47 Comments

But What About…?

“Jesus didn’t really exist.” “The Bible was written by a bunch of illiterate goat herders.” “Christianity just borrowed from other religions.” Have you ever heard any of these objections from people when you are attempting to explain the gospel to them? I have. These and several others tend to be the standard roadblocks that people will use to shield themselves from the truth of God’s word. In most cases, the person who is asking these questions really is not all that concerned with the actual answer. If you establish that Jesus really did exist, or that the Bible has the single greatest number of manuscript copies in antiquity, or that 80% of people, locations and events described in the Bible have been archaeologically proven, then they will move to “Well, what about slavery?” Or, “you’re supposed to stone your disobedient child, why aren’t you doing that??” Quite simply, these questions are not to elicit an actual response, they are actually roadblocks to get you off course and so tied up, the asker can then feel he has taken the intellectual high ground by asking you questions you did not have an answer for.

So what is the Christian supposed to do with these questions? Well, first off, attempt to recognize whether they are asking genuine questions or not. Believe it or not, there are some folks who are genuinely trying to understand how we Christians can believe such stuff. They are being raised up in a culture that has told them religion is nothing but a personal experience, so truth really is not a consideration. When they hear the name Jesus, they think along the lines of “Zeus” or “Thor”. It’s just mythology. So when they are presented with the belief that Jesus existed and the Bible records what He said, they can’t believe we believe this. So allow them the opportunity to ask questions. In time, either by the rapid fire nature of the questions, or by the fact they simply ignore the answer, the sincerity of the questions can be determined.

But I would encourage my fellow Christians to start learning some basic apologetics knowledge. While proving Jesus really walked the earth, or knowing the number of manuscripts in existence cannot convert the wicked rebellious heart, it can demonstrate that our faith is not blind or unreasonable. It can demonstrate to the unbeliever we take what we believe seriously. We aren’t just “ignorant goat herders” following a myth like blind lemmings. Such evidence can provide structural support to the overall understanding of the gospel message.

Now, as I mentioned before, most questions and objections brought up really will have little to do with gaining actual understanding of the Christian faith. Rather, they are like the infamous smoke screen released by James Bond’s Aston Martin to blind his pursuers as he made his getaway. Just like the smokescreen would cause the pursuers to lose sight of the road and likely drive off of it, these questions are designed to side track you into secondary issues. Discussions regarding who actually approved of what books in the Bible, evolution vs. creation, and that somehow today we are far smarter than those poor souls 2000 years ago, really aren’t about raising genuine concerns they have so much as they do not want to discuss the core issue of Christianity, that they are sinners in the hands of a righteous, holy God.
The heart of the unregenerate is bound up in sin. It’s daily appetite is for the things of this world. It can be a full dive into hedonistic pleasures or it can be the simple life where white lies and coveting are a daily occurrence. Yet, the heart of a lost person cannot see these actions and thoughts as the sins that they are. Just as we once did, they will compare themselves to each other and think, “I’m not so bad.” Or they might feel the sting of regret when the consequences of such actions bear fruit. But in the end, there is no real sense of conviction for sin being sin. Yet, when the law of God, His righteous standard, is brought upon them, they cannot but feel the weight of His judgment upon themselves. The unregenerate man must find a way out from under this or be crushed by it. Thus, the peppering of questions is but one method a person may employ to achieve this.

So how does one handle this situation. I suggest that there are a few ways that you can address it. First off, you can politely suggest that those questions be tabled for a short time. This is not a means of avoiding the questions mind you. We should be willing to go back to them if needed. However, in doing this, we can continue in the addressing their core problem, which is their sin against God. Once they understand the nature of sin and the need for grace, if they truly wish to discuss those matters, we can return to them.

Another way was once demonstrated to me by Tony Miano, a member of the Living Waters evangelism ministry and an open air preacher. He asked the person he was talking to a simple question. “If I answer every one of your questions, will you then be willing to bend the knee and worship Jesus as your Lord?” That person indicated they would not. Most likely, the questioner you are talking to will likewise confess that the questions were not really all that important, allowing us to once again address where they stand before the Lord.

A final means is, if a person is simply unwilling to engage in a intelligent discussion without lobbing loaded accusations and questions, is to break off the witnessing encounter. The simple fact is that there are some hearts so hardened that they simply will not listen. You could have all the answers, you could take them to every single scripture and prove it to be true, you could overcome every obstacle, but this person may have only one goal in mind. To tie you up and keep you from doing your God given duty to share the gospel. While I cannot tell you at what time you have to make this decision, because each one is different, there has to come a point when you determine that there are a lot of lost souls out there that need to hear the gospel as much as this person. If they are not willing to hear, then graciously move on. Remember, we are but the messengers, it is God who does the converting.

So as Christians who are commanded to evangelize the lost, remember this: there are questions out there that you have to deal with. Some are genuine, others are smoke screens. Develop a basic knowledge of apologetics, not so we can win people through them, but to strengthen our witness encounters. Be prepared for those who are attempting to obfuscate the issue and stay central to the matter at hand. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, learn to to witness biblically. The Bible makes it clear, the law of God brings conviction to the heart of the sinner, the grace of Christ is what converts him. Show the person the nature of their sin, that it is an offense to God that must be judged. When he feels the heat of judgment upon him, bring him to the foot of the blood stained cross, showing him this is where his sin was paid for. Lead him to the empty tomb, to show him his Savior’s power of death. And show him the gates of heaven that are open if he would but repent and place his faith in Jesus Christ alone.

