Dialog Between Dave Armstrong and Charlie Kluepfel part 1 of 2
Words of Dave Armstrong in Blue
Words of Charlie Kluepfel in Black
Words of Others in Green


Dave Armstrong is one of the subjects of "Surprised by Truth", a book reviewed in one of my chapters, "Surprised by Truth?". He had been a Protestant and had converted to Catholicism. He has a website promoting Catholicism.

Also, someone has written in support of my position, to Dave Armstrong in regard to the presentation of this dialog on Dave's web site. The reader sent a copy to me, which you can read by clicking here.


Subj: Surprised by Truth
Date: 4/9/99 8:24:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: erasmus@mail.ic.net (David G. Armstrong)
Reply-to: BiblicalCatholic@compuserve.com
To: chasklu@aol.com

Hi ?,

Interesting article. I noticed that you didn't spend much time on my story. Disappointing . . . Perhaps you would like to take apart a longer, more theologically-technical version of my conversion:

"How Newman Convinced me of the Apostolicity of the Catholic Church."
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ53.HTM {46K}

Once you do that, I will counter-respond, and we can have a little debate if you should so desire - all of which can be posted on my website for all to see:

"Biblical Evidence for Catholicism"
http://ic.net/~erasmus

What say ye? It's not often that a Catholic website will offer you a forum for presenting your views, is it?

Yours in Christ,

Dave Armstrong


Dave,

In a message dated 4/10/99 5:12:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time, BiblicalCatholic@compuserve.com writes:

<
<<
Thanks for responding.

>You will also see from my site that my point of view is that of a theist<
A preliminary discussion of just how my own beliefs should be classified. What do you call belief in a mind/spirit who is responsible for the whole universe, but not identified with the universe--a thinking, feeling entity whose relationship to the universe is as mind to thought?

Thinking we are all part of God is not theism, but rather, monism. I'm surprised you would miss such a basic distinction, as you are obviously very well-read.
>>

I would think that monism would require that not only us, but in fact all the universe be spirit. (or, materialistic monism, matter).
from the dictionary:
1. Philos a. (in metaphysics) any of various theories holding that there is only one basic substance or principle as the ground of reality, or that reality consists of a single element. Cf. dualism (def. 2) , pluralism (def. 1a).
I don't hold to this, as I distinguish spirit(s) such as myself and others, even considered as part of God to be of a completely different nature from, say, a rock. I don't see how you can characterize my dualism as monism. Like Descartes I distinguish mind from matter, but, as per Berkeley, matter is merely the *content* of mind. Even the atheists are monists, but claim that all (even mind) is derivable from matter, which I hold to be absurd, as matter has no feeling but is the mere working out of blind physical law. Also, when considering myself a part of God, I in no way claim to be personally all of God, for as you say, that would be lunacy.

To identify a philosophy as monism does not distinguish pure materialists (only matter is real) from pure idealists (only spirit or mind is real). I claim that spirit exists; that spirits or minds have contents, that is thoughts, and these thoughts have a reality and in fact constitute matter. When merely I have such a thought, it's a hallucination, but when the totality of God has the thought, it is the universe. You would use the words "God has created us in his image." I would use the words "God has taken parts of himself and set them apart (much as Christians say God underwent kenosis to become incarnate, so Jesus could grow in wisdom as he grew up physically) to become in part each one of us."

b. (in epistemology) a theory that the object and datum of cognition are identical. Cf. pluralism (def. 1b).

I don't think this is the meaning you had in mind.

2. the reduction of all processes, structures, concepts, etc., to a single governing principle; the theoretical explanation of everything in terms of one principle.

This could be what you meant, but such a governing principle may or may not be God. I use the term God to emphasize it is not an impersonal force, but a mind with feelings, etc., and transcending all else, and giving rise to, but not coincident with the universe itself.

3. the conception that there is one causal factor in history; the notion of a single element as primary determinant of behavior, social action, or institutional relations.

Even Christians, again, could agree that God could be the one causal factor. Theism is not contradictory to monism. But again, I don't agree with monism, as I think mind and matter are two different things, with mind having priority. I think believing that mind is prior to matter and creates it is a theistic belief. It's certainly not what most atheists espouse, where the human mind is merely material and the result of evolution and is not to be confused with a supposed soul.

Charlie Kluepfel

 

Dave,

I have read your webpage "How Newman Made me a Catholic" (RAZ53.HTM), which today seems to have disappeared from your site, but I have a paper copy. Indeed it makes quite a convincing case that if Christianity is true, then Catholicism is indeed the true Church. In fact such a case is indeed part of one of my arguments against Christianity: (1) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is true-- which is your point. (2) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is false -- see my site http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth6.html for evaluation of these arguments from Protestants. (3) From the contradiction implied by Christianity's being true, we see that Christianity must be false. Obviously argument by authority of the Church Fathers such as St. Augustine is not going to convince me of the truth of Christianity.

The debate begins.
There are some details in your document that I must take exception to, such as where you paraphrase your friend John McAlpine: "the Catholic Church had never contradicted itself in any of its dogmas". This brings to mind the recent sudden loss of Limbo. When I was growing up, and even in my later years as a Catholic, Limbo was the accepted place where the non-baptised good folks would go. Now the Church rejects it as incorrect theology. This brings up the subject of how the Church can say "Oh, that was never ex-cathedra belief." Well, it was surely taught to me as if it were, and it would be hard-pressed for a Catholic to identify what's obligatory belief.

Also, as you well know and point out, the Catholic Church believes in the divine inspiration of the Bible. Yet you also make it clear that the Catholic Church treats Biblical writing as allegory. It is obviously in the interpretation of allegory that one can make any writing or scripture say just what you want it to say, rather than what it does say. For example, when Jesus says "But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven." (Mat 23:8-9), both the spirit and letter of this saying (not rabbi, not father--no honorifics) clearly contradict Catholic usage, and no amount of allegorical claim can change that.

You allude to the "sign of Jonah" and refer to Jesus "three days and three nights buried in the earth", yet the allegory is destroyed by the actual words elsewhere that state it began on the eve of the Sabbath and ended before dawn on the first day of the week--parts of three days, but certainly not three nights, strongly suggesting the combining of contradictory early myths about Jesus.

It is unfortunate that one of your links (Anti-Catholicism on the net) considers "attacking Catholicism as being un-Christian" or "ridiculing or misinterpreting Catholic doctrine or practice" to be anti-Catholic in the sense analogous to anti-Semitism. Catholicism is a set of beliefs that must withstand scrutiny just like any other set of beliefs, and the mere study and pointing out of discrepancies in a doctrine is not equivalent to hating people for the accident of the circumstances of their birth. This website mentions, among other sites, the Secular Web, as Anti-Catholic, and of course it would be difficult to take its arguments into consideration if one thinks that he or she (the Catholic) is being attacked personally. That would be unfortunate, as, if I had taken arguments against Christianity as personal attacks against me, I would never have found my way out of Catholicism in particular, or Christianity in general.

I think it would be more appropriate to continue my response to you by considering your "Why Believe In Christianity?" (RAZ298.HTM) rather than "How Newman Made me a Catholic." It's opening paragraph (on your part) says that believing in Christianity strictly on faith is fine. This makes no sense. How can it be fine to believe something without cause to believe it? One could just as easily say that it's fine to believe in Islam "strictly on faith". If one doesn't bother to think about them, one can believe, along with the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, in "six impossible things before breakfast." You refer to "skeptics and cynics" as having "various (flawed) arguments." Isn't this as anti-nonChristian as arguments the other way are anti-Christian or anti-Catholic. In fact, as Jews certainly do not believe in Christianity, if we went by the logic of the http://www2.trincoll.edu/~dcruzuri/anti-catholic/anti-catholic.html page, we could call the statements anti-Semitic.

But, to address specific points:

"Sure, Christian beliefs still require faith, by definition, but it is not an irrational, unreasonable faith. It doesn't contradict reason and logic."

Of course, if the Bible is taken as allegorical, its contradictions then become explainable. But then so do any contradictions or incongruities in the Koran or the Book of Mormon or any such scripture. When Jesus says he will return in the lifetimes of some of his listeners, but doesn't, it must be allegory. Or when he says that all who say "thou fool" shall be liable to hellfire, but on another occasion says "thou fools and hypocrites", we must understand the allegory, despite the blatant contradiction of the words. A mormon would explain away impossibilities in the Book of Mormon; a Muslim would explain away the absurdities of the Koran. Once one says one needs faith, then the choice is "what faith?" There are many to choose from. Indeed, as you say, "nothing can be absolutely proven," but in seeking truth, lacking syllogisms to prove our case, we must rely on Ockham's razor to determine what the most likely explanation for certain records and beliefs would be, rather than assuming that just because an assertion was made, that it is true.

