t f p g+ YouTube icon

Jesus, History and Mount Darwin: Part 9

Bookmark and Share

January 9, 2012 Tags: Education
Jesus, History and Mount Darwin: Part 9

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

Written in the genre of Henry David Thoreaus travel-thinking essays, Rick Kennedy's Jesus, History, and Mount Darwin: An Academic Excursion is the story of a three-day climb into the Evolution Range of the High Sierra mountains of California (click here to see a map of the mountains). Mount Darwin stands among other near-14,000-foot-high mountains that are named after promoters of religious versions of evolutionary thinking. Using the trek as its framing narrative, this series branches off to explore the complex and at times even murky spaces at the intersection of Christian faith, ancient and natural history, and observational science.

Keeping History Safe

In the cold morning air with the sun not yet over the ridge, the place to begin preparation for summiting Mount Darwin is to ponder the reasonableness of miracles. Many Totalizers would like to ban miracles from university consideration and inquiry. Trouble is: human history is awash with credible people reporting miracles.

Modern academic tradition tends to try and maintain order. For historians it behooves us professionally to avoid accounts of alleged spiritual events. We find comfort in a little logical gymnastics that keeps history safe for us to wander in, a deceptively formulaic avoidance method that helps us avoid what people are telling us about extraordinary events in the past.

David Hume popularly articulated this logical gymnastics in an essay titled “Of Miracles” that was eventually printed in Enquires Concerning Human Understanding (1748). “I flatter myself,” Hume triumphantly proclaimed, “that I have discovered an argument . . . which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as the world endures.”

His everlasting check on superstition begins with a circular argument that because miracles can’t happen, a reasonable person should not even listen to reports of them. Hume taught that though the normal job of a historian was to listen to the testimony that comes down to us from the past, there is a point at which you can close your ears. Hume knew that historical testimony can get wild, so he came up with a way to domesticate the wildness, a way to make history a zoo rather than allow it to be a jungle. His “Of Miracles” has been tremendously influential in the discipline of human history over the last two hundred and fifty years, not because his ideas are strong, but because his ideas are useful. Get rid of “superstitious delusions,” and the discipline of history can be turned from a safari into a form of home economics. Hume’s domestication of history is seductively simple. Instead of following the Aristotelian tradition of linking the credibility of hard-to-believe testimony to the credibility of the testifier, Hume recommended disregarding the testifier and focusing only on the testimony. This effectively removed the persuasive power from hard-to-believe testimony. Miracles need the credibility of an eyewitness in order to have persuasive power. Hume cut the power source from the unwanted testimony.

Essentially, Hume adopted the modeling technique that Darwin later used and is best seen in Global Positioning System (GPS) units. Hume recommended gathering testimony from the past and every region to create a general model of what humans generally experience. Using this mass of information, one should generalize standards of common experience. Now if anyone reports a miracle, the alleged event can’t be true because it does not conform to the generalized standards of common experience. (Of course, Hume had already refused to allow that any reports of miracles could be used even to generalize common experience.) It’s tricky. Its logic is circular. But it works to weed out awkward, quirky information. It is as if a domineering GPS unit created a sphere to serve as an abstraction for the earth, then insisted that the earth can’t have wobbling poles and flattening in the upper latitudes because the sphere in the GPS shows it can’t be true. Given a useful and trustworthy GPS, don’t listen to a scientist who might tell you something different than what the GPS tells you.

The circularity of this argument has been noted ever since Hume first proposed it, but Hume was a good writer and said what a lot of people wanted to hear. Miracles are impossible so miracle reports can’t be true. Don’t even listen to reports of them.

Balancing Likelihoods

Also embedded in Hume’s essay is the awkward “rule of logic,” most often called “Balancing Likelihoods.” By combining math and logic in an odd way, Hume’s “Of Miracles “ offered another way for historians to avoid thinking about miracles. Balancing Likelihoods has many names but is probably best stated by David Hackett Fischer, in his Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, as “the rule of probability:”

“[A]ll inferences from empirical evidence are probabilistic. It is not, therefore, sufficient to demonstrate merely that A was possibly the case. A historian must determine, as best he can, the probability of A in relation to the probability of alternatives. In the same fashion he cannot disprove A by demonstrating that not-A was possible, but only by demonstrating that not-A was more probable than A. This is the rule of probability.”

