1. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 13:38
    This is an experiment, and like all good experiments the outcome is not clear - it could be interesting, but it could also fall flat on its proverbial face...

    With very few exceptions, most threads in this Forum discuss subjects that have been discussed ad nauseum umpteen times before - like creation, evolution, eternal damnation, etc. In none of these umpteen threads was there ever a conclusion where one side acknowldeged the validity of the other side's position. The thread fizzles out - only to be resurrected with another claim and YouTube link a few days later.

    In this context, the matter has been raised as to what is Rational, what is simply Belief, and how we come to hold any belief that we may have.

    Also, from the Fundamental Christian side, the ultimate authority always quoted is the Holy Bible. But that is (as has been pointed out numerous times) totally useless in any discussion with somebody who does not accept the validity of the Bible as authoritative. It would be like using Grimms Fairy Tales, or Shakespeare, to prove an incident of history to someone who considers both to be works of fiction.

    So here's the deal: I am prepared to put myself on the line and promise to answer as simply and honestly as I can any question anybody might want to put to me concerning my beliefs, and my reasons for holding them. I only reserve the right to terminate a discussion if it appears to deteriorate into aggression, slander or ridicule.

    With Christians, I may argue from the Bible, (if it is relevant) ; with atheists I promise to stay far away from any author or source that is not mutually acceptable.

    For the record, (and to kick things off):
    - I am a theist of the Christian tradition
    - I believe that the ToE provides the best explanation for the diversity of life on earth, although it does not pronounce itself on the origins of life itself,
    - I believe that the doctrine of Eternal Damnation is insulting to God and unsupportable biblically
    - I further believe that every creature on earth has the spark of God in them and deserves our respect - this includes (especially so!) all those of the human variety with whom we may violently disagree.

    Something else that you might want to know - I have seen more summers than GB and RJH claim to have seen, so I can attest to a fair deal of practical experience on this third rock from the sun.

    Here goes - any takers?

    CJ
  2. Cape Town
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    14 Jun '14 13:45
    Originally posted by CalJust
    This is an experiment, and like all good experiments the outcome is not clear - it could be interesting, but it could also fall flat on its proverbial face...

    With very few exceptions, most threads in this Forum discuss subjects that have been discussed ad nauseum umpteen times before - like creation, evolution, eternal damnation, etc. In none of these um ...[text shortened]... r deal of practical experience on this third rock from the sun.

    Here goes - any takers?

    CJ
    I would have loved to give my take on why threads fizzle out, but I guess this is not the right place for that.
    So here goes:
    1. Do you consider the Bible to be the word of God in its entirety. If so, what are your reasons for this belief?
    2. What are the main reasons why you think God exists and that Christianity is the correct religion?
  3. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 16:141 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I would have loved to give my take on why threads fizzle out, but I guess this is not the right place for that.
    So here goes:
    1. Do you consider the Bible to be the word of God in its entirety. If so, what are your reasons for this belief?
    2. What are the main reasons why you think God exists and that Christianity is the correct religion?
    Thank you twhitehead. Characteristically two very pertinent questions.

    1. No, I do not consider the Bible to be verbally inspired, i.e. that every word is directly the Word of God.

    There are several reasons for this, some obvious and some not so. Firstly, there ARE many contradictions in the Bible, which people have tried to explain away with various degrees of success. For example, the different accounts of the resurrection in the gospels cannot all be right; and this would indicate that these were indeed eye-witness reports, but (just as happens today with any car accident) people remember stuff differently. but the authors wrote honestly what they remember they saw.

    Secondly, very clearly many portions of the Bible, particularly in the OT but equally in the NT, are directed at a particular culture with particular beliefs. This would confirm that in the primary instance one should interpret such passages in the way they were presumably INTENDED for the hearers of the day, and you and I have had a discussion on that subject.

    I believe that the Bible was inspired probably in the same way as any Christian writer's books today are inspired. If you take the WHOLE of current belief and consider what "gels" you will soon pick out what is closest to the Truth (as you understand it). After all, we are told that we have the SAME Holy Spirit as they had.

    Also, the books of the Bible were (as you well know) collected at some church council (Trent?) were the Canon was agreed on out of a hundred odd other books. Who is really to say what was "inspired" and what not?

    Having said that, there does seem to be a consistent and non-contradictory thread running through the 66 books of the Bible which is uniquely different from any similar set of ancient literature (if such exists) that spans several millennia. This indicates that there is, after all, something very special about the Bible.

    If the bible is merely literature (I hear you say) why do I take it seriously? Another good question, but that will touch on your next question.

