armed with a degree in theology, over the years i have come up with specific questions to ask of christians.
indeed i even attend "alpha courses" (introductory courses to becoming a christian) and put these questions to the hosts (usually under the guise of "well i'm thinking of becoming a christian but i have some questions...)
confrontation and causing offense gets you nowhere. also being impolite just reinforces their smug assertion that atheists are angry.
the question i have had most success with at putting people on the spot goes like this...
"a priest rapes a choirboy. the choirboy becomes depressed and traumatized, rejects jesus and the church (understandably), turns to drugs, dies young and spends an eternity in hell, unsaved and condemned by god.
the priest repents on his deathbed, embraces christ, is forgiven and spends forever in heaven.
by what measure can we consider this to be justice?"
i'm hoping that this question might one day become a meme, so that anyone who brings up the subject of christianity is immediately reminded of this question and has an answer demanded of them.
i have many other questions like this that cannot be simply swatted away with theology, mystery or dogma.
i'd be happy to share them with anyone who is interested.
thanks for reading, let me know if it has an impact on anyone you ask.
I hope you don't mind me answering this, although, atleast in theory, I think you probably know the answer.
If you sinned 3 times a day in thought, word or deed you would stand before God with approximately 66,000 convictions if you lived to about 60. God is without sin, and so is Heaven. He is more just than any human legal system. You cannot remain guilty and get the reward of Heaven. You an trust Christ and be forgiven though.
As for being a free thinker, that needs unpacking. If there was a chair in the room and you said it was an orange. You would not be a free thinker, you would just be mistaken. You can't choose what reality is like you can only discover it.
Also, what you call free thinking God calls rebellion. He doesn't see it as you thinking for yourself but rather avoiding your creator because of you wanting autonomy from Him. Well, in the end you can not be surprised if your choice to reject God now, is confirmed in eternity. In other words, why would God let you into heaven when you have spent your life rejecting him? Its like spending your life hating someone and then asking them to let you live with them, even while you still hate them.
So you're saying that thinking for myself is rejecting or hating God? Why doesn't God want people to think for themselves? I'm talking about free enquiry. I would have thought He is secure enough to realise that all roads of truth lead back to Him, [if I wasn't an atheist].
So your questions about going to heaven weren't sincere? My mistake, I should have realised that.
The answers are not something you will readily appreciate. They are twofold, firstly the nature of truth and how it is discovered, and secondly, what it hinders us from discovering it.
(1) The nature of truth. I will go wide and then narrow down. Whether there is a God or not is not open to scientific enquiry. Purely because the scientific was never designed, and has no ability to address ultimate spirituality. There are other things in this category too, for example the nature of reality. You have no way of knowing that your not currently in a coma, your a woman, and in India. You can't tell if your currently in the Matrix, or if the earth was created 5mins ago with the appearance of age. Therefore, philosophy has a category called 'properly basic beliefs', We trust our senses that they are telling us the truth on these issues, although ultimately we cannot prove it.
When it comes to God then, we can do a number of things. We can mistake science for spiritual truth and say there must be no God then. Or we can say, our experience of the world leads me to believe there probably isn't a God. Ultimately, in this scenario we cannot know. Atheism at best then is a bit presumptuous.
However, God says that creation clearly shows that He exists (general revelation), and then He gave the Bible (specific revelation) to bring us back into a relationship with Him (road map). There is a problem though. Sin, has a blinding and hardening affect on the human heart. And so what is obvious becomes obscure the more we reject it. Biblically, your free thinking is so tainted by your sin, its not free at all. Martin Luther said that people are free to choose whatever they desire but their desires are in bondage to their sinful nature - meaning they are slaves to their sin. And yes, God considers your rejection of him as hatred towards him.
The people in Jesus' day were terribly offended when He said the same to them, but that they could know the truth and the truth would set them free. While you reject God all you can do is stumble in the dark, and call it free thinking. Once you accept Him, your free thinking will truly begin.
