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Posted: 04 October 2006 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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I’m just curious here, but has Thomas produced any evidence at all as yet that there’s a direct point in engaging him intellectually?

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 04 October 2006 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]I’m just curious here, but has Thomas produced any evidence at all as yet that there’s a direct point in engaging him intellectually?

Byron

Byron, I have no false hope about Thomas deconverting from his religion, but he says he’s a teacher and a pastor. He may be open to tweaking some of his approaches or he may not, but certain points seem worth pursuing especially since he’s a public speaker.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 October 2006 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]I’m just curious here, but has Thomas produced any evidence at all as yet that there’s a direct point in engaging him intellectually?

Byron

Wiht such an arrogant and insulting manner, what evidence is there that I should engage you as a human being?

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Posted: 04 October 2006 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]Thomas wrote:

Ted Shepherd wrote:
Thomas: So let me approach it this way, on the basis of an experiential challenge: I challenge the atheists here to repeat a simple mantra:

Ted: I decline the challenge. I have too much self-respect to lie to myself like that. If you believe in a commandment—Thou shalt not lie—then your suggestion that someone else lie to himself is irreligious and indefensible. If lying is sinful for you, how can you in good conscience recommend lying to me? On the other hand, in a boy’s choir in church decades ago, I sang religious sentiments and Christian doctrine (“Holy holy, holy, merciful and mighty! God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!” for example) in hymns, over and over again. The experience did nothing for me. It did not feel like a lie at that time. I was a gullible kid. Those were the days when I believed in Santa Claus too. I notice that you have said nothing about Hell even after I mentioned it. Ignoring that part of Christian doctrine is one of the ways you protect yourself from the essential gloominess and tragedy of your religion.

(Thomas again:)
I was suggesting that you test the truth claims of the faith against your own experience of it.

If you do not take the test how will you know if God fits your cognitive structure as an argument for his existence?

Are you afraid?

If you are afraid then who has the dark and gloomy religion?

You were urging me to lie to myself. That makes me wonder about your commitment to personal integrity on the one hand and the Ten Commandments on the other hand. Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings in produces in you. Wouldn’t you object to the sinfulness of that? How then can you recommend that I lie to myself? A harsh expression comes to mind for you: whited sepulcher. In recommending that I lie to myself until I become devout and see the divine inspiration of the Ten Commandments and the sinfulness of lying, you sound like Luther: “To be a Christian, you must pluck out the eye of reason.”

No, I am not afraid. I abstain from lying to myself for reasons of mental health and self-esteem. Those are the same reasons that keep me from trying cocaine.

Your hideously dark and gloomy religion says that most human will suffer endless torment in Hell—eternal punishment for sins committed in a finite life time. How much more dark and gloomy could it be, short of saying that every last one of us is damned? If you have mentioned the Christian and Muslim doctrines of Hell in your posts here, I have overlooked it.

Since it is not proven that God does not exist, or that he is not good or not true or not loving it would not be a lie to say that.  Only if you have already decided it is not true would be a lie and so NO, under those circumstances, you should not do it.

I was asking you to test a hypothetical, not asking you to lie.

Who said that most people will suffer in an eternal Hell?  I’m quite sure that any punishment meted out will be proportional and deserved.  Who gave you an impression otherwise?

I don’t believe in Luther or SOLA FIDE.  And I hope I’m not a whited sepulchre.

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Posted: 04 October 2006 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“Thomas”][quote author=“SkepticX”]I’m just curious here, but has Thomas produced any evidence at all as yet that there’s a direct point in engaging him intellectually?

Byron

Wiht such an arrogant and insulting manner, what evidence is there that I should engage you as a human being?

Cranky, cranky, cranky. :shock:

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Posted: 04 October 2006 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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[quote author=“FaixaPreta”][quote author=“Thomas”][quote author=“SkepticX”]I’m just curious here, but has Thomas produced any evidence at all as yet that there’s a direct point in engaging him intellectually?

Byron

With such an arrogant and insulting manner, what evidence is there that I should engage you as a human being?

Cranky, cranky, cranky. :shock:

It’s not cranky to have a normal reaction to a personal insult.

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Posted: 04 October 2006 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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There are many loose ends conversationally here. Here is one of them:

Thomas:

Who said that most people will suffer in an eternal Hell?

It is a traditional Christian teaching that salvation comes only through belief that Jesus was divine. Most people on earth today do not believe that. Here are a couple of sources for my comment—Jerry Falwell and a Roman Catholic Encyclopedia.

