First, let me thank you for the excellent reply to my post on Sam Harris’ Big Lie. It is exciting for me to see a reply from an atheist (which I presume you are) who is genuinely interested in both my argument and the search for the truth.
Second, you are absolutely correct in pointing out that this is Sam’s forum and I should make a complete argument in each of my replies. In addition, though you can see that I throughout give Sam a richly deserved hard time for his intellectual dishonesty, I do want to thank him for allowing me to make my case here on this forum.
In answer to your specific questions:
1. Do you consider yourself to be a Christian?
I am absolutely an Evangelical Christian, the type who practices Christianity “in its most committed form” as Sam says. I am exactly the person who Sam is unjustly lampooning and mischaracterizing.
2. If no, please explain your beliefs.
See answer to number 1 above
3. If yes, do you view the Bible as reflecting the true and fully accurate words of God?
My views of the Bible are more detailed than a brief response will allow, but let me attempt to summarize my thoughts on the topic. These are my beliefs, upon which I form my world view. I can not prove these to be facts to you, will not attempt to do so, but am satisfied in my own mind that these beliefs are not inconsistent with what my intellect tells me to be true about the world I observe.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that he rose from the dead, and that his words as recorded in the New Testament, especially in Mathew, Mark, and Luke (the so called Synoptic –seen with one eye—Gospels) are God’s will as to how we should conduct our lives here on earth. I believe that when we die, if we have sincerely attempted to follow God’s will that we will join him in heaven. I think there probably is a hell but wouldn’t bet the ranch either way on that topic.
I view the Old Testament and New Testament as written by fallible men who were probably inspired by God, and who were sincerely trying to put down their vision of God’s inspiration in words.
I think to truly discern God’s will, one can read the Bible, reflect on the written words, try to understand the context in which they were written, and form your own interpretation of the message. Some elements – most of Jesus’ words for instance—are very clear. Others are perplexing and don’t seem to fit.
I think Paul was a fabulous missionary, a zealous evangelist for Christianity, but that the theology in his letters represents his own view of the World, and not necessarily God’s I think that Sam Harris has a great deal in common with Paul.
4. If you do not view the Bible as reflecting the fully accurate word of God, can you please summarize for us which parts of the Bible you subscribe to as true, as well as those you view otherwise?
Please see my answer to 3 above.
5. Do you believe the biblical story of creation, as contained in Genesis?
I am a theistic evolutionist, who believes that the current theory of evolution is filled with flaws, and that we are on the threshold of some new testable theory of evolution which will combine some elements of Darwinism with elements of Intelligent Design. I think Darwin’s good friend Asa Gray shows the way in this, and that Stephen Jay Gould’s theories on evolution are far superior to Richard Dawkins’, and that Dawkins’ ultimate downfall is that he relies on the scientifically unproven concept of “abiogenesis” as the point of origin for all life. Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation, and no matter how much Dawkins’ may wish it to be so, there was no spontaneous generation from the primordial soup of chemicals swirling around the earth near its creation.
I accept completely the current scientific knowledge that the earth is 4.5 billion years old
6. Do you disagree with any elements of the story of creation, and if so, which such elements do you believe to be incorrect?
I think the story of creation in the Bible is a story that is not inconsistent with my theistic evolutionary view of the world.
You get into a discussion here of how long a day was, and what does it mean when the Bible says “God created man”
Were there no men, and then poof, there was Adam, fully formed ?
I don’t think so.
Was there some sort of human like creature with a certain DNA mix, and God looked down on one of those creatures, saw the DNA mix and said, ok, time to create man, and poof, there was a mutation in the DNA and a new species was created ?
That sounds more plausible to me.
7. If you believe some elements of the Bible to be the true word of God (or as the general basis for your religious beliefs), while viewing other elements of the Bible to be incorrect (or incorrectly transcribed)—what method (logical or otherwise) do you use to distinguish those parts of the Bible you view to be true, from those you view to be in error?
This is really a wonderful question.
It goes to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it ?
I think I’ve addressed that in my answer to number 3 above, but I will elaborate just a bit here.
I think what you are getting at is Why are you a Christian ?
So I will answer it this way.
I think all people develop an overall world view. The way we reach that world view is based on a combination of personal observations, personal experiiences, study, thought, and even what we might call spiritual experiences. The Saul on the Road to Damascus kind of thing.
I try in every aspect of my life to be rational and intellectually honest.
What are the facts ? What can I prove to be true ?
What is my best guess to be true ?
And my best guess, based upon my life experiences, my thought and study, and most importantly the examples of others who I admire greatly – is that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that Christian faith is the best way to discern his will.
Note that I say faith here, and not religion.
Faith is about belief.
Religion is about a human institution, which by its nature is fallible.
So, Mr. Kelly you have asked me for my own personal beliefs and I have done my best to describe them here for you. I am Evangelical, and that means that I am interested in helping anyone with a sincere desire to learn about Christian faith to become a Christian.
But my own view on being an evangelical is this. There are a lot of smart people who aren’t Christian. They are not Christian for a reason, and they have thoroughly thought through those reasons for the most part.
So it doesn’t do any good for me to try to force a belief structure that I have spent my entire life developing and refining down your throat. You would, in my opinion, be justified in telling me to get lost.
But if anything that I say about my own personal beliefs rings true with you, I am more than happy to discuss it further in great detail.