My love affair with theology

I haven’t been posting much lately. To explain why, allow me give you a sketch of my relationship with theology, which has always formed the backbone of this site.

First, a plea: don’t waste your time cultivating the most intellectually and emotionally satisfying theology until you know what the Bible is, nor until you’re willing to come to grips with reality outside of the Bible. You can contrive an internally consistent history and theology as gleaned from the information in the Lord of the Rings or the Star Trek universe, but your systematization of them is going to be nothing more than a clever fiction unless you can find correspondence in the real world. A police detective might be able to piece together a perfectly consistent and intelligible version of events from a flawed and inaccurate police report, but his job is to first determine the reliability of the sources and take into account the shortcomings and limitations of even his most trusted informants. The Bible is a testimony of reliable informants, the most reliable, but even they were functioning under the limitations of humanity.

By the time I reached high school, I had determined that having good theology was something necessary to set our faith on the right course. This was firmly my impression all through college, in which I majored in Bible and Theology. Seeing the doctrinal mayhem and frequent kookiness that resulted from not knowing the Bible very well or misinterpreting it (I was at a Pentecostal college) confirmed to me the significance of theology. This is not to say I was ever unconcerned by faith in practice: I have long recognized faith in practice as a sine qua non of good theology because you can’t very well say you believe the right things if you don’t act upon them, because one only truly believes in an action inasmuch as he is committed to putting it in action. But considering that any church worth its salt has outlets for faith in action such as ministries and outreach programs, I realized I would have to narrow down my search for an ideal church by finding one that was equally committed to teaching Christians good doctrine.

Not that I seriously expected to find a church with 100% correct doctrine. My father’s example of eagerly gleaning the good and humbly discarding the bad instilled in me the belief that no one had the whole truth, save the Bible. Instead of leaving me in a resigned agnosticism about theological matters, this conditioned me to value truth as a precious jewel worth chasing down at all costs. I’ve never had much tolerance for those who dismiss other understandings of theology without giving them a fair hearing, and no tolerance for those who dismiss people because of differing ideas about debatable points of theology. For instance, unlike the vast majority of people within my tradition, I early gained an appreciation for Roman Catholic theology and a deep affection for devout Catholics as real, honest-to-gosh Christians.

For a long time I felt that I was always on the cusp of finding True Theology, or at very least a reliable version consistent internally and with the Bible. But trying to find consistency was something that frustrated me again and again. In the end, I became convinced of the impossibility of neat, tidy theology culled from sola scriptura (still less from church authority of an orthodox perspective). Even the most complex theological complexes fail to credibly account for certain passages of Scripture. My problem is that I’m not the type to simply brush those under the rug or swallow contrived and convoluted explanations that serve as prisms through which everything must be read (à la dispensationalism and Reformed theology).

I finally became convinced of this when I tried, and failed, to fully systematize eschatology. There’s no doubt whatsover of the fundamental preterist contentions that Jesus and his followers viewed the eschaton as an imminent event, and that the destruction of Jerusalem was the subject and fulfillment of Jesus’ eschatological expectations as recorded in the Gospels. In fact, some of the full preterist constructs are among the most plausible in all of theology. However, despite my best efforts to coordinate the views of some of the NT writings outside the synoptics with Jesus’ words and the OT’s prophecies regarding the Resurrection of the Dead, I was left with the undeniable feeling that I was trying to reconcile truly different understandings. We’re hearing one side at a time of different conversations between different people, and it is hopeless to fully reconstruct their understandings of eschatology, let alone account for their own possible misconceptions. In the end, because I see no cause to doubt that the synoptics got Jesus’ teachings on end times right, I’m sticking with his eschatology and admitting ignorance on the other stuff.

The conclusions birthed from my insistence upon intellectually honest readings of Scripture yielded a recognition of the persistent intractability of doctrinal debates and the irresolvable inconsistencies in Scripture. But full realization lagged somewhat behind my coming to grips with the fact that the Bible isn’t an inerrant witness to science and history. The delay was a result of my abiding conviction that rejecting historical/scientific concordism (the expectation that Scripture perfectly represents historical/scientific reality) doesn’t entail rejection of all theological insight in the Bible. Even bad newspapers tell the truth every now and then, and I am convinced that the Bible was written by men who loved the truth of God as much as I do and were better informed of it than I am. So I assumed that most of the Christian doctrines would remain intact; central Christian teachings like the atonement, total depravity, and Christ’s deity were not initially challenged by my wholehearted rejection of scientific/ historical concordism and my half-hearted theological concordism. This is not necessarily the case anymore. The more robust the theological system based on coordinating verse after verse of Scripture from different authors in different times, the more likely that some of the glue holding it together will be strained, as will the honest hearer’s credulity.

The chief offenders for me are the Reformed. They have a perfectly clever system for which they can find innumerable passages that back up the seemingly innumerable points that all interlock neatly. They have championed logic and taken it as their own with a superficially unassailable apologetic called presuppositionalism, a philosophy that’s haplessly based upon an inerrant Bible. They remind me of a guy who’s worked out the Star Trek timeline and come up with clever ways to reconcile continuity errors between episodes and between the various series and movies, except in the Trekkie’s case, at least he’s aware that his solutions are fiction piled on top of fiction. If you take Paul’s writings as 100% accurate (something I cannot do based upon my acceptance of science), their soteriological construct seems pretty credible; it might be hard to come up with an Arminian or third option from the classic Reformation reading of Paul alone. But try to factor in the Hebrew perspective of James; read Paul through the eyes of the so-called New Perspective, which despite the misleading moniker takes into account the first century’s perspective much better than did Luther; face the fact that Paul’s view on the Fall of Man was inaccurate; etc., etc. These are no trifling objections, and the Reformed have clever answers for it all, but in the end, it’s clear that their efforts are all directed toward trying to clear away objections to a system that admits no objections, rather than sacrificing or adapting their system to account for facts.

But it’s not just the Reformed who do so; it’s only their all too typical overconfidence in their position’s rational basis and their fondness for heresy-hunting that brings me to call them out specifically. In actuality, I’ve come to realize that the first action of evangelical and fundamentalist theology, especially systematic theology, is to shut the door, close the blinds, and discount everything but the Bible (and sometimes church tradition), because they truly expect that the Bible contains all that is necessary. They seem to take an inverted version of 1 Timothy 3.17 that substitutes, “All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, etc.” with “Only Scripture is profitable” or “All that is profitable is in Scripture.” Unless I’ve somehow missed it, neither of these latter is even intimated in Scripture, chiefly for the reason that the Bible as we know it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. (I happened to stumble across a good article by a preterist echoing my concerns about the limitations of certainty within our theology.)

The thing that has grown ever more sure in my mind is the centrality of the Christian ethic. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s with our doctrines and dogmas will only ever be a guessing game. But what will last is Jesus’ example of helping those in need, as demanded from Micah 6.8 to Matthew 25.31-46, to James 1.27. So for me, getting right practice (orthopraxy) right is more important than getting all our doctrine in order (orthodoxy).

The question will be asked, “What do you still believe in?” Such a question is much too broad; ask me something specifically, and I’ll tell you my level of comfort with the traditional version and/or give you any alternative model that I find shows promise. At this point, I’d tell you that I believe in God and in Jesus; I believe that Jesus is Lord, and that he conquered death with his resurrection; that our faith has always been about joining God in His work, chief of which is caring for those in need. Any theological debates that distract us and keep us divided such that our mission and influence are compromised are debates best reserved for the afterlife.

Something else I believe: that the single fundamental characteristic of our faith should be humility. And not just the kind of humility that’s based in a dogma that harps on our being wretched sinners, but humility in the fallibility of our understanding. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

So why haven’t I been blogging? My love affair with theology is on the rocks. I know, the base definition of “theology” is what we believe about God, and I’m certainly always looking to having a better understanding of Him and His ways. But even popular theological hobbyhorses such as the method of the atonement start to sound like speculations about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I think we’re all better served — the Kingdom of God is better served — if, before we become embroiled in a theological debate, we begin to ask ourselves if we don’t have something more important to be doing.

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  • Very well put Stephen. I’ve found myself bogged down by things that are not “of the utmost importance” many times. It is of course important for us to seek understanding in the things of the Bible that are unclear to us, but it is even more important for us to follow what is abundantly clear. Feed the hungry, bring relief to the widow, don’t be a complete ass. When we can get these things right fully within ourselves, and within the church that is the body of Christians. I think everything else will fall together more easily.

  • Very well put Stephen. I’ve found myself bogged down by things that are not “of the utmost importance” many times. It is of course important for us to seek understanding in the things of the Bible that are unclear to us, but it is even more important for us to follow what is abundantly clear. Feed the hungry, bring relief to the widow, don’t be a complete ass. When we can get these things right fully within ourselves, and within the church that is the body of Christians. I think everything else will fall together more easily.

  • Hi Steve, I have felt that same drive towards finding True Theology, and felt that same dismay when Scripture does not cooperate. I agree that our first priority should be orthopraxy, but I for one can’t shut down the calling to understand as well as practice.

    For me the path towards truth has ironically been towards post-modern philosophy. Those that reportably don’t believe in truth, offer insights that feel more truthful to me. I don’t reject the absolute or God, and as I understand it, the purveyors of postmodernism don’t really either-for example: Heidegger, Derrida, and John Caputo. God for them is too big and different from us to be put in a box of rationality. Instead they warn us that what is often proffered as Truth, is really the Tradition. I think your comments on Reformed Theology point out that very thing. The post-modern view warns us to distrust the stable, rational views of God (and many other things) and embrace the practice that life is an orbit where paradoxes and instabilities abound–and not all that is worthwhile can be spoken.
    .-= VanceH-´s last blog ..The Absence of God—Love in Inaction =-.

  • Hi Steve, I have felt that same drive towards finding True Theology, and felt that same dismay when Scripture does not cooperate. I agree that our first priority should be orthopraxy, but I for one can’t shut down the calling to understand as well as practice.

    For me the path towards truth has ironically been towards post-modern philosophy. Those that reportably don’t believe in truth, offer insights that feel more truthful to me. I don’t reject the absolute or God, and as I understand it, the purveyors of postmodernism don’t really either-for example: Heidegger, Derrida, and John Caputo. God for them is too big and different from us to be put in a box of rationality. Instead they warn us that what is often proffered as Truth, is really the Tradition. I think your comments on Reformed Theology point out that very thing. The post-modern view warns us to distrust the stable, rational views of God (and many other things) and embrace the practice that life is an orbit where paradoxes and instabilities abound–and not all that is worthwhile can be spoken.
    .-= VanceH-´s last blog ..The Absence of God—Love in Inaction =-.

  • Thanks, Travis.

    It is of course important for us to seek understanding in the things of the Bible that are unclear to us, but it is even more important for us to follow what is abundantly clear.

    Precisely. Well said. Theology took a beating in this post, but obviously, too strict of a preference for either right doctrine or right practice is silly: doctrine with no practice (faith without works) is dead, but how do you know what to practice without at least an opinion about the matter — which is inescapably “theology” in essence?

    Vance,

    Another pet peeve of mine is that it’s en vogue for Christians to use the term “postmodern” as a pejorative. Most of them don’t even know what it means. It’s not near so much a denial of absolute truth, but the observation that we should be much less presumptuously certain about what that absolute truth is. In short, it’s humility.

  • Thanks, Travis.

    It is of course important for us to seek understanding in the things of the Bible that are unclear to us, but it is even more important for us to follow what is abundantly clear.

    Precisely. Well said. Theology took a beating in this post, but obviously, too strict of a preference for either right doctrine or right practice is silly: doctrine with no practice (faith without works) is dead, but how do you know what to practice without at least an opinion about the matter — which is inescapably “theology” in essence?

    Vance,

    Another pet peeve of mine is that it’s en vogue for Christians to use the term “postmodern” as a pejorative. Most of them don’t even know what it means. It’s not near so much a denial of absolute truth, but the observation that we should be much less presumptuously certain about what that absolute truth is. In short, it’s humility.

  • Here’s an interesting quote that arrived in my Inbox just this morning:

    “When once a man begins to build a system, the very gifts and qualities which might serve in the investigation of truth, become the greatest hindrances to it. He must make the different parts of the scheme fit into each other; his dexterity is shown, not in detecting facts, but in cutting them square . . . . I hope you will never forget that the Bible is the history of God’s acts to men, not of men’s thoughts about God. It begins from Him. He is acting and speaking in it throughout.”

    — Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), Ecclesiastical History [1854]
    .-= Mike Beidler´s last blog ..PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum =-.

  • Here’s an interesting quote that arrived in my Inbox just this morning:

    “When once a man begins to build a system, the very gifts and qualities which might serve in the investigation of truth, become the greatest hindrances to it. He must make the different parts of the scheme fit into each other; his dexterity is shown, not in detecting facts, but in cutting them square . . . . I hope you will never forget that the Bible is the history of God’s acts to men, not of men’s thoughts about God. It begins from Him. He is acting and speaking in it throughout.”

    — Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), Ecclesiastical History [1854]
    .-= Mike Beidler´s last blog ..PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum =-.

  • Steve,

    A well-written and thoughtful post, and timely for me personally. Thank you. I do hope you can see your way through to a both/and approach to orthopraxy/orthodoxy. But for me, the orthodoxy that is vital to Christianity in these days is less about formulating the minutia of biblical theology, and more about forming a theological world-view that takes into account all data (including historical, scientific, biblical etc.) and forms a more robust and viable foundation for true orthopraxy. This is where you shine, and where your contribution is so needed! So please don’t stop thinking, exploring, and writing.

    Vance, when I read …
    “For me the path towards truth has ironically been towards post-modern philosophy. Those that reportably don’t believe in truth, offer insights that feel more truthful to me.”
    … a spoke a decided “Amen!” This has been my experience as well, though I don’t know that I have said it those terms. Thank you.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Steve,

    A well-written and thoughtful post, and timely for me personally. Thank you. I do hope you can see your way through to a both/and approach to orthopraxy/orthodoxy. But for me, the orthodoxy that is vital to Christianity in these days is less about formulating the minutia of biblical theology, and more about forming a theological world-view that takes into account all data (including historical, scientific, biblical etc.) and forms a more robust and viable foundation for true orthopraxy. This is where you shine, and where your contribution is so needed! So please don’t stop thinking, exploring, and writing.