    2. Actually, this question is made up of two distinct parts, and I will split them accordingly.

    2a. Why do i think God exists? Here I must confess that this is totally subjective. I was raised in a very strict Calvinistic household, where God was the Great Policeman In the Sky who saw everything that you did and approved of very little. I lived in constant fear - actually, I believe that I related some of this in another thread some months back.
    However, as I began to think for myself, (this happened round about age 15-16) I had some amazing personal encounters with God. Without going into detail, these consisted of very specific prayers which were answered in very specific and unique ways. Once would have been a coincidence, even twice. But during one year I had three of these experiences. This turned my picture of god on its head.

    Much later, after many meanderings through several Christian denominations, I experienced as an adult, together with my wife, several more such unique experiences. This shouted to me: God is real, and He is interested in me and loves me.

    I have resisted from sharing these with many other people, because i have often heard that : personal experiences are flawed, subject to (hear this!) even demon activity, you cannot build doctrine on it, etc etc. However, my experience has been like that of the story of the man related in the Bible who was born blind and healed by Jesus. The scholars of the day said to him: Impossible! This man is a sinner, so how can he heal? And the response was (as is mine) "I cannot tell you how it works, or why it happens, but what I CAN say is that i know I was blind, and now i can see".

    A similar sentiment was expressed by the person who said: "the man with an experience is never at the mercy of the man with an argument".

    Yes, i have seen Christians fall by the wayside and renounce their faith - as has been recorded on this site. But i will venture the guess that such persons have never truly experienced for themselves an intervention of the divine. Have I been lucky, or specially favoured? I would have to confess, with all humility, yes, and for the life of me I cannot tell why.

    2b. Is Christianity (or more generally my own religion) the correct religion and why?

    This is currently in my life the most difficult question. In another thread I have related the hypothetical problem of ten people representing the world's most common religions (including atheists) answering this question in the affirmative as relating to themselves. One cannot avoid the simple conclusion that EACH AND EVERY one of them has the same right to claim for their religion what I claim for mine, i.e. Being the Ultimate Truth.

    This inevitably brings me to my own concept of god, and who she really is. This god, who has deigned to interact with me on the occasions that I have related, cannot be confined to the "Christian box". Why should everybody else be so wrong? How could it be possible that this merciful and loving god NOT have revealed herself to all these other nations, but only to the Middle East?

    My disillusionment with current mainline Christianity (as demonstrated in its raw excesses only too clearly on RHP) could not dampen, never mind kill, my strong belief that I HAD experienced the divine, and needed to bring the two into harmony.

    My son becoming an ardent Buddhist catalyzed my further enquiry into other religions, and I found only good, loving and kind people - people who lived out the teachings of Jesus which most Christians blatantly ignored. Then I was reminded of the many verses in the bible about god being the God of ALL the earth, and ALL people. That is why I say that I see the spark of god in Buddhists, in Muslims and (yes!) also in atheists.

    Which brings me to this final conclusion:
    1. God is far bigger than Christianity
    2. I respect every other persons world view and belief. I may not agree with them, and I will be willing to share mine (as I do now) with them, but I will not declare them wrong or going to hell.
    3. However, I cannot be a spiritual hermit, or smorgasbord diner, I have to have a base which I call home. And this is Christianity, because for better or worse, it best fits with my experiences and is the "box" that I found myself in when I was born. Yet I accept most other boxes as valid expressions of spirituality.

    Thanks for listening. Sorry this became so long. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
  4. Standard membervivify
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    14 Jun '14 16:20
    It seems like you don't believe in hell, is that right? If so, why?
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    14 Jun '14 16:332 edits
    Originally posted by CalJust
    Thank you twhitehead. Characteristically two very pertinent questions.

    1. No, I do not consider the Bible to be [b]verbally inspired,
    i.e. that every word is directly the Word of God.

    There are several reasons for this, some obvious and some not so. Firstly, there ARE many contradictions in the Bible, which people have tried to explain away with va ...[text shortened]... pirituality.

    Thanks for listening. Sorry this became so long. Enjoy the rest of your weekend![/b]
    A similar sentiment was expressed by the person who said: "the man with an experience is never at the mercy of the man with an argument".


    Based on your testimony that points to your personal experience as the foundation of your faith, a corollary to the above would be that the man who has not had such a personal experience is never at the mercy of a man who claims to have had one. Presumably, mutual respect of that difference is due.
  6. Standard memberDeepThought
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    14 Jun '14 16:421 edit
    Originally posted by CalJust
    Thank you twhitehead. Characteristically two very pertinent questions.

