Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

A Possible Center of the Christian/Atheism debate?

I have a new pastime…

I joined an atheist/agnostic group on myspace:  http://groups.myspace.com/atheistsagnostics

and I posted some comments here:  http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/10/09/when-i-say-i-am-an-atheist/

both with the intention of striking up some possibly fruitful conversations.  At first, I had high hopes that things might go well with these conversations.  I quickly realized that I was just striking up debates that were not going to get anywhere.  I would argue with something that somebody else said and give my 2 cents, and unbelievers would argue with what I said and give their two cents.  We all were holding stubbornly to our beliefs and I saw that there was little or no chance of these conversations going anywhere. 

Then I thought of a new approach, and posted a comment stating that I was willing to accept, for argument’s sake, that everything that I had said was wrong, if we could change our direction and they would answer these questions:

 “Do you agree that the center of the issue is whether Jesus conquered death three days after dying on the cross? Do you agree that if you were convinced that Jesus conquered death three days after dying on the cross, your beliefs and your life would have to change? Do you agree that the ramifications of this are huge? Do you agree that if Jesus conquered death three days after dying on the cross, and you do not acknowledge Him as the King of this universe and put your faith in Him and treasure Him, you will sentance yourself to an eternity in hell?”

 Perhaps it would be wise to wait and see how this approach turns out before blogging about it, but I am willing to take a chance.  I hope that there will be a lot of comments here… I would love to hear the thoughts of both believers and unbelievers on these questions and whether they are central to Christianity.

Also, my thinking is that if the people I have been conversing with accept that these issues are central and are willing to at the very least not refuse information that opposes their beliefs from the start, I will encourage them to read “The Case for Christ.”

“The Case for Christ” cut the final threads of my unbelief, and I was convinced first that the Bible was credible and that Jesus really conquered death.  The end of my unbelief and beginning of my belief happened when I was convinced that Jesus conquered death, which is why I see it as the center point.  I have probably given “The Case for Christ” a little bit more credit than it deserves; although I still believe that it deserves a lot of credit and is a GREAT book.  But to give it as much credit as I did and sometimes still do, undermines other things that took place leading up to the time when the book cut those final threads of unbelief.  Without my amazing brother (http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com), Baptist Church of the Redeemer (http://www.bcredeemer.org), and some great Christian influences at my then-employer Texas State Bank and in the group of guys that I was playing church league basketball with, I never would have been in the position that I was to a) actually read the book, and b) give it the open mind that it must have to have any impact. 

So, due to those outside factors, I was in a position to say “yes” to those questions that I listed above.  Once I was in that position, “The Case for Christ” did the rest.  So, if you are an unbeliever, and you can answer “yes” to those questions, I would encourage you to read “The Case for Christ” with as much of an open mind as you can, as I did.  And if you are a believer, and you are having conversations with unbelievers or would like to have conversations with unbelievers about Christianity, I THINK this could be a good course to take.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

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October 17, 2007 - Posted by | Atheism, Christ, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, The Resurrection

11 Comments »

  1. My first question would be, what critical articles refuting The Case for Christ have you read (I assume you mean Lee Strobel’s book)? There is plenty of material critical of it on the Internet, examining his assertions and demonstrating why they are faulty.

    Comment by hokku | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  2. My answer would be, none. Yes, I meant Lee Strobel’s book. I saw the book “The Case Against Christ” on amazon.com and was interested and thought about buying it, but didn’t.

    My first question would be, will you answer the questions that I pose as central to the issue?

    I am willing to read one internet source that you suggest, if you will answer those questions. (You say there are many, suggest your favorite.. I’ll give it a chance and we can go from there.)

    Comment by bigham | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  3. I have read Case for Christ and Case for Faith. Both make valuable arguments, but none convincingly so, at least in my case. Those books are more effective for strengthening the beliefs of believers, not changing the beliefs of unbelievers. While I am no longer a Christian, I see the value in your questioning, although, I would phrase them differently:

    1. Jesus conquering death is a central point of christianity, however, the more central point to the unbeliever would be: Why should I believe that Jesus conquered death on the cross? Is it because the Bible says so?

    2. What does it mean that Jesus “conquered” death? If true, does it change the way I have to believe or live? Not so sure. Which version of Christianity would I need to follow?

    3. The ramifications could be huge, or could not.

    4. Do you believe that if Jesus “conquered” death on the cross, that it necessarily means that I have to declare him lord of my life? Not necessarily…That’s what christianity teaches, I’m not convinced that’s what Jesus taught.

    Comment by mjackson75 | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  4. I don’t think they are central to the issue, nor the root of the issue. Because everything asserted about Jesus generally comes ultimately from the Bible, specifically the New Testament, I think the central issue is whether the New Testament is factual. One can demonstrate immediately that it is not. Jesus is quoted as having said that he would be returning quickly (the so-called “Second Coming.” He did not return quickly — in fact he did not return at all.