    Vance, when I read …
    “For me the path towards truth has ironically been towards post-modern philosophy. Those that reportably don’t believe in truth, offer insights that feel more truthful to me.”
    … a spoke a decided “Amen!” This has been my experience as well, though I don’t know that I have said it those terms. Thank you.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Mike,

    The part of that quote before the ellipsis was spot on. A timely, insightful, and perspicacious quote indeed.

    I hope you will never forget that the Bible is the history of God’s acts to men, not of men’s thoughts about God. It begins from Him. He is acting and speaking in it throughout.”

    I thought much more of the other part of the quote. This part seems safe enough to typical mainstream Protestant bibliology, but it struck me wrong for a few reasons.

    One, whatever the Bible is, I don’t believe for a second that it isn’t a history of men’s thoughts about God. Basic progression of revelation holds that even if all of Scripture is delivered from God’s perspective in a plenary sense, it chronicles man’s understanding about God as it progresses through the centuries.

    Why can’t it be both a history of men’s thoughts and God’s acts? I don’t have a problem saying that in Scripture, God is acting and speaking throughout, but mainly in a Providential sense. Through His foreordination of the Bible, He acted and spoke despite men’s misconceptions about everything (not just, conveniently, peripheral matters). It seems a wholly arbitrary and suspiciously convenient line of demarcation to insist on Scriptural concordism about “men’s thoughts about God” but not “men’s thoughts about science, history, etc.”

    Do you know what I mean?

  • Mike,

    The part of that quote before the ellipsis was spot on. A timely, insightful, and perspicacious quote indeed.

    I hope you will never forget that the Bible is the history of God’s acts to men, not of men’s thoughts about God. It begins from Him. He is acting and speaking in it throughout.”

    I thought much more of the other part of the quote. This part seems safe enough to typical mainstream Protestant bibliology, but it struck me wrong for a few reasons.

    One, whatever the Bible is, I don’t believe for a second that it isn’t a history of men’s thoughts about God. Basic progression of revelation holds that even if all of Scripture is delivered from God’s perspective in a plenary sense, it chronicles man’s understanding about God as it progresses through the centuries.

    Why can’t it be both a history of men’s thoughts and God’s acts? I don’t have a problem saying that in Scripture, God is acting and speaking throughout, but mainly in a Providential sense. Through His foreordination of the Bible, He acted and spoke despite men’s misconceptions about everything (not just, conveniently, peripheral matters). It seems a wholly arbitrary and suspiciously convenient line of demarcation to insist on Scriptural concordism about “men’s thoughts about God” but not “men’s thoughts about science, history, etc.”

    Do you know what I mean?

  • Do you know what I mean?

    Absolutely. And your response to the second half of the quotation was exactly what I expected.

    And I agree with you. =)
    .-= Mike Beidler´s last blog ..PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum =-.

  • Do you know what I mean?

    Absolutely. And your response to the second half of the quotation was exactly what I expected.

    And I agree with you. =)
    .-= Mike Beidler´s last blog ..PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum =-.

  • I agree with you strongly with what I feel are accurate summaries of what you said:

    1. It is important to “Know what the Bible is
    2. The authors of the bible were “functions under the limitations of humanity.” and, “The isn’t an inerrant witness to science and history”
    3. It is important to “Know reality outside the Bible”. And thus science and reality can act as a check on the limitations of the writers of the Bible.
    4. That it is impossible to construct a consistent theology from the Bible.
    5. Likening the Bible to a bad newspaper is a useful analogy
    6. Honest searching does not guarantee that “most of the Christian doctrines would remain intact”
    7. “Orthopraxy” is more important than “Orthodoxy” — but then I think beliefs are very superficial to the heart. And thus I feel an enlightened Christian could even embrace an atheist as a brother without desire to change her/him.
    8. Humility should be central in our positions.

    So I am rejoicing with you over your falling out of love with Theology. A few of your statements did puzzle me though, inspite that we hold all the important ones above in common:

    What is your evidence that “The bible is Testimony of reliable informants, the most reliable”? What are your objective measures, since you are making an empirical claim, of “reliable informants”?

    You said, “No one had the whole truth, save the Bible.” But if the writers were under the “limitations of humanity”, then we can’t hold that. And what does “whole truth” mean? For there is not talk about how to raise cattle etc…. ?
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • I agree with you strongly with what I feel are accurate summaries of what you said:

    1. It is important to “Know what the Bible is
    2. The authors of the bible were “functions under the limitations of humanity.” and, “The isn’t an inerrant witness to science and history”
    3. It is important to “Know reality outside the Bible”. And thus science and reality can act as a check on the limitations of the writers of the Bible.
    4. That it is impossible to construct a consistent theology from the Bible.
    5. Likening the Bible to a bad newspaper is a useful analogy
    6. Honest searching does not guarantee that “most of the Christian doctrines would remain intact”
    7. “Orthopraxy” is more important than “Orthodoxy” — but then I think beliefs are very superficial to the heart. And thus I feel an enlightened Christian could even embrace an atheist as a brother without desire to change her/him.
    8. Humility should be central in our positions.

    So I am rejoicing with you over your falling out of love with Theology. A few of your statements did puzzle me though, inspite that we hold all the important ones above in common:

    What is your evidence that “The bible is Testimony of reliable informants, the most reliable”? What are your objective measures, since you are making an empirical claim, of “reliable informants”?

    You said, “No one had the whole truth, save the Bible.” But if the writers were under the “limitations of humanity”, then we can’t hold that. And what does “whole truth” mean? For there is not talk about how to raise cattle etc…. ?
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • Thanks for your contributions, Sabio. Let me deal with your second question first.

    You said, “No one had the whole truth, save the Bible.”

    I did say that, but they weren’t my own words: I was speaking from within the typical mainstream view of bibliology. I do not believe that to be the case.

    What is your evidence that “The bible is Testimony of reliable informants, the most reliable”? What are your objective measures, since you are making an empirical claim, of “reliable informants”?

    An excellent question. There is no empirical proof of these contentions, I admit. But with Caesar, Josephus, Tacitus, etc., we consider much of their writing to suffer from insider bias, and historians try to sift out what might have been more objective from what was likely to be skewed due to honest misconceptions or overt, self-interested bias. I take that same approach with the Bible. If I didn’t think the Bible writers were trying their best to transmit what they truly witnessed God doing and saying, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for Christianity in any form. It is my belief that they were doing their best to (fallibly, no doubt) communicate what they were eyewitnesses to that causes me to call them the “most reliable” sources. Notice that I didn’t say they were fully reliable, but as the testimony of an eyewitnesses of goodly character on a witness stand is weighty (not unimpeachable), so I count the testimony of the Bible writers to be weighty. At least, it’s all we’ve got to go on, and there’s no sense in talking about Christianity or Judaism at all if we’re convinced it was a scheme along the order of Joseph Smith’s “revelation”.

    I hope this clarifies my position.

  • Thanks for your contributions, Sabio. Let me deal with your second question first.

    You said, “No one had the whole truth, save the Bible.”

    I did say that, but they weren’t my own words: I was speaking from within the typical mainstream view of bibliology. I do not believe that to be the case.

    What is your evidence that “The bible is Testimony of reliable informants, the most reliable”? What are your objective measures, since you are making an empirical claim, of “reliable informants”?

    An excellent question. There is no empirical proof of these contentions, I admit. But with Caesar, Josephus, Tacitus, etc., we consider much of their writing to suffer from insider bias, and historians try to sift out what might have been more objective from what was likely to be skewed due to honest misconceptions or overt, self-interested bias. I take that same approach with the Bible. If I didn’t think the Bible writers were trying their best to transmit what they truly witnessed God doing and saying, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for Christianity in any form. It is my belief that they were doing their best to (fallibly, no doubt) communicate what they were eyewitnesses to that causes me to call them the “most reliable” sources. Notice that I didn’t say they were fully reliable, but as the testimony of an eyewitnesses of goodly character on a witness stand is weighty (not unimpeachable), so I count the testimony of the Bible writers to be weighty. At least, it’s all we’ve got to go on, and there’s no sense in talking about Christianity or Judaism at all if we’re convinced it was a scheme along the order of Joseph Smith’s “revelation”.

    I hope this clarifies my position.

  • Thanx, yes, that clarifies. And I see your statement as saying something like this:

    If I don’t believe the authors of the Bible were trying their best to be reliable, then I would have to give up Christianity. And I don’t want to give up Christianity.

    So it is your attachment to Christianity that comes first. Truth is in second place. Mind you, I get that. I am sure Christianity serves you well. We don’t want to throw out metaphors that serve us well when we don’t have something to replace them.

    But I think you may want to make it more nuanced than my simplification, no?
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • Thanx, yes, that clarifies. And I see your statement as saying something like this:

    If I don’t believe the authors of the Bible were trying their best to be reliable, then I would have to give up Christianity. And I don’t want to give up Christianity.

    So it is your attachment to Christianity that comes first. Truth is in second place. Mind you, I get that. I am sure Christianity serves you well. We don’t want to throw out metaphors that serve us well when we don’t have something to replace them.

    But I think you may want to make it more nuanced than my simplification, no?
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • I like the way you think. 🙂

    I certainly wouldn’t say that Christianity trumps truth in my view; in fact, my whole philosophical and theological history shows the opposite to be the case. An extremely important formative moment was when I ran across this quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “He who begins by loving Christianity more than Truth will proceed by loving his sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.” You are right to say that I would nuance your quote a bit. I reject the kind of faith that you cling to when you have no answer, but like the kind of faith that you cling to because it answers things well. I have ascertained and certified Christianity as truth in my mind based upon a number of factors, including usefulness (“it works for me” — a not unimportant indicator), but also because it explains certain things better than atheism.

    I should write a post on why I cling to faith despite my skepticism. Suffice it to say that there are enough factors that keep me a theist and a couple others that lead me to tend towards Christian theism. I have flirted with atheism, but I can’t see myself taking the leap of faith to get there.

  • I like the way you think. 🙂

    I certainly wouldn’t say that Christianity trumps truth in my view; in fact, my whole philosophical and theological history shows the opposite to be the case. An extremely important formative moment was when I ran across this quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “He who begins by loving Christianity more than Truth will proceed by loving his sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.” You are right to say that I would nuance your quote a bit. I reject the kind of faith that you cling to when you have no answer, but like the kind of faith that you cling to because it answers things well. I have ascertained and certified Christianity as truth in my mind based upon a number of factors, including usefulness (“it works for me” — a not unimportant indicator), but also because it explains certain things better than atheism.

    I should write a post on why I cling to faith despite my skepticism. Suffice it to say that there are enough factors that keep me a theist and a couple others that lead me to tend towards Christian theism. I have flirted with atheism, but I can’t see myself taking the leap of faith to get there.

  • … because it explains certain things better than atheism

    Funny, “atheism” is simply the absence of the belief in a god, or some version thereof. But, unlike many atheists, I am willing to concede that all atheists come with their own package of axillary complimentary views. Those packages, much like Christianity, vary. So there are many sects of Atheism — if you are making non-theism a central tenet.

    So, you’d have to compare “Christianity” (as if there is one of those), with some particular Atheist’s worldview. You may want to see my post on Atheism as an epiphenomena. People are complex webs of belief with their religion, or lack thereof, only being a part of it. It is the whole that matters, not the atomistic reduction. (I think you would agree here, but I may be wrong)

    All to say, you would have to say,

    “Steve’s Worldview (being a Theist) explains things better at explaining certain [important] things than Sabio’s Worldview (being just a non-theist).”

    And, judging from your sophistication, I don’t think you want to say just that. Or do you?
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • … because it explains certain things better than atheism

    Funny, “atheism” is simply the absence of the belief in a god, or some version thereof. But, unlike many atheists, I am willing to concede that all atheists come with their own package of axillary complimentary views. Those packages, much like Christianity, vary. So there are many sects of Atheism — if you are making non-theism a central tenet.

    So, you’d have to compare “Christianity” (as if there is one of those), with some particular Atheist’s worldview. You may want to see my post on Atheism as an epiphenomena. People are complex webs of belief with their religion, or lack thereof, only being a part of it. It is the whole that matters, not the atomistic reduction. (I think you would agree here, but I may be wrong)

    All to say, you would have to say,

    “Steve’s Worldview (being a Theist) explains things better at explaining certain [important] things than Sabio’s Worldview (being just a non-theist).”

    And, judging from your sophistication, I don’t think you want to say just that. Or do you?
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • I truly, in a non-belittling way, get when something “works for you”. I look forward deeply to your post of why you cling to your “faith” (which I guess you mean your “religion”) in spite of your skepticism. I am trying to write a post on that right now. I see you read “Exploring the Matrix”, where he discussed John Loftus’ challenge on that issue. So your contribution and dialogue seem like they would be enjoyable. (my opinions may differ a bit from John — different sects of Atheism and all — smile !)

    With atheism, it is not a “leap of faith”, but fewer leaps of faith. But again, I am not attached to “atheism”, as it is only an epiphenomena.
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • I truly, in a non-belittling way, get when something “works for you”. I look forward deeply to your post of why you cling to your “faith” (which I guess you mean your “religion”) in spite of your skepticism. I am trying to write a post on that right now. I see you read “Exploring the Matrix”, where he discussed John Loftus’ challenge on that issue. So your contribution and dialogue seem like they would be enjoyable. (my opinions may differ a bit from John — different sects of Atheism and all — smile !)

    With atheism, it is not a “leap of faith”, but fewer leaps of faith. But again, I am not attached to “atheism”, as it is only an epiphenomena.
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • Excellent post Steve! Thanks for your thoughtful and honest discussion. I second Cliffs comments above.

  • Excellent post Steve! Thanks for your thoughtful and honest discussion. I second Cliffs comments above.

  • Sabio writes:

    7. “Orthopraxy” is more important than “Orthodoxy” — but then I think beliefs are very superficial to the heart. And thus I feel an enlightened Christian could even embrace an atheist as a brother without desire to change her/him.

    I just attended a week-end camp-out/festival for the group of churches to which I belong. Interestingly, my deepest and best conversations were with a friend who is atheist, but who hangs out with us because his “orthopraxy” is Christian in many respects. He finds support among believers for his moral choices, and his lifestyle. I love him. While we may each make a few good-natured stabs at converting the other, my relationship with this young man is fruitful on many levels despite our differing view on this most basic of questions. Is he my brother? Does “my God” care a great deal about his current opinion re. the existence of God? I am not driven to convert him. He is a sincere seeker of truth. He helps me to ask the right questions, to be intellectually honest, to seek a rational and meaningful faith. My hope is that my friendship helps to keep his door of belief slightly ajar.

