Dude, you’re dirty and drowning
Sometimes, actually quite often, I marvel and wonder why so many people, some of them family and friends, reject the truth of Christianity which has so thoroughly convinced me. Some may claim an intellectual barrier but that is easily dismantled with any honest investigation. Others are put off by doctrines and practices they believe are representative of the faith and which appear abhorrent or ridiculous. But again, any honest examination would reveal their disassociation from the unadulterated gospel. Perhaps the reason is more basic than that.
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
I believe in this one verse from Isaiah 66 we have the basic characteristics of those who would embrace Christianity as true…the groundwork, if you will, of the gospel…what needs to be true of a person before the saving work of Jesus Christ can be applied to them:
- an acknowledgment of God as Creator
- a humble recognition that one is in opposition to him because of sin, and
- a spirit of contrition and repentance in submissive, reverent fear of the one who has the power and prerogative of life and death…temporal and eternal
At the heart of unbelief for many is a blindness to sin. Of course, if there is no God there is no sin, and no objective duty to do right and avoid wrong. Yet, even atheists have a God-given conscience and unless that’s completely seared the sting of guilt has a way of marring even the self-satisfied mood of the ostensibly unaccountable.
But even for those who would admit to the existence of some supreme supernatural being, the concept of sin is too benign and abstract to cause them concern. If you don’t know you need a bath, why take one? If you don’t feel burdened, why seek relief? If you don’t realize you’re drowning, why grab the life preserver?
So the key to persuading some to believe in the Savior is first helping them recognize that they need saving. Not, they would be better off being saved, but, they must be saved or they will drown.
Unfortunately, people tend to resent being told they’re dirty and helpless. But if they don’t see it and unless they do they will eternally regret their willful blindness, isn’t shining a light on it the loving thing to do?
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. – Revelation 22:12-15
A few years ago I acknowledged the ‘born drowning’ thing, in the Christian narrative.
It’s incredible how arrogant and self righteous the author of this article is. There are many Christians including myself who struggled with their faith, not because of willful disobedience but because of problems in our faith walk coupled with years of honest investigation into the Bible and Christian dogma. There is a need for Christianity to own up to biblical scholarship and modern science. It’s easy to point fingers . Actually is quite shameful of you because your arguments is the same I heard in my years as an evangelical.
I’m not sure I follow your comment.
“…but that is easily dismantled with any honest investigation.” That’s where you lost me. What do you have to offer the unbeliever when you have no understanding of how easily any theology can be dismantled with honest investigation? Every day I work with Christians who are losing faith, and they are talking to me because Christians like you call their doubt “willful blindness.”
I do not believe you are interested in being used by God to save souls. You appear to only be interested in inspiring other like-minded believers to dismiss doubt. In your effort to remain completely free of doubt, you have successfully managed to possess zero understanding of it. And a person who can only “marvel and wonder” at it, will never be able to help anyone overcome it.
So if “any theology can be dismantled with honest investigation,” that must include your own, correct?
I was a Christian who unwillingly lost faith. I believed that knowing the history of Christianity and gaining a better understanding of apologetics would strengthen my faith; but instead it brought me to a realization that we know nothing about the nature of God. I only have room to build. I’m not sure what I would be dismantling. But if you want to call what I was left with a theology, then go ahead.
Once the Christian theology no longer makes sense to a believer, we are left with the question of whether or not a creator exists or existed. If it does exist, we know nothing about it. There is no definition. If I say I don’t believe in it, who cares? I could say I do believe in it, but that feels just as meaningless. And whether or not that lack of knowledge can be dismantled feels pretty irrelevant. I am open to new information, but I have no interest in filling in the gaps of what I don’t know with faith.
You may look at the same information and come to a very different conclusion, but the fact that people do come to a wide variety of conclusions is evidence enough that your belief is not as easily verifiable as you claim. If you are going to dismiss that notion and tell me I am just being rebellious, you are going to fail miserably at persuading me of anything.