There are several billion people on the planet that believe in God, and in the end that is a 'properly basic belief.' just like the nature of reality; confirmed for us by our sense experience. My advice would be to start going to a good evangelical church, and start praying and asking God to reveal Himself to you. Apologies if any of that sounded harsh, wasn't meant to.
"So your questions about going to heaven weren't sincere?"
- who said that? The implication is that thinking for yourself keeps you out of heaven.
"Biblically, your free thinking is so tainted by your sin, its not free at all. Martin Luther said that people are free to choose whatever they desire but their desires are in bondage to their sinful nature - meaning they are slaves to their sin."
- I'm not talking about "doing whatever you feel like, and never mind the consequences for anyone else" - that's pretty much sin. I'm talking about "trying to find truth by free enquiry".
"And yes, God considers your rejection of him as hatred towards him."
- but why, exactly? What part doesn't He want me to reject? It sounds like a mere technicality, like God doesn't love people unconditionally, but you have to earn it by believing, which doesn't carry any value in itself, so why the big deal?
"Once you accept Him, your free thinking will truly begin."
- I get what you're saying if you mean "stillness, wisdom and morality" - in anyone's book, this should amount to the same thing. If it doesn't, where's the extra layer of obligation, and what is its value?
I have to start with the idea that there is such a thing as truth. If God exists then no matter how much free thinking an atheist does he will always be wrong. And the opposite being true for theists.
So, lets assume for now that the truth is that God does exist, and in particular the Christian God. This means:
1. Your free thinking has terribly let you down and you are wrong.
2. Having created you, and everything else, and being eternal and you being finite, our goal should be to discover what God says as our ultimate source of truth.
3. If God says that your sin is so serious it will keep you out of heaven, then all the 'free thinking' in the world will not change that.
4. If God gives a way for you to be forgiven so that you can know Him now, and go to heaven, and says this is the only way. all the objections in the world are meaningless.
Of course, you are free not to accept this. But your not free to change it. To quote the Bible "shall the clay say to the potter, why did you make me like this?"
I think that those propositions follow on reasonably from that assumption (except that 2) is more or less unworkable in my opinion, since, you have to admit, there are quite a few different answers flying around).
But it can only ever be an assumption, and based on my experience as a human being, I can do just fine without it.
"But your not free to change it."
- but it's just an assumption.
I think 2 is essential. Truth has to be discovered. We may fumble and get it wrong at times, but our pursuit is one of truth. In the christian worldview, the Bible is our primary source for this.
Atheism at best then is a bit presumptuous.
I don't think this follows at all. Atheism can be a choice based on available evidence, and held provisionally.
And yes, God considers your rejection of him as hatred towards him.
Ah, so now you are a prophet of God, who knows the hearts of your fellow men? :P
One of the things that should be apparent to any Christian visiting atheist forums is that many atheists have been turned off of religion not by their own sinfulness, but by ours. The bad examples, judgmentalism like what your statement exhibits, crimes and horrors committed by our brethren can turn the innocent away from God. In fact, the rejection of the religious claims made by manifestly sinful Christians may be an act of intelligence and virtue in some ways.
Thanks for your thoughts Dr Bob, love that name, it sounds like something off a soap opera.
I hear what your saying Bob, and there is truth in it. However, Jesus referred to people rejecting Him as those who hate him. I think your confused with what being judgmental means and the need to take sin seriously, so that we can repent and believe. Jesus wasn't being judgmental when he said "repent and believe the good news." Much sentimentality is mistaken for love these days.
I don't find that Jesus was judgemental at all. I find that he practiced "unconditional love" because instead of punishing and condemning, he corrected and forgave. This is in contrast to the judgemental view of God's love that seems to be prevalent in Christianity.
|10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.||10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.||10:36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.||10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.|
I find that out of those, 10:37 seems judgemental. Also, a bit strange. But we all know he didn't get on with his parents.
The other three are understandable in the light of knowing he was going to upset a lot of applecarts, which he did.
The thing is, how often are those four verses dragged out and used to justify anything? Never. How famous are they? Not very. What is Jesus famous for? Forgiveness, dying on the cross, and forgiving the people who crucified him, mainly.