    I went to Sabio’s website and read his personal story. I am saddened by the automatic response of his Christian friends who reject him and his family upon learning of his apostasy. He is thus compelled to use an online pseudonym. Although I detect no bitterness in Sabio, many former believers are confirmed in their unbelief by the disparaging responses of those inside the faith.

    So, Sabio, I am one believer who would not hesitate to embrace you as a “brother”.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Sabio writes:

    7. “Orthopraxy” is more important than “Orthodoxy” — but then I think beliefs are very superficial to the heart. And thus I feel an enlightened Christian could even embrace an atheist as a brother without desire to change her/him.

    I just attended a week-end camp-out/festival for the group of churches to which I belong. Interestingly, my deepest and best conversations were with a friend who is atheist, but who hangs out with us because his “orthopraxy” is Christian in many respects. He finds support among believers for his moral choices, and his lifestyle. I love him. While we may each make a few good-natured stabs at converting the other, my relationship with this young man is fruitful on many levels despite our differing view on this most basic of questions. Is he my brother? Does “my God” care a great deal about his current opinion re. the existence of God? I am not driven to convert him. He is a sincere seeker of truth. He helps me to ask the right questions, to be intellectually honest, to seek a rational and meaningful faith. My hope is that my friendship helps to keep his door of belief slightly ajar.

    I went to Sabio’s website and read his personal story. I am saddened by the automatic response of his Christian friends who reject him and his family upon learning of his apostasy. He is thus compelled to use an online pseudonym. Although I detect no bitterness in Sabio, many former believers are confirmed in their unbelief by the disparaging responses of those inside the faith.

    So, Sabio, I am one believer who would not hesitate to embrace you as a “brother”.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Cliff — thanx.
    How then, if I keep my present beliefs, do you see my fate?
    Are you and exclusivists, an inclusivist, a pluralist or a universalist?
    It will clarify your use of the word “brother”.

    I keep the pseudonym because Christians have been very dangerous to me in this life. I was almost fired in three jobs because of Christian detest of non-Christians polluting their lives and they have ripped my children from their friends. But, as you recognized, I am not bitter, I have just come to understand the animal. (and though some Christians may pretend they are ‘brothers’, they still view me as “Searching” (which I am not) and hope they “keep the door open” for me poor doomed soul. Thus my question. So I am trying to see if you are a patronizer or a brother.
    — Sabio
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • Cliff — thanx.
    How then, if I keep my present beliefs, do you see my fate?
    Are you and exclusivists, an inclusivist, a pluralist or a universalist?
    It will clarify your use of the word “brother”.

    I keep the pseudonym because Christians have been very dangerous to me in this life. I was almost fired in three jobs because of Christian detest of non-Christians polluting their lives and they have ripped my children from their friends. But, as you recognized, I am not bitter, I have just come to understand the animal. (and though some Christians may pretend they are ‘brothers’, they still view me as “Searching” (which I am not) and hope they “keep the door open” for me poor doomed soul. Thus my question. So I am trying to see if you are a patronizer or a brother.
    — Sabio
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • Sabio,

    “Are you an exclusivist, an inclusivist, a pluralist or a universalist? … I am trying to see if you are a patronizer or a brother.”

    Fair question. As for the categories you list, my answer is none of the above. I am happy to let God sort such things out. (Jesus tells me to be prepared for a shock when I see who he includes and excludes.) But in terms of open-mindedness, open-heartedness, and even Christ-likeness, atheists often put believers to shame. Jesus teaches me to love unconditionally.

    I am not consciously patronizing (but who can know his own heart?) By embracing you as a brother, I would view you as fellow pilgrim. If anything in my belief system could help you on your journey toward truth, I would happily share it with you. And I would expect you to do likewise. I cannot deny that I would be happy if you adopted any of my beliefs because you found them to be true or helpful to you. That is the nature of fraternity. But I would view it as a possible by-product of, rather than a prerequisite to brotherhood.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Sabio,

    “Are you an exclusivist, an inclusivist, a pluralist or a universalist? … I am trying to see if you are a patronizer or a brother.”

    Fair question. As for the categories you list, my answer is none of the above. I am happy to let God sort such things out. (Jesus tells me to be prepared for a shock when I see who he includes and excludes.) But in terms of open-mindedness, open-heartedness, and even Christ-likeness, atheists often put believers to shame. Jesus teaches me to love unconditionally.

    I am not consciously patronizing (but who can know his own heart?) By embracing you as a brother, I would view you as fellow pilgrim. If anything in my belief system could help you on your journey toward truth, I would happily share it with you. And I would expect you to do likewise. I cannot deny that I would be happy if you adopted any of my beliefs because you found them to be true or helpful to you. That is the nature of fraternity. But I would view it as a possible by-product of, rather than a prerequisite to brotherhood.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Fair enough.

    Though I think you should take a stance or put forth another view of non-believers. For it seems like a bit of a cop out.
    See, in my world, there is not need to change your views. And I don’t worry about your eternal salvation. For in your view, any “christ-likeness” in an atheist is all worth naught in the next life.

    So the relationship is a bit one-sided, no?

    So I guess, I will try hard to purify, enlighten and sanctify you with the wisdom that passes through me. Smiling. — Sabio
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • Fair enough.

    Though I think you should take a stance or put forth another view of non-believers. For it seems like a bit of a cop out.
    See, in my world, there is not need to change your views. And I don’t worry about your eternal salvation. For in your view, any “christ-likeness” in an atheist is all worth naught in the next life.

    So the relationship is a bit one-sided, no?

    So I guess, I will try hard to purify, enlighten and sanctify you with the wisdom that passes through me. Smiling. — Sabio
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Unprovable Faith =-.

  • You say that your lack of theism is epiphenomenal, just incidental to there being no evidence for a god. Not believing in God is much the same as not believing in subatomic particles. Neither have been observed, but most people point to effects that they maintain are hard to explain if they didn’t exist. The thing about unbelief is that it tells us something about what the unbeliever accepts as facts. Not believing in certain things informs others of your worldview every bit as much as believing in those things. Saying I believe in subatomic particles says that I have some confidence in what science tells us; someone else’s belief in turquoise dinosaur astronauts strongly suggests that they do not wish for science to inform them of the impossibility of such creatures. Saying that I believe in God says I trust that everything has a cause; your lack of belief in God suggests that you believe something can come from nothing. The fact that you’re now probably about to respond something along the lines of, “No, the universe is eternally looping,” suggests that you believe unobservable eternal loops proffered by atheists are more likely than an eternal being, even an eternal being who governs an eternally looping universe. One of my presuppositions is that everything has a cause; theism is not necessary, but certainly complementary. Your presupposition is presumably that everything has a cause except the universe; while, as you stated, atheism isn’t necessary, it is natural as an epiphenomenon.

    My point is that I’d rather not play the game of, “You tolerate beliefs than without an empirical basis and I do not.” It’s simply not true; we all have chosen our beliefs, and an unbelief in something is a belief in something else.

    For that matter, my belief could be considered epiphenomenal:
    1) My experience, observation, and logic instructs me that nothing natural is uncaused.
    2) There must be a cause for the universe to exist as it does.
    3) What is left over epiphenomenally is that matter in the universe was caused by an uncaused cause. Need God exist? No, but He’s at least as good an explanation as any right about now.

    (I’ve focused on a Kalam-type argument in this comment, but there are other factors to my belief, which I may get around to in that post I was thinking about writing.)

  • You say that your lack of theism is epiphenomenal, just incidental to there being no evidence for a god. Not believing in God is much the same as not believing in subatomic particles. Neither have been observed, but most people point to effects that they maintain are hard to explain if they didn’t exist. The thing about unbelief is that it tells us something about what the unbeliever accepts as facts. Not believing in certain things informs others of your worldview every bit as much as believing in those things. Saying I believe in subatomic particles says that I have some confidence in what science tells us; someone else’s belief in turquoise dinosaur astronauts strongly suggests that they do not wish for science to inform them of the impossibility of such creatures. Saying that I believe in God says I trust that everything has a cause; your lack of belief in God suggests that you believe something can come from nothing. The fact that you’re now probably about to respond something along the lines of, “No, the universe is eternally looping,” suggests that you believe unobservable eternal loops proffered by atheists are more likely than an eternal being, even an eternal being who governs an eternally looping universe. One of my presuppositions is that everything has a cause; theism is not necessary, but certainly complementary. Your presupposition is presumably that everything has a cause except the universe; while, as you stated, atheism isn’t necessary, it is natural as an epiphenomenon.

    My point is that I’d rather not play the game of, “You tolerate beliefs than without an empirical basis and I do not.” It’s simply not true; we all have chosen our beliefs, and an unbelief in something is a belief in something else.

    For that matter, my belief could be considered epiphenomenal:
    1) My experience, observation, and logic instructs me that nothing natural is uncaused.
    2) There must be a cause for the universe to exist as it does.
    3) What is left over epiphenomenally is that matter in the universe was caused by an uncaused cause. Need God exist? No, but He’s at least as good an explanation as any right about now.

    (I’ve focused on a Kalam-type argument in this comment, but there are other factors to my belief, which I may get around to in that post I was thinking about writing.)

  • As you know, we must be careful not to get lost in the word “God”.
    For when I use it, I am referring to the intervening, theistic god that cares about individual humans. I am not arguing the stripped down deist version of an original cause — that argument is old and uninteresting (in the philosophical sense — if you know what I mean)

    “.. most people point to effects that they maintain are hard to explain if they didn’t exist.

    1. Indeed there is much hard to explain
    2. I wager you know the arguments that making a self-causing personal being amounts to no explanation but only puts off other questions.

    Theism is not necessary, but certainly complementary.

    I agree. Your theism is complementary, perhaps, but at a cost. For the theism of the three big monotheisms makes all sorts of false empirical claims. Many false promises. So, in my world, your theism is not complimentary at all. But I do understand how you can make it so in your world.

    The whole “cause” issue, as I wrote above, is very important to you. But it does not necessitate Theism in any way. For a fun example, you may want to read my post on Monkey Religion. I seriously don’t worry about initial cause issue — I am very comfortable with our essential position of ignorance. I don’t need to explain things. I don’t need to make loops of causality. But I know of the hyper-rationalist atheist to whom you may be arguing.

    we have all chosen our beliefs

    Actually, I doubt this in a very fundamental way, but that is a whole conversation. Paradoxically, see the last bullet of beliefs I no longer have. I must give you a heads up, my views are not as generic as they may first seem. Not that they are brilliant, creative or unique, but they are not very typical.

    Sorry you didn’t like the epiphenomenal explanations. I still think it works, but I am fine with it being unhelpful to you. I am not attached to it.

    Yes, the Kalam argument was your theme. See what it does with the Monkey Religion thing I wrote, if you have time or are curious.

    However, I must say: I wager the Kalam Argument is not the basis of your faith at all ! I wager you are not extremely aware of why you are tied into your beliefs. I’d bet that Kalam arguments only came to your side years after you identified as a Christian, no? They are only supports to your Christianity. Probably most of “why” you think you believe Christianity is now compromised of these later supports and you have de-emphasized the more primal reasons you live in your nest of beliefs even though you have been gradually rebuilding — which I commend (not that you care about my ‘commendments’). Think of “why” you may say you “love” your wife — has it changed. Think of “why” you feel your father was a good or bad father. Beliefs are funny things. I don’t know if you read my posts on beliefs. My understanding of the mind is key to understanding how I hold this stuff. Sorry, not too orthodox — definitely not Greek ! Smile.
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • As you know, we must be careful not to get lost in the word “God”.
    For when I use it, I am referring to the intervening, theistic god that cares about individual humans. I am not arguing the stripped down deist version of an original cause — that argument is old and uninteresting (in the philosophical sense — if you know what I mean)

    “.. most people point to effects that they maintain are hard to explain if they didn’t exist.

    1. Indeed there is much hard to explain
    2. I wager you know the arguments that making a self-causing personal being amounts to no explanation but only puts off other questions.

    Theism is not necessary, but certainly complementary.

    I agree. Your theism is complementary, perhaps, but at a cost. For the theism of the three big monotheisms makes all sorts of false empirical claims. Many false promises. So, in my world, your theism is not complimentary at all. But I do understand how you can make it so in your world.

    The whole “cause” issue, as I wrote above, is very important to you. But it does not necessitate Theism in any way. For a fun example, you may want to read my post on Monkey Religion. I seriously don’t worry about initial cause issue — I am very comfortable with our essential position of ignorance. I don’t need to explain things. I don’t need to make loops of causality. But I know of the hyper-rationalist atheist to whom you may be arguing.

    we have all chosen our beliefs

    Actually, I doubt this in a very fundamental way, but that is a whole conversation. Paradoxically, see the last bullet of beliefs I no longer have. I must give you a heads up, my views are not as generic as they may first seem. Not that they are brilliant, creative or unique, but they are not very typical.

    Sorry you didn’t like the epiphenomenal explanations. I still think it works, but I am fine with it being unhelpful to you. I am not attached to it.

    Yes, the Kalam argument was your theme. See what it does with the Monkey Religion thing I wrote, if you have time or are curious.

    However, I must say: I wager the Kalam Argument is not the basis of your faith at all ! I wager you are not extremely aware of why you are tied into your beliefs. I’d bet that Kalam arguments only came to your side years after you identified as a Christian, no? They are only supports to your Christianity. Probably most of “why” you think you believe Christianity is now compromised of these later supports and you have de-emphasized the more primal reasons you live in your nest of beliefs even though you have been gradually rebuilding — which I commend (not that you care about my ‘commendments’). Think of “why” you may say you “love” your wife — has it changed. Think of “why” you feel your father was a good or bad father. Beliefs are funny things. I don’t know if you read my posts on beliefs. My understanding of the mind is key to understanding how I hold this stuff. Sorry, not too orthodox — definitely not Greek ! Smile.
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • Here is the Monkey vs Cat Religion link (sorry)
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • Here is the Monkey vs Cat Religion link (sorry)
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • Sabio,

    “I think you should take a stance or put forth another view of non-believers. For it seems like a bit of a cop out.”

