
Reason, logic, historical evidence.
I’ve read many critiques of all the main arguments for God’s existence, the reliability of the Bible, the evidence for the resurrection, etc.
Christianity can explain all worldviews: The truth view of Christianity (from God) and the false views of other religions and atheism (from Satan and human rebellion).
The atheistic worldview has a humorous explanation for my Christian worldview: The universe arose from nothing without a cause. Then these materials just happened to combine in spectacularly complex ways and generated huge amounts of complex information (see “Signature in the Cell” by Stephen Meyer, for example). Life came from non-life and evolved to us being able to “think” we are reasoning about these things. But of course, since Darwinian evolution prizes survival over truth, we have no real way to determine if what we are reasoning is accurate. And this blind, mechanistic process evolved human beings to a state where I abandoned skepticism and trusted in what I see as the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So Christians are products of your beloved evolutionary processes and the pride atheists feel for being “brights” is completely irrational.
There has been several times in our conversations where you have basically said that my argument is fallible because what I have said doesn’t necessarily point to the Christian God. That doesn’t make them fallible; it just makes them specifically directed to you. When I talk with atheists or agnostics; I try to keep the focus on whether or not there is a god. Everything I believe starts with God. Everything you believe starts with a lack of god.
Yes, I agree with what Jesus taught about Hell and why we should avoid it based on what the Bible says about it. I also believe that I am totally deserving of going there because I have broken God’s law. I don’t completely understand the love that it took for Jesus to pay my price. I can in a way (but not fully because I have not been put in that situation) understand based on the love I have for my girls. I believe that if it came down to giving my life in order to keep them out of danger; then I would wholeheartedly (but even then, it would not compare to Jesus’ love for me and you). I am willing to trust in Jesus and accept that gift.
Maybe debate was not the right word to use. I enjoy having discussions with people who’s views differ from mine. Even in the Christian community views differ and I like to talk about those differences too. For me the Bible is my foundation. If another Christian differs in opinion about something; I search out further understanding in the Bible. I have changed my particular viewpoint on several subjects using this “method” (or even more frequently kept my particular viewpoint based on what the Bible says).
When talking with someone who is not a Christian; I am able to strengthen my faith by still using the Bible as my foundation. I also am able to better understand where the other person is coming from.
Are you claiming theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin didn’t know the Bible? Why is your interpretation more valid or accurate than theirs?
And if you would provide the verses that “applaud and encourage reason,” I’d be happy to look them up. I bet I can find just as many that denigrate “man’s wisdom” and extol faith.
I don’t know. Burning someone for eternity seems to stretch the meaning of punishment beyond recognition, into the realm of the gratuitous. Inflicting never-ending pain seems to fit the meaning of torture to me.
Apparently, Yahweh hasn’t made himself “plain” enough if the vast majority of humanity has believed in a million different gods–or no gods–besides him. Even within Christianity, you find a tremendous variety of conceptions.
These facts demonstrate beyond any doubt that Paul’s argument in Romans is simply wrong. And notice he isn’t even appealing to reason, but practically asserting an axiom.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:18)
Paul is identifying the Christian god, not a generic deity. Can’t be any more clear than that.
My claim was very specific, whereas your was and is still vague. I said that the Bible trumps named or unnamed “major figures in Christian theology.” Naming them without their quotes, in context, proving your point, doesn’t count. And even if you find the quotes, that doesn’t make them 100% right. They were great men of God who spoke much truth, but their words aren’t scripture. One can play the “my church father trumps your church father” game as well. If you think I misunderstood Acts 17:11, then feel free to explain why.
Again, if Christians want more verses about how the Bible applauds and encourages reason I’ll be glad to provide them.
Re. torture / punishment: Perhaps you underestimate the gravity of your crimes.
You must be kidding. The existence of atheists and those who create their own gods proves him and the other writers of scripture right over and over. See Romans 1:18-20: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
P.S. To state the obvious, it would be peculiar for Calvin and Luther to reason as Christians that Christianity opposes the use of reason. Even if they did so their arguments would be self-refuting.
If they were pointing out that you can’t always argue someone into the kingdom then I’d agree. But search for “reason” in the Bible, especially the book of Acts.
I don’t think this is accurate. The majority of atheists would probably say the evidence for the resurrection isn’t sufficient to support the claim. And if the best you got is 2,000 year old historical evidence, produced in an era when humankind was extremely gullible, then your case is gonna be that much harder to make.
Merely because you can produce evidence doesn’t necessarily mean it supports your particular claim.
Funny, there appears to be something missing among your list. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The Bible mentions it a few times as well. Faith? 🙂
And if these are so useful in determining the truth about immaterial things, then why so many religions? Why so many sects within religions? Why so many Christian sects?
