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A Quest for God, Part 3

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January 13, 2012 Tags: Christ & New Creation

Today's entry was written by Aron Wall. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

A Quest for God, Part 3

Recently, we became aware of an email conversation between two young persons: one a young physicist and a deeply committed Christian named Aron and the other, Josh, a person who at least at the time the conversation began was a skeptic. The exchange is so rich that we’ve asked for permission to post it here. We hope you find it as informative and intriguing as we have.

Josh wrote:

Hi Aron,

It sounds like the points you raised mostly hang on the rejection of the evangelical position that without believing in Jesus, someone will go to hell. If you are right, this leads to another question, which is why God lets his people get so confused about something so fundamental to Christianity, arguably causing directly or indirectly people to miss the opportunity to consider the gospel in a pure form and fail to believe it. Many verses taken in isolation do seem to support the evangelical position. AFAIK, there is no single place in Bible that clearly spells out the criteria for salvation the way you understand it. I wonder why God wouldn't make it clearer this way. We don't have to answer this question now, though, and instead can focus on the original question.

Regarding point (B), many people claim to have seen UFOs and ghosts. Does that mean we should believe that UFOs and ghosts are real? Also, belief in a scientific theory or principle is different from belief in a religion. The former do not require any commitment in the way you live. The later totally determines how you live. One does not believe in a scientific theory the same way as believing in Christianity. Actually, I think your non-evangelical position on hell is an effective counter-argument to the objection about God not being more explicit. However, I'm curious how you deal with believers who take the evangelical position. In theory it seems you have rather different gospels. What does it mean for you to fellowship with them?

Josh

Aron wrote:

Dear Josh,

About UFO's and ghosts vs. Christianity: if you can find me documentation of hundreds of not-obviously-crazy people who are eyewitnesses to the same alien/ghost experience, and who refused to give up this belief even when some were tortured and killed for it, and if the claimed alien/ghost experience has no other plausible explanation in terms of natural causes, then I will believe in aliens or ghosts. But you won't be able to find it. I shared office space once with a person who believed in alien abductions (as well as astrology, gnosticism, and a crackpot theory of physics); he thought that the most impressive evidence for alien abductions was "recovered memories" where people originally don't remember anything but later after they are hypnotized by a psychologist who believes in UFO's, they start thinking it happened...I'm unimpressed. He also believed that there was an enormous government conspiracy to keep us from knowing about aliens. That's another important difference: in order TO believe in alien abductions, you have to believe in a conspiracy theory amongst a large number of seemingly ethical people (the government). On the other hand, in order NOT TO believe in Christianity, you need to believe in conspiracy theory amongst a large number of seemingly ethical people (the apostles).

It is not always true that "belief in a scientific theory or principle" does "not require any commitment in the way you live". My nephew Julian was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago. There is a scientific theory that you can cure leukemia with chemotherapy. The theory also says that chemotherapy hurts the immune system, and therefore that any exposure to germs could cause Julian to be much sicker. This scientific theory makes extreme demands on the lifestyle of my sister Heidi who has to take care of Julian and take him to the hospital. If my sister had decided not to believe in this scientific theory because it was too much trouble, what kind of parent would she be?

In the same way, if you did have enough evidence to convince a rational person of Christianity, but won't believe it because it demands a total commitment, then you would not be a "sincere truth-seeking" person, but a very immoral one. That is because it is very important if it is true. I hope that does not describe you! Do not believe in Christianity unless you have enough evidence. But once you accumulate enough evidence to know that it is very likely to be true, it is unreasonable to demand more, since that would be enough evidence for someone who loves truth more than convenience. Once you reach the point of enough evidence, no one but you can make the decision to believe. A lot of people say they doubt for intellectual reasons, even though they would not believe even if all their doubts were resolved. I've heard people say that they wouldn't become Christians even if they were 99.99% sure it was true. I've heard people say that they would not become Christians even if they knew for sure it was true. I've even heard atheists say that the most important reason they don't believe in God is because they hate him.

You say that the evangelical position is that "without believing in Jesus, someone will go to hell". If by belief you mean explicit belief, i.e. the person must consciously know that they believe in Jesus, then actually no one believes that position. Ask any evangelical Christian whether Abraham was saved. Abraham did not explicitly know that Jesus was God, that he would later die for his sins on the cross, or that he would rise again on the third day. And yet, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3) And Paul is clear that Abraham was saved through faith, just as Christians are. Abraham didn't explicitly trust in Jesus. But he did believe in something (God's promise that he would have descendents) which turned out to be about Jesus—without Abraham knowing it. Now it is true that there are evangelicals who think that no one in the present time is saved unless they have explicit belief in Jesus. But they aren't going to find any verses in the Bible which say that salvation suddenly became more difficult as a result of Jesus coming into the world. That would be strange indeed. As for how I can fellowship with believers who differ with me about this, what is the problem? We agree on the most important thing: that salvation comes only through Jesus and that we ought to tell everyone about him. But I also know lots and lots of evangelicals whose positions are more like mine.