My lack of faith doesn’t trouble me. I think there are many people who need to believe there is something bigger in control, and I have come around to accept that religion may hold a very important purpose for that reason. I am not asking you to doubt your faith. But not everyone is wired to feel that way.
You need to believe I am being rebellious, I accept that. But the concept will always be silly to me. Before giving advice on how to be persuasive, you may first want to understand those you are attempting to persuade from their point of view–not your own.
If for you “knowing” means absolute certainty with no possible doubt, I could agree with you that we “know nothing” about God. But that is an unrealistic standard that would leave us unable to really know anything. Are you familiar with the arguments for the existence of God, such as the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments?
Am I familiar with those arguments? That’s insulting.
Your belief that not knowing is “an unrealistic standard that would leave us unable to really know anything” is your blind spot. It feels perfectly realistic to me. Going down some rabbit hole of wordplay about how it means we know nothing has never gotten anyone any closer to proving the existence of God; and it is certainly worthless to the cause of proving Christianity. That’s how I see it, and I accept that it will never be how you see it. But understanding how I could see it differently is necessary for participation in this discussion. That was my whole point.
There is no new information you have for me. Morality arguments are the least convincing arguments of all, even when I was an evangelical Christian, and the fact that you bring them up makes me believe you feel otherwise. That’s a big red flag to me that a theist is unable to grasp another point of view. It’s okay. I didn’t come here for a debate. You don’t need to ever grasp my point of view, and it’s probably best for you if you don’t. Go forth and inspire the troops; but offering tips on how to be persuasive with atheists may not be your calling. That was the only point I meant to make.
First of all, just for the record, I was not “offering tips on how to be persuasive with atheists.” I was offering a possible explanation for why some don’t respond to the evidence for Christianity that I did. Secondly, you stated that “we know nothing about the nature of God,” which is why I brought up a few examples of arguments for God’s existence from which we can learn actually quite a bit.
Thirdly, I get the sense that you are unwilling to engage in a discussion of the evidence, so be assured I have noted your point of view and your knee-jerk assessment of my motivation, level of understanding, and ability to grasp other points of view.
“So the key to persuading some to believe in the savior is first helping them recognize they need saving.” My mistake. I read that as a tip on how to be persuasive with atheists. With the atheist tag on this post, the evaluation of why you believe others might not believe in God, and the actual words “the key to persuading”– perhaps you can see how I misunderstood. I apologize.
In explaining my own experience, I said that I came to the conclusion that we know nothing about God. This is my personal point of view, expressed only to help you define my “theology.” Because you asked if it could be dismantled. I also made it clear that others will not agree with me, and I am okay with that. I at no point asked you to convince me; I simply pointed out that your advice was nothing more than preaching to the choir. It is. You can attempt to convince me all day that I am wrong about how convincing you are to me, but that seems ridiculous.
You are correct. I am not willing to engage in a discussion of the evidence, and I never pretended otherwise. I have been there and done that with Christians much more persuasive than you. Surely you, too, have been round and round in these discussions and figured out it isn’t enough to change minds on either side. All of your arguments are for you, not me. Let’s not waste time pretending otherwise.
And as far as my knee-jerk reaction of your motivation, level of understanding, and ability to grasp other points of view? I can only go by what you offer. If you are offended by my pointing out how what you offer here is not compelling to an actual atheist like me, I don’t know what to tell you. Your taking offense doesn’t take back the impression you made. Had you engaged in the specific discussion of how to better understand doubt, I might have changed my mind about your motivation. But it appears you equate discussion with competition. Instead of asking what I believe and why I feel you are ill-prepared to help anyone with doubt, you immediately sought to debate my position on God. You want to impress me with the same old arguments and “outwit” me.
If it makes you feel better, tell yourself you “won” because I won’t debate you. I wonder what you gain from that. If you have an answer to that question, I would love to know. Otherwise, I cannot imagine what else we have to say on this topic. Best of luck to you.
