24
Feb
10

Questions of Faith

Like most anyone with a brain who also walks a path of spiritual or religious faith, I have my moments of doubt.

But when I do, the thing that always brings me back to Jesus is this: To me, the actions and behaviors of the apostles (the original ones [sans Judas Iscariot] plus the replacement guy, plus Paul, who is a special late-addition case), make no sense whatsoever unless Jesus lived, proved to them his divine nature, died, and rose from the dead definitively.

For them to have such uniformity of action, commitment to an executed man, and put themselves to the kind of risk they did, all to establish the early Christian church, makes no sense otherwise. It defies human nature, self-interest, and self-presevation for all 13 of those people, one of whom had a position of authority before converting to Jesus’ path, to do that. And to stick with it even through persecution and unto their very deaths as martyrs.

So, to those of you who want to knock me off my faith, you are going to have to give me credible reason to believe that Jesus never even existed, and neither did the apostles, for you to knock me off my faith.

Consider it a challenge if you like. If you can provide me with such such evidence of those two assertions that it overwhelms the record of the existing sources from which I currently draw my knowledge and on which I base my faith (and that comes from historical sources, not just biblical ones), then I will publicly declare myself agnostic.

Disprove the existence of those people, and I will admit that my faith is fundamentally flawed.

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18 Responses to “Questions of Faith”


  1. February 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I have often had the same thoughts.

    I mean, when you read the Bible what jumps out in the New Testament is how after Jesus died being his follower was not a cushy job. Sure, when Jesus was alive, you got to live the rock star lifestyle with the crowds and food and the traveling, but after his death, these cats were pariahs afraid for their lives.

    Why would somebody go back to that if they could have just moved on?

    Now some folks will argue that maybe they did move and that the Bible is just big conspiracy, but I don’t think even they believe that. Most people admit that the disciples truly believed that Jesus rose from the dead and was the son of God. There are questions abotu exactly what that belief meant, but most folks do admit that belief existed.

    So, what did they get out of this belief? Almost all human behavior is motivated by personal advancement. What was the advancement for hte disciples? They weren’t getting paid like that, they were in danger of death, and they were breaking many of the guidelines set forth for Jews. It does not seem like a job folks would seek out based on a lie.

    Hell, Paul did a complete 180 when he started following Jesus. And while some folks accuse him of creating his own religion in the name of God, what I’ve read from him aligns perfectly with Jesus’ teachings.

    I want to hear the response from several of the resident atheists about why they think the apostles behaved the way they did..

  2. 2 thewordofme
    February 25, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Deacon, how are you?

    Jesus may have existed, but no one wrote about him in his time. There is real serious questions about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s authorship of the gospels however…I am just going on what people a lot smarter than I say on these matters. Fallout from this position is that we may not know what Jesus actually said (if he existed).

    For me however I go to the Answers in Genesis people and their position that if Genesis in the Bible is not true…the whole of Christianity falls apart.

    Well, most, if not all, of Genesis is demonstrably wrong according to what we know about our world now.

    The AiG people go to tremendous lengths to try to prove their point, but they are unable to do so.

    The science they try to push on an unsuspecting public has been screened time after time by reputable scientists and proven wrong.

    They are the same people who opened the “Creation” museum in Kentucky and try to tell us that Jesus rode a dinosaur…well actually they say that dinosaurs roamed the earth with our ancestors and were on Noah’s ark.

    Well, we have known for 400 years now that there was never a Noah’s ark and world-wide flood. Most of Christianity accepts this now. The main point of contention left is whether the Adam and Eve story from the Bible could be true.

    We know for a ***fact*** (this is NOT a theory) that humans did not suddenly appear on earth six thousand years ago or ten thousand years ago or even fifty thousand years ago…this is NOT in question at all. The Adam and Eve story does not, and will not, fit into a scenario where they were created 200,000 years ago. the story also will not support the fact that there were several Homo specimens who proceeded us and they had already learned about fire and mastered the making of stone tools before we came along 200,000+- BC

    If Adam and Eve are not true…and I posit they were not…then the whole story actually does fall apart. No “Original Sin” no need for Jesus to somehow expiate our non-existent sins. That whole ‘blood’ thing is creepy anyway. And God inseminating Mary to conceive Himself so that He can be executed for sins that He created in this world is just plain out bonkers, a truly crazy conceptual idea.

