Nostalgic Today

Okay, here’s a personal post, for what it’s worth. I belonged to the Christian Church/Churches of Christ, known as the Restoration Movement. We were the conservatives who used the musical instruments in worship (i.e. “the centrists”).

I studied at Great Lakes Christian College (GLCC), and Lincoln Christian Seminary (LCC/LCS). I still know many of the faculty and administrators at these colleges, along with those at several other colleges, since several of my peers and former professors went on to teach at these colleges. The Presidents of two seminaries were close personal friends of mine when I was in school, including Dr. Keith Ray who is now the President at LCC/LCS. One of my former professors is the President of Kentucky Christian University . I considered many Christian college professors and a great many more ministers as my friends. Then there are the many Christian friends I knew in the churches I served as an associate minister, a minister, a senior minister, and as an interim minister for about 18 years.

Anyway, these colleges continue to send me their quarterlies. I just received GLCC’s KEY today. President Larry Carter and I were both instructors together at GLCC, and now he’s the President of GLCC. He was also my brother’s minister in Grand Rapids, MI.

In my Deconversion story link you’ll also read how the Kalkaska Church of Christ discovered I was an atheist and the creator of this Blog for the first time (see the comments down toward the end). The associate minister at Kalkaska credits me for inspiring him to enter the ministry, and there are two other men in the ministry who credit me in the same way. One of them is in a Ph.D. program.

Christ’s Church at Georgetown in Ft. Wayne, IN is my ordaining church. The former minister of this church is Jerry M. Paul, who baptised me and preached at my ordination. He became the President of Great Lakes Christian College for a few years, and was the President while I taught there. He now serves a church in Ft. Wayne, IN, again, last time I knew.

I’m feeling kind of nostalgic today, not for the faith I rejected, but for these people whom I considered my friends.

My problem is that I still feel a love for these folks. They were my friends. Some of them were close friends. And I’m troubled, because the closeness is all over now. I have no animosity toward any of them. I just disagree with them. As I’ve said, the arguments were just not there, period. They are deluded, like I was for too long. It’s a shame, really. But we must go on.

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As an edited afterthought to this....I had some successes while a Christian minister. Had I stayed in ministry I could've made even greater contributions to the Church. So, why didn't God protect me from the darts of the Devil? If I was a valued member of his people, why not protect me from my doubts? Why did he let me slip through his hands like he did? I am now a fairly effective advocate against the Christian faith. Did he not know this could/would happen? Does he not care whether I lead people toward him or away from him?

No doubt, Christians will respond that I rejected Christianity of my own free will. But does free will really solve this problem for the Christian? Then let them tell me exactly what God can do for us as free willed creatures. For example, if we pray for safety when we travel, then exactly how can God grant us safety from someone hell-bent on robbing us when we stop for food at a restaurant? If God cannot do something to prevent that robber from exercising his free will to rob us, then he is a useless God.

And if instead God sovereignly decreed that I should be an apostate, then he is his own worst enemy. With decrees like that there must be a great amount of internal conflict within the Trinity itself! ;) For such decrees are contrary to his stated desires (II Pet. 3:9). In fact, that means God decreed I should start this Blog too! Maybe God should just see a shrink, along with those who believe he can decree two contradictory things (and they are indeed contradictory things to decree, not merely unexplainable, unless one says God has a different logic than He's given us).

33 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

It's weird, but even as a child going to Sunday School the story didn't ring true to me. As an adult it was easier to believe in a pantheistic deity (with a christian flavour), but now in middle age, I call myself an atheist. I am an atheist because I have a lack of belief in ANY of the god and goddess stories. I find it much easier just to say concerning god that I don't know if god exists and I do not have god belief. That makes me an agnostic atheist. ;)

nedbrek said...

John W. Loftus:
"So, why didn't God protect me from the darts of the Devil?"

I don't know your whole story, but it sounds like your faith was too shallow. You speak of "comfort" and "good works". You are concerned with the hypocrisy of Christians.

Don't let bad Christians (including me) keep you from Christ.

Brother Jeff said...

Nedbrek,

It's not bad Christians who keep us from Christ. It's knowing the facts concerning the Bible and the Christian religion that "keeps us from Christ". Christianity is a lie. It may be a beautiful lie in some respects, but it's still a lie.

Have you actually read John's deconversion account? His faith was not shallow, and neither was mine. We were both devout believers totally convinced that our faith was "the Truth". We left because we discovered otherwise. We followed our consciences and we followed the facts where they led us - which was away from the church and faith in Christ.

John W. Loftus said...

Nedbrek,
If you think my faith was shallow, then that's only one of the many delusions you have. Wake up and smell the coffee.