About Chris Hohnholz

Born again believer in Jesus Christ • Co-Host, Producer, All Around Gofer Monkey at Cross Encounters Radio

47 comments on “But What About…?

  1. Good point…I like the balance here between the need for apologetics, evangelism and also the awareness that man suppresses the truth…we need to also probe them with the question of whether or not they will bow the knee if they have their questions answered!

  2. I’ve not only seen those types of shuck-n-jive objections from unbelievers Chris, I’ve seen them from Arminians too!

    Todd
    Texas

  3. I have a funny feeling that I may have inspired this essay. If so, I’m glad I could serve as a muse. As a writer I know how elusive inspiration can be at times. However, one could easily switch all of this to the other side and arrive at the same conclusion: ‘There is no deconverting a Christian, that is up to the grace of ‘God’ aka their hearts, emotions, etc.’
    And by the way (assuming you are, in part, responding to me with this essay), I don’t think we are any smarter than people 2,000 years ago. If anything, I think we are dumber. But human psychology remains the same. A desperate need for complete answers to unknowable questions remains unchanged. And therein lies the reason religions’ continue to dominate the earth, despite amazing new advances in our basic understanding of the structure of human life and the world in the last few centuries.
    For example, we have the ability to clone a human being today. What does that make us? What does that make the clone?
    And finally, yes, the Bible stories are mythology, no matter how many copies you can find laying about. This simply show the Jewish people were serious about saving their culture and identity through the ages of exile and separation. It’s a rather human trait to want to be remembered. And by mythology, I mean that the Bible is heavily based on verbal legends and stories passed down through generations, meaning some things, especially places, will likely be true. Just as many of the places represented in Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ have been proven to really exist as well. Does that make EVERY other part of Homer’s story true?
    I am not blind to truth. And if you could answer all of these contradictions and questions satisfactorily, I would be convinced of your faith’s reality. But you can’t. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you know you can’t. And therein lies the rub. It truly is a psychologically and emotionally based belief, as all religions and supernatural concepts are.
    But the good news, from the human desire to be part of a group, is that you are far from alone in this. In fact it is me who is in the minority, as at least 80% of the globe believe in some holy book and some god or gods, just as firmly as you believe in yours.
    However, despite your genuine belief to the contrary, I feel no judgment upon me. None from Allah, none from YHWH, none from Moroni, none et al.
    In fact what I feel is free, free at last. And this is why I share my thoughts. Not to judge, but rather to offer psychological and emotional freedom to those who would have ears to hear and eyes to see. But I get it, an eternity in heaven is hard to give up.

  4. Aram, your comment is on the page. Perhaps try and refresh it, should pop right up. Regarding the inspiration for this article, while our conversation on the other article adressed some of this, it is not the sole inspiration. I have spent much time sharing the gospel with people and have heard these objections on numerous occasions. My intent in this article is to encourage Christians to continue sharing the gospel, and how to deal with these objections when they arise. And as I said in my previous comments Aram, the issue for you has nothing to do with these objections despite this new claim. You stated yourself you have no interest in being convinced. Your objections therefore fall into the category of smokescreen. I would continue to contend that your primary objection is you do not want God telling you what is sin and holding you accountable for it. Until you address that, these other objections will hold no satisfaction for you no matter how well they are answered. Thanks for checking out this article as well. Love talking with you.

  5. My primary objective is the pursuit of truth, wherever it may lie, without preconceived notions getting in the way, in so much as I am humanly able to achieve this. That is all.

  6. Yep, I’ve confronted people with all kinds of assertions especially when I used to go in the yahoo C.C. a few years back. It was awful. Good thing was, I did learn how to defend the faith much better and learn God’s word more and grow some thick skin on me and learn to let criticisms roll off me like water off a seal.
    I’ve shared the gospel and my faith with people I work with and they don’t seem to ever really put of any obfuscations. They will usually give me the respect of at least listening. Last one I shared with just last week, thought he was a good person. I explained to him that we all are wicked. and the gospel best I could. I thanked God that I was able to share with him.

    so all in all people seem better in listening in real life than on the internet.

    There are some good points on this blog. Learn to leave and move on with certain people.

  7. Aram,

    You claim that you desire truth without any preconceived notions getting in the way. That’s a noble pursuit, to be sure. One thought…..I’ve read your comments from this thread as well as one of Chris’ other threads, and they are FULL of your own preconceived notions and/or presuppositions. I don’t personally believe you desire truth, you desire to spread your relativistic, universalist opinions in this blog. Just my two-cents.

    Hear the truth………This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. It’s only by His saving grace that this wretch, who was once blind and spiritually dead, can now see and has eternal life.

    Todd
    Texas

  8. Todd
    I was going to post something very similar to what you have already done , ie , the most important truth is that Christ died for sinners. This truth is aligned with that of another truth , found in 1 Cor 1:18;

    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which
    are saved it is the power of God.

    I agree that we should always be prepared to defend the gospel and to answer those who sincerely seek , but ultimately , our commission is to faithfully preach the true gospel , the rest is for the Holy Spirit to build the church as God has preordained.

  9. It’s a simple fact that if you were born in a different part of the world, you would most likely believe whatever religion was in that cultural upbringing, just as much if not more as you believe the Christian one from being born in North America. And your arguments would be just as strong for this other religion, and just as certain all others, including Christianity, were dead wrong. If you cannot see this simply truth, then alas, I doubt you can see anything clearly.