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/articles/article.html?id=12741

While I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and dearly love the Jewish people and believe them to be the chosen people of God, I continue to stand on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enter heaven.

Falwell’s “etc.” would include hundreds of millions of Buddhists, Hindus, Confucianists, Shintoists, primitive animists, atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, and others. For this to be an airtight argument, I also depend on quoting the common Christian teaching that people have immortal souls and that every one will spend eternity either in heaven or in hell. (Quoting isn’t believing.)

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm
Excerpt of the Athanasian Creed:

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Thomas, you have already rejected Luther explicitly. Do you also reject Falwell and the Pope? Where do you stand on Calvin and Wesley and Knox and Zwingli and the others?

Ted

Footnote for anyone who who examines my typographical errors as I do:

I wrote “Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings in produces in you.”
I probably meant both
“Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings it produces in you.”
and
“Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings sin produces in you.”
<small smile>

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Posted: 04 October 2006 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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Ted brings up an excellent point, Thomas. You casually dismiss the notion of nonbelievers going to hell for eternal torture when they die as though your religion has nothing to do with such a ridiculous proposal. How falsely innocent of you. Unless you’re a Seventh-Day Adventist or a member of some other non-eternal-torture Christian club I’m unaware of, I would suggest that you begin to approach discussions here with more honesty.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 October 2006 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]Ted brings up an excellent point, Thomas. You casually dismiss the notion of nonbelievers going to hell for eternal torture when they die as though your religion has nothing to do with such a ridiculous proposal. How falsely innocent of you. Unless you’re a Seventh-Day Adventist or a member of some other non-eternal-torture Christian club I’m unaware of, I would suggest that you begin to approach discussions here with more honesty.

I’m not a mere adherent of any “club,” as you put it.

I’m an ordained Elder within the Methodist tradition and teach Religion and Philosophy at a local college.  Were I to use my real name you might discover that I have some purchase as a thinker and leader within my community.

Your lumping of all Christians into the worst forms of a very large perspective is just plain ignorant.  It is boring and just barely worth my time.

You seriously underestimate the sophistication of many Christians, including those of us with Open Theology.  We see ourselves firmly rooted within the Faith yet with freedom and insight to contribute to an understandig of God and his love.  Your suggestion that I’m not being honest is insulting and I’d ask you politely to quit insulting me.

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Posted: 04 October 2006 04:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”]There are many loose ends conversationally here. Here is one of them:

Thomas:

Who said that most people will suffer in an eternal Hell?

It is a traditional Christian teaching that salvation comes only through belief that Jesus was divine. Most people on earth today do not believe that. Here are a couple of sources for my comment—Jerry Falwell and a Roman Catholic Encyclopedia.

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/articles/article.html?id=12741

While I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and dearly love the Jewish people and believe them to be the chosen people of God, I continue to stand on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enter heaven.

Falwell’s “etc.” would include hundreds of millions of Buddhists, Hindus, Confucianists, Shintoists, primitive animists, atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, and others. For this to be an airtight argument, I also depend on quoting the common Christian teaching that people have immortal souls and that every one will spend eternity either in heaven or in hell. (Quoting isn’t believing.)

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm
Excerpt of the Athanasian Creed:

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Thomas, you have already rejected Luther explicitly. Do you also reject Falwell and the Pope? Where do you stand on Calvin and Wesley and Knox and Zwingli and the others?

Ted

Footnote for anyone who who examines my typographical errors as I do:

I wrote “Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings in produces in you.”
I probably meant both
“Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings it produces in you.”
and
“Suppose I suggested that you try adultery to see what good feelings sin produces in you.”
<small smile>

Nothing that is not Canonical is true doctrine.

All Scripture is subject to interpretation.

I reject Augustine in favor of Morgan of Wales, AKA Pelagius.

I like Aquinas because he was Aristotelian and put forth a good synthesis of Faith and Reason.

I like Erasmus of Rotterdam,  and Jacobus Arminius.

Abelard is one of my favorites.

I reject the Continental Reform as hopelessly antinomian.  I like Celtic Christianity and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wesley is my spiritual father because of his doctrine of love and social holiness.  Calvin was an idiot.  Baptists tend to be like little children and so who doesn’t love children?

Scripture says we are judged by our works.  God judges justly.  I believe that with all my heart and I believe that is what Scripture says.  I argue for the existence of God because it is true and good so to believe.