    Yeah, I knew when I wrote it that it would sound like a cop out. But the truth is, I really do not have a position about the eternal state of the lost. I have a definition of hell (assuming it exists at all) that is quite divergent from the traditional Christian view. I have considered Universalism, and it is not out of the question for me (though I am not in that camp at present). Having read the four alternatives as you define them, I do not think that your list is exhaustive. And I find your definitions a bit tight.

    I suspect that the God I worship might look down upon your life, e.g., and smile. Perhaps your knees still bow to Jesus in ways you do not even recognize. Is that possible? Your denial of God’s existence might make him chuckle, but may be no more serious than the flaws in my own theology (which I have no doubt lead to divine laughter). I am not saying that Jesus and our response to him is wholly immaterial; I am saying that we may not fully grasp what it means to give our assent to him. And as I wrote earlier, Jesus prepares us to be astonished when we see who gains admittance into his eternal Kingdom (Matthew 7:15-23; Luke 13:24-30).

    Still sounds evasive? Perhaps. But this honestly represents my thinking.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Sabio,

    “I think you should take a stance or put forth another view of non-believers. For it seems like a bit of a cop out.”

    Yeah, I knew when I wrote it that it would sound like a cop out. But the truth is, I really do not have a position about the eternal state of the lost. I have a definition of hell (assuming it exists at all) that is quite divergent from the traditional Christian view. I have considered Universalism, and it is not out of the question for me (though I am not in that camp at present). Having read the four alternatives as you define them, I do not think that your list is exhaustive. And I find your definitions a bit tight.

    I suspect that the God I worship might look down upon your life, e.g., and smile. Perhaps your knees still bow to Jesus in ways you do not even recognize. Is that possible? Your denial of God’s existence might make him chuckle, but may be no more serious than the flaws in my own theology (which I have no doubt lead to divine laughter). I am not saying that Jesus and our response to him is wholly immaterial; I am saying that we may not fully grasp what it means to give our assent to him. And as I wrote earlier, Jesus prepares us to be astonished when we see who gains admittance into his eternal Kingdom (Matthew 7:15-23; Luke 13:24-30).

    Still sounds evasive? Perhaps. But this honestly represents my thinking.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • @ Cliff:
    Well, I guess you said it. We are “lost”. Sniffle.

    OK, if you don’t like my list, make your own. Let’s see how you do – it would be educational.

    I am sure unicorns, Amida Buddha, Krishna, Zeus and Santa are all chuckling at my audacity. If I had time I would bow once for them each daily but the joint damage would be terrible.

    Yeah, you still sound evasive. I think the cure is for you to make your own list without all the caveates. But I totally get why you wouldn’t.

    When I was leaving Christianity, but still a Christian, I felt like belief had nothing to do with people’s eternal state. The heart is more complicated than simple delineated beliefs. Back then I worried about eternal states, I don’t any longer. I just worry about people.
    .-= Sabio´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • @ Cliff:
    Well, I guess you said it. We are “lost”. Sniffle.

    OK, if you don’t like my list, make your own. Let’s see how you do – it would be educational.

    I am sure unicorns, Amida Buddha, Krishna, Zeus and Santa are all chuckling at my audacity. If I had time I would bow once for them each daily but the joint damage would be terrible.

    Yeah, you still sound evasive. I think the cure is for you to make your own list without all the caveates. But I totally get why you wouldn’t.

    When I was leaving Christianity, but still a Christian, I felt like belief had nothing to do with people’s eternal state. The heart is more complicated than simple delineated beliefs. Back then I worried about eternal states, I don’t any longer. I just worry about people.
    .-= Sabio´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • Sabio,

    “The whole “cause” issue, as I wrote above, is very important to you. But it does not necessitate Theism in any way

    I made it a point to say precisely this. I said it was “complementary”, which means it is compatible and makes some sense of the “cause” question, even if it does raise other questions (even the truth frequently does that).

    I found it telling that you dismiss the “cause” question as “not interesting”. What it tells me is that you came to your beliefs regardless of the question of “cause”; as long as there are options other than God for authoring the universe, you’re content to let someone else settle it. You have prejudged, based on other factors, that God isn’t the only explanation, and so you don’t bother about which alternative is correct. In other words, you chose the better explanation despite questions unanswered. This is exactly the sort of systematization I was talking about in the OP. Systematization “works” well enough, but we can’t be too confident in our beliefs when there are things we lay aside as unanswered or unanswerable. Your response is effectively a refusal to deal with an important question that theism responds to. No, theism isn’t the only answer, but it is certainly more plausible to me than “the universe just is”. Believe me, at times of deepest disillusionment with Christianity, I’ve tried to put my mind into the atheist’s mind and affirmed that there was no god; couldn’t buy it. You’ll no doubt say, “Poor indoctrinated soul. It’s because you’re conditioned to think that way.” All I know is that I have been desperate for a solution — any solution — but have not found “no answer” to be it. I have as little chance of convincing you of my sincerity as you have of convincing me that your atheism is not a positive proposition (rather than just an epiphenomenon).

    However, I must say: I wager the Kalam Argument is not the basis of your faith at all ! I wager you are not extremely aware of why you are tied into your beliefs. I’d bet that Kalam arguments only came to your side years after you identified as a Christian, no? They are only supports to your Christianity

    We can wager such all day long; I might as well wager that you’re not extremely aware of why you are tied into your beliefs. In fact, I don’t feel “tied” to my beliefs at all, but I simply think that they are the only ones that make sense right now. You were quite right that I didn’t know of Kalam or other teleological arguments until well into adulthood. All this says is that such arguments weren’t the initiator of my theism; it says nothing about whether it’s something that keeps me a theist or not. There are people I know who use such crutches; I am not one. If I had encountered an intellectually satisfying explanation for such matters, I’d not pretend I hadn’t. I’ve read the objections to Kalam (when people bother to find them “interesting”), and they usually boil down to “there are other explanations”, none of which I find credible.

  • Sabio,

    “The whole “cause” issue, as I wrote above, is very important to you. But it does not necessitate Theism in any way

    I made it a point to say precisely this. I said it was “complementary”, which means it is compatible and makes some sense of the “cause” question, even if it does raise other questions (even the truth frequently does that).

    I found it telling that you dismiss the “cause” question as “not interesting”. What it tells me is that you came to your beliefs regardless of the question of “cause”; as long as there are options other than God for authoring the universe, you’re content to let someone else settle it. You have prejudged, based on other factors, that God isn’t the only explanation, and so you don’t bother about which alternative is correct. In other words, you chose the better explanation despite questions unanswered. This is exactly the sort of systematization I was talking about in the OP. Systematization “works” well enough, but we can’t be too confident in our beliefs when there are things we lay aside as unanswered or unanswerable. Your response is effectively a refusal to deal with an important question that theism responds to. No, theism isn’t the only answer, but it is certainly more plausible to me than “the universe just is”. Believe me, at times of deepest disillusionment with Christianity, I’ve tried to put my mind into the atheist’s mind and affirmed that there was no god; couldn’t buy it. You’ll no doubt say, “Poor indoctrinated soul. It’s because you’re conditioned to think that way.” All I know is that I have been desperate for a solution — any solution — but have not found “no answer” to be it. I have as little chance of convincing you of my sincerity as you have of convincing me that your atheism is not a positive proposition (rather than just an epiphenomenon).

    However, I must say: I wager the Kalam Argument is not the basis of your faith at all ! I wager you are not extremely aware of why you are tied into your beliefs. I’d bet that Kalam arguments only came to your side years after you identified as a Christian, no? They are only supports to your Christianity

    We can wager such all day long; I might as well wager that you’re not extremely aware of why you are tied into your beliefs. In fact, I don’t feel “tied” to my beliefs at all, but I simply think that they are the only ones that make sense right now. You were quite right that I didn’t know of Kalam or other teleological arguments until well into adulthood. All this says is that such arguments weren’t the initiator of my theism; it says nothing about whether it’s something that keeps me a theist or not. There are people I know who use such crutches; I am not one. If I had encountered an intellectually satisfying explanation for such matters, I’d not pretend I hadn’t. I’ve read the objections to Kalam (when people bother to find them “interesting”), and they usually boil down to “there are other explanations”, none of which I find credible.

  • AMW

    The comments have run pretty far afield by now, so none of the following may be pertinent. But here are some scattered thoughts:

    Feed the hungry, bring relief to the widow, don’t be a complete ass.

    That is, perhaps, the most perfect one-sentence encapsulation of the NT epistles.

    Another pet peeve of mine is that it’s en vogue for Christians to use the term “postmodern” as a pejorative.

    One thing that cracks me up is how often moral relativism gets brought up in evangelical churches, as though the world were brimming with people who just really don’t think there is such a thing as a true “right” and “wrong.” The best I can figure, 1) moral relativism was chic among the intellectual elite in the early- to mid-20th century, 2) leading conservative scholars attacked it at the time, and 3) conservatives haven’t produced all that much scholarship since then, so evangelical pastors are reduced to flogging philosophies that haven’t been relevant since the ’60’s.

    The conclusions birthed from my insistence upon intellectually honest readings of Scripture yielded a recognition of the persistent intractability of doctrinal debates and the irresolvable inconsistencies in Scripture.

    I think it’s important to remember that the canon was developed to give some definitive parameters to what teachings fell outside of orthodoxy. Orthodoxy does not necessarily require unanimity of thought. Orthodoxy may say, “we don’t really know exactly what the truth is here, but we think we’ve narrowed it down to the following choices.” Thus, it’s not really a requirement that all the Biblical writers agree on all theological matters. Where they disagree, orthodoxy is broader. Where they agree, it is narrower. It is tempting but, I think, foolhardy, to look at the Bible as a textbook with all the answers spelled out for you. It’s a collection of writings that are sometimes in harmony, sometimes in tension, sometimes in contradiction.

    the first action of evangelical and fundamentalist theology, especially systematic theology, is to shut the door, close the blinds, and discount everything but the Bible (and sometimes church tradition)

    I am coming to have a higher regard for Church tradition. God didn’t write a book, he interacted with people, and they wrote several books. Insofar as God has been in active participation with his Church through the centuries, the accumulation of that experience should be meaningful to believers. Moreover, what is the canon, but the Church’s tradition regarding what writings are authoritative?

  • AMW

    The comments have run pretty far afield by now, so none of the following may be pertinent. But here are some scattered thoughts:

    Feed the hungry, bring relief to the widow, don’t be a complete ass.

    That is, perhaps, the most perfect one-sentence encapsulation of the NT epistles.

    Another pet peeve of mine is that it’s en vogue for Christians to use the term “postmodern” as a pejorative.

    One thing that cracks me up is how often moral relativism gets brought up in evangelical churches, as though the world were brimming with people who just really don’t think there is such a thing as a true “right” and “wrong.” The best I can figure, 1) moral relativism was chic among the intellectual elite in the early- to mid-20th century, 2) leading conservative scholars attacked it at the time, and 3) conservatives haven’t produced all that much scholarship since then, so evangelical pastors are reduced to flogging philosophies that haven’t been relevant since the ’60’s.

    The conclusions birthed from my insistence upon intellectually honest readings of Scripture yielded a recognition of the persistent intractability of doctrinal debates and the irresolvable inconsistencies in Scripture.

    I think it’s important to remember that the canon was developed to give some definitive parameters to what teachings fell outside of orthodoxy. Orthodoxy does not necessarily require unanimity of thought. Orthodoxy may say, “we don’t really know exactly what the truth is here, but we think we’ve narrowed it down to the following choices.” Thus, it’s not really a requirement that all the Biblical writers agree on all theological matters. Where they disagree, orthodoxy is broader. Where they agree, it is narrower. It is tempting but, I think, foolhardy, to look at the Bible as a textbook with all the answers spelled out for you. It’s a collection of writings that are sometimes in harmony, sometimes in tension, sometimes in contradiction.

    the first action of evangelical and fundamentalist theology, especially systematic theology, is to shut the door, close the blinds, and discount everything but the Bible (and sometimes church tradition)

    I am coming to have a higher regard for Church tradition. God didn’t write a book, he interacted with people, and they wrote several books. Insofar as God has been in active participation with his Church through the centuries, the accumulation of that experience should be meaningful to believers. Moreover, what is the canon, but the Church’s tradition regarding what writings are authoritative?

  • @ Steve

    Oh, don’t imagine I haven’t thought about the “cause” issue. Remember, I graduated from a Christian College and took theology for a year and then did all my Ph.D. work (ABD). Perhaps you are unaware of the technical philosophical expression “uninteresting” (I did try to soften it but failed). Again, the causality argument at best argues a deist deity — which is far off from a full-blown theist deity. And even at that, as you should know, it still begs the question. Nothing is really answered with a Deist Deity — because one must ask about his cause — which of course is uncaused or self-caused which should bother you too. But I agree that “causality” is a common human heuristic and it generates all sorts of cognitive illusions when miss-used.

    So your belief in a deist god shows you too have things you “lay aside as unanswered or unanswerable.” Which is fine. Remember Godel’s theorem.

    You’d be right wagering that I am not extremely aware of why I am tied to my beliefs — I think it is a human condition. No accusation was meant.

    Again, Kalam’s argument, at best, argues for a deist deity and even that leaves the causality question unanswered.
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • @ Steve

    Oh, don’t imagine I haven’t thought about the “cause” issue. Remember, I graduated from a Christian College and took theology for a year and then did all my Ph.D. work (ABD). Perhaps you are unaware of the technical philosophical expression “uninteresting” (I did try to soften it but failed). Again, the causality argument at best argues a deist deity — which is far off from a full-blown theist deity. And even at that, as you should know, it still begs the question. Nothing is really answered with a Deist Deity — because one must ask about his cause — which of course is uncaused or self-caused which should bother you too. But I agree that “causality” is a common human heuristic and it generates all sorts of cognitive illusions when miss-used.

    So your belief in a deist god shows you too have things you “lay aside as unanswered or unanswerable.” Which is fine. Remember Godel’s theorem.

    You’d be right wagering that I am not extremely aware of why I am tied to my beliefs — I think it is a human condition. No accusation was meant.

    Again, Kalam’s argument, at best, argues for a deist deity and even that leaves the causality question unanswered.
    .-= Sabio Lantz´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • Steve (Martin),
    Thanks for dropping by and for the thumbs up.