  10. But what if you made a decision to become a Christian after you had researched other religions, and found them lacking?

  11. It’s not a matter of making a decision to become a Christian, or researching religions, or what part of the globe you reside, or what cultural influences one has had, or striving, or doing, or “willing.” Salvation is of the Lord. He draws His chosen people to Himself, through His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ and the ONLY way to God the Father, by the Holy Spirit.

    As far as salvation goes, God is the author and the finisher. He’s the beginning and the end, and everything in the middle.

    Lastly, thanks to the God Almighty, I do see clearly Aram. He freed me from my blindness when He opened-up my eyes and my heart many years ago.

    Todd
    Texas

  12. Some do, it’s true. Maybe 5%. Just as some people leave Christianity to join other faiths. I personally know a few Christians who are now Buddhists. However, for the most part, people do not leave their faith of birth. We are emotional creatures, and we want to believe in something more. I get it. And why not stick with our friends and family and countrymen. But it doesn’t make anything true, just because we ‘feel it’. I have spent the last 15 years travelling around the world. I lived in Cairo. I lived in Phnom Penh. I lived in Barcelona. I lived in Vancouver. I lived with a hill tribe in northern Thailand. I lived in a lot of places. From Muslims to Buddhists to Catholics to Protestants to Sikhs etc, I have found the trends remain the same. Those who were naturally loving people, found love in their beliefs. And those who were naturally judgmental, found judgement in their beliefs. I cannot judge a person’s faith, and that is not my intention here. However, what irks me is the judgments people of faith so often find in each other. For every one truly loving person of religion, there are another twenty filled with zealotry in their righteousness. This is human nature. They judge the wrongness of the rest, to varying degrees of inflicted suffering, and I see mostly pain created from their rituals, not love. Now, I don’t know what the answer is to the greater picture of our existence. Maybe there is none? But what I do see is that religion continues to cause more harm than peace, and this is why I am against it.

  13. Forgive me if I am wrong, but are you making the assumption that Christians have not travelled anywhere and do not see the same things that you see?

  14. I see people believing genuinely. Christians see people lost to false religions, doomed to hell. So you’re right, I don’t think Christians see the same things as me.

    and Todd, I guess this means that Indonesians, for example, are really not the Bible God’s kind of chosen people. He calls so few of them to Him. And there are plenty more places I could bring up where the percentage of people who AREN’T Christian is astronomical. Sucks to be them I guess. Lucky you being born in the so-called Western World, home of the one true faith. Phew, eh.

  15. Aram, I’m surprised to still see you on here. Thought you’d given up on us as hopelessly arrogant Bible thumpers. :-)

    The issue isn’t whether or not there are others who believe in a faith they were raised with. The issue is whether you, Aram, understand that you have sinned against God. That God, who is perfect, holy and just will condemn you for it. That Jesus Christ died to pay the price of that judgment. That to receive forgiveness, you must repent and place your faith in Jesus.

    Unless you come to that point Aram, all the rest of this is merely academic debate. Good to hear from again.

  16. Depressing point of view, really.

    “Those who were naturally loving people, found love in their beliefs. And those who were naturally judgmental, found judgement in their beliefs.”

    I’m glad I believe in the power of God to change people.

  17. It sounds to me like you are trying to find a loophole in Peter 3:15.

    After all it does not say “always be ready to answer questions – unless the person asking them has an agenda”.

    It also sounds like you are not open to the possibility that you might be wrong.

    I apologise if I am wrong on these points – but often when I am asking questions, to try and understand why people believe what they do, eventually people say something like “why are you here Pete?” like they don’t like hearing the opposing point of view.

    Regards,
    Pete

  18. I concur.

    It really is a depressing view of the world, people, and life in general. Without hope. Without joy. Without an anchor. Without a filter to see and experience the world.

    Folks with such strong presuppositional, academic debate tendancies, coupled with either a universalist, atheistic, or agnostic view of the “one thing needful,” in their arrogance, prove that the heart of man is desperately wicked. I’m thankful that, as a former desperately wicked person, the Lord took pity upon me, saved me, changed me, and continues to pour out His infinite grace upon me to sanctify me in my pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem.

    Todd
    Texas

  19. “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)

    The greatest answer to the hope that lies within us is not manuscript evidence or proving creation over evolution. The greatest answer is that Jesus Christ died to take the punishment I deserve. I must get to that issue before I try to answer anything else. There is no loophole finding here. In fact, if you re-read my article, I stated emphatically that Christians should develop apologetics knowledge to answer true questions when someone is genuinely asking them. But for those who ignore the answers, or attempt to just pepper question after question after question, this is a person who is trying to avoid that first and most important issue. That is where we need to keep the matter focused.

  20. I Peter 3:15 isn’t talking about apologetics or on-going debates. It was written to a persecuted church, people who were facing trial by fire, and encouraging them to be bold and always ready to speak out for Christ, even if it was going to cost them their lives.

    I’m not denigrating the value of apologetics, just saying that those who use that verse to support it are using the wrong verse. And it matters, because as Pete’s comment shows, if you view that as a command to engage in apologetics / debates, then you can never walk away — but Christ told us there is a time to walk away.