    I don’t think there is any shame in admitting that one is wrong…many have done it over this information. It is overwhelming and factual and the Bible is fighting a losing battle against real facts and truth. There is no magic in this world…
    twom

  3. 3 Deacon Blue
    February 25, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    OK, I’ll cut you some slack and leave aside the issue of the Gospels, even though there are also learned people who place the writing of the earliest known copies (if I’m recalling right) to within a generation or two of Jesus’ life, which is actually closer (if I recall) than the earliest known copy of a real history of Alexander the Great’s life. I might have the specifics wrong, but frankly don’t have time to hunt all that down at the moment.

    Anyway, even if we say the Gospel authorships are suspect, and their accuracy suspect, what about the epistles? Written during the lives of at least some of the original apostles. Those still establish a history of the early church and of Jesus, and show that there were apostles who followed a man supposedly the son of God, who was crucified and whom they followed after his crucifixion…something they likely wouldn’t have done if he really died, because then they would have felt betrayed by a fraud.

    And I’m not talking Old Testament here. That part of the Bible is a lot thornier and harder to back up archeologically, and “validity” of that would be meat for a whole lot of posts here (and has been in the past)…it only distracts from the issue I brought up. The New Testament, however, can be treated as a historical document and holds up as such for a number of reasons, even though a lot of agnostics and atheists continue to minimize their historical value.

  4. 4 thewordofme
    February 26, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Hi again Deacon,

    You write in your original post above:
    “So, to those of you who want to knock me off my faith, you are going to have to give me credible reason to believe that Jesus never even existed, and neither did the apostles, for you to knock me off my faith.”

    Of what need is there for Jesus if there was no ‘original’ sin to expiate??

    The Jews of course are adamant that the messiah hasn’t come yet.

    They do not write of ‘original sin’ do they…isn’t that a concept that Jesus never heard of??

    Isn’t this a concept that was invented in Paul’s writing?

    If the Gospels were written by “who knows” (Genesis also) (half of Paul’s epistles too) well after the death of Jesus,and the final Bible took the ‘Orthodox’ Church about 400 years to produce; do you think we, in our times, REEAALLYY know what is true and real, or is there just a small possibility that we got stuff wrong?…really wrong. Remember that the Bible is almost certainly a product of humans (without that “God breathed” thing going on)…way to many problems with it to have a gods official stamp on it.

    If you ***really*** get into trying to find the real answers to religion you very quickly come across thousands of problems and questions…this leads you to apologetics which will drive you crazy with the twists and turns of logic and lame answers to serious questions…this in turn leads you to science and all of a sudden things begin to make real sense.

    A real and true religion, it seems to me, would not need a search for answers because there would be no anomalies and little things that bother you because parts and more parts of the words are not matching, and the stuff we find out in real life would match up with what is written. The God would be self evident…not an elusive sky will-o-wisp. He could still live in the sky, but there must be someway of proving this God because us humans are a contrary lot. The old apologetics that you must have faith does not cut it, and more and more young people are finding this out.

    In closing; Jesus may have existed as a human person, but he was not “God” incarnate…there is no real proof.

    Adam and Eve did not exist…this really puts a crimp in the need for a messiah. And if you don’t need a messiah…what is he?

  5. 5 Deacon Blue
    February 26, 2010 at 8:54 am

    By why is it that you assume spiritual things/religious things should follow the very same rules as scientific ones?

    Isn’t that just as bad as people who insist on creating God in a human-style mold (white beard, human motivations, etc.)?

    WHY would a “real” religion not require us to search?

    Look at the millions upon millions of unanswered questions in science (of all kinds). Look at the contradictions there…the notions that we have had to overturn.

    Why would something that deal with our eternal and essential selves be as easy…or simpler?

    On what basis can you say that’s the test of a “true” religion?

    TWOM, you often tell me that people who really look at this and are reasonable will come to see that science has the answers. It’s as if you think that I eschew science. I don’t. I accept the cosmological and geological record. I know what science has done and what it continues to do, both good and bad. None of this changes my belief that there is more than the physical world we see, in the temporal context we perceive it.

    This is not a rejection of science. It is a search for something that science doesn’t touch.

  6. 6 thewordofme
    February 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Hi again Deacon,

    I hope you and the family are doing well.

    I bet you’ll be glad when I stop bugging you.

    I realize that you accept some science and that’s a lot further than most fundagelicals go.
    I feel however that you somehow can’t accept where it is inevitably leading. I’m guessing that you just push to the back of your mind anything that might make you doubt where you are and where you want to be.

    Non-scientific. Do you believe in the “Rapture?” I have it on good authority that if you aren’t “Born Again and believe in the Rapture” you will NOT go to heaven when the trumpet sounds.