This seems to be practical but is impossible. Balancing Likelihoods, in the way described by Fischer, cannot be used by historians in any normal practice. It is a talisman to keep history mentally safe from the wildness that is reported to exist. Logicians, especially mathematicians, have long criticized intellectual constructions like this. The “probability” that Fischer writes about is seemingly mathematical, but the math is simply implied to give a sense of strength to human feelings.

Before Hume wrote “Of Miracles” probabilistic logic had been advancing rapidly and there was a great hope that mathematical analogies would strengthen human thinking—even Christian apologetics. “Pascal’s Wager,” the most famous mathematical apologetic from the seventeenth century, equated eternal salvation with mathematical infinity and then applied it to a gambling formula. Antoine Arnauld, in The Port-Royal Logic (1662), and John Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) and Discourse on Miracles (1706), carried probabilistic math and logic into the handling of reported miracles. A half-century later, however, Hume reacted against Arnauld and Locke’s teachings that mathematical analogies could help in the discussion of the credibility of miracles. Hume insisted that to handle a reported miracle, a historian had to create two separate ratios, pro and con, for believability. The ratios were then to be weighed against each other. This is Fischer’s “rule of probability” quoted above. In the language of Hume’s era, this was proclaimed as the “calculus of good sense.”

Lorraine Daston, in Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (1988), offers an excellent study of Hume and the many eighteenth-century mathematicians who wanted to help bring rigorous quantitative thinking to what today would be called the humanities. Daston writes that by the 1840s, mathematicians realized that “the ‘calculus of good sense’ had become antithetical to good sense,” and that today most of what these early probabilists were trying to do is considered “patently absurd.”

In 1901, one of America’s preeminent philosopher-mathematician-logicians, Charles Sanders Peirce, wrote three essays attacking the way historians had adopted Hume’s bad logic: “A Preliminary Chapter, Toward an Examination of Hume’s Argument Against Miracles, in its Logic and in its History,” “Hume’s Arguments Against Miracles, and the Idea of Natural Law,” and “On the Logic of Drawing History from Ancient Documents especially from Testimonies.” Peirce showed that historians are in error when they talk of judging testimony by balancing probabilities because “in a scientific sense, there are no ‘probabilities’ to be judged.”

Probability, Peirce wrote, “is the ratio of the frequency of occurrence of a specific event to a generic event.” A testimony “is neither a specific event, nor a generic event, but an individual event.” Peirce further pointed out that what people were justifying by claiming Balancing Likelihoods was really simply relating “what they prefer to do” to what they don’t prefer. “Likelihood is merely a reflection of our preconceived ideas.”

Historians like me who teach in universities about the reasonable credibility of Jesus’ resurrection need to be students of Peirce not Hume on the subject of assessing the credibility of reports that come down to us from ancient history. Dealing wisely with reports of events verging on the incredible is just part of the normal job of being grounded in the social study of our complex human past.

“Come to history as a doubter,” Richard Marius advises in a historical methods manual. “Skepticism is one of the historian’s finest qualities. Historians don’t trust their sources. . . . Nothing is quite so destructive to a historian’s reputation as to present conclusions that prove gullibility.”

But Marius is wrong. In practice, historians have to trust more than doubt. In practice, historians, especially ancient historians, can’t rely on doubting. Historians have to be close listeners, discerning listeners, wise listeners, who sometimes have to make harmonies and stretch for belief.

Rick Kennedy received his BA, MA, and Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is professor of history at Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, California. His books include A History of Reasonableness: Testimony and Authority in the Art of Thinking (University of Rochester Press, 2004), Aristotelian and Cartesian Logic at Harvard (Colonial Society of Massachusetts and University Press of Virginia, 1995), Faith at State: A Handbook for Christians at Secular Universities (InterVarsity, 1995), Jesus, History, and Mt Darwin: An Academic Excursion (2008), and The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather (Eerdmans: 2015).