  21. Where does Christ say that there is a time to walk away from such questions?

  22. Your question neglects the context of my article. I began by stating that sometimes such questions are asked out of genuine sincerity and Christians should have apologetical knowledge so that they can be answered. However, often times such “what about this” questions are not sincere, but an attempt to obfuscate that actual discussion of the person’s sinfulness before God. Therefore, the Christian can offer to table the apologetical questions until the more imoprtant matter is resolved, or ask if every single apologetical question were answered would the person now worship Christ, or, ultimately determine the asker is simply trying to engage in pointless arguing. The first two options do not neglect the apologetical questions, but frame them within proper context of getting to the issue of sin and the gospel first. The final option addresses the point at which we no longer “cast pearls before swine.”

  23. Sorry Chris my question was directed at Jon when he said “but Christ told us there is a time to walk away”.

  24. Thanks for the clarification Pete. I do believe that the command to not cast pearls before swine would be applicable however. As we witness to people, we can make a determination that someone has no interest in Christ and simply wants to argue. At that point, walking away would be appropriate.

  25. Matthew 10:14 – And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

    Matthew 7:6 – Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

    And an interesting, applicable quote:
    John 12:48 – There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.

    Being that men harden their hearts to the gospel, and sear their consciences as well, we have the option to walk away. It is, indeed, a difficult position to reach with a lost soul, and should not be reached without much prayer and patience, but I don’t believe the Lord would chasten a Christian for doing so.

    Todd
    Texas

  26. Pete, the two passages from Matthew that Todd gave are the ones I had in mind. The one in Matthew 10 definitely applies, and the one in Matthew 7, as Chris said, probably applies as well. It’s a general principle that you don’t give valuable things to someone who has no regard or appreciation for them.

    Another verse that probably applies is from Proverbs 30:33: “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.”

    If someone is just wanting to argue, it’s just generating strife and wrath. Answering questions is great, but endless debate (or worse, arguing), just wastes everyone’s time.

  27. I don’t know how to reply individually on here, so to Todd and Jon up there: It seems to me that for you to confidently project your own outlooks and passions as to be in any way real for another human being is the height of self-delusion. I find meaning in life in ways that I know you would likely not get satisfaction from, but does this mean I can state you are therefore unhappy and lost and without meaning etc…simply because you don’t feel passion for the same things I do? Of course not. So it with your projections. As I mentioned in another post to a fellow named Bill, your empathy is basically a fraud, rife with restrictions. It is this outlook I find sad. And as an obvious reflection of your inner life, it also gives me a reason to pity you both, if I was arrogant enough to think I had such a higher right of view of things. But I know I cannot know your true heart, and what joys your life may or may not be made up of. What I do know is that you declare love, but you shout out with a selfish unacceptance of human beings who are different. You put more faith in an old book than in your own brain, and therein lies the feeling of loss for which I might pity you.

    But I don’t. Because unlike the citizens of many other countries who don’t have all the luxuries of life you have (and they don’t even have the ‘true’ faith to boot, poor things), you live in a country (assuming you are American) with 5% of the world’s population, but using 25% of the world’s energy. You have the audacity to pray before each meal, thanking God for what He has provided, never taking a moment to think that globalization by it’s very nature only works in a severely imbalanced world, and it is off the backs of repressed and extorted workers from other countries (heathens, no less) that your God has provided you with your meal. Your belief in another world after this one, chosen and beautiful as you so obviously are, makes you blind to the harsh realities of this one, and the fact that good people and so-called bad people make up the same percentage of every group, no matter what belief or creed they may be, and the fact is that I have seen no difference between Christians and Muslims, for example, but rather in individuals I see love or judgement being exuded. If your ‘one true God’ truly did change a person’s heart and make his/her life better, surely the stats would be rather more skewed.

    I apologize for writing a bit of a ramble in the last paragraph. I was never on the debate team and thereof do not follow the rules. Having said that, I think it’s fairly obvious what I’m trying to say here. Think on it what you will.

    And a quick thought in Chris’ direction. Of course the major differences in religion around the world is a major point of contention. What kind of a fair loving God would make it such an uneven playing field? It is something like 90% more likely for an American to be a Christian than an Egyptian, for example. How does this make any sense in the big scheme of things? It doesn’t. And therefore I present it simply as an idea of how closed-off and insular every religion is, and as much as you decry Mormonism as an obvious cult, what makes you think yours isn’t one as well? 14 million people believe in the cult of Mormonism. Something like a billion people believe (to varying degrees) in the cult of Christianity. The difference is merely numbers – by members and total years in existence. Yet the people’s conviction in both cults is identical. Despite the fact I understand you cannot comprehend that you might be as brain-washed as the Mormons, the truth is that you are.

    But, I do enjoy these little chats, Chris and the others. I am not really trying to convince you of anything here.I know that would be a fool’s errand. Rather, I have to admit, I enjoy the reaffirmation it gives me to see by your replies that I am on the right path, with plenty of childhood brain-indoctrination behind me. And the best part, for all parties involved, is that I bet it gives you guys the same sort of sense of joy to refute me. Ain’t that grand, Everyone wins :)

    Till the next time
    all the best.
    Aram

  28. Hi, Aram. All I said was the determinism in the words quoted was depressing, and that I was glad I had a different belief. I didn’t project “outlooks and passions.” My comment had nothing to do with the fact that we “don’t feel passion for the same things.” I was just responding to your words.