Aron


Aron Wall is a postdoctoral researcher studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics at UC Santa Barbara. Before that, he studied the Great Books program at St. John's College, Santa Fe, and earned his doctorate in physics from U Maryland. You can learn more at his blog Undivided Looking.

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MrDunsapy - #67061

January 13th 2012

Hi Josh.
The whole reason Jesus came to the earth was for the opportunity that gave for all of mankind to gain back what was lost. What Adam and Eve lost was to be able to live forever on the earth , in perfect bodies and mind, and a paradise earth. It is not natural to want to go to heaven, our natural place is the earth. God said that was the future for man, and what God says will come true.  If it didn’t how could you trust in a God? So Jesus died a perfect man for what the perfect man Adam , lost.  Jesus answered  Satan’s taunt, and proved Satan a liar. 
So what man really needs is God’s government back to on the earth. ( Satan is the ruler now).
So this is not a mysterious thing, it is not something that has not already been on the earth. Adam and Eve had that, but they did lost it. 
What the bible is about, is getting back to that perfect start again.

No mystery. It is easy to understand.  The bible is about getting God’s government back on the earth. 
It is just that most men do not want it.
That is why Armageddon is going to happen.


Cal - #67064

January 13th 2012

” in order TO believe in alien abductions, you have to believe in a
conspiracy theory amongst a large number of seemingly ethical people
(the government).”

Ethical? Maybe I should believe in UFO conspiracies


Marty Kurlich - #67080

January 13th 2012

Good response, Aron!


Ed Babinski - #67231

January 18th 2012

Dear Aron,



Groups of people have put their lives on the line for nearly any belief
you can name. Members of one “UFO cult” committed mass suicide,
believing such an act would get them into the mothership that was hiding
behind a nearby comet. Some Bible-revering Christians refuse medical
treatment and thereby die. People with unshakable beliefs are found in
every religion, as well as in politically-based groups such as fascism
and communism. People will also risk persecution and death for freedom
of speech. Jews, pagans, heretics, apostates and freethinkers have faced
death and been martyred. And Christians have faced death plenty of
times at the hands of other Christians.



Second, The time in which Christianity arose was a time of craziness, a
time of revolt against Rome inspired by the idea that “God’s on our
side.” Passions ran intensely high. Whatever stories arose during that
time period about a “messiah” must be viewed in such a highly passionate
and I would say less than calm and rational context.



Third, Writings about Jesus were composed by members of the original
cultus/movement. And stories concerning Jesus’ miraculous abilities do
not agree and show signs of having developed over time. And many of the
most heralded miracles were never performed in public but only to a few.
The feeding of the multitude story does not say in its earliest version
(in Mark) that the multitude recognized such a miracle had taken place.
It says merely that after the leavings were collected by the apostles
that the apostles were led to believe a miracle had taken place. In Mark
it says Jesus could not perform miracles in a certain place because
people lacked faith. Matthew, a later Gospel, says Jesus could perform
“some” miracles. Matthew’s version contains other examples as well of
changes made to Mark that exalt Jesus more. One wonders what changes
were made to the Jesus story prior to even Mark’s composition. 









Cal - #67273

January 20th 2012

1) You’re right, many peoples are willing to die for what they perceive as true. As for Christians, the evidence stands that these men were in the position to know if it was true or not. I could say and die for John McCain being president, but I could easily see that he is not right now. 200 years later, it would be more ambiguous (perhaps someone changed the records!?).

2) This is why the Christians stood out, they (collectively) refused to get swept away with bar-Kochbah or the Zealot movement and eschewed violence. This earned the Jewish Christians excommunication from their brothers and fathers and the Gentile Christians as bastards, perverters of the truth and the same scum as all the others.

3) If you understand, always, the miracle is not just magic but has a purpose then you’d see why Jesus “can’t” do miracles at some point. For some reason unbelievers want a god of magic if there is to be one. Empirical obsession has made us deaf to the voice of wisdom.


Cal - #67274

January 20th 2012

the blanked out is ‘someone without a father’, don’t know why that’s considered so heinous to be censored!


MrDunsapy - #67277

January 20th 2012

You said 
some  unbelievers want a God of magic.  Yes that is correct many say that to me all the time. Yet from history, Jesus did miracles with the purpose to show who he was and to show he could heal. 

But if you noticed most did not accept that. So even miracles were not enough.
So its not about miracles, it is about heart condition. 

MrDunsapy - #67232

January 18th 2012

Hi Ed

People have put their lives on the line in wars, over oil, or revenge or just hatred. Sometimes because of race, just some person that is power hungry, or it has been passed down to them from previous generation.
After, Jesus came  there was not to be wars of Christian religions  So the ones that have gone to war, since Jesus death, are not following what Gods son said.So they would only be Christian in lip service. Also when you think of it, the ‘world’ is ruining the earth. Which maybe causing many deaths from  pollution, chemicals, radiation, etc.So the bottom line is that the scientists have given man the ability to destroy the earth and man.
At least with a faith in God you have a hope of better things to come. But with the scientists you have nothing. Faith doesn’t mean blindly following something. Real faith is  assured  expectation of real  events that will happen.

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