< Previous post in series Next post in series >

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Page 1 of 1   1
Roger A. Sawtelle - #67023

January 11th 2012

“Historians” seem always trying to explain Jesus away.  The only problem is that they never have a reasonable alternative to the Why? of the Church or the Meaning of History.

Jesus has best explanation, “A tree is known by its fruit.” 

R Kennedy - #67034

January 12th 2012

Academic history is a discipline that often shoots itself in the foot and then wonders why it’s foot hurts.  The newest New York Review of Books has an article by Mary Beard about the state of Ancient History and Classics as disciplines.  Beard is very good and wise but wanders through the essay looking for a reason for her discipline to exist and  why students should learn Greek and Latin.  

As a Christian historian I have an easy answer to why Ancient History and Classics should thrive.  First, God chose to communicate and act most effectively in the eastern Mediterranean during the Roman imperial period using Greek to communcate efficiently to a wide audience.  May ancient history and Greek/Latin classes never cease to thrive at Christian colleges and seminaries! 

Second, the only really good reason why a person today should be taught to care about someone long dead who lived in a far-off land is that Christianity teaches us that God unites us all in an everlasting communion.  Again, may history departments thrive at Christian colleges and seminaries! 

You say that historians seem always trying to explain Jesus away.  You are probably right.  It is a statement probably true of every university discipline.  The great thing about the discipline of history is that it can’t get away from Jesus.  Every teacher and textbook that aspires to teach ancient history can’t avoid the reports of Jesus.  In freshman biology class you never have to talk about Jesus.  In freshman World Civ you can’t not talk about him. 

Roger A. Sawtelle - #67038

January 12th 2012

Please note that I put “quotation marks” around “historians.” 

Western civilization is based on the classics, however Western civilization is in crisis.  In part this is because people like Dawkins can claim as he does on the first page of The Selfish Gene that all knowledge before Darwin is obsolete.

Scientists like Dawkins seek to make history, philosophy, and theology obsolete.  They seek to make sense out of life and loving.  For Dawkins & Co. life has no objective meaning. 

This is the challenge of Scientism, which seems to be winning people over daily.  It is a spiritual challenge disguised as an intellectual/philosophical challenge.  However we ignore the intellectual challenge are our own peril.  We need a sound scientific, intellectual, and spiritual basis for our understanding of reality.  If Scientism can provide two out of three, Christians are at a definite disadvantage.      


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67056

January 13th 2012

Hopefully, not to get too far from the subject, I find that it is Augustine, who is underappreciated and misconstrued.

Most people have heard of his Confessions and The Kingdom of God, but it is De Trinitate (On the Trinity) which for me is his greatest work in that it defined the Trinity for the Western Churches as opposed to the Cappadocian concept in the East. 

This view set the West on its unique course which includes modern science and democracy.  Again some people in the West want to accept the Cappadocian Trinity over Augustine, while scientism wants to accept a monistic reality as opposed to a triune one. 

Merv - #67041

January 12th 2012

written above:  “We need a sound scientific, intellectual, and spiritual basis for our understanding of reality.”

We need Jesus.  (all the other stuff comes along as part of the package.)  You probably agree with that too, Roger—I’m just reacting to how that one sentence sounds.  I agree that the intellect is of great importance.  But I’d sooner trust an apparently ignorant saint than an apparently brilliant devil.

Dr. Kennedy, I have appreciated your GPS analogy that is woven into your themes in these essays.  It so accurately illuminates a [useful] relationship between “model” and “mess” and the necessary oversimplifications that help us understand the world.  Thanks.


Merv - #67042

January 12th 2012

I would rewrite my last sentence above, if I could to read:

It so accurately illuminates a [useful] relationship between “model” and
“mess” and the necessary oversimplifications that help us understand ...

...and perhaps also perpetuate fundamental  misunderstandings of ...
the world.

I believe that better captures what you have conveyed.


R Kennedy - #67057

January 13th 2012

Thanks for the encouragement. 

One of the parts of the book I cut out for the blog was about my father being a meteorologist on an Aircraft carrier in the late 1950s.  The frailties we take into account in meteorological modeling always seem to me to be the best starting points as we move up into the more powerful modeling used in geology, astronomy, biology, genetics, and chemistry.