    But Aram, projecting? What about this: “makes you blind to the harsh realities,” For all you know, I might have sacrificed significant time and income, and experienced threats and violence, to serve in a neighbourhood with significant social deprivation, substance abuse, domestic and child abuse, etc. I might even have more contact with the “harsh realities” of this life than you do….

    I’ll add this. The British Prime Minister recently said he is “a committed, albeit vaguely practicing, Church of England Christian.” As long as statistics give the label “Christian” to “vaguely practicing” people, they mean nothing. Most “Christianity” in the West is so far from what Jesus Christ taught that it’s probably blasphemy to put His name to it and call it Christian.

    In all probability, the country with the highest percentage of committed “actively practicing” Christians today is China, where Christianity was severely repressed 20-30 years ago, and where there are still significant official barriers to Christianity. That doesn’t fit too well with your argument that people are products of where they are born.

  29. Aram,

    I have some questions:
    1) Since, in your soul, you know there is a God, how do deal with the fact you don’t love Him?
    2) Since your soul never dies, where will it spend eternity?
    3) Since you’re going to die someday, are you prepared for that inevitability?
    4) You’ve stated you’re pursing truth. How will you know when it finds you?
    5) How do you have peace, knowing that you have a natural controversy with your Creator?
    6) Are you working for forgiveness and approval from God?
    7) Would you rather receive justice or mercy?

    Todd
    Texas

  30. Hey guys, the main issue here is that so many, if not all, of your arguments start from the basis that the Bible God is real. Since I don’t believe he is, there isn’t really much to go on. I understand it is hard for you to believe this, but I really don’t believe in the Bible God. A God of some kind existing somewhere…sure, it’s possible. But one who is here and now and gives a toss about this world. I don’t think so. I will say this though, that how I prepare for dying is by living this life now as fully as I can. I believe that a fear of death is based only on regrets, and if you reach that point having not lived your life as passionately as you believed, then you will not be ready and you will be terrified. But I am not, as impossible as it is for you to believe. I have lived a life so far without regrets, and although it would be a shame to die so young (I’m only 34), if it were to happen I know that I could go with the knowledge I didn’t waste a moment here. Can you guys say the same? And I know this truth because I feel it clearly, perhaps even more clearly than you feel your God.

    As for comments about the spread of Christianity around the world, it has indeed shifted around the globe as people discover it. Koreans, for example, were happy to give up their old beliefs because Christianity is, let’s face it, a pretty easy religion to follow. No works needed, only repenting. Well heck, sign me up, they all said gleefully, eager to believe in something that wasn’t as demanding. However, this is hardly the case the world over. And in many places still, millions of people will die having never even once considered the Christian faith, purely from being born in a different time and place.

    And the rest of your questions Todd, they are based on something I really don’t believe in, and hence cannot really be answered. For example, do you think Santa Claus builds his own sleds? And if so, is it likely that the elves aren’t happy with this and should demand the Union does something about their working conditions?
    See what I mean.

    I’m thinking we can probably leave our discussion at this yeah. But of course, you can have the last word if you’d like.
    Cheers
    _________________________________________________________________

    and yes Jon, I will admit that I was much too general in my statement of Christians ‘being blind to the harshness of life’ here. Of course I can not know individual efforts of people in their lives, and so I apologize for such a generalization. What I was trying to say is that it can, for many believers in religion, make it hard for them to see what is really going on when they continually put everything as God’s plan, good and bad, somehow trying to say that it is all as the loving creator intended. I believe it is much more random than that. Crappy things happen. And there is in fact no master plan. Therefore, quite simply, a tragedy is a tragedy to me. Not simply some ‘mysterious ways’ thing. For example, I once heard a Christian say that the SE Asia tsunami a couple years back was sad, yes, however those people who died were lost souls anyways, doomed to hell, but now, thanks to the Christian aid workers sent over to help with the clean up the survivors are being saved. So in fact this is great news for God, and the tsunami was actually a beautiful thing as a result.
    Um, what?
    If hundreds of thousands of people dying in a horrifying way is interpreted to be a good thing by a person, then something is truly broken in your heart and heads, man.

  31. How would you go about answering the question “what actual evidence is there of a creator? The world around us can be explained by evolution. The bible has nothing in it about the known universe except what was known at the time – which was very little. Prophecies cannot be considered because we have no way to determine whether or not they were written after the events occurred.”?

    These are the types of questions I think of when hearing creationist arguments, and as yet have not heard a convincing answer.

    Pete

  32. Aram, thanks for the apology, things get said, no big deal.

    Look, you are right on something. The Apostle Paul said that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, we are the most miserable of all people. Dude, what a waste I’m making of my life if Christianity is false. I agree with you.

    But I’m really very happy. I mean, very, very happy. So happy I can’t really explain it unless there is something beyond normal explanations going on. So happy that you can only say I must be absolutely delusional — but that’s about the last thing anyone who knows me would say. My neighbours don’t believe what I do, but they’d never call me delusional, nor would my co-workers.

    But that’s all you’ve got. Because I could be on easy street financially, and I’m glad I’m not. I might even be able to be famous, and I don’t want to be. Must be delusional. But I’m not. I’m serving the King, and He gives a joy that you can’t explain. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real — it just means it is beyond you.

    Pete, I have no time, maybe not until Tuesday. But if I could tell you of some prophecies that I can prove to within perhaps a 90% certainty they were written long before they were fulfilled, would that mean anything to you? I don’t really want to take the time to write it up if you don’t care, but if you do, I’ll check back in this thread, hopefully on Tuesday.