    AMW,
    I have tended to agree with you on the value of tradition. In fact, I wrote on this blog some time ago: “A Catholic puts Holy Scripture alongside Church tradition because the two are in origin and essence indistinguishable: Holy Scripture is itself a form of Church tradition, the testimony of ancient believers affirmed and handed down by subsequent believers. By this same standard of approval, we rightly esteem Scripture as having seniority because the same timeless, Providentially-guided body that created it has ranked it so.”.

    I certainly wouldn’t say that tradition is any more accurate, on the whole, than the Bible (and probably a bit less). Also, it’s stretching it quite a bit to imply that orthodoxy in the typical sense of “received teaching from the Church Fathers” is so laissez-faire about whether you agree with its teachings, or that it provides many options; historically, it’s been used as a bludgeon to keep folks in line. My use of the term “orthodoxy” was, of course, not in the strict sense of a particular orthodoxy but in the etymological sense of “right teaching” in contradistinction to “right practice” (orthopraxy).

    Sabio,
    I understood “interesting” in the sense you meant it, but I couldn’t see how you could not find it something begging to be addressed even in that sense. I certainly agree that the causality argument I used does not necessitate a personal God. But if you want to go to Plato and Aristotle, the only alternative to an eternal causality loop is a Demiurge/Prime Mover. This is certainly vaguely theistic (not necessarily deistic), but you forget that I said I had more reasons for going on to believe in the Christian God. I don’t know that they’re wonderful reasons (and know full well that none of them are airtight), but they work as indicators. Sometimes, as I’m sure you know, we’d rather believe something than just shrug, especially when there’s a potential for the answer to be important to have. 🙂

    All that said, I’ve often considered that, should Christianity begin to appear as an untenable description of the Uncaused Cause, I couldn’t help but be some sort of deist. Not because the deistic god would be worth having around for any nostalgia or personal reasons (it’d be just a force or something), but only because I wouldn’t be able to make sense of the world without it. And that’s what are explanations are for, aren’t they?

  • Steve (Martin),
    Thanks for dropping by and for the thumbs up.

    AMW,
    I have tended to agree with you on the value of tradition. In fact, I wrote on this blog some time ago: “A Catholic puts Holy Scripture alongside Church tradition because the two are in origin and essence indistinguishable: Holy Scripture is itself a form of Church tradition, the testimony of ancient believers affirmed and handed down by subsequent believers. By this same standard of approval, we rightly esteem Scripture as having seniority because the same timeless, Providentially-guided body that created it has ranked it so.”.

    I certainly wouldn’t say that tradition is any more accurate, on the whole, than the Bible (and probably a bit less). Also, it’s stretching it quite a bit to imply that orthodoxy in the typical sense of “received teaching from the Church Fathers” is so laissez-faire about whether you agree with its teachings, or that it provides many options; historically, it’s been used as a bludgeon to keep folks in line. My use of the term “orthodoxy” was, of course, not in the strict sense of a particular orthodoxy but in the etymological sense of “right teaching” in contradistinction to “right practice” (orthopraxy).

    Sabio,
    I understood “interesting” in the sense you meant it, but I couldn’t see how you could not find it something begging to be addressed even in that sense. I certainly agree that the causality argument I used does not necessitate a personal God. But if you want to go to Plato and Aristotle, the only alternative to an eternal causality loop is a Demiurge/Prime Mover. This is certainly vaguely theistic (not necessarily deistic), but you forget that I said I had more reasons for going on to believe in the Christian God. I don’t know that they’re wonderful reasons (and know full well that none of them are airtight), but they work as indicators. Sometimes, as I’m sure you know, we’d rather believe something than just shrug, especially when there’s a potential for the answer to be important to have. 🙂

    All that said, I’ve often considered that, should Christianity begin to appear as an untenable description of the Uncaused Cause, I couldn’t help but be some sort of deist. Not because the deistic god would be worth having around for any nostalgia or personal reasons (it’d be just a force or something), but only because I wouldn’t be able to make sense of the world without it. And that’s what are explanations are for, aren’t they?

  • @ Steve:
    I guess I just have to ask you outright, since you don’t address it?

    Do you agree that a deist deity or Uncaused Cause does not answer any question because it leaves the question “How can something be uncaused or its own cause?”

    You see. your answer does NOT make sense of the world. You just trick yourself to think it does. Whereas I am comfortable with not knowing, you seem more comfortable with twisting ideas until you can’t remember what you were asking. Ouch, that seems harsh, I am actually smiling, but don’t know how to phrase it. But there we go !
    .-= Sabio´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • @ Steve:
    I guess I just have to ask you outright, since you don’t address it?

    Do you agree that a deist deity or Uncaused Cause does not answer any question because it leaves the question “How can something be uncaused or its own cause?”

    You see. your answer does NOT make sense of the world. You just trick yourself to think it does. Whereas I am comfortable with not knowing, you seem more comfortable with twisting ideas until you can’t remember what you were asking. Ouch, that seems harsh, I am actually smiling, but don’t know how to phrase it. But there we go !
    .-= Sabio´s last blog ..Changing your beliefs =-.

  • Do you agree that a deist deity or Uncaused Cause does not answer any question because it leaves the question “How can something be uncaused or its own cause?”

    Depends on what you mean by “answer”. It doesn’t prove anything philosophically, by any means. But it certainly leaves it open to conjecture; this is one door science is incapable of closing, as I explain below. I do think that leaving no causation to a being that requires no cause makes sense. When you ask “How can something be uncaused?” it’s important to take into account the nature of the “something” involved. With the existence of the universe, we’re dealing with physical reality, which I assume you believe is all that exists. Physical reality has never been observed to spring up from definite non-reality, so science has no reason for insisting that it can or that it did (ah! the limits of inductive reasoning).

    It is clear that, if this premise is granted, either the universe is eternal or something other than physical reality is responsible. So at the scientific level, there’s no reason to ask questions any further; as you said, it’s unknowable, particularly because an eternal universe still doesn’t rule out an eternal deity. So anything else is conjecture. But at the philosophical level in which conjecture is welcomed, an eternal physical universe is at least no likelier to be responsible for our current universe than is an eternal nonphysical being. At some point, we have to settle upon the view that makes the most sense to us, and I just have a harder time accepting the conjecture of the eternality of the physical world devoid of a sustainer than I do the existence of God, for reasons other than the causality argument. No doubt you’ve dealt with all my reasons and found them insufficient for you. I’ve considered the counterarguments myself and find them, in brutal honesty, a waste of my time.

    I think we’re fundamentally at loggerheads: you refuse to entertain the idea of a God external to physical reality, and I refuse to entertain the notion that we’re “just here”. And I’m not sure how we even got this conversation started, given the original topic. This is the 29th comment, and as someone noted, it’s gone far afield from my OP. I’m sure we can chat again somewhere, but not on this thread, if that’s all right. At any rate, I’ll give you the last word on the subject.

  • Do you agree that a deist deity or Uncaused Cause does not answer any question because it leaves the question “How can something be uncaused or its own cause?”

    Depends on what you mean by “answer”. It doesn’t prove anything philosophically, by any means. But it certainly leaves it open to conjecture; this is one door science is incapable of closing, as I explain below. I do think that leaving no causation to a being that requires no cause makes sense. When you ask “How can something be uncaused?” it’s important to take into account the nature of the “something” involved. With the existence of the universe, we’re dealing with physical reality, which I assume you believe is all that exists. Physical reality has never been observed to spring up from definite non-reality, so science has no reason for insisting that it can or that it did (ah! the limits of inductive reasoning).

    It is clear that, if this premise is granted, either the universe is eternal or something other than physical reality is responsible. So at the scientific level, there’s no reason to ask questions any further; as you said, it’s unknowable, particularly because an eternal universe still doesn’t rule out an eternal deity. So anything else is conjecture. But at the philosophical level in which conjecture is welcomed, an eternal physical universe is at least no likelier to be responsible for our current universe than is an eternal nonphysical being. At some point, we have to settle upon the view that makes the most sense to us, and I just have a harder time accepting the conjecture of the eternality of the physical world devoid of a sustainer than I do the existence of God, for reasons other than the causality argument. No doubt you’ve dealt with all my reasons and found them insufficient for you. I’ve considered the counterarguments myself and find them, in brutal honesty, a waste of my time.

    I think we’re fundamentally at loggerheads: you refuse to entertain the idea of a God external to physical reality, and I refuse to entertain the notion that we’re “just here”. And I’m not sure how we even got this conversation started, given the original topic. This is the 29th comment, and as someone noted, it’s gone far afield from my OP. I’m sure we can chat again somewhere, but not on this thread, if that’s all right. At any rate, I’ll give you the last word on the subject.

  • Sabio

    Don’t want to waste more of your time. I will let you have the last word.

  • Sabio

    Don’t want to waste more of your time. I will let you have the last word.

  • Not wishing to prolong this discussion, but …

    I understand Steve’s reluctance to continue the discussion in this thread, but I hope neither or you considered it a waste of time! I certainly did not.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Not wishing to prolong this discussion, but …

    I understand Steve’s reluctance to continue the discussion in this thread, but I hope neither or you considered it a waste of time! I certainly did not.
    .-= Cliff Martin´s last blog ..Book Review: Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies =-.

  • Hello Stephen,

    I will not so much interact with your theological conclusions, such as the notion that “our faith has always been about joining God in His work, chief of which is caring for those in need” since a closer reading of the biblical text and examining the constant suffering in the world shows a God who seems to actually be very disinterested in “caring for those in need”. After all, this is the same God that wiped out His creation simply for eating a piece of fruit and didn’t even warn His creation that a deceiver was in their midst.

    What I’d like to talk about is your premises, especially as it relates to what has been your main focal point for at least the last 3-5 years that I’ve known you through the Internet. The focal point you call “preterism”. I’m not here to argue the veracity of preterism and all its claims, I merely want to interact with it’s overarching premises and how that affects everything.

    Preterism claims in some form or another the following 4 things:

    1. Jesus came back once and for in the 1st-century
    2. The resurrection of the believers was non-physical and in the 1st-century
    3. The judgment of the wicked and righteous was in the 1st-century
    4. There is no end of sin, no culmination of God’s plan for creation.

    All of these points run counter to 2000 years of UNITED Christian testimony and interpretation. Whether we look at pre-Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholicism, Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Syrian, Protestant/Reformed, Anabaptist, or Modern Evangelical — all of these expressions of historic Christianity have AGREED on the basics of eschatology; which are completely opposite of what “preterism” advocates. Does this mean preterism is wrong and all those expressions of Christianity are correct simply because they are the majority? No, but it would call into question God’s ability to maintain the most basic truth among His followers. I mean, if the day after AD70, most Christians were still advocating things completely contrary to the “preterist” interpretation (which they were), then the least we can say is that either there was a huge cover up or a huge inability to get it.

    What I am saying is that at its core, the “full preterist” premise is that God, Jesus, the apostles, and the Holy Spirit were not able or willing to effectively maintain truth for 2000 years. That what we have come to know as “Christianity” has been grossly off the mark for 2000 years. This doesn’t call into question merely man’s flaws but God’s sovereignty.

    Therefore, it is no surprise to me when former “preterists” fall into agnosticism or even outright atheism as many have done. I mean, what is the outcome other than believing that God failed to maintain truth? Blaming it on man is as much as blaming it on God. So, I applaud you for at least being consistent and carrying the “preterist” conclusions to their “logical” ends. A combination of all of the “preterist” ideas floating out there would leave a person with this sort of thesis:

    That God was mainly a tribal god of a people He chose out of people already existing on earth via evolutionary means. That the “heavens and earth” mentioned in Genesis and other places is simply a metaphor for this God’s creation of a special people from among the evolved primates. That the Genesis account isn’t speaking of cosmological creation. That Adam was merely the first of these evolved primates into which this God entered a covenant or contract. That the Flood was merely a localized flood that wiped out only a portion of people that were among God’s newly chosen people. That the Israelites/Jews were a long heritage of God’s chosen people, culminating with His finally “rapturing” out of the world (see Ed Stevens), His last “elect/predestined” people leaving behind so-called “second rank” people (See J.S. Russell, Hampden-Cook). God is done with this planet. We who remain are left to fend for ourselves. God’s disinterest with “caring for people” ended when His plan ended — at AD70 according to “preterism”.

    Your lost-love of theology is directly related to your adoption of preterism. Your agnosticism and doubt of the credibility of Paul and other biblical texts is consistent with the preterist premise that God could not or would not maintain truth. I mean, if He couldn’t do that much and supposedly allowed humanity to grossly misrepresent the plan, then why should we think even the biblical text has been maintained without flaw? Why 66 books and no more and no less? Where does Paul fit into the picture? — he seems to come out of no where without any fore-mention and takes over the entire ministry from the disciples that actually followed Jesus for 3 years.

    I can see why you would doubt your faith, for it is a faith in what? A God who is inept. A community of people who apparently according to preterism have been duped for 2000 years? Where does that leave you? Maybe the whole thing is a hoax…there is no god? That would certainly be a rational conclusion if a person were to follow the preterist premises.
    .-= RoderickE´s last blog ..An American Citizen’s Response to Obama’s Health Care Speech =-.

  • Hello Stephen,

    I will not so much interact with your theological conclusions, such as the notion that “our faith has always been about joining God in His work, chief of which is caring for those in need” since a closer reading of the biblical text and examining the constant suffering in the world shows a God who seems to actually be very disinterested in “caring for those in need”. After all, this is the same God that wiped out His creation simply for eating a piece of fruit and didn’t even warn His creation that a deceiver was in their midst.

    What I’d like to talk about is your premises, especially as it relates to what has been your main focal point for at least the last 3-5 years that I’ve known you through the Internet. The focal point you call “preterism”. I’m not here to argue the veracity of preterism and all its claims, I merely want to interact with it’s overarching premises and how that affects everything.

    Preterism claims in some form or another the following 4 things:

    1. Jesus came back once and for in the 1st-century
    2. The resurrection of the believers was non-physical and in the 1st-century
    3. The judgment of the wicked and righteous was in the 1st-century
    4. There is no end of sin, no culmination of God’s plan for creation.