    1. No, I do not consider the Bible to be [b]verbally inspired,
    i.e. that every word is directly the Word of God.

    There are several reasons for this, some obvious and some not so. Firstly, there ARE many contradictions in the Bible, which people have tried to explain away with va ...[text shortened]... pirituality.

    Thanks for listening. Sorry this became so long. Enjoy the rest of your weekend![/b]
    It's rare I rec a post from a theist, but I think that one deserved it. Thankyou for sharing your thinking. As to a question, based on what you were saying you seem to believe that all belief systems are at least to some extent valid. Do you therefore think that all religions are aspects of a meta-religion? By meta-religion I am trying to express oneness, I was a little stumped for a word as I got to the end of the sentence. I hope the rest of your weekend is a good one too.
  7. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 16:59
    Originally posted by vivify
    It seems like you don't believe in hell, is that right? If so, why?
    There are probably objective and subjective reasons.

    The objective reason would be that it was a relatively recent doctrine, first found in the late Middle Ages. (I speak under correction here, I do not profess to be a Biblical Scholar. ) the purpose apparently, was to "keep the troops in line". As you know, until the fifteenth century the Catholic Church was the only church, and Luther rebelled during the Reformation against the doctrine of Purgatory (a variation of the hellfire doctrine) which was the source of much-needed funds for the Church. ("As soon as the coin in the bucket rings, the soul from purgatory springs."😉

    The OT certainly did not teach hellfire, but Gehenna, a place of waiting. Jesus spoke about it metaphorically in the verses about chopping of your arm to escape hellfire, which can be interpreted in many ways, certainly not literal. Also, the story of the poor man and rich Lazarus was clearly a parable, as I related elsewhere.

    But for me the strongest argument is the subjective one - what kind of God do we REALLY serve? Rob Bell said it better than me in his book "Love Wins", where he asks the question: DOES GOD GET WHAT HE WANTS AT THE END? This is not a rhetorical question, but a deeply significant one. What kind of a God constructs a universe in which a small fraction, say 10 per cent, of the people get rewarded with eternal bliss, and the majority with unmeasurable, unthinkable torture for ever and ever? No matter how you want to twist the bible to say that "God does not send you there, he offers the FREE GIFT to you which you must accept or reject", the simple fact of the matter is would God have created the universe if he knew (as he must have) that this was the outcome?

    In an earlier thread I asked the question: Is god more cruel than the worst sadist you know? My answer is a resounding NO, but you must answer the question for yourself.
  8. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 17:04
    Originally posted by JS357


    Based on your testimony that points to your personal experience as the foundation of your faith, a corollary to the above would be that the man who has not had such a personal experience is never at the mercy of a man who claims to have had one. Presumably, mutual respect of that difference is due.
    Absolutely.
  9. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 17:10
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    It's rare I rec a post from a theist, but I think that one deserved it. Thankyou for sharing your thinking. Do you therefore think that all religions are aspects of a meta-religion? By meta-religion I am trying to express oneness, I was a little stumped for a word as I got to the end of the sentence. I hope the rest of your weekend is a good one too.
    Thanks for the rec.

    Yes, I believe that there is far more that we do NOT understand, than what we think we do understand. Maybe meta-religion is a good word that needs more circulation.

    I am reminded of Mark Twains famous words (and I paraphrase):
    Our biggest problems are not caused by what we do not know,
    but by what we know for sure that just ain't so!
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    14 Jun '14 17:431 edit
    Do you believe in the results-getting power of petitionary prayer?

    When multiple believers gather together to pray for a result, is the result more likely to pan out than if only one of them prayed for it?

    Do you believe God is absolutely sovereign? I.e., does He refuse to cede even a small amount of sovereignty to the will of humans? (If "Yes," then explain how such a thing meshes with petitionary prayer from humans.)

    Do nonhuman animals suffer? If so, did they suffer even before the first humans sinned?

    A certain Christian blogger grudgingly admits that there are minor errors in modern translations of the Bible, but insists that the original manuscripts were totally error-free. If you agree with him on that--and I did say "if"--how well does this mesh with the Bible's statement that God "is no respecter of persons"? In other words, why would God treat early believers to a perfect revelation, and later believers to a somewhat shoddy copy of it?
  11. Cape Town
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    14 Jun '14 18:231 edit
    Originally posted by CalJust
    Thanks for listening.
    Thank you for the honest answers.

    I do not know what your exact experiences were so don't take anything I say to be direct criticism of them in particular.
    In my experience, (and also confirmed in a course on rational thinking I did recently), people often make very poor judgments about many things, including coincidences and how likely they are to occur and whether or not they indicate causation. There are a variety of explanations for this and we all do it from time to time, and in fact even experts on the subject admit to being unable to totally cure themselves of such errors. However, with knowledge of the types of errors we make and if we take our time and look at specific cases we can usually figure out the correct conclusion.
    So my first guess would be that you incorrectly attributed coincidence to evidence for God.