"Both archaeology and historiography (i.e., the study of history) have verified the Bible's extraordinary accuracy time and again. What is recorded there can be trusted in the highest degree"

Is it an example of extraordinary accuracy the placing of Jesus birth during the lifetime of Herod and at the time of Quirinius' census? The latter took place almost a decade after the former. So much for historical accuracy this time. Or "Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis" (Mark 7:31 RSV). To quote Dennis McKinsey (Biblical Errancy):
The geographical knowledge of Mark's author is questionable in that it's hard to imagine going from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee by passing through Sidon, much less the region of Decapolis. Sidon is to the north of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee while Decapolis is to the south of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee. This assertion was made by Mark when there were no coasts of Decapolis, nor was the name so much as known before the reign of the emperor Nero.

"Secondly, there is fulfilled prophecy (including messianic prophecies about Jesus), verifiable by virtue of historical fact."

Again, Jesus said his return would be within the lifetime of some of his listeners. Paul so much as expected to be alive when Jesus returned. It didn't happen. I don't know what messianic prophecies you had in mind, but certainly a prophecy from hundreds of years before, referring to someone named Emmanuel (not Jesus), and supposedly fulfilled near the time it was given, is not such a prophecy.

"A great book to explore the historical argument is Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict (in two volumes)."

See http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/jury/
for the verdict. Also http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/gordon_stein/jesus.html.

"Some people want to maintain that Jesus never claimed to be God in the flesh (this is called the Incarnation in Christian theology) - that His followers merely made them up out of an exaggerated sense of hero-worship and a "cult of the martyr," etc. This is an absurd, groundless hypothesis."

Aside from the Gospel of John, where does this claim come from the mouth of Jesus? In fact this is an example of the disunity of the Bible. In fact, even John has "The father is greater than I," plus the inserted "Before Abraham was, I Am." Surely if Jesus is both God and Man, he is the greater, having the complete fullness of God, as well as humanity added on.

"Archaeological and "geographical place names" evidence is also remarkable and compelling."

And if a historical novel, such as Gone With the Wind, mentions places like Atlanta, or the Civil War, or President Lincoln, could an archaeologist in two millennia presume it to be a historically accurate work? See above about Tyre, Sidon and Decapolis.

"All one can do with Jesus after recognizing what (and Whom) He did claim to be is consider Him a "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic," as C.S. Lewis argued in his famous and influential book Mere Christianity. There is no other plausible choice. When someone goes around claiming to be the one God (in the Western monotheistic sense, not an Eastern monistic religious one, where everything and everyone is "god" or part of "god"), we immediately consider him or her a lunatic. But Jesus is the most admired and respected (and important) Person in history. He is either what He claims or not. Christians simply take Him at His word, and accept the confirming historical, eyewitness evidence of His miracles and Resurrection (legal-historical evidence)."

Another choice is he never said it. The Gospel of John is at least 60 years after Jesus' death--plenty of time for add-on stories to grow.

"This gets a bit involved, but there are many arguments for God's existence which are very solid, and which have been believed by many of the world's greatest philosophers. And there are great difficulties in the position of atheism. Rather than summarize them, I again refer anyone who is interested to my Holy Trinity page and General Christian Apologetics, Worldview, and Philosophy page."

And Aristotle believed in a God (not the plurality of Greek Gods) even before Jesus. Jews believe in God. God's existence doesn't prove Christianity. The proofs do not necessarily identify the Christian God, nor even the Jewish God. Many are also not convinced by these proofs.

"Modern science began in Christian western Europe during the Renaissance, and that is no coincidence. It began there because Christians have a base with which to begin scientific inquiry: the notion that the universe is orderly and objective, follows natural laws, and is ultimately created by God, who gave us rational faculties and senses with which to organize knowledge and discover scientific (empirical) facts."

The Renaissance is a long time after Christianity took hold in the Roman Empire. By this time Aristotelianism had found its way into the church. Books long lost to the western, Christian, world were reintroduced via translations from the *Arabic*, preserved by those infidel Muslims. The word "algebra" comes from the Arabic, and "geometry" from the Greek. What is from the Aramaic or Hebrew? And again, the Greek philosophers believed in a God (rather than the Gods, which they took to be mythological), and it is the newly rediscovered Greek spirit, previously suppressed by Christianity, as in the suppression of the Arabs in the Crusades, which drove the enlightenment.

"All ethics apart from the starting-point of God have insuperable problems, in my opinion. Only theism and especially Christian theism can provide the needed premises to establish a "righteous" and "just" ethics. The breaking-down of the Judaeo-Christian ethical standard is clearly the root cause behind virtually all the chaos and tragedy that we see in our society today (e.g., the sexual revolution, just to cite one example where a major shift has occurred)."

People had ethics long before Jesus. "Pagans" such as Hammurabi instituted legal codes; the Greek philosophers discussed ethics. Even today, many ethicists are atheists. As I have said concerning Hans Kung's "Why I Am Still a Christion", where he says,
"there can be no civilized society and no state without some system of laws. But no legal system can exist without a sense of justice. And no sense of justice can exist without a moral sense or ethic. And there can be no moral sense or ethic without basic norms, attitudes, and values."
I say:
Then, strangely enough, he (Kung) goes on to say "If (as I have suggested) it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to justify ethics purely rationally, then we cannot recklessly ignore the significance and function of ... religion ... without accepting the consequences," even though he has just justified ethics purely rationally, with the starting axiom of the need for a civilized society, in the preceding paragraph.

The "sexual revolution" may have it's problems, but problems should be worked out, not shoved under the rug. The sexual repression of the church is worse. Would you point out the activities of people at large, today, as evil, while claiming that any mention of the pedophilia that occurs among the clergy is anti-Catholic bigotry? Problems are problems regardless of where they come from, and our God-given intelligence is here to solve them, rather than to rely on arguments from "authorities" from the past.

Charlie Kluepfel


Hi Charlie,

Hope u r well 2day.

>I have read your webpage "How Newman Made me a Catholic" (RAZ53.HTM),
which
today seems to have disappeared from your site, but I have a paper copy.
Indeed it makes quite a convincing case that if Christianity is true, then
Catholicism is indeed the true Church.<

Thanks! Too bad you have doubts about Christianity itself, then , , , Maybe
I could have persuaded you.

>In fact such a case is indeed part of one of my arguments against Christianity: (1) If Christianity is true then
Catholicism is true-- which is your point. (2) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is false -- see my site
http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth6.html for evaluation of
these arguments from Protestants.<

:-) I don't understand the argument here. Could you quickly summarize it
for me?

>(3) From the contradiction implied by Christianity's being true, we see that Christianity must be false.<

??? You lost me . . .

>Obviously argument by authority of the Church Fathers such as St. Augustine is not going to convince me of the truth of Christianity.<

I realize that now. I thought you were a Protestant at first. Then I thought that since you were motivated to critique peoples' conversion stories and hadn't spent much effort on mine for some reason (you really offered no counter-arguments at all to speak of), that you might be interested in my longer version (my story was the shortest in SBT).

>There are some details in your document that I must take exception to, such as where you paraphrase your friend John McAlpine: "the Catholic Church had never contradicted itself in any of its dogmas". This brings to mind the recent sudden loss of Limbo. When I was growing up, and even in my later years as a Catholic, Limbo was the accepted place where the non-baptised good folks would go. Now the Church rejects it as incorrect theology.<


Of course this is not true. It was always an allowable opinion (and continues to be), but was never declared as a dogma. Recently, fewer theologians have held to it than formerly. But since it doesn't involve a question of dogma, your point above is - quite literally - a non sequitur.

>This brings up the subject of how the Church can say "Oh, that was never ex-cathedra belief." Well, it was surely taught to me as if it were, and it would be hard-pressed for a Catholic to identify what's obligatory belief.<


This is classic, garden-variety misunderstanding about how the Catholic Church works. The indisputable fact is, that it was never a dogma in the Church. As a child, you were not able to distinguish between the complex layers of authority in the Catholic system (don't feel bad: most educated Catholic adults aren't able to, either), so somewhere along the line you
picked up this false assumption. Catholics can know what is obligatory belief by consulting the new _Catechism._ There were Catechisms before that, and documents of Trent, Vatican II, etc. And papal encyclicals. The beliefs have always been "out there" for anyone who made an effort to find them. But of course they usually don't *make* the effort, and catechetics
has been very poor in the last generation.

I am often amused, though, how non-Catholics will charge the Church with contradicting itself, then, when informed that no dogmatic matter was involved (e.g., the prohibition of meat on Fridays, or priestly celibacy), they will complain about how the Church *didn't* contradict itself, as if some sleight-of-hand or deception or "jesuitical casuistry" is involved. :-) Clearly this is a ludicrous methodology and epistemology. The Church is what it is. It is silly to complain about the *way* a system is set up, as
if that is improper or unsavoury in and of itself. That is a separate question to be disputed (in the area of ecclesiology and authority: biblical or otherwise).

But in effect, this argument implies (unconsciously, no doubt) that the Church should be the way the *critic* wants to define it, and it is wrong for not being that way!!!! :-) So the entire endeavor is entirely circular (even comically so) and thus able to be dismissed immediately by anyone who is serious about the real issues involved. Such a methodology also implicitly belittles the Church, as if it were a fundamentally silly and irrational and non-reflective thing, when in fact it is not at all. Unfortunately, untrue and unfair stereotypes are utilized as much in religious polemics as in political discourse.

>Also, as you well know and point out, the Catholic Church believes in the divine inspiration of the Bible. Yet you also make it clear that the Catholic Church treats Biblical writing as allegory. It is obviously in the interpretation of allegory that one can make any writing or scripture say just what you want it to say, rather than what it does say.<


Very disappointing. These are your first two arguments, and I must say that I am completely underwhelmed. First of all, I never stated that the Catholic Church always interprets Scripture allegorically. That would be ridiculous. The Bible has many different forms of writing, and must be interpreted according to context and the style of the book, the intent of the author, the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic background, etc. Like Protestants, basically we interpret literally unless there is a clear contextual indication to do otherwise (e.g., the Catholic interprets John 6 *very* literally, because it is a proof - we believe - of transubstantiation and the Real Presence in the Eucharist). Most Protestants interpret that allegorically, or "spiritually," to lesser or greater degrees. So this matter of hermeneutics is far more complex than you make it out to be.

>For example, when Jesus says "But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven." (Mat 23:8-9), both the spirit and letter of this saying (not rabbi, not father--no honorifics) clearly contradict Catholic usage, and no amount of allegorical claim can change
that.<

A typical example of Jewish hyperbole. This is easily answerable, and I have at least one link on my website about it, so I need not trouble myself here with it.

>You allude to the "sign of Jonah" and refer to Jesus "three days and three nights buried in the earth", yet the allegory is destroyed by the actual words elsewhere that state it began on the eve of the Sabbath and ended before dawn on the first day of the week--parts of three days, but certainly not three nights, strongly suggesting the combining of contradictory early
myths about Jesus.<


This also depends on the Jewish idiom and use of words - quite different from our modern, more literal and scientific understanding of words and phrases.

>It is unfortunate that one of your links (Anti-Catholicism on the net) considers "attacking Catholicism as being un-Christian" or "ridiculing or misinterpreting Catholic doctrine or practice" to be anti-Catholic in the sense analogous to anti-Semitism. Catholicism is a set of beliefs that must withstand scrutiny just like any other set of beliefs, and the mere study and
pointing out of discrepancies in a doctrine is not equivalent to hating people for the accident of the circumstances of their birth.<

I agree. My definition of anti-Catholic is simply one who denies that Catholicism is a Christian religion. Such a belief is often (probably usually) *accompanied* by derision and ridicule, but it is not of the
*essence* of the definition (at least the way I and most Catholic
apologists use the term).

>This website mentions, among other sites, the Secular Web, as Anti-Catholic, and of course it would be difficult to take its arguments into consideration if one thinks that he or she (the Catholic) is being attacked personally. That would be unfortunate, as, if I had taken arguments against Christianity as personal attacks against me, I would never have found my way out of Catholicism in particular, or Christianity in general.<


I would have to see what this website says, in order to properly respond. But I have stated my own views, and I explain them in much more depth in various pages on my website.

>I think it would be more appropriate to continue my response to you by considering your "Why Believe In Christianity?" (RAZ298.HTM) rather than "How Newman Made me a Catholic."<

That was meant to be a cursory overview of the reasons to be a Christian. I wrote it very fast, and it is not nearly as rigorously reasoned as my longer testimony was. I think you are on a much higher level than that (even though I am most disappointed in your first two arguments in this letter). The pages you might be interested in the most as an agnostic (wrt Christianity, if not God) are:

The Holy Trinity http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ14.HTM
Creation, Creationism, & Empirical Theistic Arguments
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ15.HTM
General Christian Apologetics, Worldview, & Philosophy
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ157.HTM
Heresies, Occult, & the New Age Movement
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ159.HTM
Catholic Documents & General/Apologetics Websites
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ24.HTM

Also, my "people pages" of the great Christian and Catholic apologists:

C.S. Lewis Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ26.HTM
G.K. Chesterton Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ27.HTM
Ven. John Henry Newman Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ22.HTM
Malcolm Muggeridge: The Iconoclast http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ28.HTM
Thomas Howard & Peter Kreeft: Master Apologists
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ29.HTM
St. Augustine & St. Thomas Aquinas http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ160.HTM

>It's opening paragraph (on your part) says that believing in Christianity strictly on faith is fine. This makes no sense. How can it be fine to believe something without cause to believe it?<

I agree with you. You have to interpret my remarks in context, and together
with other papers of mine. I would recommend, e.g.:

God and Reason http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ189.HTM
*** Dialogue: A Catholic's "Open Mind" / Epistemology
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ64.HTM
Dialogues With an Orthodox Christian (ROCOR)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ322.HTM
Dialogue on Orthodox Objections to Philosophical Theology
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ253.HTM
On Vigorous Apologetic Argument (with Orthodox in Particular)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ339.HTM
Dialogue with an Orthodox Christian, on Theological and Philosophical
Axioms
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ350.HTM

The last four contain a lot of material about the relationship of reason
and faith. I maintain that the Orthodox place reason too low in the scheme
of things. They, in turn, often consider Catholics "rationalists" in the
worst sense of that word.

>One could just as easily say that it's fine to believe in Islam "strictly on faith". If one doesn't bother to think about them, one can believe, along with the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, in "six impossible things before breakfast."<

I completely agree. See the above.

>You refer to "skeptics and cynics" as having "various (flawed) arguments." Isn't this as anti-nonChristian as arguments the
other way are anti-Christian or anti-Catholic. In fact, as Jews certainly do not believe in Christianity, if we went by the logic of the
http://www2.trincoll.edu/~dcruzuri/anti-catholic/anti-catholic.html page,
we could call the statements anti-Semitic.<

Again, I agree with you, per my reasoning above.

>I am about at the 4K limit that I had said I'd like to keep responses at (actually I just checked and it's 5K, so that sounds like a better limit), so I'd just like to say that I don't think arguments in either direction should be considered anti- anything in the pejorative sense. Our own beliefs are what they are, and as my town's parish's Father Matt said, "We're not here to debate, but to spread the truth". Well, that's what each of us is trying to do, but it sure does look like a debate.<

I stick to the logic, plausibility, and consistency of the beliefs expressed, and do not attribute ill motives and bad faith unless there is indisputable demonstration of same. The "anti" in my understanding of "anti-Catholic" refers strictly to *beliefs* and not people (though, as I said, the two often exist side-by-side).

Thanks for writing. I look forward to your next "installment." I am also presently dialoguing with another former Christian who calls himself an agnostic. With his permission, I will probably post that on my website also. You might be interested in that, too. I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in such dialogues, as most of my interaction online has been with fellow Christians. But before computers (BC), I engaged in dialogue with people of virtually every imaginable belief, since 1981.

Sincerely,

Dave Armstrong

 

Dave,

You indicate "being lost" following what I say is one of my arguments against Christianity: (1) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is true(2) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is false (3) From the contradiction implied by Christianity's being true, we see that Christianity must be false.

The argument is of the form
p implies q
p implies not q
therefore p is false, as it leads to the contradiction (both q and not q).
p is the proposition Christianity is true
q is the proposition Catholicism is true

You obviously go along with p implies q, based on early Christianity's Church Father's etc., being the early Catholicism. You disagree with p implies not q. That is the argument made by protestants, quoted in http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth6.html.
One of the items mentioned there was the one about Jesus warning that no one should call anyone rabbi or father, contrary to Catholic usage for its priests.

Note that it is not equivalent to "Catholicism is not Christian"; that would be q implies not p. It is merely that Catholicism is not the "true" form of Christianity. My stance of course is that there is no form of Christianity that is true as Christianity is false.

"I thought that since you were motivated to critique peoples' conversion stories and hadn't spent much effort on mine for some reason (you really offered no counter-arguments at all to speak of), that you might be interested in my longer version (my story was the shortest in SBT)."

Also, it is the next-to-last, and raised many points that I had already considered in regard to the other people's stories. And I guess I was getting tired by then. Again, I'm not *that* concerned as to which is the proper type of Christianity, just that the assumption of Christianity leads to contradictions, with some people seeing that it requires Protestantism, others that it requires Catholicism.

In regard to my comment on the church's changing view of Limbo, you state:
"Of course this is not true. It was always an allowable opinion (and continues to be), but was never declared as a dogma. Recently, fewer theologians have held to it than formerly. But since it doesn't involve a question of dogma, your point above is - quite literally - a non sequitur."

Yes, you're right. To quote my copy of a 1961 Catholic Dictionary's entry on Limbo (the book has two Nihil Obstats and two Imprimaturs) in meaning number 2, the Limbo of Children: "It is of faith that all, children and adults, who leave this world without the Baptism of water, blood or desire and therefore in original sin are excluded from the vision of God in Heaven. The great majority of theologians teach that such children and unbaptized adults free from grievous actual sin enjoy knowing and loving God by the use of their natural powers. This place and state is commonly called Limbo."

But if fewer modern theologians believe in Limbo, while maintaining the "of faith" doctrine that the unbaptized are excluded from the vision of God in Heaven, then that leaves to them a fate worse than Limbo, which seems cruel.

However, the average Catholic, or even the informed Catholic, would be hard put to define *all* the obligatory doctrines. You recommend the Cathechism. More to the point, the infallibility of the pope depends on the infallibility of the council which defined the infallibility of the pope. That in turn rests upon the "authority of the church". But the church is all the people. At one time 2/3 of bishops and their flocks believed in Arianism, yet were later declared wrong. It is arbitrary to say that only by meeting in council can declarations be made infallibly. In logic, it is known as begging the question. Maybe that early majority was right and the council wrong; who's to say? (Of course I agree with anyone who says Jesus was just a man, assuming he existed as one individual at all.)

Regardless of the universality of a given belief, or the changeability or lack thereof of dogma, there is still no real basis for belief in the Church to begin with.

When I say
"Yet you also make it clear that the Catholic Church treats Biblical writing as allegory. It is obviously in the interpretation of allegory that one can make any writing or scripture say just what you want it to say, rather than what it does say,"
you reply
"First of all, I never stated that the Catholic Church always interprets Scripture allegorically. That would be ridiculous. The Bible has many different forms of writing, and must be interpreted according to context and the style of the book, the intent of the author, the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic background, etc."

This is even worse: the interpreter then first gets to decide which portions are allegory and which are literal. Then he gets further to decide upon the meanings of the allegorical parts. While you may feel this is objective, I'm sure the protestants feel equally strong that, say, Luke 22:19 should be taken symbolically rather than the literal interpretation that Catholics give.

I do not understand the use of John 6 in defining transubstantiation--the real presence. But regardless of what passage is in question, be it Luke 22:19 or John 6, while "the Catholic interprets [it] *very* literally, because it is a proof - we believe - of transubstantiation and the Real Presence in the Eucharist" that is an example of a completion of the circle in a circular argument, for it is necessary to interpret Luke 22:19 literally in order to use it as a proof of transubstantiation, but now you're saying its the fact that it constitutes (or is needed to constitute) proof of transubstantiation that makes the Catholic consider it literally. Perhaps you meant "it's apparent that Catholics take it literally, as evidenced by the fact that it's considered a proof". That would take away the admission of circularity, but it still begs the question of why this particular passage should be taken literally when so many others are taken allegorically or symbolically. That's why I'm tempted to take your statement at face value: it's needed as a proof of Catholic doctrine, and that's why it's taken literally.

What evidence is there that "three days and three nights" is a Jewish idiom that doesn't really require three nights? Likewise, what evidence is there that Jesus' admonition not to honor mere humans with titles like teacher (rabbi) or father, was mere hyperbole? For the former, you might say that it's obvious that the authors wouldn't contradict themselves so obviously (Fri-Sun vs. 3 nights). But a more parsimonious explanation (remember Ockham's razor) is two separate traditions that got written down together despite their mutual exclusivity, similar to the way, in Genesis, separate strands got mixed, one of which had a mere single pair of each of the types of animal go aboard the ark, while the other had seven of each clean animal, but a single pair of each unclean. Spliced together the two stories don't really make sense.

Referring to the Secular Web, you say,
"I would have to see what this website says, in order to properly respond. But I have stated my own views, and I explain them in much more depth in various pages on my website."
Indeed. The Secular web (at www.infidels.org) is no simple web site. It has numerous writers, from ancient times to modern. It's well worth a visit--or many visits.

In the various pages to which you refer on your website, for example at RAZ157, I see for example the very "Why Believe In Christianity?" that you say is a "cursory overview", plus some writings denouncing "modernism", etc. It's very hard to find what you consider, among these pages, specific documents that could serve as a better detail of why to believe in Christianity. I see, for example, supposed man of faith Fr. Wm. G. Most, Ph.D, saying "Mormonism rests on alleged appearances of an angel to Joseph Smith. But there is no hard proof of it. And further, since it does not follow the Gospel, it falls under the condemnation given by St. Paul in chapter 1 of Galatians, where Paul says that even if an angel from the sky should teach a different doctrine: Let the angel be cursed. That applies to Joseph Smith." But there is no hard proof of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John's writings either--that's why there's faith. And Christians (such as Paul) were booted out of the synagogues, much as Paul would condemn those who tell a different story from his. We could say the rabbis (or temple priests, of earlier days) warned against idolators, like Paul. Plus ca change, plus le meme chose. One man's new religion is the old one's heresy. The book of Mormon should be rejected because it contradicts the Gospel and was what Paul warned about. Well the Gospel should be rejected because it contradicts Judaism and was what the Jewish priests warned about (idolatry in worshipping a man).

The bottom line is that there's not much there to convince those outside the church to come in. If you could point to one particular document that seems convincing in your eyes, please point it out.

C.S. Lewis, of course, is the proponent of the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" trilemma, which I pointed out does not exhaust the possibilities. Your reply did not address this portion of my message. As I said "Another choice is he never said it. The Gospel of John is at least 60 years after Jesus' death--plenty of time for add-on stories to grow." By the way, a couple of the many documents on the Secular web refute Lewis:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/the_fool/mere.html
http://www.infidels.org/org/ffrf/lfif/assertions.html
The first of the above is by "the fool", who presumably calls himself that as he says in his heart there is no God. He also refutes McDowell in http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/the_fool/more.html.

I notice your site points to some of Peter Kreeft's work, including an article supporting the resurrection. It repeats arguments (or vice versa) in his (and Tacelli's) Handbook of Christian Apologetics, which also at least expands somewhat beyond the trilemma, but which I refute in http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth5a.html. An excerpt:

Kreeft and Tacelli say:
"The resurrection also sharply distinguishes Jesus from all other religious founders. The bones of Abraham and Mohammed and Buddha and Confucius and Lao-tzu and Zoroaster are all still here on earth. Jesus' tomb is empty."

I reply:
Have the authors seen Mohammed's bones? The Encyclopaedia Britannica reports Islamic tradition as saying that "his [Mohammed's] ascension to heaven (mi'raj) is still celebrated: he rode the winged horse Buraq in the company of the angel Gabriel through the seven spheres, meeting the other prophets there, until he reached the divine presence, alone, even without the angel of inspiration." I can't imagine this being the tradition if his bones are lying around to be seen.

Of course it would be an article of faith to K&T that only Jesus' bones have departed (plus Mary's living bones, one would imagine) from this earth. But that's what he supposedly is trying to demonstrate, why to have this faith; but he's using the very faith to determine that Jesus was unique in this regard, as to the stories told about his bones. More circular argumentation.

Charlie

Dave,

By the way, you refer to me as "an agnostic (wrt Christianity, if not God)". I think the term agnostic refers to some state of claimed lack of knowledge, sort of unable to make a decision one way or the other, and usually, when wrt God, is differentiated from an atheist. I would rather consider myself a non-Christian than an agnostic wrt Christianity. After all, the following quote shows that merely being open to other opinions does not mean that one is not committed (in the sense of not expecting to lose one's current beliefs):

You say (http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ64.HTM):
"Catholicism could turn out to be false by the same exact criteria by which I concluded that Protestantism as a system was found wanting. Obviously, I don't consider that likely at all; I don't expect in a million years to "re-convert" or "un-convert," but it is certainly theoretically possible. And I believe that such an outlook is indispensable for maintaining both an open mind and - equally importantly - in order to avoid a condescending, arrogant, "triumphalistic," prideful attitude."

Likewise, while it is "theoretically possible" for me to reconvert, I don't expect to do so "in a million years". Thus "non-Christian" is a better term than the indecisive "agnostic".

Charlie


Hi Charlie,

>I would think that monism would require that not only us, but in fact all the universe be spirit. (or, materialistic monism, matter). from the dictionary:
1. Philos a. (in metaphysics) any of various theories holding that there is only one basic substance or principle as the ground of reality, or that reality consists of a single element. Cf. dualism (def. 2) , pluralism (def. 1a).
I don't hold to this, as I distinguish spirit(s) such as myself and others,

[... snipped--quotes from above ...]


Even Christians, again, could agree that God could be the one causal factor. Theism is not contradictory to monism. But again, I don't agree with monism, as I think mind and matter are two different things, with mind having priority. I think believing that mind is prior to matter and creates it is a theistic belief. It's certainly not what most atheists espouse, where the human mind is merely material and the result of evolution and is not to be confused with a supposed soul.<

Okay; clarification duly noted. I just skimmed your material so far, so I goofed on this one. What about referring to your view as panentheism, or immanentism (akin to process theology)? Are there similarities to the views set forth by Whitehead, Hartshorne, and also Cobb and Ogden? In any event, I would not class this as theism, which, ISTM, encompasses the transcendence of God, and a certain unbridgeable gap - even notwithstanding the Incarnation. But then maybe that is already a Christian bias. The philosophical definitions may be more flexible, or incompatible with each other.

>Possibly 1/20 the size of my critique of Surprised by Truth, would be in order, or maybe a little larger. How about 6-10K per post?<

  I don't like limits! But I am also not particularly motivated to dialogue in depth about all the many subjects you have brought up. The original idea from my end was to see if you would like to critique my longer conversion story. I have neither the time nor the desire to do a massive, all-encompassing general apologetic of Christianity at the moment. My website has more than enough material (including many links) to keep you busy in that regard! It is designed for such a function. And if you aren't convinced by the apologists and theistic philosophers I marshal there, you certainly won't be persuaded by me.

Sincerely,

Dave A.

Dave
<<
<<Okay; clarification duly noted. I just skimmed your material so far, so I goofed on this one. What about referring to your view as panentheism, or immanentism (akin to process theology)? Are there similarities to the views set forth by Whitehead, Hartshorne, and also Cobb and Ogden? In any event, I would not class this as theism, which, ISTM, encompasses the transcendence of God, and a certain unbridgeable gap - even notwithstanding the Incarnation. But then maybe that is already a Christian bias. The philosophical definitions may be more flexible, or incompatible with each other.
>>
One problem with any sort of classification theme for philosophical thought systems is that even among those who hold to a particular philosophy there is still disagreement. Another is that the very classification process itself takes time and effort that's best devoted to other things.

A certain amount of classification of course is necessary. In fact, while others may disagree on every point with the pope, and even agree that Jesus should not be put on a pedestal, yet still claim to be Catholics, I do not.

To me, just as anyone who has a religion that proclaims to follow Jesus Christ is a Christian, anyone who holds to belief in God is a theist. Just as I would classify everything from Catholicism to Mormonism as Christian, I would classify what you call panentheism as a branch of theism. I looked up a few websites on panentheism, and found ideas such as: in panentheism, God consists not just in the universe, as in pantheism, but more as well, and reference to panentheism as a "small-Godism". But I don't consider the proverbial rock, for example, to be a part of God, nor for that matter a dog--just people, plus some more transendent aspects of God. And I think a belief system in which God's incarnation has 6 billion representatives even just now on this planet in this universe, and may contain infinitely many persons, is bigger even that a 3-person God with one incarnation. If subsuming pantheism (in recognizing all the universe as part of God) or treating God as "small" are prerequisites for panentheism, then I don't fit that category.

<<
<<I don't like limits! But I am also not particularly motivated to dialogue in depth about all the many subjects you have brought up. The original idea from my end was to see if you would like to critique my longer conversion story. I have neither the time or the desire to do a massive, all-encompassing general apologetic of Christianity at the moment. My website has more than enough material (including many links) to keep you busy in that regard! It is designed for such a function. And if you aren't convinced by the apologists and theistic philosophers I marshal there, you certainly won't be persuaded by me.
>>
Indeed I don't think (but there's always that theoretical possibility) that either of us will convince the other. But, like a book, a website, be it yours for me to peruse, or mine, for you to peruse (although your other e-mail the same day as this implied you did not have the ability to browse the web--I don't understand that as I thought you had originally seen my site), does not allow interaction. A dialogue is more directed to an individual's needs, much as taking a class in a subject allows the student to ask questions that reading a textbook can't do. In a dialogue of course, each participant is both student and teacher.

Believe it or not there are limitations on my time also, and when I look at a few of the links and other material on your website that are, to me, begging the question, that I find it as unproductive as browsing the literature of Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. That is, yes, I do look at the arguments, but no, I can't devote every waking moment to it.

Does your lack of inclination to continue such a dialogue mean you are rescinding your offer regarding the posting of the dialogue that has taken place thus far
<<
<< - all of which can be posted on my website for all to see:

"Biblical Evidence for Catholicism"
http://ic.net/~erasmus

What say ye? It's not often that a Catholic website will offer you a
forum for presenting your views, is it?

>>
?

By the way, my response to your e-mail following this one has grown so long I will be sending my response to it in two parts.

Charlie

Hi Charlie,

>In fact such a case is indeed part of
one of my arguments against Christianity: (1) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is true-- which is your point. (2) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is false -- see my site
http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth6.html<

>for evaluation of these arguments from Protestants.<

So you accept the Protestants' views insofar as they "disprove" Catholicism? :-)

>But, to address specific points:<

As I said, I am not inclined to enter into this general debate at the moment (at least not with full zeal and rigor and vigor), but I will offer a few comments.

>>"Sure, Christian beliefs still require faith, by definition, but it is not an irrational, unreasonable faith. It doesn't contradict reason and logic."<<

>Of course, if the Bible is taken as allegorical, its contradictions then
become explainable.<

I've already dealt with this.

>But then so do any contradictions or incongruities in the Koran or the Book of Mormon or any such scripture. When Jesus says he will return in the lifetimes of some of his listeners, but doesn't, it must be allegory. Or when he says that all who say "thou fool" shall be liable to hellfire, but on another occasion says "thou fools and hypocrites", we must understand the allegory, despite the blatant contradiction of the words. A mormon would explain away impossibilities in the Book of Mormon; a Muslim
would explain away the absurdities of the Koran.<

 
And an evolutionist would explain away the absurdities of evolution. Marxists explain away the absurdities and false prophecies of that myth. Atheists rationalize or dismiss the absurdities and dire implications of *their* view. And Freudians. And radical feminists. And one-world conspiratorialists. And crazed environmentalists. And Moonies. Etc., etc. Christians don't have a monopoly on rationalization and bias, by any means.

At any rate (rhetorical flourish aside), in this area, one must understand biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. You have not demonstrated to me that you have much expertise or understanding in that regard. You simply take the cynical view whenever a Christian grapples with ostensible difficulties in the biblical text. One would expect such difficulties in a multi-faceted, complex, and huge book like the Bible. There are those of us who see much, much more in the Bible than these alleged difficulties and
contradictions. At least Christians have made some attempt to resolve these - be they shallow or insufficient or in fact satisfactory. Give us an "e" for effort, if nothing else. :-)


>Once one says one needs faith, then the choice is "what faith?" There are many to choose from. Indeed, as you say, "nothing can be absolutely proven," but in seeking truth, lacking syllogisms to prove our case, we must rely on Ockham's razor to determine what the most likely explanation for certain records and beliefs would be, rather than assuming that just because an assertion was made, that it is true.<


We rely on evidence of many types (e.g., empiricism, logic, experience, history, and yes, revelation), not just Ockham's razor. Reality is complex, so simplicity in theory will not suffice to explain reality.

>>"Both archaeology and historiography (i.e., the study of history) have verified the Bible's extraordinary accuracy time and again. What is recorded there can be trusted in the highest degree"<<

>>Is it an example of extraordinary accuracy the placing of Jesus birth during the lifetime of Herod and at the time of Quirinius' census? The latter took place almost a decade after the former. So much for historical accuracy this time. Or "Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis" (Mark 7:31 RSV).
To quote Dennis McKinsey (Biblical Errancy):
The geographical knowledge of Mark's author is questionable in that it's hard to imagine going from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee by passing through Sidon, much less the region of Decapolis. Sidon is to the north of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee while Decapolis is to the south of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee. This assertion was made by Mark when there were no coasts of Decapolis, nor was the name so much as known before the reign of the emperor Nero.<<


It would take too much time for me to delve into this, and with little or
no prospect of convincing you. I refer you to links on my page:

Click on Dave's web site. See if you find a good answer.
Sacred Scripture & Sacred Tradition
http://ic.net/~erasmus/ERASMUS3.HTM

>>"Secondly, there is fulfilled prophecy (including messianic prophecies about Jesus), verifiable by virtue of historical fact."<<

>Again, Jesus said his return would be within the lifetime of some of his listeners. Paul so much as expected to be alive when Jesus returned. It didn't happen. I don't know what messianic prophecies you had in mind, but certainly a prophecy from hundreds of years before, referring to someone named Emmanuel (not Jesus), and supposedly fulfilled near the time it was
given, is not such a prophecy.<


Change of subject, without answering the question.
I'm curious: are there any Christian arguments which you consider compelling or at least strong, thought-provoking, or worthy of respect and consideration? Are you completely skeptical on all counts? And have you read any Christian and/or Catholic apologists, or just all this skeptical stuff? We are what we eat . . .