That there are those who are willfully blind to the truths of theism in general and Christianity in particular I have no doubt. Whether or not you are among them is not for me to say, but you have provided clues that suggest you are…in particular your claim that “gaining a better understanding of apologetics” only led you to the conclusion that we “know nothing about the nature of God” when there is so much that can be reasonably concluded about the reality and nature of God with a sincere investigation of the arguments. At least for anyone who is willing to consider a supernatural conclusion. When someone puts their faith (and yes, faith is involved in rejecting the God hypothesis) in a theory that says the universe just popped into existence uncaused from nothing rather than in the more plausible explanation that suggests a supernatural being was involved, I become very suspicious about their claim to be following the evidence where it leads. I’m not saying you believe that, but some very smart people do, and though I don’t claim to know their personal motivations, I do know human nature and I’m just saying the evidence suggests that they have presuppositions they refuse to discard and non-scientific but very human motivations for rejecting theism.
Another clue for me is your condescending tone throughout your comments, typical of the unbeliever with an attitude and an axe to grind. Right out of the gate, after reading a single post, you denigrate my level of understanding and claim to know my motivations. Yes, I am claiming knowledge of the motivations of some who reject God, but as a general assessment based on evidence. You assert that I am motivated by a desire “to reman completely free of doubt,” and that I “need to believe [you] are being rebellious” without knowing anything more of me than what I revealed in one short essay.
But I didn’t respond to that because, contrary to your assertion, I am not offended by it. I don’t care what you think of me. I felt it would be more productive to zero in on the claims you were making about reality, not about me. My first response was an effort to highlight the fact that even atheists have a theology and that just as not all worldviews can be equally valid, they can’t all be equally false. There is a true description of the way things are and if your preferred description excludes God you need to be able to defend it as much as I do mine.
You say you are “open to new information, but I have no interest in filling in the gaps of what I don’t know with faith.” Which is why I suggested that perhaps your concept of “knowing” was unrealistic. Not as an exercise in “wordplay” but as an effort to point out that there are possible doubts about virtually everything we assume to be true. Is there a possibility that the ones you call or called Mom and Dad are really not your biological parents? Unless, of course, you were adopted by them, in which case is it possible that they actually are your biological parents? Is it possible that your significant other who claims to love you is really an evil foreign spy or an alien sent to infiltrate the human species through you? Is it possible that Jesus of Nazareth is a myth spun by ancient Jewish zealots with a death wish?
Yes to all of those. But the evidence suggests that those possibilities are highly implausible and so we rightly reject them. So you and I both live by faith…that our relationships are real, our personal histories are reliable, our vehicle won’t explode when we start the ignition, etc. And because it is certainly possible that God exists and Jesus is God, your rejection of him is “filling in the gaps of what I don’t know with faith.”
Your dismissal of my question about your familiarity with the arguments for God’s existence as “insulting” also bespeaks a condescending attitude. I realize that you simply wanted to address my apparent lack of understanding of other points of view, but as I said, every point of view needs to be defended and I was challenging you to defend yours. The arguments for God are very compelling and I wanted to know how thoroughly you’ve considered them.
So perhaps if you hadn’t come off as condescending I might have “engaged in the specific discussion of how to better understand doubt.” And perhaps I should have anyway. But often those who doubt make self-refuting blanket statements like you did and so I decided to address that first. I was not out to “impress” or “outwit” you, only to try and discern what the basis of your doubt is.
I haven’t considered myself to have “won” this interaction or debate or whatever you want to call it. And I don’t expect to persuade any atheist blogger to theism. Perhaps a seeker here and there though…an honest agnostic willing to consider supernatural explanations. My blog posts are generally personal reflections that I feel compelled to express. God can use them to impact someone for their good and I trust him to use them or not.
And if it makes YOU feel any better, I will peruse your blog with a desire to better understand those who doubt.
The best to you as well.