Merv - #67063

January 13th 2012

I enjoyed reading Gleik’s book “Chaos theory” which introduced me to the world of infinitely sensitive systems.  Perhaps that is another way to try to take a mess and “capture” even it with a sufficiently large model that at least informs us of how impossible it is to get it completely cleaned up.  Your mention of weather systems reminded me of that.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67044

January 13th 2012

Merv wrote:

We need Jesus.  (all the other stuff comes along as part of the package.)  You probably agree with that too, Roger—I’m just reacting to how that one sentence sounds.  I agree that the intellect is of great importance.  But I’d sooner trust an apparently ignorant saint than an apparently brilliant devil.

You are right.  The point I am trying to make is that Jesus is the Logos, which means that He is our model both spiritually and scientifically as well as philosophically.  Jesus according to the NT is our model for Who God is, Who humans should be, and how nature really works.

When we miss this connection by making the Bible the Logos or separating the spiritual from the natural, we lose much of the insight which the NT gives us about Jesus.  There is a connection between being right spiritually and intellectually. 

Do you know any apparently brilliant devils?  Dawkins & Dennett come to mind, but all their brilliance is very superficial.  

Merv - #67062

January 13th 2012

I don’t know anybody personally who I would describe as a brilliant devil.  If I did, I would be rather afraid of them and steer clear.  Nothing seems more sinister than a person with evil intent who knows how to manipulate people or things.  Even Dawkins and Dennet are, I suspect probably more bark than bite.  I bet we could sit down and enjoy a meal and nice conversation with either one.  Such books of theirs as I have read showed a lot of intelligence until they turned to religion.  On religious points they (or Dawkins, anyway) remind me more of someone who had a bad experience with somebody or something religious, perhaps as a child, and just can’t let it go.  An otherwise intelligent person resorts to ranting.  We’ve probably all been there more than we care to admit.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67065

January 13th 2012


You seem to underestimate the power of ideas.

Certainly D & D are good conversationalists.  That is the basis of their wit and brilliance.  Dawkins has said that he was drawn to Darwinism because he made Atheism respectable, that is Darwin have Dawkins’ atheism an intellectual basis.  If the devil is the one who seeks to discredit God Who is Creator of all, then Dawkins fits the bill.

Dennett is in the same boat.  I remember seeing an old TV program where Bill Moyers interviewed a group postmodern philosophers.  Their view of life was very negative.  Life and the future were meaningless.  After the group discussion Moyers spoke to Dennett in hope of finding a glimmer of hope, but Dennett would have none of it.

Then Dennett found Darwin and Dawkins.  Now he had a cause to believe in that supported his atheism and gave content to his belief that life is without meaning.

D & D are popularizers of scientism and atheism pure and simple.  They have liitle patience with those who disagree with them, but yes they can be good conversationalists.   

Jon Garvey - #67091

January 14th 2012

Well, Merv, without in any way wishing to reference the aforementioned gentlemen, it was pretty universally recorded in the 1930s that Adolph Hitler was a charming host and a great conversationalist. That’s why he had so much support amongst the great and good (until it became unwise to support him in public).

Moving the theme of Satanic charm further, did you ever read C S Lewis’s Perelandra, with the archetypal wicked scientist Weston charming the socks off the Eve-figure as he tried to corrupt her?

I never met a demon I liked (John Wimber)

Merv - #67068

January 13th 2012

Good points, Roger.  I shouldn’t forget that the more dangerous devils probably enter the world well dressed with smiles, wit, and charm to spare.  If Dennett or other atheists feel  like they had no respectable intellectual foundation before Dawkins, then I feel sorry for them.  I have read enough of Dawkins to know that they should still be looking.


Marty Kurlich - #67081

January 13th 2012


You wrote “The point I am trying to make is that Jesus is the Logos, which means that He is our model both spiritually and scientifically as well as philosophically. Jesus according to the NT is our model for Who God is, Who humans should be, and how nature really works…When we miss this connection by making the Bible the Logos or separating the spiritual from the natural, we lose much of the insight which the NT gives us about Jesus.”

