Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Christian meets Atheist

In the category of there being "nothing new under the sun," note the point in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian and Hopeful encounter Atheist, a man "with his back toward Zion" who laughs at the "ignorance" of the pilgrims heading to the Celestial City:

Now after a while they perceived afar off, one coming softly and alone all along the highway to meet them. Then said Christian to his fellow, "Yonder is a man with his back toward Zion, and he is coming to meet us."

HOPEFUL: "I see him; let us take heed to ourselves now lest he should prove a Flatterer also." So he drew nearer and nearer, and at last came up unto them. His name was Atheist, and he asked them wither they were going.

CHRISTIAN: "We are going to Mount Zion."

The Atheist then fell into a very great laughter.

CHRISTIAN: "What is the meaning of your laughter?"

ATHEIST: "I laugh to see what ignorant persons you are, to take upon you so tedious a journey; and yet are like to have nothing for your travel but pains."

CHRISTIAN: "Why, man? Do you think we shall not be received?"

ATHEIST: "Received! There is no such place as you dream of in all the world."

CHRISTIAN: "But there is in the world to come."

ATHEIST: "When I was at home in mine own country, I heard as you now affirm, and, from that hearing went out to see, and have been seeking this city this twenty years: But find no more of it, than I did the first day I set out."

CHRISTIAN: "We have both heard and believe that there is such a place to be found."

ATHEIST: "Had not I, when at home, believed, I had not come thus far to seek: But finding none (and yet I should, had there been such a place to be found, for I have gone to seek it further than you), I am going back again, and will seek to refresh myself with the things that I then cast away, for hopes of which I now see is not."

Then said Christian to Hopeful his fellow, "Is it true which this man hath said?"

HOPEFUL: "Take heed, he is one of the Flatterers; remember what it hath cost us once already for our hearkening to such kind of fellows. What! No Mount Zion! Did we not see from the Delectable Mountains the gate of the city? Also, are we not now to walk by faith? Let us go on, said Hopeful, lest the man with the whip overtake us again. You should have taught me that lesson, which I will round you in the ears withal: ‘Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from words of knowledge.’ I say, my brother, cease to hear him, and let us believe to the saving of the soul."

CHRISTIAN: "My brother, I did not put the question to thee for that I doubted the truth of our belief myself, but to prove thee, and to fetch from thee a fruit of the honesty of the thy heart. As for this man, I know that he is blinded by the god of this world. Let thee and I go on, knowing that we have belief of the truth, and ‘no lie is of the truth.’"

HOPEFUL: "Now do I rejoice in hope of the glory of God." So they turned away from the man; and he, laughing at them, went his way.

JTR

14 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

So, what does this mean? That we can talk something into existence?

Pastor Jeff said...

It is not that they "talk something into existence," but they see a reality which Atheist cannot. As Hopeful says to Christian: "Did we not see from the Delectable Mountains the gate of the city? Also, are we not now to walk by faith?"

With Atheist, Christian concludes: "As for this man, I know that he is blinded by the god of this world."

JTR

beepbeepitsme said...

They can see a reality that is incorporeal and invisible?

Pastor Jeff said...

Can you see the wind? Gravity? The vast universe?

Can you see love, wrath, desire?

Are these realities?

As one early believer put it: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

JTR

beepbeepitsme said...

I don't need faith to be able to investigate the properties of air.

I don't need to have faith in the existence of the wind, it is able to be quantified and measured empirically.

I don't have faith that faith is evidence.

Pastor Jeff said...

You still have not told me whether you can empirically observe or quanitify love, wrath, justice, mercy, beauty, etc. Yet, my guess is you believe they exist.

Might we say that with Christianity, like the wind, though we cannot see the object in question, we can observe its influence on those on whom it acts?

Also, on what basis does an Atheist *know* with any certainty that the God of the Bible does not exist? Isn't his Atheism a form of faith in what he has no means of ever proving empirically? If so, what makes his position superior intellectually to that of a Christian? Again, at least a Christian can with honesty and integrity state that his faith is "the evidence of things not seen" (again, Hebrews 11:1).