    All of these points run counter to 2000 years of UNITED Christian testimony and interpretation. Whether we look at pre-Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholicism, Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Syrian, Protestant/Reformed, Anabaptist, or Modern Evangelical — all of these expressions of historic Christianity have AGREED on the basics of eschatology; which are completely opposite of what “preterism” advocates. Does this mean preterism is wrong and all those expressions of Christianity are correct simply because they are the majority? No, but it would call into question God’s ability to maintain the most basic truth among His followers. I mean, if the day after AD70, most Christians were still advocating things completely contrary to the “preterist” interpretation (which they were), then the least we can say is that either there was a huge cover up or a huge inability to get it.

    What I am saying is that at its core, the “full preterist” premise is that God, Jesus, the apostles, and the Holy Spirit were not able or willing to effectively maintain truth for 2000 years. That what we have come to know as “Christianity” has been grossly off the mark for 2000 years. This doesn’t call into question merely man’s flaws but God’s sovereignty.

    Therefore, it is no surprise to me when former “preterists” fall into agnosticism or even outright atheism as many have done. I mean, what is the outcome other than believing that God failed to maintain truth? Blaming it on man is as much as blaming it on God. So, I applaud you for at least being consistent and carrying the “preterist” conclusions to their “logical” ends. A combination of all of the “preterist” ideas floating out there would leave a person with this sort of thesis:

    That God was mainly a tribal god of a people He chose out of people already existing on earth via evolutionary means. That the “heavens and earth” mentioned in Genesis and other places is simply a metaphor for this God’s creation of a special people from among the evolved primates. That the Genesis account isn’t speaking of cosmological creation. That Adam was merely the first of these evolved primates into which this God entered a covenant or contract. That the Flood was merely a localized flood that wiped out only a portion of people that were among God’s newly chosen people. That the Israelites/Jews were a long heritage of God’s chosen people, culminating with His finally “rapturing” out of the world (see Ed Stevens), His last “elect/predestined” people leaving behind so-called “second rank” people (See J.S. Russell, Hampden-Cook). God is done with this planet. We who remain are left to fend for ourselves. God’s disinterest with “caring for people” ended when His plan ended — at AD70 according to “preterism”.

    Your lost-love of theology is directly related to your adoption of preterism. Your agnosticism and doubt of the credibility of Paul and other biblical texts is consistent with the preterist premise that God could not or would not maintain truth. I mean, if He couldn’t do that much and supposedly allowed humanity to grossly misrepresent the plan, then why should we think even the biblical text has been maintained without flaw? Why 66 books and no more and no less? Where does Paul fit into the picture? — he seems to come out of no where without any fore-mention and takes over the entire ministry from the disciples that actually followed Jesus for 3 years.

    I can see why you would doubt your faith, for it is a faith in what? A God who is inept. A community of people who apparently according to preterism have been duped for 2000 years? Where does that leave you? Maybe the whole thing is a hoax…there is no god? That would certainly be a rational conclusion if a person were to follow the preterist premises.
    .-= RoderickE´s last blog ..An American Citizen’s Response to Obama’s Health Care Speech =-.

  • Stephen, as I just mentioned to you, there is a reason that both my blog and PlanetPreterist are quiet and have been quiet for a while. My own affair with theology is pretty much over – I very much put my time into more valuable things, like building relationships in the community, raising my girls, teaching them work ethics and spending a lot of time with them. I am making a choice to live in the Kingdom and not worry about putting theological puzzles together – if other people want to waste their lives doing that, that’s their problem.

    I am glad you chose the red pill 🙂

  • Stephen, as I just mentioned to you, there is a reason that both my blog and PlanetPreterist are quiet and have been quiet for a while. My own affair with theology is pretty much over – I very much put my time into more valuable things, like building relationships in the community, raising my girls, teaching them work ethics and spending a lot of time with them. I am making a choice to live in the Kingdom and not worry about putting theological puzzles together – if other people want to waste their lives doing that, that’s their problem.

    I am glad you chose the red pill 🙂

  • Doug Moody

    Roderick,
    I WAS going to respond to Steve (that is, until I read your response to him) But now, I can’t help but respond to your response, because I believe you have misrepresented preterism, and you have created a false premise (that preteristic thinking leads to atheism) That can’ treally go unchallenged. I will reserve what I have to say to Steve for another time (sorry about that Steve)
    Anyway, Roderick, what you have enumerated in your list of (supposed) preteristic beliefs is by no means correct. It MIGHT be correct in some preteristic circles you wander amongst, but by no means all. See, preterists are not a monolithic block. there is no such thing as a complete definition of what a preterist is, other than a l oose idea that a preterist believes that most, or all, of prophecy occurred on or about 70 AD. Some preterists believe there is still more to come, others do not.
    Nevertheless, your assumption that preterists (even so-called hyper-preterists) think that God is done with man just simply is not true. Let’s forget all the other ancillary ideas you mentioned, like the flood, and the creation, etc. Let’s just say that preterism at its core is about fulfilled prophecy, as opposed to prophecy that has NOT been fulfilled. If you will admit that much then what is your REAL beef with preterism? Is it that it attacks certain cherished, and unprovable, beliefs that you might have about Genesis, or about the descent of man, or whatever it might be? I think this is what you are attacking. You liken preterism to heresy, simply because you apparently don’t understand it.
    If anything, preterism makes God MORE accepting and MORE loving, and MORE interested in the future than does futurism. In futurism, God is a futile being who is just “pleading” with mankind in the hopes that maybe, if His people will get their act together, more people will eventually make it into His kingdom.
    Preterism, OTOH, says that the saving work of Jesus is complete. That thekingdom of God is here and now and that there is no reason to be looking for yet another “dispensation” of God’s will. That’s because Jesus ALREADY did it. When Jesus uttered “It is finished” on the cross, He meant it. He didn’t say “it is finished” and mean “Well, at least this PART of my plan is finished, and I will deal with the rest later” No! He meant that the kingdom is realized, and all of history led up to that event which made it possible for ALL people to enter into His kingdom. The only thing left to do was to get rid of some unfinished OLD business, namely, the complete dissolution of the old covenant.
    Now, how in the world does this idea threaten a person’s belief in God? I think you have painted not only a dismal, but an inaccurate picture of what preterism is and where it leads. To me, preterism means I am free from worrying about some future event that will “put everything right”. The fact is, everything is ALREADY right. It doesn’t need to have this physical world crushed and destroyed, because God never was in the business of making a physical heaven on earth. Heaven is on earth, to be sure, but it is invisible. Those with eyes to see it CAN see it. Those who are still looking for a future when “everything’s going to be perfect” just aren’t looking in the right places.
    Does this make a preterist preset on the road to perdition? Is atheism the natural outcome of preteristic belief? Well, according to you, it does. But for me, preterism is FULL of hope. It eases my mind so that I don’t have to be concerned that I just have to go over one more hill, reach one more tribe, or do just one more thing so that God’s kingdom can come. No. Instead, I know that I can rest in the realized hope of history. I can get about my Father’s business, which is to preach the gospel so that more may know His love. It is not a performance, it is a gift from God saying “It isn’t about what you mut do, because I already did it” I rest in that, and my faith is strengthened. As my faith becomes stronger in that assurance, I act out in my life the deeds which God wants. I relieve the afflicted. I give my life for God. I act and put all my energy into God’s plan, not into waiting for God to come and clean up this mess. This “mess” we call earth may come to a natural end, but it won’t be God intervening and smashing people into submission. It is being done even now one person at a time. Is that heresy? Well, if that’s what you think, OK. Just, in the future, represent preterism correctly if you are going to argue against it.

  • Doug Moody

    Roderick,
    I WAS going to respond to Steve (that is, until I read your response to him) But now, I can’t help but respond to your response, because I believe you have misrepresented preterism, and you have created a false premise (that preteristic thinking leads to atheism) That can’ treally go unchallenged. I will reserve what I have to say to Steve for another time (sorry about that Steve)
    Anyway, Roderick, what you have enumerated in your list of (supposed) preteristic beliefs is by no means correct. It MIGHT be correct in some preteristic circles you wander amongst, but by no means all. See, preterists are not a monolithic block. there is no such thing as a complete definition of what a preterist is, other than a l oose idea that a preterist believes that most, or all, of prophecy occurred on or about 70 AD. Some preterists believe there is still more to come, others do not.
    Nevertheless, your assumption that preterists (even so-called hyper-preterists) think that God is done with man just simply is not true. Let’s forget all the other ancillary ideas you mentioned, like the flood, and the creation, etc. Let’s just say that preterism at its core is about fulfilled prophecy, as opposed to prophecy that has NOT been fulfilled. If you will admit that much then what is your REAL beef with preterism? Is it that it attacks certain cherished, and unprovable, beliefs that you might have about Genesis, or about the descent of man, or whatever it might be? I think this is what you are attacking. You liken preterism to heresy, simply because you apparently don’t understand it.
    If anything, preterism makes God MORE accepting and MORE loving, and MORE interested in the future than does futurism. In futurism, God is a futile being who is just “pleading” with mankind in the hopes that maybe, if His people will get their act together, more people will eventually make it into His kingdom.
    Preterism, OTOH, says that the saving work of Jesus is complete. That thekingdom of God is here and now and that there is no reason to be looking for yet another “dispensation” of God’s will. That’s because Jesus ALREADY did it. When Jesus uttered “It is finished” on the cross, He meant it. He didn’t say “it is finished” and mean “Well, at least this PART of my plan is finished, and I will deal with the rest later” No! He meant that the kingdom is realized, and all of history led up to that event which made it possible for ALL people to enter into His kingdom. The only thing left to do was to get rid of some unfinished OLD business, namely, the complete dissolution of the old covenant.
    Now, how in the world does this idea threaten a person’s belief in God? I think you have painted not only a dismal, but an inaccurate picture of what preterism is and where it leads. To me, preterism means I am free from worrying about some future event that will “put everything right”. The fact is, everything is ALREADY right. It doesn’t need to have this physical world crushed and destroyed, because God never was in the business of making a physical heaven on earth. Heaven is on earth, to be sure, but it is invisible. Those with eyes to see it CAN see it. Those who are still looking for a future when “everything’s going to be perfect” just aren’t looking in the right places.
    Does this make a preterist preset on the road to perdition? Is atheism the natural outcome of preteristic belief? Well, according to you, it does. But for me, preterism is FULL of hope. It eases my mind so that I don’t have to be concerned that I just have to go over one more hill, reach one more tribe, or do just one more thing so that God’s kingdom can come. No. Instead, I know that I can rest in the realized hope of history. I can get about my Father’s business, which is to preach the gospel so that more may know His love. It is not a performance, it is a gift from God saying “It isn’t about what you mut do, because I already did it” I rest in that, and my faith is strengthened. As my faith becomes stronger in that assurance, I act out in my life the deeds which God wants. I relieve the afflicted. I give my life for God. I act and put all my energy into God’s plan, not into waiting for God to come and clean up this mess. This “mess” we call earth may come to a natural end, but it won’t be God intervening and smashing people into submission. It is being done even now one person at a time. Is that heresy? Well, if that’s what you think, OK. Just, in the future, represent preterism correctly if you are going to argue against it.

  • Thank you for your comments Doug. Please allow me to give you some background. I WAS a hyperpreterist for 15 years. So, I know what it is about. I know how to represent it. I never said hyperpreterists believe God is done, but that it would be a consistent conclusion. You speak about the victory of Christ and trying to create a dichotomy of “preterists” vs “futurists” as if one group believes in Christ’s victory and the other does not. First, there really is no such distinction of “preterists” vs “futurists” but rather it is historic Christianity vs non-historic Christianity (or heresy). And as for the victory issue, it is interesting that historic Christianity has ALWAYS advocated that Christians are MORE THAN CONQUERORS IN CHRIST — already. That was the case even before AD70. But “logically” a hyperpreterist would have to defer the victory at least until AD70 when hyperpreterists actually believe it was “finished”.

    What hyperpreterism has done, is to depart from what Christianity has been. It would be like a person who claims to be an American denying everything that has been historically considered American — such as liberty, self-sufficiency, freemarket. So, at the very least a hyperpreterist would HAVE to conclude that:

    (1) 2000 years of Christianity has been in gross error
    (2) God either wouldn’t or couldn’t maintain supposed truth

    Beyond this response, I have no desire to engage you in your apologetic for hyperpreterism since Stephen’s article is not about that, however it is about losing faith and since it is clear that hyperpreterism ISN’T the faith that historic Christianity has advocated for 2000 years, it is therefore no surprise that hyperpreterists often lose faith altogether.
    .-= RoderickE´s last blog ..An American Citizen’s Response to Obama’s Health Care Speech =-.

  • Thank you for your comments Doug. Please allow me to give you some background. I WAS a hyperpreterist for 15 years. So, I know what it is about. I know how to represent it. I never said hyperpreterists believe God is done, but that it would be a consistent conclusion. You speak about the victory of Christ and trying to create a dichotomy of “preterists” vs “futurists” as if one group believes in Christ’s victory and the other does not. First, there really is no such distinction of “preterists” vs “futurists” but rather it is historic Christianity vs non-historic Christianity (or heresy). And as for the victory issue, it is interesting that historic Christianity has ALWAYS advocated that Christians are MORE THAN CONQUERORS IN CHRIST — already. That was the case even before AD70. But “logically” a hyperpreterist would have to defer the victory at least until AD70 when hyperpreterists actually believe it was “finished”.

    What hyperpreterism has done, is to depart from what Christianity has been. It would be like a person who claims to be an American denying everything that has been historically considered American — such as liberty, self-sufficiency, freemarket. So, at the very least a hyperpreterist would HAVE to conclude that:

    (1) 2000 years of Christianity has been in gross error
    (2) God either wouldn’t or couldn’t maintain supposed truth

    Beyond this response, I have no desire to engage you in your apologetic for hyperpreterism since Stephen’s article is not about that, however it is about losing faith and since it is clear that hyperpreterism ISN’T the faith that historic Christianity has advocated for 2000 years, it is therefore no surprise that hyperpreterists often lose faith altogether.
    .-= RoderickE´s last blog ..An American Citizen’s Response to Obama’s Health Care Speech =-.

  • Doug Moody

    Roderick,
    Come now, do you REALLY believe that HYPERpreterists “often lose faith altogether? Or is a milder form of preterism LESS likely to “lose faith”?
    As for your idea that there is some kind of consensus amongst futurists about eschatology, well I know that you don’t believe that either…
    So how can you appeal to so-called “historic” christianity, when such a thing doesn’t exist? Certainly you aren’t proposing that the last 2000 or so years have yielded harmony between believers on most doctrinal issues?
    Why then are you vilifying preterism, or even hyperpreterism, and implying that it is “Heresy”?