So you're a "bad Christian" eh? That's pretty much the only kind.

You are the shallow one. Prove to me otherwise.

Jason said...

"...even as a child going to Sunday School the story didn't ring true to me."

I remember always cringing whenever people began to ask uncomfortable questions. I was at a small church once when someone said to the entire congregation: "I'm having trouble reconciling my faith with evolution." Even though I was a Christian at the time, I thought "Man, you don't ask those questions!" It's a relief to be intellectually honest, even if it does cost you some friends.

Steven Carr said...

'You are concerned with the hypocrisy of Christians.'

I know just where you are coming from.

I used to believe in the Tooth Fairy, but the I met some hypocritical dentists.

nedbrek said...

John W. Loftus:
"So you're a 'bad Christian' eh? That's pretty much the only kind."

We are called to be like Christ. I cannot do that. But I have good news! :) The perfect Christian is living in me, and I hope you can meet Him through my feeble acts.

nedbrek said...

John W. Loftus:
"You are the shallow one. Prove to me otherwise."

Sorry if I offended you. I just meant that how deep could your faith be if: when tribulation came (which the Bible warns about) you turned away? That's all.

nedbrek said...

I haven't found any "devastating facts" so far. A lot of that is because there is a lot of content on this site, and I am a slow reader.

Let me put forward a straw man, and let you guys punch holes in it and fill in the meat:

15e9 BCE - Nothing becomes super dense something, promptly explodes/expands into pockets of hydrogen. Hydrogen begins to form first generation stars.

5e9 BCE - 1st generation stars die, 2nd generation forms from remaining hydrogen and ejected heavier matter

6e8 BCE - life evolves from mineral soup on earth

1e5 BCE - first humans appear

2e4 BCE - humans reach as far as they will until post 1600 CE

6e3 BCE - agriculture independently invented in China, India, Iraq, and Egypt.

ex nihilo said...

jeff: "Christianity is a lie. It may be a beautiful lie in some respects, but it's still a lie."

In what way is Christianity a 'beautiful' lie?

If by that you mean that it has certain good traits like giving people hope for life/afterlife, encouraging community, and basic humanitarian acts, I am hard pressed to find beauty there if it is still a lie.

Since becoming an athiest, I am hard pressed to find beauty in anything. A sunset for example, while I used to be able to believe that it was evident of higher order of some kind, I now accept that it is mere energy and matter existing in a time frame, much the way that my percieving eyes are. How can I find beauty it natural, self-existing order? It makes me want to destroy anything spoken of as beautiful. It seems lie and comfort, or truth and depression. Any thoughts?

nedbrek said...

ex nihilo:
"It makes me want to destroy anything spoken of as beautiful."

That's seems pretty depressing. Are you trying to make some deeper point?

"It seems lie and comfort, or truth and depression."

True Christianity is not comfortable. There is tribulation and testing your faith, growing, and challenging yourself. There is room for joy and fun and good friends. But it should never feel comfortable.

ex nihilo said...

I guess my point is this: Christianity is a lie, a game that makes up a higher order, and then all human meaning and purpose comes from that. We know this.

However, as an atheist, I find it hard to use believe in the validity of words like "beauty" and even "comfort" vs. "depression" without playing a similar game with myself, pretending that there is meaning somewhere. At least as a Christian, while comfort is not a spiritual ideal (but usually a reality), one can be reassured in the belief in ETERNAL compensation. Though I do not believe in a god anymore I search to for satisfaction in the temporal, and to do that I must pretend that beauty and admiration mean something.

To me, strong rationalism must eventually lead to skepticism (the limitless epistemological hole), and that in order even have desire to get out of bed in the morning, I must make-up a value system in which love has a place, kindness has a place. There is no god, and now I am a troubed athiest, is there any way out?

Jason said...

Values and aesthetics needn't be so contrived, even in the face of atheism. They come naturally.

John W. Loftus said...

If God is completely sovereign then God decreed what I am doing (could I have done otherwise?). I am leading people away from him. If I'm effective, people will die without Christ. People will be in hell as a result of my efforts (according to this God). I cannot do otherwise. He decrees this because the people who suffer in hell for all eternity bring him glory. This is just laughable to me.

This God could have equally decreed that we all loved and obeyed him and that there was no sin on earth and no need for a Savior. Or he could've decreed that everyone on earth heard and believed the gospel of Jesus. But these two scenerios do not bring him as much glory as the one we find ourselves in, where I am leading people away from him, and with the billions (?) of people will suffer in hell for eternity?

Where's my laugh machine. I know I have it somewhere. Oh. Here it is.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

nedbrek said...

ex nihilo:
"pretending that there is meaning somewhere"

This is why, even at my lowest point spiritually, I could not accept atheism. It is very attractive, intellectually. Not complicated, very minimal.