JTR

beepbeepitsme said...

We know thet emotions are chemical reactions and electrical reactions in the brain. An MRI scan can show which parts of the brain are reacting according to which emotions.

Oh, I don't think that anyone knows if a god or gods exist. There are some who believe and some who don't.

I don't consider faith to be evidence. I might have faith that my TV is really a 2 headed monster in disguise which is sucking my brain dry. Just because I have faith that it is so, it doesn't mean that it IS so.

In other words, I don't see faith as a determinant or test for truth.

Pastor Jeff said...

Though an MRI may or may not be able to record brain activity while a person is experiencing an emotion (I do not know, to be honest) it still cannot explain, quantify or qualify it.

You also did not respond to the reality of principles like goodness, truth, beauty, justice, etc. that nearly everyone agrees exit but no one can keep in a jar or measure on a chart. Could there be an analogy here between the existence of these principles and the existence of God?

So, I hear you saying you are, at least, not an Atheist (that requires too much faith) but an agnostic.

By the way, I do not think that my faith "proves" God. Rather, it means I have experienced a reality that others have not. Part of my faith in Jesus is based on the witnesses to his life in Scripture. Let's say I ran into someone who did not believe Abraham Lincoln ever really existed. "He is just a fairy tale, made up by delusional pseudo-historians," my friend assures me. What would I do? I would go back to the historical records of men who observed and recorded his life. I know Lincoln existed, that he was President during the Civil War, etc., because I trust the witnesses. In a parallel way, I believe in Jesus because I have come to trust the ancient witnesses in the Gospels to his life. The witness of Scripture is also why belief in Jesus is not analogous to your suggested 2 headed, brain sucking monster.

JTR

beepbeepitsme said...

Oh, I agree that human beings experience emotions, I just don't accept that your god made or is responsible for those emotions, anymore than tikki tikki tembo or the flying spaghetti monster is.

Pastor Jeff said...

But wouldn't you agree that there is a vast difference between believing in Jesus, a historical figure about whose life, teachings, and self-identification we have extensive written records in the gospels and believing in your tikki tikki tembo or flying spaghetti monster?

Alas, I must say with Hopeful,"Did we not see from the Delectable Mountains the gate of the city? Also, are we not now to walk by faith?"

JTR

beepbeepitsme said...

I consider the bible to be evidence of belief in a god or gods, not evidence OF any god or gods.

beepbeepitsme said...

I basically treat the bible, the koran, the rigveda as I would treat any other book. They are glimpses into what the people who wrote it believed. And it is a glimpse into their culture, societal structure and politics.

So, as the hundreds of egyptian papyrus scrolls are evidence of what ancient egyptians believed, so are the books of the bible. They are evidence of religious belief. Not evidence of the god/gods themselves.

Unless, of course, every ancient papyrus, stone or clay tablet, mural, mosaic, religious statue, icon, religious fetish or scroll is evidence of the existence of the thousands of other gods as well.

So, I go with the idea that they are all evidence of religious belief, but not evidence of the existence of god or gods.

Pastor Jeff said...

Well, I do feel we are at least getting somewhere in comparing the Christian Bible with other religions and their scriptures as opposed to made-up things like the flying spaghetti machine.

I find the problem with your "all is one" approach to be the leveling of Christian Scriptures with all other human religious writings.

As a Christian, when I compare the Bible with the sacred writings of other religions, what I find is the superiority of the God of the Bible. He is so unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East! To begin with, he is the one God, not many. For another, he is a just and good and sovereign God. Compare the God of the Ten Commandments with the gods that shaped the Code of Hammurabi, for example. This God demands justice for widows and orphans, for aliens and strangers. There is not one hint of such in other ANE writings. Why is that? Might it be that it is what it purports to be? A revelation of that one true God of his character and attributes.

Again, I do not expect the Bible to prove that God is to the person who comes with the hard presupposition that he is not. But it is quite obvious that many who come with an open mind, find him there.

JTR

beepbeepitsme said...

I don't find the bible superior to any other religious claim.