    The fact is, preterism has a pretty good handle on prophetic scriptures, and for me (a former futurist) it is amazingly consistent throughout. There aren’t many “difficult scriptures” that have to be explained through another convuluted set of reasonings. Not so with futurism, which can’t even agree on a basic timeline for Christ’s return, nor what will happen when He does!

    As to the deferment of the victory until 70, no, that isn’t what preterism teaches. The “victory” in 70 was unfinished business between God and the Jews. If you asked my why God waited until then (instead of doing it at the coming of Messiah) I would say that it is entirely in character with God’s nature to give people time to repent. Remember, the Christian religion spread fast and furiously after Jesus’ death, and it would have been impossible for a Jew of the day not to have heard. God was giving time for the Jews, and concurrently, He was spreading the message to a new people.
    So, the victory of Jesus WAS complete at Calvary. The debacle at Jerusalem was just as Romans described it, the groaning of creation waiting for delivery.
    As for the “historicity” of preterism, I think a great debate could be done on that issue, and the evidence for futurism in the early church isn’t nearly as strong as you might think.
    One more thing…the “church” as you might describe it went through many iterations, including churches in Africa, Asia, and the Russian Steppes. In those regions, the Holy Spirit was just as alive or maybe even more so than the Western Roman version you are calling orthodox. In many, if not most cases, the church had no scriptures at all. They were totally reliant on God speaking in their hearts. I can’t speak authoritatively about such matters, and neither can you, because in addition to the lack of the written word, there was a lack of the written commentaries on the thoughts of Christians all over the world, probably because of large segments of the population were illiterate.
    So as Steve intimated in this post, the scriptures are not the ONLY way to determine the mind of God. Nor is a faulty history of a fractured western branch of Roman christianity, dominated by politics and intrigue, going to give us an accurate picture of what is considered “historic” christianity!
    I too don’t wish to debate preterism here. I just want an accurate accounting by you of your assertion that preterism leads to atheism. It does not, and in fact, if it is properly apprehended, actually greatly glorifies God in keeping His promises to mankind. It presents a merciful God who isn’t keeping his audience waiting for the “next big thing”. In my opinion, futurism creates an attitude of paralysis in getting about the Lord’s work – and that’s far from your assertion that preterism leads people away from God.

  • Doug Moody

    Roderick,
    Come now, do you REALLY believe that HYPERpreterists “often lose faith altogether? Or is a milder form of preterism LESS likely to “lose faith”?
    As for your idea that there is some kind of consensus amongst futurists about eschatology, well I know that you don’t believe that either…
    So how can you appeal to so-called “historic” christianity, when such a thing doesn’t exist? Certainly you aren’t proposing that the last 2000 or so years have yielded harmony between believers on most doctrinal issues?
    Why then are you vilifying preterism, or even hyperpreterism, and implying that it is “Heresy”?

    The fact is, preterism has a pretty good handle on prophetic scriptures, and for me (a former futurist) it is amazingly consistent throughout. There aren’t many “difficult scriptures” that have to be explained through another convuluted set of reasonings. Not so with futurism, which can’t even agree on a basic timeline for Christ’s return, nor what will happen when He does!

    As to the deferment of the victory until 70, no, that isn’t what preterism teaches. The “victory” in 70 was unfinished business between God and the Jews. If you asked my why God waited until then (instead of doing it at the coming of Messiah) I would say that it is entirely in character with God’s nature to give people time to repent. Remember, the Christian religion spread fast and furiously after Jesus’ death, and it would have been impossible for a Jew of the day not to have heard. God was giving time for the Jews, and concurrently, He was spreading the message to a new people.
    So, the victory of Jesus WAS complete at Calvary. The debacle at Jerusalem was just as Romans described it, the groaning of creation waiting for delivery.
    As for the “historicity” of preterism, I think a great debate could be done on that issue, and the evidence for futurism in the early church isn’t nearly as strong as you might think.
    One more thing…the “church” as you might describe it went through many iterations, including churches in Africa, Asia, and the Russian Steppes. In those regions, the Holy Spirit was just as alive or maybe even more so than the Western Roman version you are calling orthodox. In many, if not most cases, the church had no scriptures at all. They were totally reliant on God speaking in their hearts. I can’t speak authoritatively about such matters, and neither can you, because in addition to the lack of the written word, there was a lack of the written commentaries on the thoughts of Christians all over the world, probably because of large segments of the population were illiterate.
    So as Steve intimated in this post, the scriptures are not the ONLY way to determine the mind of God. Nor is a faulty history of a fractured western branch of Roman christianity, dominated by politics and intrigue, going to give us an accurate picture of what is considered “historic” christianity!
    I too don’t wish to debate preterism here. I just want an accurate accounting by you of your assertion that preterism leads to atheism. It does not, and in fact, if it is properly apprehended, actually greatly glorifies God in keeping His promises to mankind. It presents a merciful God who isn’t keeping his audience waiting for the “next big thing”. In my opinion, futurism creates an attitude of paralysis in getting about the Lord’s work – and that’s far from your assertion that preterism leads people away from God.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    I meant to discuss this posting with you, but got sidetracked by Roderick above. I enjoyed that diversion, but really wanted to talk to you about this posting of yours.
    You state that your theology is on the rocks, and I can appreaciate that statement fully. I too have had my own Waterloo, but am coming to a certain kind of peace on this issue.
    Please don’t think me unkind, but I see in your style a certain trust implied that a person has the ability to just “think things through” and if enough logic is thrown at the matter, it will finally be resolved, because logic is undeniable. That’s logical, right? 🙂
    Anyway, what you are attempting to do (and what I am guilty of also) is the basic premise that the world, and what is in it, is discernable by the mind of man. And here’s the rub. The fact is, it probably IS! Didn’t God say “and now NOTHING shall be whitheld from them that they imagine to do” so He divided the people’s languages so that they couldn’t communicate as before? I think it IS possible, WITHIN THIS PHYSICAL REALM AND GIVEN ENOUGH TIME, to figure out most of what is PHYSICAL!
    Now, that brings us to the SUPERnatural realm. What do we actually KNOW about it? Not much, really. In fact, unless you have been visited by a supernatural being and had a conversation with him (it), you don’t know Jack, do you. Nor do I! You are left then with two other sources of information: 1. Scripture and 2. Revelation, or the Holy Spirit.
    I think that #1 track record is spotty at best, because it is (I believe) deliberately written so that we may wonder and never have firm concusions (except about the things God doesn’t want there to be any doubt about) The track record for #2 is even worse, because it relies on one’s ability to properly discern the Spirits. Such discernment is done “through a glass darkly” and cannot be relied upon to inform us about all things.
    So, we are all left in a lurch and unable to know with exact certainty (as we can about physical things) what is or what isn’t ultimately true. Enter the atheist…
    “See I told you so”
    What then is a person to do who wants to know? Well, allow me some folly in my aged condition please!
    When it is all said and done, and this life ends, what did the greatest wise man say? He said it’s all vanity, and that the best one can do is to fear God and keep His commandments. Easy enough when the “commandments” were written on stone. So is a Christian LESS endowed by his creator than the ancients, who had the law written on stones? I don’t think so. Instead, what MUST be done, if one is to keep his sanity, is to toss out the physical assumptions about the logicality and the rationality of God, because those assumptions are, to be truthful, ALL based on a physical worldview and steeped in physical thought. In other words, it is like trying to apprehend ghosts (ala Ghostbusters) using some kind of vacuum cleaner with flashing lights on it. Ghosts just don’t repond to that, because they don’t exist within the “lower realm” of us humans (supposedly of course)
    Then, you and I are left with a choice. Either believe that there exists another realm, or only believe what our senses can inform us of in this physical realm. The atheist would take the former choice, because it seems, well, more “rational” to him. A believer, OTOH, will take the latter choice.
    Yet WHY? Why insist that there is something unknowable, and try to convince others of its existence? I think it comes down to God, and HIS choice in the matter. We are all pretty good at assuming that WE have a choice in everything, and in a sense we do. But in so MANY things, even the atheist has to conclude that he doesn’t get to choose everything he prefers. There are things he has no choice about, just as Christians do not either.
    Why then do I choose to believe in God, and His Christ? Could it be, possibly, that a greater pull has been sovereignly put upon me than the pull others feel? Could it be that God did indeed CHOOSE to inform an inner sense, and that this being actually MADE something in me that I don’t have “naturally”? Wouldn’t that explain the atheist and unbeliever?
    They, of course, see this as a desperate emotion and a weak mind. But I think I can safely say that experentially, there are things you have experienced within your spirit that you just cannot put into words, but those things are nonetheless as real, or maybe more so, than any logic your mind can ever fabricate. The atheist hasn’t experienced it (or has and rejected it as a gas bubble) In any case, when God acted, He did it sovereignly and with great love towards you and me.
    All I am saying is that I think you need to quit trying to figure it out using physical tools. Such tools at best are not capable of discerning the supernatural. True enough, you will be labeled as having taken leave of your senses by some. But those who have also experienced this knowledge that passes all understanding will know exactly what you mean and feel the same things you feel. Can this be denied? Certainly. But is that really what your spirit wants to do? I don’t think so.
    God bless you Steve. Hang in there on this journey. You aren’t alone either in your doubts or in your assurances. The body of Christ knows now in part, but soon we shall know even as we are already known. Give that process a chance. I think it will satisfy much more than all the reasoning and logic mankind can offer.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    I meant to discuss this posting with you, but got sidetracked by Roderick above. I enjoyed that diversion, but really wanted to talk to you about this posting of yours.
    You state that your theology is on the rocks, and I can appreaciate that statement fully. I too have had my own Waterloo, but am coming to a certain kind of peace on this issue.
    Please don’t think me unkind, but I see in your style a certain trust implied that a person has the ability to just “think things through” and if enough logic is thrown at the matter, it will finally be resolved, because logic is undeniable. That’s logical, right? 🙂
    Anyway, what you are attempting to do (and what I am guilty of also) is the basic premise that the world, and what is in it, is discernable by the mind of man. And here’s the rub. The fact is, it probably IS! Didn’t God say “and now NOTHING shall be whitheld from them that they imagine to do” so He divided the people’s languages so that they couldn’t communicate as before? I think it IS possible, WITHIN THIS PHYSICAL REALM AND GIVEN ENOUGH TIME, to figure out most of what is PHYSICAL!
    Now, that brings us to the SUPERnatural realm. What do we actually KNOW about it? Not much, really. In fact, unless you have been visited by a supernatural being and had a conversation with him (it), you don’t know Jack, do you. Nor do I! You are left then with two other sources of information: 1. Scripture and 2. Revelation, or the Holy Spirit.
    I think that #1 track record is spotty at best, because it is (I believe) deliberately written so that we may wonder and never have firm concusions (except about the things God doesn’t want there to be any doubt about) The track record for #2 is even worse, because it relies on one’s ability to properly discern the Spirits. Such discernment is done “through a glass darkly” and cannot be relied upon to inform us about all things.
    So, we are all left in a lurch and unable to know with exact certainty (as we can about physical things) what is or what isn’t ultimately true. Enter the atheist…
    “See I told you so”
    What then is a person to do who wants to know? Well, allow me some folly in my aged condition please!
    When it is all said and done, and this life ends, what did the greatest wise man say? He said it’s all vanity, and that the best one can do is to fear God and keep His commandments. Easy enough when the “commandments” were written on stone. So is a Christian LESS endowed by his creator than the ancients, who had the law written on stones? I don’t think so. Instead, what MUST be done, if one is to keep his sanity, is to toss out the physical assumptions about the logicality and the rationality of God, because those assumptions are, to be truthful, ALL based on a physical worldview and steeped in physical thought. In other words, it is like trying to apprehend ghosts (ala Ghostbusters) using some kind of vacuum cleaner with flashing lights on it. Ghosts just don’t repond to that, because they don’t exist within the “lower realm” of us humans (supposedly of course)
    Then, you and I are left with a choice. Either believe that there exists another realm, or only believe what our senses can inform us of in this physical realm. The atheist would take the former choice, because it seems, well, more “rational” to him. A believer, OTOH, will take the latter choice.
    Yet WHY? Why insist that there is something unknowable, and try to convince others of its existence? I think it comes down to God, and HIS choice in the matter. We are all pretty good at assuming that WE have a choice in everything, and in a sense we do. But in so MANY things, even the atheist has to conclude that he doesn’t get to choose everything he prefers. There are things he has no choice about, just as Christians do not either.
    Why then do I choose to believe in God, and His Christ? Could it be, possibly, that a greater pull has been sovereignly put upon me than the pull others feel? Could it be that God did indeed CHOOSE to inform an inner sense, and that this being actually MADE something in me that I don’t have “naturally”? Wouldn’t that explain the atheist and unbeliever?
    They, of course, see this as a desperate emotion and a weak mind. But I think I can safely say that experentially, there are things you have experienced within your spirit that you just cannot put into words, but those things are nonetheless as real, or maybe more so, than any logic your mind can ever fabricate. The atheist hasn’t experienced it (or has and rejected it as a gas bubble) In any case, when God acted, He did it sovereignly and with great love towards you and me.
    All I am saying is that I think you need to quit trying to figure it out using physical tools. Such tools at best are not capable of discerning the supernatural. True enough, you will be labeled as having taken leave of your senses by some. But those who have also experienced this knowledge that passes all understanding will know exactly what you mean and feel the same things you feel. Can this be denied? Certainly. But is that really what your spirit wants to do? I don’t think so.
    God bless you Steve. Hang in there on this journey. You aren’t alone either in your doubts or in your assurances. The body of Christ knows now in part, but soon we shall know even as we are already known. Give that process a chance. I think it will satisfy much more than all the reasoning and logic mankind can offer.

  • Roderick,

    You won’t be surprised that I’m quite familiar with you and your history. I do appreciate the noticeably more civil tone I read here than what I’m used to.

    Reports of my apostasy are greatly exaggerated. I’m not losing faith, becoming agnostic, or any such. I’ve lost my faith in having a perfect theology, and I’ve come to the conclusion that omniscience isn’t what the faith’s ever been about anyway.