    As for Internet articles critical of Strobel, there is such an abundance that I am sure any search engine will turn up quite enough to keep you busy for a while.

    Comment by hokku | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  5. One last thought…

    I think you may be approaching this whole discussion with Atheists the wrong way. Right now, your questions are centered on Christianity. I understand that, since you are a Christian. However, Atheism isn’t just a rejection of Christianity, it’s a rejection of God. I think you need to center your arguments around the plausibility of God before trying to tackle Christianity.

    Comment by mjackson75 | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  6. Big Ham,

    So you’ve decided to dive off into the deep end of the pool, huh? That’s my friendly way of saying “best of luck” (even though I don’t believe in luck – you catch my drift) in your conversations with atheists.

    A Christian dialoguing with atheists is always interesting, and I hope both sides are fair and above the usual methods of internet arguing – meaning I hope each sides is respectful and avoids personal attacks. It has been my personal experience that “intellectual” bullying of Christians has become socially acceptable. Get ready, brother. Somewhere in Matthew 10 Jesus says that he is sending us out as sheep among the wolves, and he warns us to be shrewd as snakes yet innocent as doves.

    I would encourage you to not be intimidated or discouraged in your debates. Being mocked or ridiculed for your beliefs will happen. Don’t respond hastily or emotionally. It can take years and years of careful study to be fully equipped to defend a belief system, and I suspect you will encounter many well thought out counterpoints to your arguments.

    I’ve also experienced that a non-Christian will often attack your faith through your pride or ego. Enter your conversations with humility and love; render your ego an impossible target for your adversary to hit. Ephesians 4:2 says to be humble and gentle, patient, and bearing with each other in love.

    I look forward to reading a bit as this goes along. I remember my days of engaging in apologetic discussions on the campus of UT. Interesting stuff…

    Comment by Kates | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  7. Ok, I’ll bite.

    Your questions strongly echo the Pascale’s Wager argument. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but if you haven’t, you should read up on it and its flaws. When I received a Catholic education, even my teachers recognized the problems with Pascale’s Wager.

    I’ll just give you a brief overview of those problems. First, you could use the same argument for any sort of God that promises any sort of infinite reward/punishment for believing/disbelieving Him or Her. I could even make up more gods, and to most atheists, these new gods are just as likely. Second, most can’t “choose” to believe based only on the consequences of the beliefs. If anything, Pascale’s Wager promotes the worst sort of belief–belief based on fear. Third, why should a god worthy of respect punish people for disbelief? The entire game God supposedly set up seems rigged to me. How do we know that he (and his messengers) are being honest rather than “testing” people?

    There you go. Winning converts will not be so easy. I wish you luck in finding civil discussions.

    Comment by miller | October 17, 2007 | Reply

  8. I totally agree with you on Pascal’s wager. I do not believe that the fear of hell alone is going to make much of a difference in anybody’s beliefs. When I was an atheist, Pascal’s wager had no effect on my beliefs, and I don’t expect it to be any different with other atheists.

    However, I think that hell is a very important part of the greatest news there is. Because I believe that God is greater than any human mind can conceive, I think that hell is more terrible than our simple worldly minds can fathom. I believe that the worse hell is, the better God is for allowing us a way to avoid hell. And the worse hell is, the better heaven is, because it is an alternative to hell in adition to all of the positive characteristics of heaven.

    Also, I think that the fear of hell can play a part in converting atheists. Once again, I don’t expect the fear of hell to change anybody’s beliefs. But if you do rationally consider Christianity as a viable option, then I think the fear of hell should cause you to take a close look at the evidence for both sides. And I think it should cause you to make sure that you don’t reject information that opposes your beliefs without due consideration.

    Comment by bigham | October 18, 2007 | Reply

  9. Many atheists, I think, would agree with you that it is important to consider both sides, at least until a cursory glance convinces them that religion has no substance.

    However, you’re talking to someone who disagrees even on this point. As much as I enjoy thinking out my philosophy, I am unconvinced that it is necessary for everyone to do so. Not only do I reject Pascal’s Wager (no longer misspelled) as an argument for theism, I also reject it as an argument that theism must be given any more consideration than, you know, the flying spaghetti monster. I do not think people interested in philosophy deserve privilege over people more interested in, say, sports.

    But again, I think I am in the minority here, because the people who would agree with me probably stay away from atheism/theism discussions.

    Comment by miller | October 19, 2007 | Reply

  10. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

    Comment by Maximus | December 20, 2007 | Reply

  11. Maximus, thanks for your comment and your interest. Did you mean that you would like to see more interaction here, or another blog along these lines?
    Just curious.

    Thanks again,
    David

    Comment by bigham | December 21, 2007 | Reply


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