>>"A great book to explore the historical argument is Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict (in two volumes)."<<

>See http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/jury/

for the verdict. Also
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/gordon_stein/jesus.html.<


I would ask the same question of these people, and eventually probe into possible motives for their opposing Christianity with such vigor. Oftentimes, there are ill or unworthy motives for unbelief. See, e.g., _Degenerate Moderns_, by E. Michael Jones, or _Intellectuals_, by Paul Johnson. I am not, however, making a blanket charge of insincerity or deliberate deceit. I want to make that clear. I have just often observed that other factors clearly often come into play here (esp. sexual and political ones).

>>"Some people want to maintain that Jesus never claimed to be God in the flesh (this is called the Incarnation in Christian theology) - that His followers merely made them up out of an exaggerated sense of hero-worship and a "cult
of the martyr," etc. This is an absurd, groundless hypothesis
."<<

>Aside from the Gospel of John, where does this claim come from the mouth of   Jesus? In fact this is an example of the disunity of the Bible.<

For copious references, see:

Jesus is God: Biblical Proofs
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ98.HTM

I even separate Jesus' words from those of other biblical writers, so that will be convenient for you to pursue. But again, you display a great ignorance of the content of the Bible. It is not conducive to a convincing or compelling anti-biblical or contra-Christianity presentation on your part. Don't feel bad: most Catholics or former Catholics in this day and age suffer from the same deficiency. That's why I am always thankful that I went through a biblically-oriented Protestant phase.

>In fact, even John has "The father is greater than I," plus the inserted "Before Abraham was, I Am."<

Of course, "inserted" is a gratuitous assumption.

>Surely if Jesus is both God and Man, he is the greater, having the complete fullness of God, as well as humanity added on.<

From the above paper:

XIV. JESUS' SUBJECTION (AS MESSIAH) TO THE FATHER


Jesus' subjection to the Father is seen in such verses as John 14:28: ". .. for my Father is greater than I," 1 Corinthians 11:3: ". . .the head of Christ {is} God," and 1 Corinthians 15:28: "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son
also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." These verses and others have been utilized historically by heretics such as the Arians (of whom Jehovah's Witnesses are a revival), as well as non-trinitarian theists such as Unitarians, to "prove" that Jesus is lesser than the Father and therefore not God in the flesh. Upon closer inspection, however, a clearer picture emerges.

John 14:28 is to be understood in light of passages such as Philippians 2:6-8, which show us that Christ in John 14:28 was speaking strictly in terms of his office as Messiah, which entailed a giving up, not of the Divine Nature, but of certain prerogatives of glory and Deity which are enjoyed by the Father. Christ subjected Himself to the Father in order to undertake His role as the Incarnate Son and Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5).

Similarly, one might say that "the President of the United States is a greater man than I am," but this would not mean he was necessarily a better man. In any event, he is still a man like us. Since Jesus is still God, even while "humbling" Himself (Phil
2:8), Scripture also indicates that the Father is, in a sense, "subject" to the Son:
JOHN 16:15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew {it} unto you.

JOHN 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give {it} you.

When the Father is called the "head" of the Son (1 Cor 11:3), this also does not entail any lessening of the equality between the Son and the Father. The Bible also talks about wives being subject to their husbands (1 Pet 3:1,5), even while the two are equals (Gal 3:28, Eph 5:21-22), and indeed, "one flesh" (Mt 19:5-6). Likewise, one Person of the Godhead can be in subjection to another Person and remain God in essence and substance (Phil 2:6-8).
Luke 2:51 says that Jesus was "subject" to Mary and Joseph. Yet no orthodox Christian of any stripe would hold that Jesus was lesser in essence than His earthly parents! The same Greek word for "subject" in Luke 2:51 (hupotasso) is used in 1 Cor
15:28, and in 1 Pet 2:18 below. Besides, submissiveness and servanthood is not presented as a sign of weakness in Scripture. Quite the contrary:

1 PETER 2:18 Servants, {be} subject to {your} masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

MATTHEW 23:11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

The word for "greatest" here is meizon, the same word used in John 14:28. Thus, any notion that submissiveness is a lessening of equality is absolutely unscriptural.

Likewise, in 1 Cor 15:28, the subjection spoken of is that of the Son as incarnate, not the Son as Son in essence. While this verse tells us that God will be "all in all," Colossians 3:11 tells us that ". . . Christ {is} all, and in all." Thus, Jesus' office
as Messiah and Mediator will cease in time, but not His Godhood, since Scripture teaches that He will be "all in all" just as His Father is.
====================================================================
>>"Archaeological and "geographical place names" evidence is also remarkable and compelling."<<

>And if a historical novel, such as Gone With the Wind, mentions places like Atlanta, or the Civil War, or President Lincoln, could an archaeologist in two millennia presume it to be a historically accurate work? See above about Tyre, Sidon and Decapolis.<

You have your opinion. Many archaeologists and historians (and not all Christian or Jewish) believe quite otherwise.

>>"All one can do with Jesus after recognizing what (and Whom) He did claim to  be is consider Him a "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic," as C.S. Lewis argued in his famous and influential book Mere Christianity. There is no other plausible
choice. When someone goes around claiming to be the one God (in the Western monotheistic sense, not an Eastern monistic religious one, where everything and everyone is "god" or part of "god"), we immediately consider him or her a lunatic. But Jesus is the most admired and respected (and important) Person in history. He is either what He claims or not. Christians simply take Him at His word, and accept the confirming historical, eyewitness evidence of His miracles and Resurrection (legal-historical evidence).
"<<

>Another choice is he never said it. The Gospel of John is at least 60 years after Jesus' death--plenty of time for add-on stories to grow.<

But you have to prove this, and that is no easy task. Skeptics usually just assume that their proof is "strong" without providing hard evidence for their hostile presuppositions which in turn profoundly affect their theory.

>>"This gets a bit involved, but there are many arguments for God's existence which are very solid, and which have been believed by many of the world's greatest philosophers. And there are great difficulties in the position of atheism. Rather than summarize them, I again refer anyone who is interested to my Holy Trinity page and General Christian Apologetics, Worldview, and Philosophy page."<<

>And Aristotle believed in a God (not the plurality of Greek Gods) even before Jesus. Jews believe in God. God's existence doesn't prove Christianity. The proofs do not necessarily identify the Christian God, nor even the Jewish  God. Many are also not convinced by these proofs.<

It is not to be expected that all will believe. There are many reasons for unbelief - many not at all intellectual in nature. E.g., there are motives for rebelling against God, so that one doesn't have to live by His moral commands.

>>"Modern science began in Christian western Europe during the Renaissance, and that is no coincidence. It began there because Christians have a base with which to begin scientific inquiry: the notion that the universe is orderly and objective, follows natural laws, and is ultimately created by God, who gave us rational faculties and senses with which to organize knowledge and discover scientific (empirical) facts."<<

>The Renaissance is a long time after Christianity took hold in the Roman Empire. By this time Aristotelianism had found its way into the church. Books long lost to the western, Christian, world were reintroduced via translations from the *Arabic*, preserved by those infidel Muslims. The word "algebra" comes from the Arabic, and "geometry" from the Greek. What is
from the Aramaic or Hebrew? And again, the Greek philosophers believed in a God (rather than the Gods, which they took to be mythological), and it is the newly rediscovered Greek spirit, previously suppressed by Christianity, as in the suppression of the Arabs in the Crusades, which drove the enlightenment.<

The "suppression of the Greek spirit" would be news to St. Augustine, a Platonist, or Boethius, or Anselm, or Justin Martyr or St. Irenæus or Origen or Tertullian or Erasmus or any number of Christian intellectuals. If - as you correctly say - Aristotelianism (as opposed to Platonism, which is also "Greek", last time I checked) became incorporated into Christian philosophy and theology via Aquinas, how is it that it could be "suppressed" *again* for hundreds of years before the onset of the Renaissance and so-called "Enlightenment?" It simply wasn't. There may have been certain *aspects* of it, contrary to Christian thought, which were excluded. But the Church has always valued reason and philosophy. Indeed, Aquinas is thought by many observers to have been a crucial forerunner of modern science. Whether he was influenced by the Arab Muslims is
irrelevant. Truth can come from many places. You are trying to say (altogether typically of skeptics of Christianity) that Christianity was hostile to classical learning and philosophy. This is not the case.

>>"All ethics apart from the starting-point of God have insuperable problems,  in my opinion. Only theism and especially Christian theism can provide the  needed premises to establish a "righteous" and "just" ethics. The breaking-down of the Judaeo-Christian ethical standard is clearly the root cause behind virtually all the chaos and tragedy that we see in our society today (e.g., the sexual revolution, just to cite one example where a major shift has occurred)."<<

>People had ethics long before Jesus.<

I didn't deny that. Christianity (and Jesus) presuppose this. What I said was that these systems "have insuperable problems."

>"Pagans" such as Hammurabi instituted legal codes; the Greek philosophers discussed ethics. Even today, many ethicists are atheists. As I have said concerning Hans Kung's "Why I Am Still a Christion", where he says, "there can be no civilized society and no state without some system of laws. But no legal system can exist without a sense of justice. And no sense of justice can exist without a moral sense or ethic. And there can be no moral sense or ethic without basic norms, attitudes, and values."<

None of this mitigates against my thesis. I say that such ethical systems ultimately collapse if thought through properly, lead to despair, or else must be inconsistently lived-out by unconsciously benefitting from the moral and intellectual capital that Christianity still provides - even today - in western civilization.

>I say: Then, strangely enough, he (Kung) goes on to say "If (as I have suggested) it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to justify ethics purely rationally, then we cannot recklessly ignore the significance and function of ... religion ... without accepting the consequences," even though he has just justified ethics purely rationally, with the starting axiom of the need for a civilized society, in the preceding paragraph.<

There is no contradiction, because Kung would say that God is the ground and foundation of the universal sense of ethics which we find in the world. The atheist or non-Christian religionist is affected by God whether or not he believes in Him, because he is made in His image. So the theoretical "world-without-God" can only exist as an abstract, since God in fact exists. But we can point out the logical end of such systems. The logical outcome of atheism is Nietzsche: dying in despair and in lunacy.

>The "sexual revolution" may have it's problems, but problems should be worked out, not shoved under the rug.<

Yeah, you mean by shoving condoms at every teenager, rather than explaining the ill and now manifest consequences of premarital sexual promiscuity? By giving a condom to a homosexual, where he will entrust the risk of getting AIDS and possibly dying to a piece of thin rubber? If that's not "shoving under the rug," I don't know what is.

>The sexual repression of the church is worse.<

Yeah, the sexual morality of traditional Christianity destroyed our culture and our personal "freedom", whereas the ethics of the sexual revolution have clearly strengthened the bonds of love, commitment, marriage, family, the inner city communities, personal fulfillment and happiness, etc. Yeah right . . . And I have some ocean-front property in Kansas for you, too.

>Would you point out the activities of people at large, today, as evil, while claiming that any mention of the pedophilia that occurs among the clergy is anti-Catholic bigotry?<

I wouldn't say that, unless it is used in a propagandistic and selective sense, in an effort to denigrate the clergy, the ideal and discipline of celibacy, or the Church at large (and of course that is usually how it is used).

>Problems are problems regardless of where they come from, and our God-given intelligence is here to solve them, rather than to rely on arguments from "authorities" from the past.<

I agree on the first part. I just don't pit intelligence against Church
authority, which was given by God, just as our intelligence is.

Sincerely,

Dave Armstrong

Dave,
<<

<< Could you do me a big favor and cut and paste the relevant portions of that and e-mail it to me? I can't make a direct link to the Internet (I get mail from a different account), so it is a hassle to write out, then type in the URL, etc.
>>
The Protestants (and maybe you) would say Why would I argue for what I don't myself believe. The key is, "in a Christian context". *If* one posits the truth of Christianity, *then* in any given issue, either the Catholic position makes sense, or the Protestant view does.

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>for evaluation of these arguments from Protestants.<

So you accept the Protestants' views insofar as they "disprove" Catholicism? :-)
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To accept or reject a given view does not depend on who is stating the view. To accept or reject a view dependent on who says it is ad hominem. While due consideration must be made of expertise, and previous experience with another person, logical thought and personal experience and training also do come into play.
And no, whether I agree or disagree with a given Protestant view

The context is a situation in which a group of people who merely call themselves Christians has set themselves up at a table on a sidewalk in Times Square every day that it's not raining, in the evening rush hour. Using amplifiers they denounce homosexuality, licentiousness, abortion, drinking, Islam, Mormons and Catholics. (I'd say this was in descending order of their vehemence.) I had presented them with a list of Bible contradictions, and in a follow-up conversation it came up that I was a former Catholic. Their response was to the effect that "no wonder you're so screwed up." They presented me with a Xeroxed 3-sheet list of things wrong with Catholicism. At the URL above, I critique their list, sometimes taking one side or the other. As an example of where I take the Catholic side (so to speak, from a Christian perspective, which is not mine) -- here's a copy-and-paste from the above named URL:

Times Square Christians object to Mary's assumption into Heaven without tasting death by quoting Rom 5:12 and Heb 9:27,

Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned--

Heb 9:27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the
judgment,

But this not only conflicts with Catholic dogma on Mary; it conflicts with other parts of the Bible:
Did not the Bible claim that Elijah ascended directly to Heaven without dying?:

2 Ki 2:11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

Also,

Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and "he was not found, because God had taken him." For it was attested before he was taken away that "he had pleased God."

Here I point out that whatever allowed Elijah and Enoch to enter heaven bodily could also allow Mary to do so. Of course, as they point out, other parts of scripture refute whether such has happened; but then, I'm not a Christian at all.

Another example of where I take the Catholic side is in their complaints that priests drink alcohol. I point out that the Bible has Jesus turning water into wine and referring to himself as "come eating and drinking" and being accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, so certainly was not a teetotaler.

But, as you say, I agree with them about the "call no one on earth father" quote, but that's something I agreed with before I even met them. They have a point. You might even agree with them about abortion and licentiousness. So you accept the Protestants' views insofar as they "prove" Catholicism? :-)

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>Of course, if the Bible is taken as allegorical, its contradictions then
become explainable.<

I've already dealt with this.
>>
But have not shown why, for example, Jesus' statement about calling anyone father should be taken allegorically. Or why, when Paul was clearly thinking that he might well be alive at the second coming, and, if the Gospels can be believed about what Jesus said, had good reason to think he might be among those still alive, of which Jesus assured that some living then would be, that Jesus' statement was somehow not literal. If Paul was fooled by Jesus supposed statement, how is anyone to know how to interpret any scripture?

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<<>A mormon would explain away impossibilities in the Book of Mormon; a Muslim would explain away the absurdities of the Koran.<

And an evolutionist would explain away the absurdities of evolution. Marxists explain away the absurdities and false prophecies of that myth. Atheists rationalize or dismiss the absurdities and dire implications of *their* view. And Freudians. And radical feminists. And one-world conspiratorialists. And crazed environmentalists. And Moonies. Etc., etc. Christians don't have a monopoly on rationalization and bias, by any means.
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Indeed, you have just pointed out why all these "faiths" cannot be taken on faith. Indeed also, as you later state, "We rely on evidence of many types (e.g., empiricism, logic, experience, history, and yes, revelation), not just Ockham's razor. Reality is complex, so simplicity in theory will not suffice to explain reality." So true! But "revelation" based on "faith" should be based on more than just hearsay. If someone says in a court of law that 500 other people saw something, that is not allowed, and for good reason. The kind of faith that works is the faith that I have in my wife and my co-workers that they will do as agreed, and are saying what they believe to be true. That doesn't mean they will never fail, or always be accurate in what they say, or that they are divinely inspired. Even if they claim to be divinely inspired I can take that with more than a grain of salt. This does not mean that I have no trust in them. Taking 2000-year old writings that were probably not even correctly attributed, at face value, even allegorically, assuming that one can get into their minds, which one cannot, is just foolhardy from a truth-seeking perspective. (sorry for that long sentence, but there are a lot of concepts here)

By the way, hasn't the Catholic church accepted evolution?

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At any rate (rhetorical flourish aside), in this area, one must understand biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. You have not demonstrated to me that you have much expertise or understanding in that regard. You simply take the cynical view whenever a Christian grapples with ostensible difficulties in the biblical text. One would expect such difficulties in a multi-faceted, complex, and huge book like the Bible. There are those of us who see much, much more in the Bible than these alleged difficulties and contradictions. At least Christians have made some attempt to resolve these - be they shallow or insufficient or in fact satisfactory. Give us an "e" for effort, if nothing else. :-)
>>


Indeed, the same "E" for effort that lawyers such as Johnnie Cochrane get, for defending O.J. or President Clinton so skillfully, as to convince a jury, or even the U.S.Senate, of various things. These lawyers are experts in their field, familiar with the chapter and verse of the various books of legal jurisprudence. Yet some of us are not convinced by their arguments (despite the majority in the illustrious body of Senators).