  33. Hi Jon,

    Absolutely – it would mean a great deal. But let’s stick with 1 example for now, and then if we need to we can move on.

    Just to be clear before you put a lot of effort into it – It won’t mean a lot to me if the prophecy is vague or relating to something almost inevitable.

    Many thanks – looking forward to it.

    Pete

  34. Hello, Pete. It’s neither vague nor inevitable. It’s the prophecy from Daniel 8:3-8 (explained in 8:20-22) of the rise of the Greek Empire against the Medio-Persian Empire, the rise and death of the first king of the Greek Empire, and its division into four parts, It all happened, more than 200 years later.

    The only real “skeptical” point of attack is the time of writing. Most skeptics have said it is so specific and accurate that it must have been history rather than prophecy. I think anyone with an open mind, when confronted with the evidence surrounding Belshazzar, has to admit there is at least a 90% probability that it was written when it claims to have been written.

    Addendum: I’ll get to the evidence on Belshazzar hopefully tomorrow or the next day.

  35. Looking forward to it Jon, thanks.

    Pete

  36. Pete, points of the prophecy, dated 551 B.C.:
    1. There will be a combined Mede / Persian empire.
    2. This empire will be dominated by the power which arose second.
    3. It will have victories to the north, south, and west.
    4. Greece will rise to power in the west.
    5. Greece will quickly and totally defeat the Persian Empire.
    6. The first Grecian king will be very strong (“notable / great horn”).
    7. The Greeks will be angry (“moved with choler”).
    8. The first Grecian king will be “broken” (die) while still strong.
    9. Four Greek kingdoms will rise after his death, none as strong as Alexander’s empire.

    Persian fulfilment:
    A. In 550 B.C., Cyrus of Persia defeated the Median confederation, and from then on Persia, which became a power later than the Medes, was the dominant force (prophecies 1 & 2).
    B. Persian conquests eventually spread north to the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea, West to the Mediterranean and throughout Turkey, and South into Egypt (3).

    Arguably, too vague and imminent to serve as proof of anything.

    Greek fulfilment:
    A. In 334 B.C., Alexander the Great invaded the Persian empire — from the west (prophecies 4 & 6).
    B. It took only three years to crush the Persian Empire (5).
    C. The Greeks were very angry against the Persians, due to repeated invasions, insulting messages sent to Alexander, and other offences (7).
    D. Alexander died at 33 while still strong and pursuing world conquest (8).
    E. After his death in 323 B.C., the Empire began to divide, and by 280 B.C., there were four kingdoms, in the east, west, north, and south — “the four winds” (9).

    Very specific, not imminent (200 years later), not self-fulfilling, independent confirmation of fulfilment.

    Date of writing:
    1. Claimed to be 551 B.C. (third year of Belshazzar’s co-regency).
    2. Had to be before 450 B.C., because by 450 B.C., Belshazzar was completely forgotten. He was not mentioned by Herodotus (450) or any other ancient historians. Everyone said Nabonidus was the final king, and no one remembered Belshazzar. He wasn’t rediscovered until 1854 B.C., so Belshazzar’s name was stuck into this prophecy either after 1854 (manifestly false) or before 450 B.C. If before 450 B.C., we’re dealing with an amazingly accurate and detailed prediction at least 100 years before Alexander, and there is no reason to doubt the 551 date.

    So at least 100 years (probably 200 years) before Alexander the Great, his rise was predicted, his early death, and the division of his empire into four kingdoms.

    I said “90%”. The only naturalistic explanation I can conceive is if the prophecy written before 450 B.C. was changed later to “fit the facts”. Given the Jewish attitude towards Scripture and false prophecies, I do not find that credible — at all. They just wouldn’t accept that — they would have tossed the book of Daniel in the rubbish first. I don’t actually think anyone who claims that is being honest. But I’ll give it 10%, I guess.

    This is the essence of it. I discussed this (especially Belshazzar) on my own blog in more detail, if you want to check it out: First article, Belshazzar evidence: http://mindrenewers.com/2012/03/27/a-clay-cylinder-and-daniels-history/. You’ll want to read this to really get the historical background re: Belshazzar.

    Relation to Daniel 8, why I respect many skeptical doubts about “prophecy as proof”, and why I think this prophecy answers them: http://mindrenewers.com/2012/03/28/a-clay-cylinder-and-daniels-prophecy/

    I’ll check back here later to see what you think.

  37. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for that. Please could you elaborate on:

    “Given the Jewish attitude towards Scripture and false prophecies, I do not find [it] credible [that the prophecy could have been altered afterwards] — at all. ”

    Many thanks,
    Pete

  38. Sure, Pete.

    Attitude towards Scriptures:
    We see the Jewish attitude towards copying the Scriptures in that they counted the characters in each line to make sure they had the right number of letters. Thus the Isaiah Dead Sea Scrolls are so very close to the Masoretic Text, over 1000 years later. If a book was considered Scripture, no one would change it. Deuteronomy 4:12 and 12:32 said not to mess with the words, and (as with many things) the Jews were very strict about it. If a scroll had an error, they wouldn’t correct it, they would destroy it.

    Daniel was accepted as a prophet long before the time of Christ (mentioned by Ezekiel, copies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc). So they just wouldn’t have changed his words. Those were believed to be God’s words, and God would judge anyone who changed them.