But you cannot outrun entropy. Eventually everything will run down. All information will be lost, all life will die.

Jason said...

So?

Stardust said...

All information will be lost, all life will die.

This is what most humans cannot accept and are afraid of, so they invent ways to make it all continue in their own minds and for a way to cope with the inevitable.

For me, simply accepting the reality of nature and living life the best way I can brings me peace.

ex nihilo said...

stardust 1954: "simply accepting the reality of nature and living life the best way I can brings me peace."

I am sorry, I don't understand this statement. Certainly it is said and assumed by innumerable people, but I can't make sense out of it. Accepting the 'reality of nature' seems to mean that I cannot assume value in a system that is valueless. A good life, a bad life, it makes not difference if we help the old lady accross the street or run her over unless we construct an ethical game as fake as Christianity. Matter and energy cannot have a good or bad side about it, it just is. Is my desire for closure and purpose really natural?

Jason said...

Values are not fake. They are just not true or false. That is not the same thing.

nedbrek said...

ex nihilo:
"unless we construct an ethical game as fake as Christianity"

I was similarly in turmoil. I had not been exposed to the notion of the Bible as literal truth. I had not learned of the guiding and protecting power of the Holy Spirit, and that the accounts were written soon after the crucifixion (not hundreds of years later).

Re-reading the Bible as literal truth was an eye opening experience for me.

nedbrek said...

ex nihilo:
"Is my desire for closure and purpose really natural?"

I heard an interesting point earlier.

All of our hungers can be satisfied in the world, except one. The desire for something bigger than ourselves; something perfect; something that lasts forever. We all feel it.

That hunger is there for a reason. It can be filled.

Jason said...

Your claim that everyone desires something perfect and bigger than themselves (obviously God) is demonstrably false. I don't waste my time desiring things that I know don't exist.

ex nihilo said...

nihlo:
"Values are not fake. They are just not true or false."

"I don't waste my time desiring things that I know don't exist."

So shall I deduce from these statements that you instead use your time wisely seeking those values that are niether true nor false, right nor wrong, but just are, an internal choice. Are they then entirely self serving, like a kind of ethical masterbation? I do not mean to offend, but the term is very appropriate here.

It has yet to be shown to me, on this site and on any other, that "value" is a valid concept since there is no order that is not natural random. So far I have been with most of you, but this site is actually starting to make the Bible look attractive to me again. PLEASE HELP ME.

Jason said...

I have not said anything that would justify one in deducing that I seek or desire values. I don't "desire" values. I simply have them, as do most people. Moral dispositions are the production of natural selection operating upon biological and cultural factors. They are not the product of a mere choice. There is nothing masturbatory about it.

Could you describe what your criteria are for conceptual validity? Why would the value problem convince you of the truth of the Bible? Are you aware of the fact that the values presented in the Bible are problematic themselves? I promise you that your difficulties would only be exacerbated by such a turn.

ex nihilo said...

Anthropology 101.
Biological and cultural factors. At some point in human evolution we found that co-operational groups survive much better than individuals. Ethics are born. This I know.

Philosophy 101.
An argument is valid only when it is impossible for the conclusion to be proven false given the premises. It is only sound when the premises are actually true. This I also know.

The following is the argument I see lived out in the life of most atheists:
- Only that which is consistent with nature and its laws should be accepted and lived out as truth
- Naturally, humanity developed ethics, standards by which to treat others symbiotically for mutual survival
- Naturally, humanity developed religion, an explanation of all that they did not understand, giving higher meaning to ethics, defining what is good and bad, beautiful and ugly.
- Naturally, humanity recognized reason, and derived a system of understanding things
- through reason humanity rejected religion as a contrivance that had outlived its evolutionary usefulness
- All dualisms such as right/wrong, consonant/dissonant, valuable/not valuable, etc. are also recognized as contrivances, and rejected
- Therefore, one ought live their life as naturally as possible, seeking fulfillment by admiring the beautiful, and rejecting the untrue.

Invalidity: Beauty and meaning left when higher order was rejected, yet we are forced to assume meaning and value somewhere, whether by choice or what is culturally given to them, if we are to have reason to survive. How can a rational person reject higher order as a human contrivance without also rejected meaning, value, ethics, beauty, etc. as equally man-made ideas unfounded in natural truth?

The idea of higher order seems very attractive right now because at least it would give me reason to admire something. Beauty then would not be merely 'aesthetically pleasing" (a canard often mistaken as meaning something), but reminiscent of something much larger than myself. I would have an actual reason for getting up in the morning without having to fool myself into accepting some set of contrived values, though I am beginning to think that is inevitable.