I am not responsible for what every other “Christian” believes.  I’m responsible for my people, my students, my family and friends.

If you do not want me to care about you then tell me and I’ll go discuss things someplace else.

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Posted: 04 October 2006 04:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Thanks for the reminder of your qualifications, Thomas. They remind me that you feel a need to mention them every so often—perhaps to gain respect here? I don’t know why you’d crave respect among your intellectual opponents.

As you might already have guessed, they mean little to me and perhaps less than that to most contributors here. Anyone can recite their accomplishments and training credentials but on a forum such as this, your words alone point to or lack clout and influence.

Your words so far have not influenced me much, especially due to the low regard you hold for J.S. Spong. I take it that he’s just a bit too aligned with the Open Theology you mention?

Give us a taste of that openness, please. What is your concept of hell and damnation? Does it resemble the SDA take? Do you have a formal description somewhere for us ignorant atheists to look at, or do you prefer to be secretive?

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 October 2006 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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homunculus:

Christianity grew up intensely hating a large group of people in its midst—century after century of hating, finally culminating in massive killing. How can you align yourself with a group that has such a horrifying history? Tell me the secret to your peace of mind with this knowledge about precisely what Christianity was for 98% of its existence.

Thomas:

Then you and I both are blessed to have experienced that 2% of what is true Christianity.

Thomas, in case my objections to Christianity are less than obvious to you, I’ll explain one aspect of what brought me to apostasy about 10 years ago. I began to look into the recorded history of Christianity—not just theological invention of history. I soon discovered how bloody and destructive Christianity has been through all of its history except when it’s been reined in by folks such as those who refuse to align themselves with the church or the crown.

That was one of several discoveries that caused me to lose my faith. I could no longer associate myself with Christianity any more than I’d be able to associate myself with the KKK even if they no longer hang innocent people from trees. Hate groups are just not my thing, even if they’ve been tamed by secular law. In case you haven’t already guessed, to me it’s obvious that Christianity (and congratulations for being a member of a progressive branch of Christianity) retains every bit of its ugliness, though only latently for now. It will re-rear its ugly head unless anti-religionists continue to insist that it remain politically defanged. I won’t go into detail here about the cognitive damage that fairy-tales-as-literal-truth results in for our children.

Thus my hostility toward Christianity. By the way, I have no connection with Sam Harris other than having read and enjoyed his books. By coincidence, prior to when his first book was published I had already described in writing my own take on some of the subjects he eventually wrote about. My writing is not nearly as competent as his, but his and my interests and opinions are amazingly similar and I therefore find comfort in contributing to this forum. If you want a link to my writing, let me know and I’ll p.m. you. But don’t worry—I won’t expect such a request from you.

Finally, I apologize for having mistaken you for someone else who said that he would be writing to Sam Harris.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 04 October 2006 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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Thomas: Nothing that is not Canonical is true doctrine.

Ted: What is Canonical in your view? Is the Athanasian Creed canonical or only the Bible?

Thomas: All Scripture is subject to interpretation.

Ted: Ah, yes, to be sure, but how are we to resolve disputes about differing interpretations and about who is qualified to interpret scripture?

Thomas: I like Aquinas because he was Aristotelian and put forth a good synthesis of Faith and Reason.

Ted: I know very little of Aquinas, but the little I saw or heard seemed both cruel and illogical. Did Aquinas in fact say that the blessed in heaven will be able to see the torments of the damned in Hell in order to enjoy the spectacle? It’s a ghastly thought which I would think painful to contemplate for any kindly person.

Thomas: Wesley is my spiritual father because of his doctrine of love and social holiness.

Ted: A lot of my family has been Methodist. They were sufficiently dedicated that, over the generations, they frequently gave their sons the names John Wesley. I’m glad you gave this hint of your affiliation. It gives me some background for the conversation. Here is a quotation from “A Call to Backsliders”, Sermon 86 by John Wesley, 1872:

Exactly parallel to these are those words of our Lord, which are recited by St. Mark: ‘Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven, but is in danger of eternal damnation.’ “(Mark 3:28, 29)

Ted: So it seems that Wesley interpreted scriptures to say that at least one sin guarantees eternal damnation. Do you agree?


Thomas: Calvin was an idiot.

Ted: That could be, for all I know. I understand the Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) to have its roots in Calvinist ideas like these: It is good for a man to work hard at something useful to his neighbors, so useful that they pay him for his effort. It is good also for him and his family to live modestly and prudently, putting by something for hard times. The likely result of this is personal satisfaction and material prosperity. That prosperity is a sign of God’s approval of the man’s effort. (If that is a caricature, it is unintentional.) Since I and my ancestors have lived by the PWE (with or without divine approval) for decades, I have a certain respect for it. What do you think?

Thomas:  God judges justly.

Ted: In this judging, does he hold himself responsible for the short-comings of his handiwork, just as any honest human craftsman does?

Thomas: I am not responsible for what every other “Christian” believes. I’m responsible for my people, my students, my family and friends.

Ted: Of course, I understand that. I mentioned what other Christians believe in response to your question of who told me about eternal damnation. The quotation marks you put around Christian reminds me of how quick Christians are to read each other out of the movement. This makes all of you look somewhat ridiculous from the outside. In my own latitudinarian way, I take at face value the word of any person who claims to be a Christian. Christians differ so drastically in their beliefs, though, that I cannot regard Christianity as a single religion.

Thomas: If you do not want me to care about you then tell me and I’ll go discuss things someplace else.

Ted: I was going to say something like “Suit yourself,” but of course you will anyway and you don’t need my encouragement or permission. I have learned something from you, namely, the movement called Open Theology. I had not heard of it. http://www.stnews.org/News-999.htm is a reference I just found. Is it competent in your view?

Scholars of a movement known as open theology say that God does not know exactly what will happen in the future. Instead, “open theists insist that God’s knowledge is best understood as present knowledge,” said open theologian John Sanders, a theology professor at Huntington College.

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Posted: 04 October 2006 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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[quote author=“Thomas”]There have been times in lectures or preaching or counseling when I’ve looked up and people are crying because of what I’ve said.  They tell me how I’ve spoken to their heart and situation in ways I could not have consciously known.  Sometimes, I depart from my notes and “just talk” like form the heart and it seems to meet the moment in profound ways.  I’m often surprised by what what comes out of my own mouth.

Hi Thomas,

Are you implying that God is communicating directly with members of your congregation and employing you as the delivery system?

Just curious.

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Posted: 05 October 2006 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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[quote author=“FaixaPreta”][quote author=“Thomas”]There have been times in lectures or preaching or counseling when I’ve looked up and people are crying because of what I’ve said.  They tell me how I’ve spoken to their heart and situation in ways I could not have consciously known.  Sometimes, I depart from my notes and “just talk” like form the heart and it seems to meet the moment in profound ways.  I’m often surprised by what what comes out of my own mouth.

Hi Thomas,

Are you implying that God is communicating directly with members of your congregation and employing you as the delivery system?

Just curious.

Yes.

But it’s because I’ve offered myself in prayer, study and discipline, because I’ve committed to love and following the Lord as closely as I know, or been sorry when I didn’t and sought to improve myself.  I’ve made hard ethical decisions as a Pastor within a politicized ecclesiastical structure, to stand on principle, and have been punished by the Church hierarchy for it, those that want money from religion and have personal agendas and do not care for the people.

I could fall away the next minute if I betrayed God or what I know to be true and good.  There is a certain amount of “fear and trembling” in me as I work out my salvation.  I have no delusions about my own amissability.

But God is not ashamed of me or any his people that seek him.  There are hundreds of millions of us out there through whom God can manifest his love and wisdom.  So, don’t pull this, “Oh, God, he thinks he’s prophet,” business on me.  It’s as normal and ordinary for Christians and Jews to be used of God as birds to fly.

In fact, I’ll give you an atheist argument and hope you use it every time you can:  So, you believe in God?  What has he said to you lately or commanded you to do that you have done?

Anyone that argues for God as a mere theory, with no immediate, practical implication for their life, is, in all seriousness, a practical atheist.

Scripture tells of many fallible men and women through whom God has worked—David, Peter, Paul.  His ways have been repeated down through time, I think, usually, through the poor of his people and his more humble servants that cry to him day and night.

I frankly do not recognize the Christianity described here in what is being rejected by you atheists.  It has never been my experience except as petty church bureaucrats have sought to compromise the Gospel for money.  It’s as if you have never met a real Christian or a real Pastor.

You atheists tend to argue against a God of your own construction.  I don’t know the God or the Faith that you rail against.  I’ll speak to that more specifically in the next post.

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