    Attitude toward prophets:
    The Jews were skeptical towards prophecy (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:18-20), and false prophets were to be killed. We see this skepticism in their attitude towards Jesus — always asking for a sign, asking Him to prove who He was — and He gave many signs.

    We also see it in their attitude to the OT Apocrypha. They thought they were good books, but they wouldn’t accept them as prophetic (Josephus specifically mentioned them).

    So if Daniel 8 originally contained the name Belshazzar and a false prophecy, they would have dumped the entire book. They wouldn’t have changed it, and tried to pass it off as a prophecy. None of the other Jews would have bought into it if someone had done that.

    Why do it, anyway?
    They wouldn’t have done it to convince Jews of prophecy, because Jews already believed. They wouldn’t do it to convince Gentiles — they weren’t actively trying to convert Gentiles.

    Besides, why invent a prophecy attached to a name no one remembered anymore? If you wanted people to believe was it a prophecy, wouldn’t you also replace Belshazzar with someone they had heard of, and put Cyrus or Nebuchadnezzar in there instead? It doesn’t make any sense. If someone changed the prophecy, they’d have changed the name, too.

    I can see someone saying it doesn’t prove Christianity. But it isn’t credible to think that it was written later than the mid sixth century B.C., which makes it a pretty amazing prophecy. Ultimately, what you do with it comes down to faith or non-faith, but in this case, at least, faith’s version is far more credible than anything skepticism can come up with.

  39. Thanks – a couple of questions:
    “If a scroll had an error, they wouldn’t correct it, they would destroy it.”
    What about the prophecies that were incorrect? How come they were not destroyed? Or do you believe there to be no false prophecies?

    Copying scripture may have been well disciplined (although I’m sure no-one would document otherwise even if it were to be true…) but what about someone finding a scroll not yet known, altering it, and then introducing it to the public? Couldn’t that have been plausible?

  40. Pete, I’m short on time, second half of your question now, I’ll try to answer the first half later today.

    God gave us the Scriptures because He loves us and wants us to know Him (I Corinthians 2:9). If God is sovereign, loved us, and wanted us to have it, He wouldn’t let His Word disappear for centuries. If someone found a scroll 200 years later and no one knew of it or was reading it, whether he altered it or not people would have said, “If it was God’s Word, it wouldn’t have been hidden so long. He wouldn’t go to the trouble of inspiring a book and then let it get lost.”

    Someone could find a scroll and alter it, but most believers wouldn’t accept it.

    You see this on a micro scale today. The “oldest and best manuscripts” were (for 1000 years or so) A) stashed in a Sinai monastery and B) hidden away in the Vatican library. Many (me included) don’t believe God would let His true words go missing for so long. Where those manuscripts differ from those used down through the centuries, I’ll assume the error is in the manuscripts that were “lost” for so long.

    If I’m skeptical about Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, I’d be far more skeptical if a new book claiming to be prophetic Scripture turned up. And while many aren’t skeptical of them, a lot of people are, and are vocal about it.

    But no Jews were skeptical about Daniel. If anyone would have been , it might have been the Qumran community (Dead Sea Scrolls). But they definitely weren’t skeptical about Daniel.

    I admit this idea isn’t one I’d thought of, but I don’t think it flies.

  41. Pete, as to incorrect prophecies, I think it helps to break things down logically. Possibilities of predictive fulfilment:

    1. Clearly, indisputably fulfilled. The rise of Greece fits this.
    2. Not yet fulfilled. End time prophecies fit here. We can’t say they were wrong or prove they were right.
    3. Partially fulfilled, partially not yet fulfilled. Combination of #1 & 2. Suppose at my birth, someone had said, “In his lifetime, a Parliament will sit in Edinburgh and Scotland will be independent.” The first half (Parliament) happened, the second hasn’t — but still might. .
    4. Surprisingly fulfilled. It comes true, but perhaps not the way people would have thought. After the fact, you can see it fits perfectly. Tolkien’s rivers running gold at the end of The Hobbit is an example.
    5. Conditional. Scriptural judgment prophecies generally have a condition (implicit or explicit) — “if you don’t repent.” The prophecy may not be fulfilled if the condition of repentance is fulfilled instead — no one thinks that prophecy was wrong.
    6. Disputably fulfilled. A case could be made that it has been fulfilled. A case could be made that it hasn’t. Nostradamus had a lot of these.
    7. Definitely incorrect. Specific enough that there is no doubt what was meant, and it didn’t happen.

    The Bible has a lot of #1-5, some of #6. I don’t know of any that fit #7. If I knew of any in that category, if there were none in #1, or almost all were in #6, it would be a problem for me.

    Bible prophecy was not primarily written to prove the Bible to unbelievers. We have to remember that, or we’ll expect everything to be in category #1. But that isn’t its main purpose. Bible prophecy was written to motivate believers, warn unbelievers to repent, and strengthen believers’ faith when the prophecies finally do come true.

  42. Thanks for your effort Jon, it’s definitely the best example I’ve heard so far. I think there’s still room for doubt but as it stands you’ve done a good job convincing me. I’ve also been reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Daniel#Authorship_and_dating which has a number of theories regarding when it was written.

    I’m not at 90% yet but I’m attempting to learn more about the events you’ve mentioned, the background, and other theories regarding the dates, and I’ll repost once I do.

    I appreciate your time on this.