I agree that Jesus is the Logos, and that the Bible itself is not the Logos. (I think I’d say the Bible is an inerrant reflection of the Logos.)

In your opinion, what would be the most significant “insight which the NT gives us about Jesus”, specifically, about “how nature really works”?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67084

January 13th 2012


Thank you for the question. 

First of all, nature works by rules or laws.  This is perhaps obvious to us now, but we see that under the pagan nature religions, nature was seen to work according to the whims of the gods.  The Jewish faith indicated that God ruled the human world according to moral laws.  It was under the influence of the Christianity, the Logos, that humans are able to see that God rules nature according to the rules of nature.

Second, the universe is not monistic or dualistic.  It is triune.


Marty Kurlich - #67089

January 14th 2012


You said “It was under the influence of the Christianity, the Logos, that humans are able to see that God rules nature according to the rules of nature.”


Certainly, man’s acknowledgement of the rules of nature didn’t begin with Christianity. The presumption of the reality of “order” in the universe, AND that such order could reliably, truly be perceived through our senses, began at the very beginning of homo sapiens. Whether the so-called cave men realized it or not, these very un-scientific assumptions had to be made before any science or any knowledge of anything could be possible.


A Christian believes God created the universe, which of course includes “nature” and its laws. By definition, the creator is greater than, and outside of, his creation. To say that the creator never would “overrule” his laws (i.e. never supernaturally intervene, never cause “miracles”) would be a theological statement, not a scientific statement.

[A brief aside on “miracles” – something I occasionally ponder: Turning water into wine, making man from mud (and over millions of years?) is nothing in the museum of miracles. Don’t get me wrong. Making something new from something else would certainly be impressive. But making something from nothing (i.e. ex nihilo), now that would take the cake. And this necessarily greatest miracle (i.e. creating something – matter, energy – from nothing) was also His fastest miracle (by definition, it would have to be done instantaneously, in less than a trillionth of a second). “Incredible”, yet a logical person “knows” it happened. Despite this, God would have “needed”, or at least allowed, billions of years for the remainder of his “creation” to come about? That certainly would be odd, at least to me. But hey, don’t forget Isaiah 55:8-9.]

Do you believe in the “miracles” of the Bible, Roger?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #67092

January 14th 2012


Most scholars agree that religion began in large part as early man’s attempt to control and give order to nature.  The myths explain how things began.  Lightning is the spear of Zeus.  Good crops could be assured by by prayers and sacrifices to the gods.  The future could be foretold by divination and astrology.

The struggle was essentially between chaos and order with chaos (the forces of nature) often having the upper hand.  The Greeks regarded the physical as vastly inferior to the ideal, the rational.  Christianity is based on the idea that God and humanity and Nature and humanity are not enemies. 

Humans can and must work with nature, instead of against it.  Humans cannot control nature, but they can make it work for us.  Nature does not control humanity, but if humanity mistreats it, pollutes the environment, etc., humanity will pay the price of global natural calamities.

Miracles in the Bible are statements that God is in control of God’s Creation.  Thus there is no real contradiction between them and the laws of nature which are also expressions of God’s control.  Also experience demonstates that nature is more organic in nature than mechanistic, so evolution is misunderstood by Darwinian science. 

Isaiah 55:8-9 is exeactly why we need to take John 1:1-17 very seriously. instead of assuming that everything is explained in Genesis.   


Marty Kurlich - #67105

January 14th 2012


I’ll ask again: Do you believe in the “miracles” of the Bible?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #67127

January 15th 2012


The creed our church uses is the Apsotles Creed.  I do not see anything in this creed that says, “I believe in the miracles of the Bible.”

Marty Kurlich - #67142

January 15th 2012


Of course, the Apostles’ Creed is accepted by all (I think) Christians. Obviously though, it’s not meant to be an all-inclusive statement of Christian beliefs. It’s more like a very brief, very bare-bones PowerPoint bullet chart. All true, but terse.

Yet the Apostles’ Creed does include some Bible miracles:

1) Christ being conceived in His mother’s womb not by natural joining of sperm and egg, but by the power of the Holy Spirit; a super-natural conception; a Bible miracle.

2) Christ rising from the dead; when’s the last time scientists have discovered or hypothesized this happening in nature?; a Bible miracle.

So, I guess you do believe in Bible miracles, Roger.

But maybe not all of them? Which, if any, don’t you believe in?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #67146

January 16th 2012

The Apostles’ Creed is my statement of faith.  

What you call “Bible miracles” are expressions of the power of God, which I have told you I do accept.

Do you believe in non-Bible miracles? 


Marty Kurlich - #67161

January 16th 2012

<iframe id=“twttrHubFrame” tabIndex=“0” src=“http://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.html” frameBorder=“0” allowTransparency=“true” name=“twttrHubFrame” scrolling=“no”></iframe>


Were you a speech writer or consultant for Bill Clinton? Some of your responses, like in #67146, make me think of his famous line to the grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky fiasco:

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

How about a simple “yes” or “no” on each of the items in this short list:

* Christ’s mother Mary was a virgin at His birth

* Christ walked on water

* Christ physically, bodily rose from the dead

You answer my question and then I’ll answer yours. 



Roger A. Sawtelle - #67167

January 16th 2012


I think that you are putting the cart before the horse.

I told you what I believe in and that is the power of God.  Now what purpose is there to discuss different Biblical events some of which may have been meant to be accepted literally and others maybe not, but all asserting that God is in charge of God’s Creation. 

If you think that this is dodging the question, you are entitled to your false opinion.  Please avoid the demeaning reference to Bill Clinton in this type of discussion.

Marty Kurlich - #67168

January 16th 2012


Now I’m even more confident - not certain, mind you - but more confident you did work for Bill Clinton.

You refuse to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer as to whether you believe in the most basic elements in the Apostles’ Creed, a Creed which you surprisingly claim to be your statement of faith.

Brother, you’re not only truly dodging the questions, you’re publicly professing a creed you don’t believe in.

Jesus wouldn’t like that. He had a name for such people. It began with the letters h-y-p-o.

Christianity ultimately is based on one thing and one thing only. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” 1 Cor 15:12-17

You may be many things, Roger. But apparently you’re no Christian.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #67173

January 16th 2012


I am afraid that you do not understand the English language.  I in no way said or meant the words that you are trying to put in my mouth.

“Judge not that you may not be judged.”  Do you understand that?

Marty Kurlich - #67180

January 16th 2012


“Judge not that you may not be judged.” Perhaps the most misunderstood and misused verse in the Bible. And so it is here, apparently.

Here are some more “judgey” verses:

1 Thes 5:20-21 “do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good”  [How do you do that without judging?]

John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

1 Cor 5:12-13 ”For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

Roger, I’m giving you permission to put words in my mouth.

But I’d like it to be just a “yes” or “no”.

Do you profess the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #67187

January 17th 2012


Did I not say that I believe in the Apostles’ Creed?  The Creed does not say that Christians believe in “Bible miracles,” but it does say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who was . . . . crucified, dead, and buried.  On the third day He rose from the dead, ..... 

I believe .... in the Resurrection of the body,.....

The Apostles’ Creed is quite clear on this.  I do not know why you insisted in bringing in this laundry list which just confuses the issue as to what Christian believe.

What Jesus was clearly talking about is judging people, not ideas or actions.  Only God can judge you and me.  Only God can determine if I am a Christian or not.  The Church, not individuals, does have the ability to judge and expell people from its ranks, but God has the final say, as Martin Luther proved.  

Marty Kurlich - #67203

January 17th 2012


The dodger.

A simple “yes” or “no” from you could have mercifully ended this exchange days ago.

But you refused to.

Anytime someone refuses, over and over, to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to a very short list of very simple, very clear questions, then I get a bad feeling. I’m not comforted.

Just as I’m not comforted anymore if someone says he believes in the U.S. Constitution. Because I sometimes discover he finds its meaning to be very different from my understanding. Even so-called “Constitutional experts”, the U.S. Supreme Court, can divine meanings I would never have dreamt of, even in a nightmare: the right to enslave people (Dred Scott v Sanford), the right to destroy innocent human lives in their mothers’ wombs (Roe v Wade).

People can “agree” on a single page document then find out they’re not really “on the same page” at all.