I’m also confused. Historical evidence is valid for deducing immaterial things, but trying to do the same thing with empirical evidence is “faulty logic”? What makes historical evidence so superior to empirical evidence? One would think the latter is to be preferred over the former.
I know, incredibly humorous right? Almost as humorous as the view that a god, which is necessarily more complex than the universe, arose from nothing without a cause. That its huge amounts of complex information was just there for all time. Amazing!
Got me there. I mean, I definitely spread falsehood to ensure my survival, which is quite horrible of me, which must therefore mean, Darwinian evolution is wrong. QED.
So you’re not going to explain why your interpretation of the Bible is superior to Luther’s or Calvin’s. Ok.
Clearly. But what’s puzzled me is why then Christians are opposed to abortion. I mean, killing a child before it can commit such heinous crimes to earn itself an eternity of torture seems more like mercy than murder. Coupled with the common Christian view that these babes get sent to heaven, you’d think Christians would be opening up abortion clinics right and left.
Ok I admit, I’m kidding. Paul’s so right. Just take a look at religions like the Hinduism and Buddhism. Long before Paul came along to tell them that Yahweh’s existence was as “plain” as day, they were rebelling and suppressing and creating false gods out of sheer wickedness. The reason and logic and historical evidence for this are irrefutable!
Unless they regarded their beliefs as founded on something else besides reason. Something like…oh I forget. Starts with the letter “f” though. Can you help me out?
Of course faith is a part of it, but biblical faith is trust in something real, not the blind faith straw man. Again, read the book of Acts: 13 Gospel presentations, all of which point to fact and reason and none of which point to blind faith. None.
I’ve explained why there are many religions and why there are atheists.
Many Christian sects are due to personal preferences on worship styles and such. There is one church, which is the body of authentic believers. God knew there would be disputable matters on non-essentials and gave guidance on how to address them (http://tinyurl.com/2e587j9). If “sects” differ on the essentials (Jesus’ divinity, & exclusivity, etc.) then by definition they aren’t Christian.
“What makes historical evidence so superior to empirical evidence?”
“Almost as humorous as the view that a god, which is necessarily more complex than the universe, arose from nothing without a cause. ”
More straw. Anyone familiar with the cosmological argument would know that the claim isn’t that God arose from nothing. He is eternally existent, and that is a completely logical premise — otherwise you are caught in an infinite regress or assuming that materials are eternally existent.
“Got me there. I mean, I definitely spread falsehood to ensure my survival, which is quite horrible of me, which must therefore mean, Darwinian evolution is wrong. QED.”
Once again arguing against a point I didn’t make. I didn’t say you had to spread falsehoods, just that even if Darwinian evolution were true it would not provide a foundation to believe that your reasoning is trustworthy. By definition, it prizes survival over truth.
I’m weary of correcting your (deliberate?) misunderstandings, so I’ll give you the last word.
Alysa, thanks for hosting the dialogue!
Robert, all the best to you.
No Problem 🙂
BTW, do you ever sleep? Every time I log on; you have recently posted on either your blog or mine. What time zone are you in?
Sorry, one more — didn’t see your 2nd comment.
“So you’re not going to explain why your interpretation of the Bible is superior to Luther’s or Calvin’s. Ok.”
More straw. You never noted their claims, let alone in context, and let alone how even if you had represented them properly how they could use Christian reason to say why Christians shouldn’t reason. You don’t understand the biblical definition of faith. Really, do a word search and see.
“But what’s puzzled me is why then Christians are opposed to abortion.”
Uh, because God said not to kill innocent human beings and we’re obeying him? Or that He commands us to defend the weak?
Even if I wasn’t a Christian I’d oppose abortion. It is a scientific fact that a new human being is created at conception — http://tinyurl.com/yfje8lq . I’m too pro-science to be pro-choice.
“Long before Paul came along to tell them that Yahweh’s existence was as “plain” as day, . . .”
Surely you realize that Paul wasn’t saying that command began with him. The text couldn’t be more clear: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
“And if the best you got is 2,000 year old historical evidence… ”
Why is the Bible questioned as historical evidence?
Dates and numbers of ancient manuscripts:
Homer’s Iliad – 500 yrs after original–643 manuscripts
Julius Caesar – 1000 yrs after original–10 manuscripts
Pliny’s history – 750 yrs after original–7 manuscripts
Thucydides’ History – 1,300 yrs–8 manuscripts
Herodotus’ History – 1,300 yrs–8 manuscripts
New Testament – 25 yrs after original– >24,000 (5,000 greek)
Ultimately we all have to answer the question: Who Is Jesus? And yes, it takes faith to believe in Him without witnessing the resurrection. One definition of faith is “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Although, if the Bible is accepted as a historical document; we have plenty of eye witness accounts and other documented evidence that points to the fact that the resurrection did happen.
“BTW, do you ever sleep? Every time I log on; you have recently posted on either your blog or mine. What time zone are you in?”
Ha! I’m somewhat prolific but I also post-date most of my posts to go out at the first part of the day. I’m in the central time zone.
Great points about the manuscript evidence!
Parroting “straw man,” doesn’t make the tough questions go away. And if you’re going to make the charge, at least understand what the term means:
“A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.” As an example:
Ah, but I never accused you of having “blind faith”. You’re responding to a straw man. The fact that you failed to mention faith as any part of the foundation of your beliefs was the curious thing…to put it mildly. Again, read the Bible.
Except that Christians have never agreed on essentials, as reflected even in Paul’s letters. For a broader survey of just how wide-ranging those disagreements were at the very start, I highly recommend Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities. And now today, of course, we have approximately 40,000 Christian denominations–a number predicted only to rise.
Anyone familiar with the cosmological argument would know that it’s not even about God (i.e., Yahweh) at all, but a “first cause” or “Prime Mover,” as Aristotle put it. In any case, the argument doesn’t get us anywhere. Why should we assume that immaterial things are eternally existent? If you want to argue that the first cause is eternal, why cannot I argue that the process by which the universe was created is also eternal? Or the universe itself in some form is eternal?
I was making fun of your argument because it’s stupendously bad (and a straw man, to boot). Darwinian evolution prizes survival over truth? It’s like saying the theory of gravity prizes attraction over morality, and therefore we have no way to determine if our morals are correct. Good grief…
Actually, I did, in a response to Alysa. You never explained why your understanding of what the Bible says trumps theirs. Crying “straw man,” doesn’t make the question go away. If there’s any lesson here, it’s that the Bible can say pretty much what anyone wants it to say.
And still, the nub of the debate isn’t even about reason, but why, if by using reason we come to different conclusions, I’m eternally tortured and you are not. This is a question neither you or Alysa have answered. Your position is to essentially deny that anyone who comes to a different belief than yours could be using reason. Instead, you claim their wickedness is deceiving them, or they’re being purposely ignorant. In sum, Neil is right because he’s using reason, logic, and historical evidence. Everyone who disagrees with him is just purposely pulling the wool over their own eyes because they want to keep on sinning.
Then let them be born, and then kill them, since they’ll have the stain of sin on them and no longer truly innocent, as Christ Jesus was said to be. You’re guaranteeing them a free ticket to heaven and an eternity free of torture. You can always repent later, right?
And if you ever actually read your Bible, you’d know that Yahweh said to kill innocent human beings all the time.
It’s hard to imagine you making this argument with a straight face. Essentially you’re claiming that as soon as they could, people all across the world should have been worshiping Yahweh, sans Bible, Paul, Jesus, or millions of Christian apologists to explain the theology to them. And while I know you’re only parroting Paul, one can only /facepalm at such a ludicrous belief. Not even the early Church fathers made this argument, saying instead that it was Satan who planted all these false religions around the world to lead people astray because he knew Jesus would be coming to institute the “true” religion.
So, I understand you’ll no longer reply. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the conversation. Cheers!
Numbers of manuscripts mean nothing more than there were lots of resources devoted to making copies. If you do a little research, you’ll find that the vast bulk of those manuscripts appear over a thousand years after the first attempts at a Christian canon were made.
And while the Bible contains some history, it contains much that obviously isn’t. Only the most hardcore of Christian fundamentalists maintain that it does nowadays. Even the people who wrote half of it–the Jews–don’t regard it as containing much historical value any more.
“but why, if by using reason we come to different conclusions, I’m eternally tortured and you are not. This is a question neither you or Alysa have answered.”
I think that we have answered this at some point but here it is again. The Bible states clearly that all of us sin which breaks God’s law and all of us deserve death as a punishment for our sins. God is Holy and we are not. We cannot stand in his presence full of sin. Instead of us having to pay the price of our sin; God sent us Jesus. Jesus paid the price for us by dying and taking on the all of the sins of the world. Then he conquered death by rising from the grave and ascending into Heaven. Those who except the gift of salvation by believing in Jesus will join him in Heaven. Those who reject Jesus and insist on living a life of sin; will be sent to the lake of fire.
Like I mentioned over on our part 2 conversation; Lesson 3 of the Truth Project/notes explains about our sin nature and why we need to be redeemed better than I can. There is a link to them over there.