    Kind regards,
    Pete

  43. Pete, thanks for the note. Two more thoughts on Daniel, and then a followup post on another issue.

    First, on the Bible, wikipedia is slanted towards critical / skeptical views. It doesn’t even address Belshazzar on dating Daniel, and any conservative scholar will bring him into it. You don’t get both sides of the story. By all means read wikipedia — the fact this vital question is ignored strengthens the case. How would a second century writer know about Belshazzar when no one else did? If the skeptics could answer, the answer would be there — that article is a skeptic’s manifesto on Daniel. But the question isn’t even mentioned — biased and weak.

    Second, you said “still room for doubt.” Of course. No room for doubt == no room for faith. God is not in the business of proving things to people, but of building trusting relationships. Evidence, yes, proof, no. He’ll not start this relationship by making you the judge and proving things to you. He’s the Judge, not us. Evidence to build trust is one thing, proof that needs no trust is another.
    ————————-
    One more non-prophecy item, Pete. From your 24 March post that started the prophecy discussion: “The bible has nothing in it about the known universe except what was known at the time – which was very little.” Three things:

    1) Isaiah 40:22: round earth (“circle of the earth”).
    2) Job 26:7: earth hangs “on nothing.”
    3) Genesis 22:17: number of stars comparable to sands of the sea-shore — uncountable, immense.

    There’s no evidence any of these were generally known. In absolutely perfect conditions, the naked eye sees <50K stars, far short of the grains of sand of any tiny beach. Before telescopes, did people know there were any stars, let alone billions, beyond the naked eye?

    These statements use non-technical language, but appear to match the criteria you mentioned.

    I'll try to keep an eye on this thread.

    All the best to you
    Jon

  44. Hi Jon,

    You could always edit Wikipedia you know :)

    So long as what you write is neutral and respectful/civil (which I’m sure it would be) then what you write should remain and benefit many.

    1) I think Isaiah 40:22 is suggesting a flat-circle. There are many references to the Earth’s edges and corners in Isaiah.

    2) An obvious statement I think – what else could it be? On the back of elephants riding on turtles? :)

    3) Not as obvious as 2) but still not unreasonable for people of that time to hypothesise about. You look into space on a clear night and can see many stars – and people would naturally guess that more stars are behind those or that some are too distant to see.

    There are however many things that could have been said, even in simple language, that would have been astonishing to the most skeptical of us today. Any mention of Germs or gravity, something about the universe expanding, getting cooler, or simply that the Sun is a star like all the others just much closer.

  45. Hi, Pete. People try with Wiki, but give up. You think no one has ever mentioned Belshazzar? Gleason Archer (Survey of Old Testament Introduction) was writing about this very point 40 years ago, and he wasn’t the first. It’s not as if I’m the first guy to ever think of Belshazzar’s importance.

    On Wikipedia, the skeptics are militant and keep at it, and Christians have better things to do than argue all day on wikipedia. Not worth the time.

    1) It’s obviously poetic language (as are the corners statements), anyway, but how does one sit on the round part of a flat circle? And if one is sitting on the flat part, why call it a circle? I think that’s a stretch. But I will give you this — at least by the sixth century B.C. it appears some Greeks were talking about a round earth, and Isaiah by conservative dating was 8th century B.C. So perhaps there were others who were talking about a round earth in Isaiah’s time.
    2) Most of the ancients thought it was sitting on something or floating in water, rather than hanging on nothing.
    3) Go to the beach. Try to count the grains of sand in a 10 foot square area. :) Even that isn’t the same order of magnitude of what you can see with the naked eye. I think you are stretching on this one a little bit.

    The Bible isn’t a scientific textbook. Why would you expect it to be? Where should these statements you are looking for have been included? Psalms? It’s a book about God’s dealings with mankind. He wasn’t trying to confuse the ancients with things that A) they wouldn’t understand and B) were of no value to them. But the concept of quarantine (for leprosy), some hygienic requirements, and some of the dietary restrictions, all of which were of practical benefit, do have some scientific basis which may have been unknown at the time.

  46. Number 1 is poetic language and shouldn’t be taken literally, but number 3 isn’t poetic and should be taken literally? How do you make such decisions?

    I’m searching for the truth – and I know the Bible isn’t a scientific book but I have to review it skeptically otherwise I would believe every religious book to be true.

  47. Context. Look at Isaiah 40. It’s clearly poetic. I’d say #3 is, too. “I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven.” It’s obviously NOT trying to be literal. It’s a simile (which is poetic language). The point of comparison is an immense, uncountable multitude, not that Abraham will have exactly as many descendants as there are stars, nor that there is a direct correlation between the number of grains of sand on the shore and the number of stars.

    It’s not a scientific statement, it’s a figure of speech. But the simile only makes sense if the numbers are incredibly immense, which was beyond natural knowledge.

    ***
    I have no problem with honest skepticism. I once preached a sermon on “doubting Thomas” titled “God Loves a Skeptic.” The problem is too many skeptics look for physical proof of spiritual things, for scientific evidence in a book not intended for that purpose, etc. Too many won’t be convinced no matter what. If people were as skeptical of potential spouses as they are of the Bible, they would never get married. They’ll take a potential wife on faith that she’ll be true to them, but they demand a level of proof of the Bible that they would never demand of a prospective employee, or a friend, or an elevator manufacturer, etc.

    God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The person who honestly seeks truth will find Him, because He is truth, and such a person is being drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit. Honestly and diligently seek the truth, and you’ll find your questions answered sufficiently. I firmly believe that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: