How Could God Reveal Himself to Us?

Elsewhere I have defended the notion that history is a poor medium for God to reveal himself to humanity, here, here, here, and here.

Many Christians argue that God has already verified his revelation in Jesus through miracles in the historical past, and as such it needs no further verification. But I argue against this whole notion in the above links. History is a poor medium to verify much of anything, especially miracles.

Someone recently asked me, "what else is there but human history for God to have revealed himself in?" I'll suggest a few ways here. I'd like to see some other suggestions of ways God could reveal himself to us, if he existed.


God could reveal himself in every generation in a myriad of ways since he is supposedly an omniscient being.

He could become incarnate in every generation and do miracles for all to see. If people wanted to kill him again and he didn't need to die again, he could simply vanish before their eyes.

He could spontaneously appear and heal people, or end a famine, or stop a war.

He could raise up John F. Kennedy from the dead.

He could provide a blazing cross in the sky.

He could restore an amputated limb in full sight of an crowd of people which would include all of the best magicians along with the Mythbusters and James Randi, who would all find fault if fault could be found.

He could do any and all of the miracles he did in the Bible from time to time, including miraculously feeding 5000 men with their families. The list of things God could do in each generation is endless.

If God has foreknowledge then he could've predicted certain events in history like the rise of the internet, the exact time of the Mt St. Helens eruption, or described the vastness of the universe before we could verify this, or prophesied the day that TV was invented.

Then he could also help us to figure out the logic of what he has done. If God can eternally create two equally omniscient beings, then he could've created human beings so that they could better understand such things as the trinity, the incarnation, free will and predestination, and the problem of evil. If these things are not a problem for God to understand, then he could've given human beings a better understanding of these things.

First posted on 3/29/07

68 comments:

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello John,

As I've often asked many Christians, if Jesus is real and wants my devotion, I would first need to know he exists, and what better way to show me that he exists than what the book of Acts says he did for Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus? The whole "Great Commission" thing is nonsensical when Jesus could simply appear before those he wants to "save," like Acts says he did for Saul. What we have now, with all these evangelists and apologists using very poor reasoning to try and convince us that the Jesus of the gospels was and still is real, is precisely what we would expect to see if the New Testament were a fiction. In addition to their fruitless excuses, they give us no sure way to distinguish between what they call Jesus and what they may merely be imagining. As it is now, I have no alternative but to imagine the Jesus they claim to worship. And after examining their claims to be witnesses for Jesus, it becomes obvious that Jesus for them is not actually a real person, but a mood.

Regards,
Dawson

Lee Randolph said...

He could do something useful like coming down here at least being a teacher, teaching doctors how to heal better, engineers how to build better, people how to reason better, how to take care of the planet better, clear up the gay thing and when life begins, can teach some people that they should even respect the rights of animals, you know, all the stuff he could do through the prayers of Christians if he wanted to....oops did I go there again? dang it!
okay, I'll go there.
He could unambiguously answer some prayers.
Or he could teach some people that to say that he answers prayers and takes care of our needs ahead of time but deny that anything miraculous is going on is a contradiction.

One Wave said...

I'll stick to philosophical reasoning here.

I would argue that if something is of value, it is valuable because it is not easy to obtain. Precious jewels would be one example. It takes effort and sometimes costs a life to search for some gems or jewels.
Why would people risk thier life to dive deep in the sea to find a particular pearl in a particular cave that is known to be a trap if the silt is stirred by even a ripple of water? That is beyond me...my husband is the diver not me! Anyway.. there is some payoff at the end, something in the experience that makes it worth it.

I believe that God knows the heart of man. He doesn't jump through hoops. How many miracles would it take? How many supernatural acts would convince the world? Using Israel as an example..even though you gentlemen may not agree that the Exodus and other biblical accounts happened... they were the recipients of many supernatural events and still doubted continually. I do the same thing.

In human relationships, in mine anyway, I don't give very much energy to people who are wanting something from me w/o desiring to give much in return. I will help people if they need it but as far as investing time and energy, I save that for people who I can have fellowship with.

The best way for God to reveal himself, in my opinion, is to wait for a person to truly seek to know him, not what he can do - but his being. After a person is in that place they are ready to really listen and hear. Then he can reveal himself. Like the experience of Moses, God was in the quiet, not the obvious. The real transformation of a person's being is the best revelation of God in the world that I have found.

I did have an experience very similar to Saul's on the road to Damascus but it wasn't quick and I was not seeking for answers, just the being I hoped existed and was about to give up on. Christianity came later.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi One Wave,
you said
The best way for God to reveal himself, in my opinion, is to wait for a person to truly seek to know him, not what he can do - but his being. After a person is in that place they are ready to really listen and hear.
so how would you describe the phenomena of a person that is fundamentalist baptist, sitting in prayer one day and the idea pops into his head that prayer is like luck?
That happened to me and I puzzled what god was telling me. Isn't that funny?
I call it cognitive dissonance.
Is it my fault that I couldn't get to the place? Is it my fault if I can't see the color green? Is it the fault of baby that dies in ethiopia before it can understand the word?
I think you may want to think that through a little more before you start saying things like that to people who have been there, done that and got the 'no pain no gain' t-shirt with the bloody hand on it.

Anonymous said...

The best way to find God is through other people. God's word is alive and has changed millions of lives, a double-edged sword that cuts to the soul. People have made a total 360 in there lives, from drugs, alchohol, even murder all because of God's word. I'm not trying to prove anything, because it does not need to be proved. We are saved by FAITH through His grace, and not be works. This is not through some flame in the sky or healing. That God, who sent his own son to die for us who already are sinners is amazing. That we, who are sinners, must DO something, (gasp) in order to be saved? There is only one way and that is through faith in Christ Jesus.

Shygetz said...

People have made a total 360 in there lives, from drugs, alchohol, even murder all because of God's word.

One could also argue that nominally rational people have threatened innocents, bombed abortion clinics, assaulted and murdered homosexuals, and ostracized perfectly kind families from the community based on the same God's word.

If you want to claim the good, you also get responsibility for the bad. If you want to claim that those bad seeds aren't true Christians, I could just as easily claim that your happiness-and-sunshine story people aren't true Christians.

Anonymous said...

When you've seen it with your own eyes, that means it's true. There are 1000's if not millions of christians out there who are not true christians, and because of them, our name, and most importantly God's nam is defiled.
And sorry, but you can't claim my close friend isn't a true christian.

Susan (Ayame) said...

Excellent post.

I was a Catholic when I was growing up. I really believed and wanted so badly for god to reveal himself to me. I really, really wanted to know him. I asked all the time.

Of course, I got no response.

The best arguments that any Christian believer can dredge up is that you have to have faith and that faith is a feeling. Feelings are suspect because they are chemical reactions in our brains. Prayer and meditation activates certain parts of the brain. It's a chemical feeling, and of course it feels good! But is it true? Is it honest? It is real--the feeling--but what are you really experiencing? It's all internal. It's not like god beamed the feeling into your chemical, physical brain.

Anonymous says that you have to find god through people. Of course you would. Religion is transmitted by people and through people. None of us would know a damn thing about this imaginary god if our parents or other respected figures didn't tell us about it.

I wonder what someone would do if they'd never heard of god from others and picked up the Bible. Would they want to believe? I doubt it.

A lot of Christian testimonial reminds me of suspect "testimonials" for herbal drugs and weight loss. Just because someone claims something works and even believes that it works, doesn't mean that it does. I can learn if something works either by doing a study on it using the scientific method, or I can directly experience it myself. That is the only way I see to know the truth about claims. Claiming that Christianity did this or that for someone means nothing. You might as well tell me that echinacea will keep me from catching a cold.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys! I don't know if you've ever noticed, but there is a price to pay for relating stories of spiritual intervention - for one thing, cynicism, mockery, serious accusations of mental derangement,(there are a few exhibit A's here on this site)- sometimes, even death if those in power are challenged and offended by the freeing message of the gospel. Jesus said if His followers were willing to pay the price, they could follow Him and be called His friends. Scripture says that Paul suffered for the intervention He received on the Road to Damascus - deliverance from pride is not an easy path. But, as Paul's faith progressed, he eventually grew to a point where he confessed that he was content in all circumstances. Jesus and scripture does not attempt to whitewash the truth of suffering - but acknowledging the truth of suffering and exacting it are not the same thing. God did not create a puppet show here. For the most part, we are more comfortable with formulaic approaches to life because they feel safer and within the grasp of our own control. God is not writing a math book or Encyclopedia - He is writing the book of life. Anon 1035

Aaron Kinney said...

History of course is a poor medium for God to prove or reveal himself to us.

Thats why he is now using cheese sandwiches, a much more efficient medium!

One Wave said...

Lee,
I don't think it's funny that the idea that prayer is a lot like luck popped into your mind....I think that's a natural thought to pop into any thinking person's mind.

I don't know your experience and what your beliefs were, exactly, before you decided to go a different direction. I wasn't raised in a Baptist church and I really don't know the history of the Baptist denomination to know what kinds of theology they would have proposed.

I'm not sure what you mean by prayer in your prayer meeting you mentioned.

Are you saying that you sought God with all you had and he didn't answer in a way you could recognize?

I'm not here to judge you or say that you did or did not experience what you have experienced, or that you don't have good reasons to believe as you do. I hope you don't mind if I explore these topics here and learn more about why you all think the way you do.

I don't wear t-shirts with blood on them or throw Bible verses around, unless someone is doing that with me, and I can't prove anything to you.

Anonymous said...

Pretty brilliant of God to use a medium (cheese sandwiches) to reach a culture infested with gluttony - He's a true genius!

Anon 1035

Anonymous said...

Now the bible is where the truth is at, and if you only hear from friends or parents then you're going nowhere in the faith.

Susan (Ayame) said...

Hi Anon 1035. I think this is getting to be a good discussion. :)

I think what you've cited about Christians being persecuted for their faith applies to anyone with ideas outside of their society's cultural norm.

My brother-in-law is Chinese. He believes some cultural/spiritual ideas that many Christians would find stupid or ridiculous. When he discusses the auspiciousness of certain numbers and honoring ancestors by creating shrines and brewing tea for the departed every day... well, I think many Christians would find that laughable. But it's what he believes is the right way to look at reality.

Do I think he's mentally deranged? No way. But I do think he's wrong to think there's special significance to the number 8, for example. I can even see how it could possibly adversely effect his life.

What would make me believe the number 8 is auspicious? I would have to see through careful trials and study that the number 8 actually has an effect on the world. Would businesses do better if they opened on the 8th instead of the 9th, for example.

I think it would have been better for god to have written an encyclopedia, or even a math book that contained vital formulas for understanding the universe. The Bible as it stands is a huge source of contention and confusion. What god seems to have done is willingly created a book that would cause divisiveness among people throughout the world.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Susan on many counts! I think it courageous of people who stand on their heartfelt convictions and withstand the pressures and demands of narrow minded and biased cultural, political, religious and social traditions. That is why the gospel is so dangerous - it challenges territorial mindsets that create enmity God and fellow man - it allows freedom based on the unity of a God who is powerful, but can be entrusted in that position. I know it's difficult to see that and trust it based on scripture alone. I think it's really difficult to live a life of faith according to what Jesus acted out. I rarely see many who are willing to impersonate Jesus in their actions - I still struggle with love the enemy - I want to act as though God said, "pretend you don't have any enemies" and other days I think He said, "go out and make some enemies!" :-)

Thanks, Susan!

Anon 1035

One Wave said...

Again...would anyone like to give an opinion on how many miracles, how many acts and what sort would definitely convince everyone that God is really there?

I'm starting to get that feeling I get when watching a presidential debate.

Mark said...

Another good thread John.

Id like to think of this thread as thinking out loud, wishful thinking, etc-we Christians do it, too...man, it would be nice to see God, talk to Him in person, etc.

You do realize, John, that simply because you request a cameo visit from God doesnt mean it will happen. If God exists, he isnt going to be your errand boy. Maybe you should turn the focus of criticism to the man in the mirror as to why your faith vanished.

Maybe someone here can be angry God didnt persoanlly come down and give them lottery numbers to prove He's god-that would be effective, wouldnt it?

Why doesnt Jesus show up as a 300 ft tall image in Time Square? Nobody would doubt then.

It never ends. The truth is, you arent God John, He is. Maybe some day youll realize He may talk to you in ways that dont involve Madison Avenue grandstand stunts and bedtime visits. I think alot of people here need to understand that while it may be fun to daydream about what your favorite god would act like, at times its best to wake from fantasy and realize that wont make it so.

Its probably also a good idea to tone down the view that your efforts at goodness here on the planet are going to get a pat on the back from a perfect supreme being who will with smiles usher your wonderful soul into an eternal bliss like an ecstasy-addled Mr Rourke. Again, let's all remember that we dont own the universe, we didnt make heaven, we arent gods, however painful that truth may be.

One Wave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
One Wave said...

Sorry, I wanted to edit that last comment but I deleted the whole thing. Is there a way to edit?

Shygetz said...

If God exists, he isnt going to be your errand boy.

I don't want God to be my errand boy. If God exists, and if he loves me and wants me to be near to him, then all he has to do is show me he exists. He knows how to do it, and it's easily within his power. And yet, he doesn't.

Maybe some day youll realize He may talk to you in ways that dont involve Madison Avenue grandstand stunts and bedtime visits.

So you're saying God chooses to talk to me in ways that he already knows will not work, but that he REALLY wants me to know him? I thought "omniscient" included at least a modicum of common sense...

I think alot of people here need to understand that while it may be fun to daydream about what your favorite god would act like, at times its best to wake from fantasy and realize that wont make it so.

Truer words never spoken...oh, you were talking about atheists. Sorry, I thought you were talking about yourself.

Its probably also a good idea to tone down the view that your efforts at goodness here on the planet are going to get a pat on the back from a perfect supreme being who will with smiles usher your wonderful soul into an eternal bliss like an ecstasy-addled Mr Rourke.

You SURE you're not an atheist? So let me get this straight, It's silly to believe that a god would reward us for working to turn his creation here into a better place that would better please him; however, it is completely rational to believe that god would reward us for believing a fairy tale passed down in old, inconsistent books.

Mark said...

Shygetz-hopefully your reasoning wont prove the abomination of your name


Teh avergae Christian here worships the God who states "Your righteousness is a s filthy rags before me"-so were thnakful to have Christ to have God look beyond this to accept us into heaven.

I am very interested in what the ideal atheist deity would be like.

May I humbly request all infidels who post here posit the attributes of your custom designer deity so I can see how much more wonderful than it is thna the trueGod. Should be interesting.

Shygetz said...

The ideal atheist deity? Umm...might I suggest that this is an oxymoron?

If there had to be a God, and if I got to design that God, then I would create a God who made creation heaven, and who made sure that all of his children knew about him in ways that were clear and unmistakable to that person.

Shygetz said...

Mark:

hopefully your reasoning wont prove the abomination of your name

Does that mean that you have no response to my reasoning? Appeals to fear of the wrath of a being that I don't believe in are, well, silly wastes of time. You want to scare me, then embarass me by demonstrating the holes in my logic. Otherwise, I will spend as much time worrying about God's wrath as I worry about Zeus coming to Earth as a bull to mate with my wife.

Tommy said...

What amuses me about Christian claims that belief in Jesus Christ is vital and necessary for salvation is that we are expected to believe that God would use a slow and imperfect method for exporting that alleged truth from the hills of Galilee and the city of Jerusalem to the ends of the Earth.

Imagine you are a lawyer in NYC and you have a client in Los Angeles who urgently needs to receive a document for him to sign and return it to you. How would you get that document to him? Well, obviously the fastest way would be to e-mail him and attach the document as a pdf file. The client would receive the document in a matter of seconds!

Okay, let's pretend for argument's sake that your client is a technophobe and does not have an e-mail address. You could send it to him via Federal Express and he would receive it the next business morning. What you would not do is send the document to your client via horse and buggy. By the time the document reached your client, the reason for signing the document in the first place would have passed.

Now, Christians believe that the God of the Bible is all powerful and all knowing. That means God is faster and more powerful than our most powerful computers. A Christian must accept this or else he or she is putting limits on what God can do. And since Jesus is supposed to be God too, then Jesus has the same powers. Now, let us pretend that the crucifixion really happened around 32 A.D. Upon ascending into heaven, he appears to everyone beyond the region of Judea where he preached in dreams night after night telling them "I died to forgive your sins, so believe in me."

After a few nights of these visions, people, whether they were in India, China, South America or the British Isles, would start talking to each other and saying "Yeah, I had that same dream too!" Knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ would have spread to the tens of millions of people around the globe in a matter of days!

And yet, the most powerful entity in the universe rejects the fastest and most efficient method of spreading his truth to the world and instead goes with the horse and buggy method. Given that, how can I take any Christian's claim seriously that the God he or she worships is all powerful, all knowing, and I must worship and believe in it?

Mark said...

Tommy

Your point is noted- jsut alst night I thought to myself...why wait for thousand of years after the fall for Jesus? Why not atone for Adam's sin right away? All the suffering it would save.

There is no real answer- I suspect the best answer is, God has His reasons-and maybe the answer is tied into the good and evil events experience dby billions since then.
But only God knows.

People seem to have a hard time understanding that some questions will never be answered on earth. Those of us with inquisitive minds are not solely of the nontheistic camp, I assure you.

There seens to be a refutation of the logical possibility of god because nobody is willing to concede that regardless of the essential attributes of God, He is not constarined to act in ways we may always believe a God should act. Does a three year old undertsand why its parent acts and thinks a certain way? How much gretaer is the god man analogy?

Does god owe us an explanation for his every moce? No!

A child who wanders into the street may find its ass smacked by the father and cry and consider only the pain and anger-what the kid didnt see was the truck driving up the street seconds away from killing him.

Kyle said...

Tommy said-
>>Given that, how can I take any Christian's claim seriously that the God he or she worships is all powerful, all knowing, and I must worship and believe in it?

Tommy,
I think this troubles you because you don't understand what the Bible means about sin and grace. According to Romans chapter 1 the entire world is condemned in their sin and set for judgment for rejecting the knowledge of God that is inherent in creation and for breaking his law. The whole world is in rebellion and deserves the judgment of a Holy God. However, God is merciful and gave us the gospel of Jesus as a way of being gracious to those who hear. It is only unfair if God owes sinners the opportunity of salvation. It is the fact that God did not have to send Jesus at all that makes his grace even more amazing.

In effect you are complaining that a multimillionaire gave you a million dollars but not somebody else. He didn't owe you, so be grateful and glad the money was offered. In the same way Christians are grateful for salvation and seek to spread the message to the whole world as Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:19).

Tommy said...

Yes, but Mark, Christians argue that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation. If that is the case, why wasn't this communicated to the Olmecs in Mexico some 1500 years ago? Either they (1) needed the message in order to be saved, or (2) we are supposed to believe that God created a loophole so that no one could be damned to hell until they had first heard the message of Christ and that the God gave the Olmecs a pass.

I don't smack my kids for wandering. I just make it plain to them "See those cars and trucks there, because you are small they may not be able to see you and they can hit you and hurt you." They understand. What you do is try to frighten us into believing something we cannot see but that you believe exists.

Look at it whis way, if I was a captain of a luxury liner plowing through tropical waters and you told me to be watchful for icebergs, I would have a hard time taking you seriously.

Tommy said...

Kyle, see my response to Mark above. What was the point in sending Jesus at all if millions of people would never hear the message that you believe is so necessary for salvation? After all, we are talking about the so-called creator of the universe here, not some eccentric millionaire.

That being the case, there is no God watching over us who cares about us and who offers us salvation.

Mark said...

Tommy

You and i ak the same questions, my friend.

I think the first answer I have for you is, the mexicans who never heard of Jesus are not goijng to be sent to hell for not believing something they never heard...nobody would, I hope, think that. But they will be judged by whatever perfect jsutice god metes out.

Does it seem like a waste for Jesus to die and have people not know? While I read your thought process here, I say no as this was the way for God to defeat evil and death and it applies to all. Looked at another way, billions have heard of Jesus, and had God not arranged the solution to amn's sin by administering justice to Himself, nobody would have had a way to get right with God.

Kyle said...

Tommy,
People go to hell because of sin, not because they never heard of Jesus. In the same way, people die of cancer not because they never heard of chemotherapy. Which part of the Christian view are you missing?

1) The whole world is guilty of sin (Romans 1)
2) Without hearing of and believing in Christ they will die and go to Hell (John 8:24, Rom. 10:9)
3) God does not OWE anyone an opportunity to hear the Gospel and chose to use preaching which the world considers foolish (1 Cor. 1:21)

You seem to be denying 1) which leads you to deny 2) and 3). The Christian position is consistent when you recognize everyone's guilt, God does not owe salvation, and he chooses to offer it selectively by means of preaching. You seem to be objecting to the selectiveness of the Gospel as if it is unfair or inefficient in dissimination while not admitting that people are truly guilty or assuming that God wishes to save everyone by any means. Of course God could broadcast the message universally through dreams or something else but he chose preaching. Who are you to judge God for the means he chose to share the Gospel to people who are guilty and deserve hell?

Tommy said...

I am not judging God, Kyle, because God does not exist. I am judging the mindset of people like you who are incapable of coherently reconciling a God who purports to love us but does not make known to all of a humanity the message necessary for salvation. It is not your imaginary God that is defective Kyle, it is you who is defective.

Tommy said...

Furthermore Kyle, you seem to disagree with Mark above who assured me that God would not send the Olmecs of Mexico to hell because they did not know about Jesus.

Kyle said...

Tommy,
You just committed the genetic fallacy. You assume that my argument must be false because I am defective. You cannot determine the truth of something by looking at the person who told you. If I told you that the earth is spherical would you disbelieve because I am defective? Since you must be effective and not defective, could you please state where my argument did not cohere?

God is not only Love but also Justice. The Gospel reveals both. God would be just to condemn the whole world but instead he saves some through the Gospel. He is capable of loving someone and holding them accountable for their sins according to his justice. It seems that you are ignoring God's justice and then arguing against half of what I believe and then proclaiming that I failed to make it cohere.

Kyle said...

I don't know Mark but he did say that God will still judge them by his perfect standard. I assume that means that they will still be guilty of sins but God the punishment will be less severe since they lived with less exposure to God's truth than say an atheist in modern America.

Mark said...

Tommy

In terms of making the world know about Jesus, with satellite, internet, its getting pretty damn close-maybe not to african tribesman, amazon tree dwellers, etc-but to many.

But on to your point. To assure the whole world at ONE POINT IN TIME, God would have to have a worldwide vision to man, or have in the heavens an undeniable sign all would recognize as proof.

Lets say He does this today-the whole world knows theres a God.

In under a centruy after this appearance, there will be internet baords with people posting that they think that this was a scientific oddity, a fallacy, a mass vision-you name it. God would, to satisfy your terms, have to personally provide a sign to every single new person born such that all could have proof. Otherwise, you may balk and call God unfair.

This has problems, as 1)God apparently wants people to seek him out and hasnt done this yet 2)Removes all faith whatsoever, morality is no longer freely exercised or chosen 3)God is forced to cow tow to any and all humans, evil or otherwise

My sentiment is that for a God to live 33 years among us, and die at our hands, was enough of a divine display for all to see-and were talking about it right now, arent we? Afyer two thousand years the message is clear to the both of us.

Let me ask you a question. You play the role of God for aminute.

You create people with free will. Which is more satisfying, seeing a man not commit adultery because he knows youre watching his every move as he's seen you incontrovertibly, or the guy who plays it right and doesnt cheat because he's chosen to to be moral freely on his own free will?

If you put a gun to your wife's head and say, cheat and Ill kill you, you get forced obedience. Give her the option on her own and watch her stay loyal to you=much more satisfying.

Tommy said...

I'm sorry Kyle, but you just made me think of the movie "The Princess Bride", wherein the kidnapper says to Wesley "You just committed the classic blunder... never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"

When I say your are defective, I don't mean as a person, but in your misguided belief.

I don't need you to tell me the Earth is spherical because I can independently verify it. I can look at pictures of the Earth taken from space. I can even notice on the ocean that ships very far away partially vanish due to the curvature of the Earth.

You are trying to get me to believe that this Supreme Being makes a vast, infinite universe filled with stars, planets and galaxies, that on one planet in this universe he creates life and then for millenia he acts as the personal tribal deity to a confederation of semi-nomadic tribes. After a couple of thousand years go by, he gets a virgin pregnant, the super boy who results from the union preaches for a few years, is executed, and then rises from the dead, and unless I accept and follow him, the aforesaid supreme being will banish me to some horrible place for all eternity in the after life. Am I missing anything?

Tommy said...

Mark, I wrote of Jesus appearing to everyone in their dreams. Once people began to speak to one another about the dreams and realize they experience the same thing, then they would realize the truth of the visions. Imagine if the Spaniards visiting the Americas encountered the Aztecs already worshipping Jesus as their savior? That would truly be a miracle no one could deny. Do you disagree? Think of the needless violence and bloodshed that could have been averted.

I'm sorry Mark, but you have failed to prove to me that the mode of transmission for the message of Jesus was the best way.

And yes, a person who does the right thing because it is right and no to please some sky daddy is better than a person who does the right thing because they think it is what God wants. Look at it this way, I don't seek to cavort with prostitutes because I have a good marriage and family and why would I want to mess it up by destroying the trust my wife has in me or in contracting a terrible disease. To me, that is much scarier than someone telling me I will burn in hell after I die because I sinned in the eyes of some supreme being.

Kyle said...

I love that scene! You obviously wouldn't have poisoned your own glass...

Your summary is pretty good except I get the sense you think it is unfair for God to punish you? When it comes to sins, the bible says we are all guilty and the wages of sin is death, physically and spiritually. So yep, you've got the details right only you find them distateful. All that is left is to see your sin from the POV of a holy and righteous God and realize how sinful it is and repent. Jesus does not turn away anyone who humbles himself and repents. After repentance what was distateful becomes the beautiful grace of God that fosters a heart of eternal worship.

Tommy said...

I am glad you liked my summary Kyle. But the thing is, it strikes me as so absurd my rational brain cannot accept it. I don't find it distasteful, I find it ludicrous.

But that is the beautiful thing about living in a free country. You are free to believe such a thing and live your life accordingly. And my examination of the evidence leads me to conclude that such a doctrine is not true and I live my life accordingly.

Randy Kirk said...

I thought I posted this yesterday, but it must have been a dream. In any case, the proposition, though fun to discuss, which started this post is incorrect. The method God chose of using historical acts seems to have worked quite well. 2,000,000,000 or so of those alive today claim to believe in God and Jesus. I would like 2,000,000,000 folks to buy anything I'm selling.

Randy Kirk said...

And since I can now see I have successfully left my scent... One Wave, I loved your pearl analogy so much that I am going to use a variation, with credit, over at http://Godvsnogod.blogspot.com

JumpingFromConclusions said...

**You seem to be objecting to the selectiveness of the Gospel as if it is unfair or inefficient in dissimination while not admitting that people are truly guilty or assuming that God wishes to save everyone by any means.**

1 Timothy 2: 3-4
"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

Going by the Bible, God does want all to be saved.

Tommy said...

Thanks for leaving your "scent" Randy.

Most powerful being in the universe, nearly 2,000 years have gone by, and only 1/3 of the population of 6 billion at least nominally follow Christianity. And Islam, which is some 1,400 years old has just about as many adherents in a shorter period of time.

Maybe it is satisfactory to you if your standard of excellence is a baseball player who is considered a good hitter if he gets a hit one out of every 3 at bats. But if that is the best a supreme being can do, then I am not impressed.

Randy Kirk said...

But, as Christ made clear, it was intended to be easy. The method is not the problem, nor is the message. It is the reality that many who are even presented with evidence they believe, choose not to. It even happened when Jesus was performing miracles in front of their eyes. The road he proposed was too hard.

Well, it's too hard for me, also. But since we have grace, I choose to walk that road, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Forgot that currently Muslims are killing Christians.

Tommy said...

Good point Anonymous!

It's rather sad that I, an atheist, seem to be more concerned with the plight of Iraqi Christians than some of the holy roller supporters of President Bush's war in Iraq.

They always complain that the media does not do enough to show the good things supposedly going on over there but they never seem to want to talk about the Christians of Iraq. You see, how a country treats its minorities, whether it be religious, racial or ethnic, is a bellwether as to how stable and humane that country is. The fact that Iraqi Christians are fleeing the country in droves tells me everything I need to know about how conditions are in Iraq.

Shygetz said...

It is the reality that many who are even presented with evidence they believe, choose not to.

I have never met a person who has what they believe to be credible evidence as to the existence and nature of God, and yet still chooses not to believe. I'm not claiming that such people cannot exist, but I doubt they are common. Most non-theists simply have not seen evidence that they claim is credible. If a 3O god exists that wants all people to be saved, why not give them evidence that they would believe as to his existence and nature, and allow them to exercise their own free will to choose to follow him or not? That way, people still have the free will that is so important, but they also get to make an informed decision by testing all things.

Tommy said...

Right on Shygetz.

A lot of Christians on blogs like this compare God to a parent, specifically a father.

But here is where the analogy falls apart. Children who have fathers in their lives know who their fathers are. We are constantly there with our children to teach them, correct them, and punish them.

The analogy used by Christians would be more appropriate in a situation where a child did not have a father in his life, but his mother assured him that he did have a father. The mother tells the child that the father visits when the child is sleeping. Whenever the child misbehaves, she tells him that his father will be angry with him and when he does something good that the father is proud of him. Of course, eventually the boy will get to an age when he realizes his mother has been conning him.

Because we are the dominant species on this planet, perhaps some of us feel the need to believe there is an authority figure over us to keep us in line. Maybe such a belief is even necessary for the majority of humanity.

Fans of the tv series Cheers may remember an episode where Norm Peterson hires a couple of guys from the bar to work for him. The problem is, Norm is an easy going guy and his employees don't want to do any work. So what Norm ends up doing is to create a fictional boss over him that he calls Kreitzer. Norm tells the guys how pissed off Kreitzer is to motivate them to start working. He even goes so far as to have them stand outside of his office with the door closed, while he alternates between his own voice and that of the imaginary Kreitzer berating him.

My memory is hazy as to what happens in the end. If I recall, Norm goes too far with the Kreitzer act and his employees end up quitting.

Randy Kirk said...

I'd work the analogy a little differently. I'd say the kid has a father who is absent for a good reason, but one we can't know. He has written the kid a series of letters of what he expects from his son, and some proverbs about living.

The kid can write him, and he will write back.

Then, of course there are no perfect analogies. If you'd like to see a very good and spirited debate on one version of the parent idea go to http://godvsnogod.blogspot.com/2007/02/perfect-father.html

Shygetz said...

I'd say the kid has a father who is absent for a good reason, but one we can't know.

Like what? What good reason could God have for being an absentee father?

The kid can write him, and he will write back.

No, the kid can write him, and the kid may get a vague feeling of satisfaction in doing so. The father will not write back (unless you believe in post-canon revelatory writings, such as the Mormons).

Add into the mix the fact that the father is truly all-powerful; he could arrange to be with the kid in whatever way he wants, but he chooses not to.

But he still loves us and wants us to know him. Really.

Randy Kirk said...

Well, I suspect I could write a book of reasons why God chooses to be less present than you would like. I will admit to not knowing, so therefore they would be idle speculation.

However, the kid gets more than a vague feeling of satisfaction. He might get a clear "yes" "no" or "maybe." He might find his answer later while reading scripture or talking to wise counsel. He might get an answer later that day by virtue of some door opening wide to his request or closing firmly.

In addition, he may be able to get confirmation of taking a right direction on something that is already clear. It is clear that we are to forgive anyone who harms us, but it is commonly only through prayer that we place ourselves in a position humble enough to allow for COMPLETE forgiveness.

Heng said...

"People have made a total 360 in there lives, from drugs, alchohol, even murder all because of God's word."

I have to chuckle at that. Did you mean they made a total 180? To do a 360 means you go from drugs and murder, to no drugs, no murder, then back to drugs and murder again.

Donald said...

I've only read the first few comments here but they mostly seem to have a common theme. People want God to come down and provide indisputable proof of His existence in some way. While I'm certain He can do that and has done it according to the Bible it's never been in a way that left an indisputable record.

Why?

God wants people to follow Him freely and willingly out of love for Him. I'm sure, considering the purpose of this site, that this isn't an unfamiliar concept to at least some of you. So following God is a choice everyone must freely make but if we all knew for a certainty that He was real then what choice is there?

Follow Him or go to hell?

So He's chosen to reveal Himself only in His Word, the Bible, and through the related experiences of those who have freely chosen to follow Him.

Besides, even if He came and provided indisputable proof of His existence it would only work on those who say it with their own eyes. Experienced it for themselves first hand and even then they would need to be directly enough impacted that they could find some way to explain it away. Indeed, if they truly didn't want to believe that THIS was their God they'd claim He was the devil come to deceive them.

It's up to you, is the "person" God revealed Himself to be in the Bible worth following? Are the witnesses who wrote of the accounts of the indisputable miracles that occurred in the Bible enough for you (if it isn't then why should God repeat Himself)?

Personally, I can attribute any one or even any group of events in my life to be chance or coincidence. It's just when I put them all together that that chance or coincidence seems unlikely.

It's up to you but I've found that the Bible provides an extremely astute examination of human character. One that matches up the observations I've made over the course of my life with considerable accuracy. We say that we've changed, that we're not the same as the people described in scripture but that just doesn't hold true. We're still dealing with the same kinds of issues today as they did back then along with a mess of others that the "changes" that we look at have given us as well.

Yes, the world has changed materially but we haven't changed spiritually. In that sense we are still the same kind of sinners the Bible talks about.

That's why I believe that we need Him. Because of "who" He revealed Himself to be.

The rest of you will have to find your own reason or reasons. But as with myself, at some point you just have to have faith.

Heng said...

"God wants people to follow Him freely and willingly out of love for Him. "

Then why threaten us with hellfire if we don't? If he wants to 'save' us, he should make his existence known unequivocably. He can't expect us to follow him without leaving enough evidence for us to do so.

"I'm sure, considering the purpose of this site, that this isn't an unfamiliar concept to at least some of you. So following God is a choice everyone must freely make but if we all knew for a certainty that He was real then what choice is there? "

It's not really a choice at all. He says he wants us to follow him freely, implying that we have a choice, but if we don't, we will be punished with hellfire for all eternity. That is some choice. When you are coerced into it, it doesn't exactly sound like you have a free choice.

"Besides, even if He came and provided indisputable proof of His existence it would only work on those who say it with their own eyes. Experienced it for themselves first hand and even then they would need to be directly enough impacted that they could find some way to explain it away. "

No, I don't have to see it with my own eyes. Video footage reported by CNN will suffice. I don't even have to see his physical appearance to accept his existence. Just a demonstration of one of his miracles will be good enough. If he can suspend the laws of physics for a moment in a way that the whole world can see at the same time, I will be instantly converted. For instance, he can turn the sky purple. Or he can move all the clouds and create shapes with them, shapes that are so realistic they couldn't possibly have formed by random chance. Or he could turn day into night and back into day again within the space of a few minutes. Or he could answer some prayers, with the result being something that can't have happened without divine intervention. Such as regrowth of an amputated limb, cure of HIV/AIDS.

"Indeed, if they truly didn't want to believe that THIS was their God they'd claim He was the devil come to deceive them."

You'll find that us atheists are just as skeptical about the devil's existence as we are God's. We won't make excuses. Show us something outside of natural explanation, and we will accept.

"It's up to you, is the "person" God revealed Himself to be in the Bible worth following? Are the witnesses who wrote of the accounts of the indisputable miracles that occurred in the Bible enough for you (if it isn't then why should God repeat Himself)?"

It's not good enough, because the evidence that these things ever happened at all is very weak. Bronze aged men are not reliable historians. If he can today show us a guy living inside a whale for 3 years, a guy parting the seas, walking on water, feeding 5000 families with 2 fish and a few loaves of bread, healing the sick, resurrecting the dead, and himself rising from the grave... then we will have much more reliable reporting and recording ability such that these miracles will be immortalized forever. Later generations who did not witness this advent will have unequivocal evidence (including video footage from reputable news sources) and cannot be skeptical.

"Personally, I can attribute any one or even any group of events in my life to be chance or coincidence. It's just when I put them all together that that chance or coincidence seems unlikely."

Every coin I flip has a 50/50 chance of being heads or tails. If I flip the coin 10 times and get heads, heads, tails, heads, tails, tails, tails, heads, tails, heads, each flip was still 50/50 chance, but collected as a whole, the odds of me getting that exact order is staggeringly low. It couldn't have been by chance could it? But I got it. I'm unlikely to repeat that exact result, but I can't say that it wasn't chance when each individual toss itself was chance. This point is illustrated even better if you shuffle a deck of cards and note the order they get turned over in.

And if you were to roll a dice 10 times and the result was: 1, 5, 4, 5, 2, 6, 3, 5, 2, 1, the probability of you rolling them in that order is the same as the probability of you rolling 6 ten times. But what makes this seemingly random set of numbers more special?

What makes the collective events of your life special? How is it any more special than what it could have turned out as? There are infinite possibilities. Infinite ways it could have differed, but THAT is what happened. So what?

"We say that we've changed, that we're not the same as the people described in scripture but that just doesn't hold true. We're still dealing with the same kinds of issues today as they did back then along with a mess of others that the "changes" that we look at have given us as well."

Really... well people from biblical times dealt with slavery and misogyny which we don't today. Rape was not considered all that bad. Come on, the Bible tells us to stone our children if they are rebellious, to stone your wife if you find out she wasn't a virgin when you married her, to be put to death if you wear clothing with two different fabrics weaved together, to be put to death if you're homosexual or work on the sabbath! You can NOT say that we haven't changed.

Back in their time, they did not deal with the same issues we have been. Does the bible mention abortion? Stem cell research? Global warming? Terrorism? To say that the issues we deal with today are the same as they were then is laughable.

"Yes, the world has changed materially but we haven't changed spiritually. In that sense we are still the same kind of sinners the Bible talks about."

The zeitgeist has shifted. Majorly.

"That's why I believe that we need Him. Because of "who" He revealed Himself to be. "

'He' was a megalomaniacal guy who ordered people to be put to death for creating idols, and their entire villages burnt down if someone in it followed another God. The village itself would need to be raized completely, and all within, except for children and women who were virgins, which we could take for ourselves. No thanks. We don't need petty, jealous, figures who demand our love and faith yet do everything they can to hide from us.

"The rest of you will have to find your own reason or reasons. But as with myself, at some point you just have to have faith. "

Faith is the belief in something despite lack of evidence. As a freethinker, who values logic, rational and critical thought, science, and common sense, faith is not a thing that I can ever bring myself to have. I'll take reason any day.

Heng said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heng said...

"People want God to come down and provide indisputable proof of His existence in some way. While I'm certain He can do that and has done it according to the Bible it's never been in a way that left an indisputable record.

Why?

God wants people to follow Him freely and willingly out of love for Him. I'm sure, considering the purpose of this site, that this isn't an unfamiliar concept to at least some of you. So following God is a choice everyone must freely make but if we all knew for a certainty that He was real then what choice is there? "

Another thing I should have addressed is this fallacy. The argument goes that God wants us to believe in and follow him WILLINGLY and FREELY, in other words, not through coercion, and that revealing his presence would make our faith in him UNWILLING and UNFREE. Or that if he revealed himself, he would take away our choice or freedom to follow him or not.

This is just plain untrue. If he revealed himself to us, we would all acknowledge his existence. But we wouldn't be forced to follow him. We'd still have the freedom to choose to follow him or not. This does not violate his wishes for us to follow him willingly, or our freedom that he intended for us.

If I've seen God and chose to follow him, then I did it willingly. If I've seen God and didn't want to, I'm still free to not follow him or pray or do his bidding for him. And if this actually happened, I'd choose the latter. I would not follow an infanticidal dictator who killed every first born in Egypt and other atrocities. But I would no longer call myself an Atheist either.

EDIT: This is a double post. The previous post had my spellchecker change 'infanticidal' to 'insecticidal' which won't do. Without the means to edit a comment, I deleted it and reposted it. Sorry.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Jesus intimated that He doesn't give mankind "snakes" - in other words, if we have a God that is compliant in accordance with cynical demands, it would only serve to promote more cynicism (cynicism is evidenced in these types of queries). But instead, Jesus's salvation is about allowing ourselves to become broken before an all-powerful God and trusting our vulnerabilities (sins) with Him - someone Who does not abuse His power.

You wrote: "He could raise up John F. Kennedy from the dead." With your stance of agnosticism/atheism, I suppose the notion never entered your mind that this might be a cruel thing to do to Mr. Kennedy???

You also wrote: "Elsewhere I have defended the notion that history is a poor medium for God to reveal himself to humanity, here, here, here, and here" Bravo! God would agree with you since it was never His intention to be a historical figure - He is a living supernatural God. But you have already rejected this and the witness of modern day miracles so there is not much to add here - pleading and imploring would only add to contempt.

You wrote: "If God can eternally create two equally omniscient beings, then he could've created human beings so that they could better understand such things as the trinity, the incarnation, free will and predestination, and the problem of evil. If these things are not a problem for God to understand, then he could've given human beings a better understanding of these things."

If a person has been indoctrinated to cooperate and accept authority that is domineering micro-managing, and abusive, then one may have a difficult time desiring/seeking what God has to offer - on a surface level, it will appear weak and those who are coopted by pride find this contemptible. I believe if one truly has a problem with evil, they will begin to stop cooperating with it and start loving their enemies, as God has clearly given direction! God's definition of evil begins with hard hearted conceit - war and poverty, other overt acts of death and destruction are the symptoms of such.

Ciao!

Anonymous said...

I think we atheists need to be careful when we talk about ways God could reveal himself to us. I'm not sure that revealing to us when the internet or television was invented is a good example of a way that God could talk to us. If he explained those things, history would happen differently.

I think revealing mathematical or scientific truths would be very interesting, even though I would still not accept that as good evidence for the truth of the Bible. Those truths could be remnants of an earlier, more advanced civilization. I suppose that seems improbable, but not quite to improbable as an anthropomorphic God who creates people through evolution so that they are imperfect, and then condemns them to Hell for all eternity, unless they believe in contradictory things like the Trinity ...

That said, I really like the example of God predicting the exact time of a volcanic eruption thousands of years before it happened. That would REALLY be interesting ...

Mysterium Tremendum said...

God could do alot of things for me. I'm just happy and greatful for what God has done and revealed to me. I know that He doesn't owe me anything and isn't obligated to give me His grace but He has done so anyway. To me the things of Christ are just lovely and beautiful. Christ Himself in all His holiness and humility is just lovely and beautiful to me. Moreover, when I look at the stars above on a beautiful star lit night the belief in a Creator just rises up within me. It seems obvious to me. My mind clears and I get an inner peace and love just flows through me.

Bronxboy47 said...

I've often wondered why Paul was privileged to experience such a dramatic display of Jesus' bona fides, given that God is "no respecter of persons".

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I don't think God is a respecter of persons in the sense of race, nationalily, age, gender. This doesn't mean that God is obligated to be merciful to sinners. God is never, never, never, never obligated to give grace. Again grace is unmeritted favor. If He witholds it He does nothing wrong.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

"I don't think..."


You could have safely ended your last post there with no loss in accuracy. Why would you need to think? You've consented to have the church do all your thinking for you. Thinking isn't very highly prized in your corner of the world, at least not the kind of thought free from the censure of ecclesiastical watchdogs. Those same watchdogs have stood in the way of human progress and the alleviation of human suffering century after century. They are now poised to usher the entire planet out of existence.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

Let's forget that in a fit of pique God drowned (here read: killed) the first batch of humans like unwanted kittens. ((He could have simply erased them from existence without the drowning, but apparently couldn't resist this unnecessarily dramatic act of vindictiveness.)

Let's pick up the thread from the story of Noah. So God causes vulnerable, fallible humans to be born in the midst of an ongoing spiritual battle, in which they will have to fight off not only the attacks of demons, but also bear up under the countless natural horrors to which humans are subject. And you have the nerve to aver that God is showing his love by arbitrarily withholding grace from any of these pitiful creatures, and that he remains innocent of any wrong in so doing!

Voltaire said, if they can make you believe absurdities, they can make you commit atrocities. Religion has had round after round of soaking the earth with human blood, making it all the easier for non-religious ideologies to follow suite. Your refusal to face these facts is called aiding and abetting.

Bronxboy47 said...

3m,

You are conflating cynicism with skepticism, a healthy human trait without which we would all be in serious trouble.

Hal in Howell MI said...

The Great God Contest

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

If God desires all men to be saved; and if it is impossible to be saved without God granting his grace, then the extraordinary means God chose to effect Paul's salvation, or something equivalent to it, should, in all fairness, be made available to all men. This has obviously not been the case. For centuries the vast majority of mankind lived and died without any knowledge or experience of Jesus Christ at all.

So, your God desires, but does nothing to effect the outcome of that desire for millions of blighted lives. He's either lying to us about his desire, or hopelessly confused. My bet is confused, since his followers exhibit that very same trait.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

By the way, your quadruple repetition of "never" is far more psychologically revealing than it is cute.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

Some humans have to have been given special helpings of God's grace. It's the only explanation. We, according to the bible, are all lost in our sins, incapable of doing, desiring, or even recognizing anything that God credits as good. So, what's the use in hearing the Gospel if, in our total depravity, we are too spiritually dead to respond. Logically those who do respond have obviously been given a little push by God. Jesus even says as much. They have had their ears opened that might hear and believe. That doesn't sound like the act of an impartial God who desires all men to be saved.

God desires all men to be saved, but lounges around for centuries without lifting a finger to assure the outcome of that desire for the vast majority of his creation. What is the point of God having desires at all if his very nature stands as a roadblock to the accomplishment of those desires?

I don't really expect you to address the points I've just raised. I realized these thorny issues only exist outside of the spiritual playpen to which you've confined yourself. Just wave your blankie at me so I'll know you haven't died of crib death.