This dialogue centers on Jesus and the Bible – can they be trusted? I trust that the Bible is telling the truth about Jesus, and that He is all He claims to be. Ken is questioning me on these points because he does not understand why I take this stance. It does not seem a reasonable stance to him.
This dialogue began a few days ago as a comment exchange between Ken (whom I otherwise don’t know) and me on someone else’s blog. The dialogue took a different path from the original post so I’ve reproduced it here for the purpose of continuing it.
(If you want to see all the initial comments in their original context, see Is Richard Dawkins a Secret Christian?on Scott’s Catholicism Blog on About.com. For a quick background on dialogues that appear on this site, see the post Dialogues.)
The conversation begins as Ken asks me why I believe Jesus as He is presented in the Bible. I’m pulling it from the original site and from his comment to my Everyone Is Going to Heaven post so I’ve done some very light editing here to improve readability.)
Ken: What gives you “conviction” that Jesus actually walked on water and healed the sick? Because the bible says so? Why do you believe in the teachings of the bible and not the teachings of the Koran, or the teachings of the Torah, or the teachings of Buddhism? Or the teachings of the ancient gods of Zeus, Thor, vishna, apollo, Odin, Ra, or any of the thousands of other faiths? I wager that you were born into a family or society that was of Christian denomination.
Do you believe your faith out of knowledge or of ignorance of other ways of thinking? Do you believe your faith because it helps you fit in with your community? Do you believe your faith because it is comforting to believe in a big sky daddy always watching over you and going somewhere really nice after you die? I recommend you google “why won’t God heal amputees” it is an interesting read. (unless you are fearful that knowledge may challenge your faith).
Mike: Ken, you’ve asked more questions than can be individually addressed here, but if you’ll ask them on my blog I’ll answer each one thoroughly. For here and now let me give this summary answer:
I believe what the Bible says about Jesus because it’s logical and persuasive. By contrast, I’ve read “Why doesn’t God heal amputees?” and do not find it logical or persuasive. As for all the supposed motivations you think I have for believing in Jesus, none of them apply. I hasten to say that I reject organized religion (yes, this includes all churches) as unrepresentative of God. Instead, I am motivated by a healthy regard for truth whenever I encounter it.
I believe Jesus takes everyone to heaven at death – you, me, Hitchens, Dawkins, the Dalai Lama, etc. This does not mean, however, that there is no judgment for our sins. On the contrary, it matters very much how we live.
Ultimately, everything I believe rests on the personal veracity of Jesus of Nazareth. And with that stance, I am quite comfortable.
Ken: So in other words, you are a christian because you hold too strong a desire to believe in heaven for the majority of your life that facing the alternate reality of no heaven would be too life changing for you to face… No matter the facts surrounding it. Many people maintain their faith this way (too much time and life invested to completely re-invent your mind and way of life).
And if that works for you, so be it. After all, for many it is impossible to reverse their childhood indoctrination of their parents religion.
Mike: Your paraphrase is as if you didn’t read a word I wrote. You must be working from preconceived notions. In any case, our dialogue is stalled so no point continuing it…at least not now. We each believe what we believe and neither of us is persuading the other.
Thanks for engaging and now let’s let Scott have his blog back.
[Editor's Note: At this point, Ken went to my blog and made the following comment on my Everyone Is Going to Heaven post.]
Ken: Hey Mike, I am grateful that you have invited me to share viewpoints on your blog.
Just a quick question, if you have indeed read the entire “why won’t god heal amputees”.
Then what would be your explanation for why indeed we have never seen an amputee healed by God or Jesus through prayer?
P.S. Although our views differ, I do find you to be an intellectual rarity amongst the throngs of uneducated or thoughtless throngs of “Christians”. And I do very much agree with your approach to Christianity (nobody likes Christians who shout with megaphones on street corners about going to hell) So I applaud you for that.
Therefore I do not wish to come across as an evil atheist bent on ridiculing you or belittling you. However I do hope that you feel like responding to a few of my queries, and I will gladly return the favor if you desire to challenge my train of thought.
Mike: Ken, your challenge is very gracious – and one I am grateful to accept.
So, to start with the “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees” web site, I think the argument there is illogical and unpersuasive. It starts with a flawed premise – that God has promised to answer all prayers and is answering all prayers – and then points to amputees and says, “See, it isn’t so!” Jesus’ hometown synagogue challenged Him to do miracles in their midst that they had heard about Him doing in other locales. He said that while there were many lepers in Elisha’s time only one of them was healed (Luke 4:23-27). And it was said of Jesus that He did no miracles there because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6). Thus, even in Jesus’ time, miracles were not always commonplace.
[By the way, when I give you chapter and verse it is not to say "this is the word of the Lord," but simply to let you know my source should you want to keep me honest about what the Bible says. When I started reading the Bible I only gave it the same respect I would give any other document from antiquity. That's all I'd ask you or anyone else to consider.]
I myself think miracles are quite rare. That’s what makes them miracles! That’s what made Jesus of Nazareth so unique – never before or since have that many miracles of that magnitude been ascribed to a human being. But even He was limited when there was no faith.
I myself am not surprised that God does not heal amputees. And the fact that He doesn’t, doesn’t mean to me that He can’t. Moreover, the hospitals filled with people that God is not healing miraculously. They’re either being healed through more mundane means or not being healed at all. God can do anything He wants. But He chooses to operate in very predictable ways most of the time (e.g. through the laws of physics and biology) which makes miracles exceedingly rare.
Having said that, I see the ordinary flow of life as quite wondrous, if not “miraculous” in a sense. For example, you and I are spinning around somewhere between the top and the side of a ball. The rate of speed is about 600 miles an hour in the continental United States. Simultaneously, that ball is circling the sun at about 66,000 mph. Simultaneously again, the ball’s solar system is moving around the Milky Way at 432,000 mph. And so on. Nonetheless, you and I do not fall off or fly off the ball, neither are we getting chapped lips from the experience. I’m no scientist, but I do have a sense of irony. And of wonder.
As I said, amputees are not the only people God does not heal. In fact, you could say that ultimately He doesn’t heal any of us because we all die. (That’s why everyone going to heaven – independent of faith – is such wonderfully good news.)
In other words, I adopt the opposite stance of the straw man on the “Amputee” web site (which I concede that the extravagant claims of wishful thinkers have encouraged). That is, I see God’s healings and answered prayers as the exceptions rather than the rules – and I derive this perspective from reading the Bible.
Your turn, Ken. Just comment below.