In short, you’ve given me little, if any, reason to believe you’re a Christian. Whatever, I guess. Indeed, as you said, this is ultimately a matter between you and God.

End of topic.

Finally, regarding your last comment’s ending words, what exactly did Martin Luther prove?



Roger A. Sawtelle - #67213

January 18th 2012


Sorry to make you unhappy and angry.

I wonder if you noticed that when Jesus was asked a question, He did not give a “straight” answer?  His opponents were trying to put Him into a box and Jesus refused to let them do so.  Now it seemed to me that you were trying to put me in a box and it still does.

If you had asked me about the Resurrection in the first place, I would probably given you a simple answer, but you asked me a rather vague (to me at least) question about “Bible miracles,” and I gave you the best answer I could, which was to effect that I did believe in specific “Bible miracles” included in the creed.  How is that being evasive?

You seem to think that giving a general “yes or no” answer to a general question about miracles is clearer and better than giving a specific “yes” answer concerning specific “miracles.”  Whether or not I am a Christian or not is dependent upon whether I am in right relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and other people, not whether I believe in some particular understanding of the Bible.  The Church has taken the Apostles Creed as evidence of this right relationship. 

The problem is not whether you are nice or not.  The problem is whether you are playing God or not.  Only God can judge.  Humans who think that they can judge as to whether others are Christians on superficial doctrinal evidence are asking for serious trouble.   

Concerning Martin Luther the Church excommunicated him, judged that he was not a Christian and expelled him from the Catholic Church.  In my opinion the Church’s judgement was mistaken.        

beaglelady - #67206

January 17th 2012

“You may be many things, Roger. But apparently you’re no Christian.”

Oh lighten up, Marty, for heaven’s sake.  Obviously Roger is a Christian; he’s a pastor, in fact and a gentleman.  No need to come charging into this forum beating on your chest and breaking furniture.  It’s simply not nice.

Marty Kurlich - #67211

January 18th 2012


Yes, Roger’s a pastor.

And Bill Clinton was President and Judas Iscariot was an apostle.

What’s your point?

Oh, niceness. Yes.

I’ll admit I’m not always the nicest of persons. I need to work on that.

I get frustrated and even angry at times. And then I think like to push the envelope a bit, and try to “force” people to see things clearly and do the right thing.

I know, I know. Jesus talked a lot about the importance of being “nice”, and about love and peace, and about being a peacemaker.

Maybe I’m not cut out for this. Shouldn’t blog at a forum like this, which puts such a high premium on “niceness”. Maybe I’m too much of a fighter. I’m probably too divisive.

Maybe I’ll go elsewhere.

“Peace, love, peace, love, peace be with you, etc”. Well, my personality is a little more drawn to more startling sayings, and bolder statements. Things that really shake people up.

Quite frankly, I actually liked a rather “divisive”, even militant quote I read the other day. It might have been by Mohamed the prophet, or maybe one of his Islamic acolytes. Anyway, it went something like

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”

Yea, it might have been Mohamed.

Maybe I’ll go elsewhere.



beaglelady - #67214

January 18th 2012

“What’s your

My point is simple: don’t be obnoxious.  Also, don’t quote Jesus to justify your rude behavior.  

Marty Kurlich - #67222

January 18th 2012


Also, don’t quote Jesus to justify your rude behavior.”

Was that a command, beaglelady?

Or did you mean to say “please, don’t…”, or “I pray you won’t…”?

Would you like a do-over?

Beaglelady, now I’d like to ask you a “yes” or “no” question. Maybe you’ll oblige me since Roger won’t.

If you said to someone, not in a private email, not even on an anonymous blog (well, at least you’re anonymous), but to their face, in public with lots of bystanders taking it all in… if in public you called someone to their face things like “viper”, “hypocrite”, “whitewashed tomb”…

Would that be rude?

“Yes” or “no”?


beaglelady - #67227

January 18th 2012

Now you are conflating yourself with John the Baptist? For crying out sideways!   I could give you quotes from the Bible about gracious speech but they would be of no interest to anyone here.  All I know about is the rules for this blog, where doling out smitings is not smiled upon. 

Page 1 of 1   1