    But lets for a moment suppose that God exists and your prayers really were answered. This has always bothered me as being totally irrational. Why would God only help you out when you ask? Why does he not help you out every time you ask? And why does he answer so few prayers that it is practically impossible to distinguish people who pray from people who don't by looking at their success or other measures of well being? In other words, why does his answering your prayers have such minimal effect overall? Does he send some extra hardship your way to counter balance the answered prayers?
  12. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 19:22
    Originally posted by Paul Dirac II
    Originally posted by Paul Dirac II

    Woah! How many questions is that?! Looks like a theological treatise required!

    Do you believe in the results-getting power of petitionary prayer?

    I believe God answers prayer and doesn't. Which he does when is sometimes very confusing.

    When multiple believers gather together to pray for a result, is the result more likely to pan out than if only one of them prayed for it?

    I am not aware of any statistical study on this matter ever having been done. The Bible does refer to "two or three gathering together there am I in the midst of them" and also of believers gathering together in prayer, but, as I said, the differences between that and solo prayer is mainly anecdotal.

    However, one thing which seems to be true is that there is comfort in several people together gathering and prayin towards a common cause.

    Do you believe God is absolutely sovereign? I.e., does He refuse to cede even a small amount of sovereignty to the will of humans? (If "Yes," then explain how such a thing meshes with petitionary prayer from humans.)

    Please don't expect me to solve riddles which have kept whole groups of theologians busy for centuries! Here you refer to the Armenian/Calvinism debate. Is God sovereign? Yes! Do we have free will? Yes! In this, as in many, many other instances I absolutely refuse to be forced into dualistic thinking. I cannot explain it here in such a short space, but it involves "Yes- And" thinking rather than "Either - Or". Confusing? Absolutely. A cop out? i don't think so.

    Do nonhuman animals suffer? If so, did they suffer even before the first humans sinned?

    I am pretty sure that they do, and because I do not believe the Garden of Eden was literal, but a beautiful and illustrative poem, I am also sure that animals have suffered for millions of years before Mrs Ples.

    A certain Christian blogger grudgingly admits that there are minor errors in modern translations of the Bible, but insists that the original manuscripts were totally error-free. If you agree with him on that--and I did say "if"

    I do not agree with that, so the rest of your question falls away.

    How did I do?
  13. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    14 Jun '14 19:34
    Originally posted by CalJust
    This is an experiment, and like all good experiments the outcome is not clear - it could be interesting, but it could also fall flat on its proverbial face...

    With very few exceptions, most threads in this Forum discuss subjects that have been discussed ad nauseum umpteen times before - like creation, evolution, eternal damnation, etc. In none of these umpte ...[text shortened]... fair deal of practical experience on this third rock from the sun.

    Here goes - any takers?

    CJ
    Originally posted by CalJust
    "So here's the deal: I am prepared to put myself on the line and promise to answer as simply and honestly as I can any question anybody might want to put to me concerning my beliefs, and my reasons for holding them..." (OP)

    Interesting and bold experiment, CJ. I applaud your initiative. One question/request: May I have your eternal address?
  14. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 19:411 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    But lets for a moment suppose that God exists and your prayers really were answered. This has always bothered me as being totally irrational. Why would God only help you out when you ask? Why does he not help you out every time you ask? And why does he answer so few prayers that it is practically impossible to distinguish people who pray from people who don't by looking at their success or other measures of well being?
    Firstly, please do not think for a moment that the possibility of an answered prayer being mere coincidence has not occurred to me - or anybody else. That is ALWAYS the default reason; remember Occham's Razor.

    All I can say is that for me the "piles of rocks along my path" (as I like to call them after the instruction that Moses gave the Israelites to build little rock monuments whenever something momentous happened to them) have been an encouragement to me when my prayers were NOT answered.

    Why do some prayers get answered and some not? Who can tell?! God is not Father Christmas, nor is she your Fairy Godmother.

    Please understand that I answered your first question of your last post only, which was "why do I believe in God". If you ask me a secondary question, which is "why does God answer prayer at all, and why only sometimes?" I have to confess that I don't have a cookin' clue!
  15. Standard memberCalJust
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    14 Jun '14 19:46
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Interesting and bold experiment, CJ. I applaud your initiative. One question/request: May I have your eternal address?
    Sure thing, Bobby.

    Since eternity has no beginning and no end, my current address in this portion of eternity is 27 Maldon Manor, Garsfontein Rd, Pretoria.
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