    I have it on good authority that if you don’t believe in the Trinity…that God was Jesus and the Holy Spirit all rolled into one (or was it the other way round?) you will burn in hell forever.

    I have it on good authority that if you DO believe in the Trinity you will burn in hell.

    I have it on good authority that if you don’t believe the precise dogma of “X” denomination you will burn in hell…literally hundreds or thousands of answers to this one.

    Do you believe in the Virgin Mary and her ( as well as Jesus’) immaculate conception? Do you follow the dogma that Jesus had no brothers or sisters (Mary remained a virgin)i.e. an only child?…If not I have it on good authority that you will burn in hell–forever.

    I have it on good authority that if you don’t believe in Allah and follow the Koran…you will burn in hell forever and possibly be blown up here on earth by fanatic Muslims.

    Really do you think this religion is in any way real when it cannot even agree and tell anyone how to comport yourself in this world and the afterlife, or in front of a supposed God.

    Do you really believe the present (and past) state of religion on this earth makes any kind of sense??? Do you believe the machinations of untold thousands of religious people for their own personal aggrandizement and profit (think of televangelists and the Catholic Church here) speaks of something “Holy”???

    So you think religion is supposed to be this way? All fractured and non-compliant with each other…each one “Knowing” that they are the “only” way to heaven. Each one imputing a God with their own sensibilities and likes and dislikes, each one thinking the “others” are going to burn in hell forever?

    The Roman Catholics worship one way.
    The Lutherans worship another way.
    The Baptist worship another way.
    The Pentecostals worship another way.
    The Anglicans worship two other ways.
    Those Mormon upstarts worship another way.
    The Jehovah’s witnesses worship another way.
    The Quakers worship another way.
    The Orthodox Catholics worship another way.

    This could go on for days…but I forget a lot of them. 🙂

    Each of the above say they worship the same God, but each of them just knows they have the only true and real passage to heaven…all the others will burn in hell forever.

    Is this really anyway to run a religion? Is this the indicator of the truth of God? Do you think God wants to be worshiped in 2000 different ways and wants all the hard feelings and strife that goes along with the strong dichotomies that exist in the Judeo-Christian religious world.

    God is certainly not living up to His implied abilities. You know…being organized and efficient. Kinda’ laying down on the job as to being all loving…letting all these bad feelings towards each other simmer and blow up occasionally. If He created us He surely knows how we are.

    My expectations of a God (sorry if I’m being to prideful here) is of one who is logical, intelligent, very kind to ALL, one who watches out for His experiments (us), and who has pride in His work and craftsmanship. AS well as all the other attributes given Him by philosophers over the centuries…omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc., etc.. Oh, and He would actually answer prayers occasionally…which He never does now.

  7. 7 Deacon Blue
    February 27, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    All the problems you’ve mentioned are, as you inherently point out, problems of PEOPLE.

    I can conceive of numerous reasons why God may seem to be many different ways to many different people. But whether any of my notions are correct, I cannot know.

    What I do know is that religions tend to share some very similar and basic characteristics and tenets, and I think this speaks to the core of what God is about. Why is it incumbent upon God to sit on top of us and tell us how to be? Isn’t that a puppet show? Wouldn’t God actively and obviously meddling in every detail of our lives be completely anathema to us seeking spiritual truths?

    Does nature give up all its secrets to us in science? No, we seek them. And we find them.

    If you were seeking God, you might find him.

    But many, perhaps most, people don’t do that. Or when they do, they aren’t dedicated enough or patient enough or rigorous enough to stay with it. And they get knocked down at the first stumbling block instead of trying to work through it.

    That would be poor science if researchers and deep thinkers did the same.

    And please, TWOM, don’t tell me that you understand I accept “some” science. That comes across condescendingly. I accept ALL science. I simply don’t accept that science answers ALL things.

    Think of how strange this thing called “life” is. Even if it exists elsewhere in the universe, consider how utterly rare and small a thing it is in this solar system. How utterly improbable that it is. No one’s ever been able to give any reasonable and provable reason for how it started. Perhaps life, and the intellect that we humans have, which is rarer still, are the best signs that there is a God. I might post on this one day.

    I don’t have to defend why different religions give different rules, any more than I have to defend how one member of a political party can believe one thing and another in the same party can believe the opposite, and they can both be serving not only the same political system but also the very identical political party.

    Have you considered that perhaps the tensions and sometimes turmoils of life might be a necessary part of spiritual searching? A necessary part of God’s plan. Or at least a necessary part of him allowing us to seek and to learn?