“…If you do a little research, you’ll find that the vast bulk of those manuscripts appear over a thousand years after the first attempts at a Christian canon were made…”
I’m not sure that I understand your point. The manuscripts that have been found since the Christian canon have confirmed that anything up to that point was accurate. The comparing of the manuscripts that have been found throughout allows us to conclude with confidence what the originals contained. And there are 32,000 quotations from the New Testament found in early writings from before the council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
“we have approximately 40,000 Christian denominations”
Yes, a lot of denominations do not agree on the essentials which would bring the question to mind “Are they really Christian?” The label of “Christian” means follower of Christ. But since Christ many have changed how they view who Christ is or how they interpret the Bible. For example Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons call themselves “Christian” but a lot of their views completely contradict the Bible which would not make them true followers of the Biblical Jesus Christ. Just because a denomination uses the term Christian to describe themselves; that does not make them true Christians.
Other denominations such as Catholics have allowed tradition and good deeds to take over their belief system. Other denominations such as Pentecostals have allowed spiritual gifts and charismatic beliefs to take precedence over studying the Bible. I am not saying that Catholics or Pentecostals are not Christians. I am saying that In some denominations there are some people who have been led astray from denominational beliefs that overrule what the Bible says. No denomination is perfect just like no person is perfect.
I have attended a ton of churches of several different denominations. I don’t say that one is better than the other because the basic Biblical foundational beliefs have been the same. Yes, traditions or some beliefs that don’t effect our eternal salvation have been different. But that doesn’t make them wrong. I particularly like my current church. It is of the Nazarene denomination but because we are in an overseas setting with mostly military members; we have a variety of different denominational backgrounds that attend. Yet it is one of the most loving, caring, Bible believing group of Christians that I have ever encountered. Ultimately, God’s church is not a building or one group of people; it is all of the Bible believing Christians worldwide.
What you had explained earlier was, “I believe that it is not for me to judge who will or will not go to heaven or hell; that is God’s job. I also will not presume to know the mind of God in order to try and understand why one person is allowed time and another is not.”
In any case, your latest explanation, I’m afraid, doesn’t answer the conundrum. Everyone understands the Christian story about why we need Jesus or we’ll all go to hell. The question is about the means to accepting this story. Some Christians claim reason can be those means. I dispute that, because of the doctrine of hell. It’s no different than going up to someone, putting a gun to their head, and saying “You’re free to ponder the question whether Jesus is your savior, but if you decide he’s not, I’m going to blow your brains out.” Can you honestly say that person with the gun is allowing you the opportunity to reason?
Oh, goodness. The truth is precisely the opposite. Bible scholars have long known that canonical manuscripts have differed with one another, some in very important ways. For instance, the Codex Sinaticus does not include Mark 16:9-20 (along with many early versions of that gospel). In his book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman states that there are more differences among the New Testament than it has words (many of those differences are extremely minor, but they nonetheless exist). The truth of the matter is, no one knows what the original manuscripts said with any certainty. We do know, however, that a number of different versions have been floating around from early on.
How Christians even arrived at their canon…well, that’s a whole ‘nother interesting story 🙂
Well, as I said before, Christians cannot agree on what those essentials are, the disputes were around from the very start of the religion, and they’re only getting worse. The best you can do is what you said: a Christian is a follower of Christ. I imagine to some Christians, you’re not a “true Christian.” Until Christ shows up one day to definitively delineate who is and who isn’t, attempts to label someone a “true Christian” suffer from the No True Scotsman fallacy.
Perhaps the reason there are so many different Christian sects is because the Bible says so many different things. I’ve noticed that when Christian argue with each other over “who’s right,” they all cite this or that Biblical scripture. Every time.
Misquoting Jesus: Does Bart Erhman Prove the New Testament is Corrupt?
Has the Bible been corrupted, altered, edited, revised, or tampered with?
Is the Bible truly God’s Word?
How and when was the canon of the Bible put together?
Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original?
Is the Bible Really the Word of God?
History of the Bible: How The Bible Came To Us
Are the Biblical Documents Reliable?
A Loving God Would Not Send Billions of People to Hell, Would He?
Who Goes to Hell?
Why Would God Create a Person Who Would be Destined for Hell?
What Will Hell be Like?
General Introduction for Non-Believers: Part 1, Are Your Beliefs Consistent with Your Worldview?
General Introduction for Non-Believers, Part 2: Evidence for Belief in God
General Introduction for Non-Believers, Part 3: Why Christianity?
I Can Design a Better Universe Than God Did!–Ultimate Atheist Challenge