    At this point, I’d tell you that I believe in God and in Jesus; I believe that Jesus is Lord, and that he conquered death with his resurrection; that our faith has always been about joining God in His work, chief of which is caring for those in need. Any theological debates that distract us and keep us divided such that our mission and influence are compromised are debates best reserved for the afterlife.

    Something else I believe: that the single fundamental characteristic of our faith should be humility. And not just the kind of humility that’s based in a dogma that harps on our being wretched sinners, but humility in the fallibility of our understanding. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

    By “at this point” I did not mean that I was on the edge of atheism or agnosticism; I meant that I value truth more than the beliefs of fallible men throughout history. You make an odd (now quite tired) point about God not being “able or willing to effectively maintain truth for 2000 years”. Maybe one day you’ll admit to yourself how arbitrary that is, given that the Bible itself never even guarantees such. Moreover, how do you prove that there weren’t Christians who were full preterists the whole time? Before you scoff, prove it. And even if you could prove it, are you seriously saying that at least one believer must have known the truth about everything throughout time, or we have a lousy God? How do you support that in Scripture?

    As a (fairly good) former apologist for FP, you know as well as I do that preterism does not imply that God “allowed humanity to grossly misrepresent the plan” — historic Christianity has the plan for the Church pretty right; we are to overcome the world with the faith. Do we know everything about God and His ways? Everything He determines in His counsel? Did Israel not totally grossly misunderstand the plan by looking for a military leader? Were not Jesus’ own hand-picked disciples extremely slow about “getting it”? If you were so worried about the Church being sure to know God’s plan the whole time, I would expect you to join the Catholic Church, who must have understood the plan just fine (because God wouldn’t let them be too wrong).

    In actual fact, as I mention in the main post, preterism has been the longest holdout for me in my erstwhile hopes of finding a perfect systematic theology. I changed my mind about the inerrancy of the Bible long ago when I realized it for what it was, sacred literature commissioned but not authored by God, before I was a preterist, and I always felt some tension between my views on preterism (which tended toward inerrancy) and my lack of faith in the man-made doctrine of inerrancy. As you well know, full preterists actually use inerrancy as one of the greatest evidences for their belief (“Did God lie in Scripture?” “Was Jesus wrong in his eschatology?” “Can God tell time?”).

    I find it unfortunate that, despite all this, you jump on my story in order to bolster your obsession with blaming preterism for all the ills in Christianity. I fully expect that my name and this post will come up in anti-“hyperpreterist” rants from your site, to Dee Dee’s site, to Todd’s site (oh, wait — I’m already on his).

    I’ll give you the last word here, since I don’t fancy having one of those Bradfield vs. Edwards knock-down-drag-outs. I refuse to be pulled back into such a waste of time.

    Blessings to you, and I do hope you find what you’re looking for.

  • Roderick,

    You won’t be surprised that I’m quite familiar with you and your history. I do appreciate the noticeably more civil tone I read here than what I’m used to.

    Reports of my apostasy are greatly exaggerated. I’m not losing faith, becoming agnostic, or any such. I’ve lost my faith in having a perfect theology, and I’ve come to the conclusion that omniscience isn’t what the faith’s ever been about anyway.

    At this point, I’d tell you that I believe in God and in Jesus; I believe that Jesus is Lord, and that he conquered death with his resurrection; that our faith has always been about joining God in His work, chief of which is caring for those in need. Any theological debates that distract us and keep us divided such that our mission and influence are compromised are debates best reserved for the afterlife.

    Something else I believe: that the single fundamental characteristic of our faith should be humility. And not just the kind of humility that’s based in a dogma that harps on our being wretched sinners, but humility in the fallibility of our understanding. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

    By “at this point” I did not mean that I was on the edge of atheism or agnosticism; I meant that I value truth more than the beliefs of fallible men throughout history. You make an odd (now quite tired) point about God not being “able or willing to effectively maintain truth for 2000 years”. Maybe one day you’ll admit to yourself how arbitrary that is, given that the Bible itself never even guarantees such. Moreover, how do you prove that there weren’t Christians who were full preterists the whole time? Before you scoff, prove it. And even if you could prove it, are you seriously saying that at least one believer must have known the truth about everything throughout time, or we have a lousy God? How do you support that in Scripture?

    As a (fairly good) former apologist for FP, you know as well as I do that preterism does not imply that God “allowed humanity to grossly misrepresent the plan” — historic Christianity has the plan for the Church pretty right; we are to overcome the world with the faith. Do we know everything about God and His ways? Everything He determines in His counsel? Did Israel not totally grossly misunderstand the plan by looking for a military leader? Were not Jesus’ own hand-picked disciples extremely slow about “getting it”? If you were so worried about the Church being sure to know God’s plan the whole time, I would expect you to join the Catholic Church, who must have understood the plan just fine (because God wouldn’t let them be too wrong).

    In actual fact, as I mention in the main post, preterism has been the longest holdout for me in my erstwhile hopes of finding a perfect systematic theology. I changed my mind about the inerrancy of the Bible long ago when I realized it for what it was, sacred literature commissioned but not authored by God, before I was a preterist, and I always felt some tension between my views on preterism (which tended toward inerrancy) and my lack of faith in the man-made doctrine of inerrancy. As you well know, full preterists actually use inerrancy as one of the greatest evidences for their belief (“Did God lie in Scripture?” “Was Jesus wrong in his eschatology?” “Can God tell time?”).

    I find it unfortunate that, despite all this, you jump on my story in order to bolster your obsession with blaming preterism for all the ills in Christianity. I fully expect that my name and this post will come up in anti-“hyperpreterist” rants from your site, to Dee Dee’s site, to Todd’s site (oh, wait — I’m already on his).

    I’ll give you the last word here, since I don’t fancy having one of those Bradfield vs. Edwards knock-down-drag-outs. I refuse to be pulled back into such a waste of time.

    Blessings to you, and I do hope you find what you’re looking for.

  • All I am saying is that I think you need to quit trying to figure it out using physical tools. Such tools at best are not capable of discerning the supernatural. True enough, you will be labeled as having taken leave of your senses by some. But those who have also experienced this knowledge that passes all understanding will know exactly what you mean and feel the same things you feel. Can this be denied? Certainly. But is that really what your spirit wants to do? I don’t think so.

    Doug, thanks for this message. While I think you overestimate both my likelihood to “throw in the towel” on the faith and my desire to view the faith logically (in fact, the original post states my disillusionment about doing this), your comments about trusting God to speak directly to my soul are certainly the kind of thing I need to hear. I appreciate you and the wise counsel that you bestow on me from your “aged condition”. 🙂

  • All I am saying is that I think you need to quit trying to figure it out using physical tools. Such tools at best are not capable of discerning the supernatural. True enough, you will be labeled as having taken leave of your senses by some. But those who have also experienced this knowledge that passes all understanding will know exactly what you mean and feel the same things you feel. Can this be denied? Certainly. But is that really what your spirit wants to do? I don’t think so.

    Doug, thanks for this message. While I think you overestimate both my likelihood to “throw in the towel” on the faith and my desire to view the faith logically (in fact, the original post states my disillusionment about doing this), your comments about trusting God to speak directly to my soul are certainly the kind of thing I need to hear. I appreciate you and the wise counsel that you bestow on me from your “aged condition”. 🙂

  • Steve:

    I don’t have to tell you to ignore Roderick’s accusations that your preterism will logically lead to atheism. Your belief in evolution already does that:

    As the edit war [over the Wikipedia entry on “preterism”] raged on, Dee Dee enlisted the help of a hyperpreterist named Mike Beidler (who is now a functional atheist – see footnote*) to help resolve the dispute.

    * Functional Atheist means the person functions or behaves like an atheist. In this case, Beidler is an avid evolutionist (see his website: http://www.thecreationofanevolutionist.blogspot.com/) & thus even though he may pray five times a day he still denies the God of the Bible is the CREATOR (not just the evolver) & so he functions as an atheist.

    .-= Mike Beidler´s last blog ..PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum =-.

  • Steve:

    I don’t have to tell you to ignore Roderick’s accusations that your preterism will logically lead to atheism. Your belief in evolution already does that:

    As the edit war [over the Wikipedia entry on “preterism”] raged on, Dee Dee enlisted the help of a hyperpreterist named Mike Beidler (who is now a functional atheist – see footnote*) to help resolve the dispute.

    * Functional Atheist means the person functions or behaves like an atheist. In this case, Beidler is an avid evolutionist (see his website: http://www.thecreationofanevolutionist.blogspot.com/) & thus even though he may pray five times a day he still denies the God of the Bible is the CREATOR (not just the evolver) & so he functions as an atheist.

    .-= Mike Beidler´s last blog ..PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum =-.

  • The last word was yours Stephen, I’m not the one who is attempting to call into question the sovereignty of God and His ability to maintain truth, either via the canon of Scripture as it has been passed down or via the overall narrative of the the UNITED Christian witness. If I am guilty of an “obsession” it is that I truly believe that God is sovereign and all things, even heresies, even men who fall away from the faith, even the things men mean for evil — God means for good, which is His glory.

    Thanks again for writing this piece. It stands as a testimony of more than you know and thanks for allowing me to comment on it and for men like Doug to validate it. It is very helpful and God surely means even this for good.
    .-= RoderickE´s last blog ..More Than Conquerors In Christ: What does it mean to Christians? =-.

  • The last word was yours Stephen, I’m not the one who is attempting to call into question the sovereignty of God and His ability to maintain truth, either via the canon of Scripture as it has been passed down or via the overall narrative of the the UNITED Christian witness. If I am guilty of an “obsession” it is that I truly believe that God is sovereign and all things, even heresies, even men who fall away from the faith, even the things men mean for evil — God means for good, which is His glory.

    Thanks again for writing this piece. It stands as a testimony of more than you know and thanks for allowing me to comment on it and for men like Doug to validate it. It is very helpful and God surely means even this for good.
    .-= RoderickE´s last blog ..More Than Conquerors In Christ: What does it mean to Christians? =-.

  • Doug Moody

    Roderick

    thanks for allowing me to comment on it and for men like Doug to validate it. It is very helpful and God surely means even this for good.

    What exactly did I “validate”?

  • Doug Moody

    Roderick

    thanks for allowing me to comment on it and for men like Doug to validate it. It is very helpful and God surely means even this for good.

    What exactly did I “validate”?

  • Bishop Spong recounts the words of an elderly priest: “The older I get, the more deeply I believe but the less beliefs I have.”

  • Bishop Spong recounts the words of an elderly priest: “The older I get, the more deeply I believe but the less beliefs I have.”

  • To claim that Preterism leads one to atheism is one of the silliest comments I have ever heard.

    If you at least examine where the person is coming from you can determine hopefully from there why they are where they are today, but it is only a conclusion you have come up with when it is God who knows the heart on what really is going on.

    If any eschatological view would lead anyone to atheism it would be the futurist view who has set so many dates that have failed. Just like the dispies who says the Jews had a chance to claim Christ as their Messiah but instead they sent Him to the cross is the most lame excuses ever for it was Christ who rejected them.

    So, within any religion, any domination or differences in eschatological positions you can hear of people who have fallen into doubt or, in better terms, is harboring anger towards God in which they might for a season grow, or seem, tired. I know I have fallen like this before, angry towards God, and it wasn’t preterism at all that caused it but thanks to God’s patience with my impatience in a few months or even years i was able to see the reason behind everything and I was blessed and greatly regretted the season of anger I was harboring. I even experienced a fellow believer who seemed good in how they presented themselves but the longer you would hang around them you would end up getting hurt along with things being taken from you that cannot be replaced. I still to this day harbor some anger in my heart at this one person, which i welcome prayers to help overcome, but it was not preterism in any such manner causing these things to happen…problems can come from a variety of sources.

    Preterism needs to stop being used as the excuses we are hearing from most of you futurist for people falling away or just outright growing tired which is sad to hear when it happens to believers we know but it is not because of preterism.

    As a futurist once, I greatly was tired when all i would hear was a Premil doctrine from pastors like Charles Stanley, whom i greatly enjoyed hearing back then, and Hal Lindsey whom through his false teaching I had a desire to look into things and thanks to God, through those false futurist teachers, who only would discourage you or give you a since of false hope, I was able to see the blessings that is already ours in Christ and many other preterist back then shared the same blessings as I when we first came to the realization of the time statements and audience relevance.

  • To claim that Preterism leads one to atheism is one of the silliest comments I have ever heard.

    If you at least examine where the person is coming from you can determine hopefully from there why they are where they are today, but it is only a conclusion you have come up with when it is God who knows the heart on what really is going on.

    If any eschatological view would lead anyone to atheism it would be the futurist view who has set so many dates that have failed. Just like the dispies who says the Jews had a chance to claim Christ as their Messiah but instead they sent Him to the cross is the most lame excuses ever for it was Christ who rejected them.

    So, within any religion, any domination or differences in eschatological positions you can hear of people who have fallen into doubt or, in better terms, is harboring anger towards God in which they might for a season grow, or seem, tired. I know I have fallen like this before, angry towards God, and it wasn’t preterism at all that caused it but thanks to God’s patience with my impatience in a few months or even years i was able to see the reason behind everything and I was blessed and greatly regretted the season of anger I was harboring. I even experienced a fellow believer who seemed good in how they presented themselves but the longer you would hang around them you would end up getting hurt along with things being taken from you that cannot be replaced. I still to this day harbor some anger in my heart at this one person, which i welcome prayers to help overcome, but it was not preterism in any such manner causing these things to happen…problems can come from a variety of sources.

    Preterism needs to stop being used as the excuses we are hearing from most of you futurist for people falling away or just outright growing tired which is sad to hear when it happens to believers we know but it is not because of preterism.

    As a futurist once, I greatly was tired when all i would hear was a Premil doctrine from pastors like Charles Stanley, whom i greatly enjoyed hearing back then, and Hal Lindsey whom through his false teaching I had a desire to look into things and thanks to God, through those false futurist teachers, who only would discourage you or give you a since of false hope, I was able to see the blessings that is already ours in Christ and many other preterist back then shared the same blessings as I when we first came to the realization of the time statements and audience relevance.

  • I wonder if Calvinism leads to murder? Hmmm….

    • Peter Smith

      Virgil – if you’re stil around? – read ‘The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner’ by James Hogg written 1822 and answers your question/Peter

  • I wonder if Calvinism leads to murder? Hmmm….

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  • Peter Smith

    Steve – Yes. I believe your approach to be the sensible one – and the practical one – Peter