    If I may make a crude example, is the breeder or scientist who allows some members of a species to be “failures,” so that others can succeed and lead to a better breed of animal, or a better species of plant, or a better strain of micro-organism, does that mean he or she is cruel or capricious?

    And who says God doesn’t answer prayers, simply because He doesn’t answer the ones you think He should? He has answered many (though not all) of mine.

    You seem to believe that I am limited because I have faith; that somehow I reject large portions of science when in fact I reject no scientific discipline, only the occasional flawed finding or study. You seem to think that for me to be complete, I must reject religion.

    But religion…or rather, my spiritual journey, makes me more than I would be simply focusing on the things of the world. You suggest that I am somehow flawed or blind to the world.

    I would argue that you are the one who is losing out. You hold only to science and reject spirituality. Some people hold to religion and reject science. I embrace both.

    But, in any case, I think I want to steer away from discussing this much more. In fact, I won’t be answering anything more along these lines in the comments here, because it is, in fact, kind of a distraction and red herring. The point of this post was one of human nature and people who existed and did things that don’t make sense to me without the divine having been involved. You are tackling other issues around that in an attempt to try to make me think that I’m, well…stupid…for believing that God could exist. That’s not really an honest way to respond to my post or my “challenge”

  8. 8 thewordofme
    February 27, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Deacon,

    Picture me standing in front of you with head bowed down.

    My humble apologies sir; I truly did not mean to imply that you were dumb or somehow not complete in any way, and I truly did not mean to sound condescending.

    I thought I was writing in the spirit of your challenge and laying out what I thought was proofs to try to persuade you to declare that I might have a point. I realize you will never give up your position on belief.

    I know you will probably not answer this, but let me say that what I was trying to point out about you and science is that you start to reject it when I point out that science is telling us that humans have been around for 200,000 years and this impinges on the Adam and Eve story in that it makes it likely untrue. Since the Bible is very interconnected this has massive implications that you don’t want to face. It is not just you it is most all religious folks. In order to hold onto their faith they have to deny what this science is telling us in a round about way.

    I value you as a debating and arguing buddy, and I respect you and your views tremendously and wish to continue to occasionally spar with you. Please understand that I write to you with absolutely no hidden agenda or motives other than good mind stretching arguments. 🙂

    Peace–twom

  9. February 27, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Hey Deacon,

    You said “He has answered many (though not all) of mine [prayers.]”

    I’d like to go out on a limb here and say He has, in fact, answered them all: “No” and “Not Now” are still answers.

    That said, whew! This was a VERY enjoyable read, and I wish I had your presence when I debate buddy. You never flared up, got angry, or, even more impressive, went on the defensive. You stayed firm with your stand and stayed on the attack, forcing Twom to continually try different paths and assaults to shake you. I believe everyone present can see the end result is Deacon, like a mountain, is unmoved, if not even a bit more sturdy now.

    If I may offer an observation, Deacon, as a brother in Christ, I’ve noticed when you get someone sparring you, as twom called it, you start to glow, as it were. Your choice of words becomes very selective and clear, with no real margin for misinterpreting what you meant. You’re to the point without much bush beating, and you stick to that point – no diversionary tactics to hide the fact your point is floundering… because it doesn’t. I don’t know if anyone has told you this before, Deacon, but perhaps you should write a book, or maybe even do a little bit of public speaking? Your words hold more power than I think you might realize, and if I was a betting man, I’d be willing to bet your words could be the last little nudge some people need to really get out there and start looking.

    And as you and I already know, if you seek it, it will be found.

    God bless you, Deacon.

    ~Kieyt

    PS. You ever find a copy of Blue Like Jazz? Seriously, this guy could almost be your kindred spirit.

  10. 10 Deacon Blue
    February 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    TWOM,

    Not my intention to shame you, and if my words were harsh, they weren’t intended so.

    I don’t find the Adam and Eve story useless though.

    It is either allegorical, and therefore still instructional, or it is a very simplified version of the real story.

    The genealogy in the Bible from Adam one is pointless, for a couple reasons. One, it too is likely simplified and, two, even if “accurate” ancient Jewish genealogies have a tradition of skipping over “unimportant” generations, if I recall right. So it wouldn’t actually be able to establish a true timeline. And thus the Bible thumpers who cry “the Earth is 7,000 years old” are on a wrong track from the get-go by taking that genealogy too literally.

    I’ve discussed this before in my blog, but Adam and Eve, if they existed, could be just about anything.

    Maybe they were around 7,000 years ago, and were marked by God as the first children of God, and they started the existence of souls, not literally mankind.

    Maybe they existed 200,000 years ago or more, and were the first true humans.

    Maybe every group of humanity has had an “Adam and Eve”

    Perhaps Adam and Eve’s kids hooked up with primitive humans and that’s where all the “real” people came from

    Maybe the story is just instructional and symbolic, and sin always existed. Maybe if Adam and Eve existed, it wasn’t the eating of the fruit that was the sin, but merely the way by which they recognized the existence of sin, and perhaps God needed and wanted us to see it, because otherwise we couldn’t choose a path alternate to Him.

    In the end, I take the Old Testament seriously, but not always literally.

  11. 11 Deacon Blue
    February 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Kieyt,

    Thanks for the kind words, but if I shine, it is because the written word is my gift from God. Certainly not the spoken word. I am never this quick on the draw in conversation, and if Bill Maher or someone like that had me on air, he would cook my goose. I’d look like an idiot, and all Christians along with me…LOL

    No, if my debating is strong, it is mostly because in a venue like this, I have time to think and consider, and that isn’t a luxury in the spoken realm. My brain is too rusty at 42 to spar on my feet in real time.

    TWOM is good people. I was a little hard on him this time around, I think, but it’s been a rough week for me.

    I would like to write a book for publication, but I doubt I would find a publisher for content like this, if only because religious/spiritual topic areas are a harder sell I think, and my credentials to speak on such issues are slim. I’m a deacon, yes, but because my father in law, who was once my pastor, ordained me so. I have zero background as a preacher, Bible scholar, theologian or anything else. I’m more of an itinerant loudmouth (or loudtyper perhaps). 😉

    I did put “Blue Like Jazz” in my Amazon wish list. I will probably get it fairly soon; just waiting on some money from a client.

  12. 12 thewordofme
    February 28, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Hey guy, sorry I caught you on a bad week. I am just like you in that I need time to cogitate and worry over what I say or write. I would be terrible in a face off in person…I can’t pull information out of my brain fast enough…kinda’ like a dial-up connection vs DSL.

    Anyway, I’m glad there are no hard feelings and if you don’t mind I’ll bug you from time to time.

    twom

  13. 13 Deacon Blue
    February 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    TWOM,

    What would I do without a couple loyal agnostics and/or atheists to stir up the pot around here from time to time and keep me on my toes?

    But as with any discussions, sometimes there will be friction.

    It’s all good in the end, though. 🙂

  14. March 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    So, did we ever get an answer on the benefits of lying about Jesus’ existence?

    I didn’t find one.

  15. March 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    you’ve heard me talk about my ex. one of our major issues was religion. i’m an observant jew, he’s a more-than-lapsed catholic. the issue: he has no problem with god, he just despises all organized religion, how it perverts ‘the word’ how people use their version of ‘the word’ to do evil. he doesn’t think religion is the opiate of the masses, he thinks it is an excuse for everything wrong under the sun.

    sometimes, i look at the world and i agree with him.

    now, let me temper this by saying, most people act in a godly way, try to do the right thing, and i am certainly not fit to call anyone on their belifs or behavior [unless it directly impact me or mine or negatively impacts someone else. i AM still a liberal new yorker]

    but some folk…

    btw, friends of mine write children’s books, biographys. they are currently deep into a series on bible heroes. if you want, i can get the name of their publisher…

  16. March 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Robyn

    I think people blame religion because they would rather not blame the real source: People.

    Think about, religions are doctrines advocated by people, who claim to be divinely inspired. The deities referenced change, but the one constant is people.

    Every evil in the world, caused by people. I can’t really call natural disasters evil, they are bad, but not evil.

    So, people who blame organized religion do that because they’d rather not say “People are the root of all evil.”

    Because then they’d have to take stock of how they contribute to the problem as a person.

  17. 17 Deacon Blue
    March 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    @ Big Man,

    I didn’t really expect anyone to disprove Jesus or the apostles, so I suppose my challenge was a bit disingenuous in that regard (though some people HAVE tried to prove to me that all those folks were a fiction, and somehow convince me that the Gospel is just made up, even though a good chunk of it are letters written from apostles to churches and groups in the years following Jesus.).

    @ robyn,

    Dear Lord…well, at least you and the ex had two things in common: You believed in God and you both came out of traditions that hold guilt very near and dear. (I say that as both a former Catholic and as a guy who’s lived closely with more than a few Jews…) 😉


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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