Jason said...

I suppose that your "101" blurbs were in reference to my question about your criteria for conceptual validity. If that is correct, then we need to work on some clarification. First, I did not need an "anthropology 101" account of biological and cultural factors. Second, you provided me with an argumentative definition of validity. However, "validity" is an ambiguous term, and argumentative validity is certainly distinct from conceptual validity. Remember, this question stemmed from your claim that you have never seen a demonstration that the concept of value is valid. The concept of value is not an argument, so the argumentative definition of validity does not apply. The reason I want to know your criteria for conceptual validity is so that I can determine whether the concept of value is valid according to your understanding of the terms.

Assume that it is the case that if you believe the set of claims in the Bible then you would have "a reason to admire something." It is possible that some false set of claims can give you a reason to admire something. Therefore, if you believe the set of claims in the Bible because they give you a reason to admire something, it is still possible that the set of claims in the Bible are false.

There is good reason to believe that several of the important claims that the Bible makes are false. For example, the Biblical account of creation cannot be literally true. The doctrine of the incarnation cannot be literally true. The notion of omniscience is incoherent since it can prove mutually exclusive claims (i.e. that an omniscient being knows by acquaintance what it is like to be non-omniscient while it is still omniscient), but God is supposed to be omniscient, and so the very existence of God cannot be literally true. The list goes on and on.

To believe something is to assert that it is true. Does your desire for a reason to admire something seem so strong to you that you would be willing to assert the truth of the Biblical set of propositions despite the fact that there are good reasons to believe that they are false, and despite the fact that a set's ability to provide a reason for admiration has no bearing on its truth-value whatsoever?

The existence of values is not contrived. To say that they are contrived is to say that they are the conscious creation of the human mind, but that is not the case. Values are creations, but not of the conscious mind.

In contrast, the hypotheses some humans present to explain the existence of the moral and aesthetic phenomena can be contrived in a manner that is without regard to how values actually emerged. Christianity is one such contrivance, and a poor one at that. You still have not answered the question of how you would reconcile the belief in the Bible so that you can have a reason to admire with the fact that the Bible presents a problematic value system (problematic in both the sense that it is at tension with itself and in the sense that it seems counter-intuitive at places such as the placement of blame for the fall on the descendents of Adam and Eve who did not perform the violating action).

There are so many problems with true Christian ethics that if you choose to accept Christianity just for a reason to admire something then there is nothing that I nor anyone else can say to prevent you from adopting Christianity, because your decision would clearly be beyond the scope of rationality.

dvmike said...

As a child I attended a Lutheran Church and was baptized and confirmed. As an adult I was baptized as a Baptist and spent some time with the Navigators overseas. I was treasurer of a Methodist Church. It was at times a very pleasant journey and at times there were disturbing events. I have no regrets and have many fond memories of the good times. As I grew older, I no longer felt the need to engage in Church activities and found myself in virtually total disagreement with the doctrines of Christianity.
I guess I am closest to being an Agnostic. I just cannot see how we can know the answers to questions concerning that which we have no means of investigating. I am happy with that and have no fear of death. One question which really does bother me is that asked by many Christians " What if you are wrong ". As I am almost 70 now I am entering into my final years. I have no fear of Death because I am not afraid to live. It has been a good ride and I look forward to my final years with anticipation of many more pleasant moments along with some sad ones. The end will come someday and that is as it should be.

Michael said...

Being torn between "religions" or variations of a "religion" I can understand. Willful unbelief after investigating the facts about a higher power, I cannot. I put "religion" in quotation marks because atheism is a "religion" in and of itself. It is a faith of the highest accord. To know that the foundation of atheism hinges upon chance of epic proportions is a faith I cannot muster.

Ruth said...

Michael said...
I put "religion" in quotation marks because atheism is a "religion" in and of itself. It is a faith of the highest accord.


Atheism is the lack of a belief in a god. It is a religion in the same way as bald is a hair color!

AGFELPASO said...

True Christianity can be comfortable, but not always. Jesus.said we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer! Also, see see Hebrews 4:10,11. Sabbath rest! :^D

AGFELPASO said...

Scripture does not say we are "bad Christians". The Church of Christ is your problem. I was in it until I was 25. My Granny is 95 and still in it, as her mother was. Scripture calls us saints! We have a new identity in Christ. He does not call us bad Christians, but heirs - sons and daughters. #NewCovenant

AGFELPASO said...

Sounds like Calvinism - which is Bull!

AGFELPASO said...

The values presented in the Bible are not problematic at all. If you can't see their value in our society, try going to North Korea, where most don't have those values. I've been there. It's ugly.