My "cynical view" is merely a statement that nothing shows that the Bible and the Church which mutually support each other (yes, I know that's redundant, for emphasis of the circularity involved) has any more claim to truth than any other ancient writings or beliefs, which in many cases, such as Mithraic communion, bear many similarities to Christianity, which is known to be syncretistic (site of vatican on old Mithra temple, date of Christmas from pagan celebrations, celebration of Sunday instead of saturday ostensibly for resurrection, but based on pagan Mithra holy day; Easter named after the goddess of the dawn; patron saints of ... replacing god of ...; etc.) and is more likely to have borrowed these ideas, than for actual events in history (as for example the resurrection is claimed) to be represented by the Bible and/or the Church.

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We rely on evidence of many types (e.g., empiricism, logic, experience, history, and yes, revelation), not just Ockham's razor. Reality is complex, so simplicity in theory will not suffice to explain reality.
>>

Indeed. But in most endeavors, it's not the choice of one among these routes to truth to use, but rather to use all of them at once. I look out my window and see a certain configuration of light and shadow that I recognize from experience as something I call rain, and something else that I call grass. From that I make certain predictions as to how it would feel to walk outside in it. I use Ockham's razor to say that it's a more likely explanation that it really is rain and grass rather than an immense illusion perpetrated by a deity or an alien space being. (Illusion in the sense of a false front which doesn't behave the way I expect rain or grass to behave.) Logic tells me that since rain is wet, if I don't want to get wet, I had better stay indoors, or at least use some protection like an umbrella, although experience tells me that even the use of an umbrella will allow me to get somewhat wet, if I'm not careful.

The syllogism that "All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore socrates is mortal." is based on the empirical experience of all people dying. This is extensive enough so that we believe the history books when the supply a date of death for everyone. We decide on laws based upon past experience with human behavior, and use logic to determine what the consequences of those laws will be, adjusting them by logic and further experience with the outcomes. Revelation is suspect, as the republicans will say one thing while the democrats say another. And reverend Moon cannot be relied upon even if he says he is God and therefore deserves to be believe beyond all others. Ockham's razor says it's more likely that Moon is like any of a number of false messiah's. But of course I can't prove it.

In response to my pointing out that the Bible has *not* been shown to be historically accurate, specifically vis-a-vis the timing relation between the death of Herod the Great and the census of Quirinius, and the geographic relations among Tyre, Sidon, the Decapolis and the Sea of Galilee, you respond:
<<

<< It would take too much time for me to delve into this, and with little or
no prospect of convincing you. I refer you to links on my page:

Sacred Scripture & Sacred Tradition http://ic.net/~erasmus/ERASMUS3.HTM

>>
Many of the links shown here merely intend to show that the text of the Bible is what the Bible writers originally wrote. Aside from the difference between the long and short endings of Mark, I'd go along with it for the most part, except that of course small insertions could happen here and there. I admit that I'm not a Bible scholar in the sense of being able to read Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, or have access to original documents. But what difference does it make? The writers were sectarian writers writing for their churches. They were just as open to pious fiction as Clement Moore. Perhaps you could cut and paste or direct me to a specific addressing of the Herod/Quirinius Census question and the geographic question.

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>Again, Jesus said his return would be within the lifetime of some of his listeners. Paul so much as expected to be alive when Jesus returned. It didn't happen. I don't know what messianic prophecies you had in mind, but certainly a prophecy from hundreds of years before, referring to someone named Emmanuel (not Jesus), and supposedly fulfilled near the time it was
given, is not such a prophecy.<

I'm curious: are there any Christian arguments which you consider compelling or at least strong, thought-provoking, or worthy of respect and consideration? Are you completely skeptical on all counts? And have you read any Christian and/or Catholic apologists, or just all this skeptical stuff? We are what we eat . . .
>>

Between the ages of 5 and 18, I was at religious instructions. Up until age 45 I attended mass faithfully every sunday and holy day of obligation and ate of the Gospels, Epistles and sermons. I have a Catholic Dictionary from that time as well as a series of pamphlets from the New Testament Reading Guide from the Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minn. Thirty cents apiece in 1961, for about 100 pages each--quite a bargain by today's prices.

More recently, since my deconversion, I've read, obviously, Surprised by Truth, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating (which I describe in the same website chapter as Surprised by Truth), The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft and Tacelli reviewed at http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth5a.html
(or follow the link to that name on my main webpage), and Beginning Apologetics I, by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham, also reviewed on my website--take the link to that name or go to http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/apologetics.html. This latter was obtained by actually going to a seminar on Christian apologetics at the local parish church, where Fr. Matt led the discussions. He has been invited to discuss the topic with me privately, and says he would love to, but has never done so.

I have not limited my reading to conservative Catholics but also have included Andrew Greeley's The Catholic Myth as well as Kung's Why I Am Still a Christian, reviewed in http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth2.html
linkable through the Link labelled "False Advertising" on my main religion web page.

Also, on the liberal side, is to be found Spong's Born of a Woman. I don't know which side you would count this book on, but Spong *is* a bishop in the Episcopalian church, but sounds more like a non-Christian to me.

So there's a healthy amount of fiber in my diet.

As to your questions: if I found any Christian argument compelling, that would mean I returned to being a Christian, which I haven't, so logic tells me that I haven't found any argument compelling. The more I look at it the more I see that each piece of "evidence" is merely wishful thinking or acceptance of ideas from our childhood that we never looked at critically, from the eyes of someone outside looking in. Yes, you were not a Catholic, but you were a Christian, *************************

I'm sure that I have given much, much more attention to works accepting of Christianity (and believed them for forty years), than you have to each of: Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism. There would not be enough time to devote to a thouroughly honest effort to fit each of these system's beliefs into harmonization with each other (beliefs within each system) and with reality as we perceive it, giving each the same benefit of the doubt (faith) that you give to Christianity, and Catholicism in particular.

But I have made the rhetorical mistake of allowing you to switch the topic. It has switched from Herod/Quirinius, holy land geography, Old-Testament prophesies of Jesus, and Jesus' promised return in the lifetime of some of his listeners, to whether I have considered both sides, pro and con, vis-a-vis Christianity. A simple question regarding these allegedly historical accuracies and fulfilled prophesies leads you merely to point to some URLs that address a host of other issues, such as that our current biblical texts accurately report the beliefs of the evangelists.

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For copious references, see:

Jesus is God: Biblical Proofs http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ98.HTM

I even separate Jesus' words from those of other biblical writers, so that will be convenient for you to pursue. But again, you display a great ignorance of the content of the Bible. It is not conducive to a convincing or compelling anti-biblical or contra-Christianity presentation on your part. Don't feel bad: most Catholics or former Catholics in this day and age suffer from the same deficiency. That's why I am always thankful that I went through a biblically-oriented Protestant phase.
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These "copious references" all hinge upon the acceptance of the truth of the Bible. Just look at the headings you have:
I. DIRECT STATEMENTS OF JESUS' EQUALITY WITH GOD THE FATHER
II. JESUS IS THE CREATOR
III. JESUS IS ETERNAL AND UNCREATED
IV. JESUS IS WORSHIPED
V. JESUS IS OMNIPOTENT (ALL-POWERFUL)
VI. JESUS IS OMNISCIENT (ALL-KNOWING)
VII. JESUS IS OMNIPRESENT (PRESENT EVERYWHERE)
VIII. JESUS FORGIVES SINS IN HIS OWN NAME
IX. JESUS RECEIVES PRAYER
X. JESUS IS SINLESS AND PERFECT
XI. THE PRIMACY OF THE NAME OF JESUS
XII. JESUS CLAIMED TO BE THE MESSIAH (CHRIST)
XIII. FIFTY O.T. MESSIANIC PROPHECIES FULFILLED BY JESUS
XIV. JESUS' SUBJECTION (AS MESSIAH) TO THE FATHER

All, even the first, are dependent on what the evangelists wrote, assuming that the quotes of Jesus, for example, were literally the words of Jesus.

You claim that you "separate Jesus' words from those of other biblical writers", yet give no indication as to how you know that these are Jesus' words other than that the "other biblical writers" claimed that these were Jesus' words.

I assume that your claim that I "display a great ignorance of the content of the Bible" is based on my not recognizing the fact that John 6 contains
John 6:32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not
Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives
you the true bread from heaven.
John 6:33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and
gives life to the world."
John 6:34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to
me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be
thirsty.
John 6:36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
John 6:37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone
who comes to me I will never drive away;
John 6:38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but
the will of him who sent me.
John 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose
nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
John 6:40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son
and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on
the last day."
John 6:41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I
am the bread that came down from heaven."
John 6:42 They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose
father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from
heaven'?"
John 6:43 Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me;
and I will raise that person up on the last day.
John 6:45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by
God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.
John 6:46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from
God; he has seen the Father.
John 6:47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.
John 6:48 I am the bread of life.
John 6:49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
John 6:50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may
eat of it and not die.
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats
of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the
life of the world is my flesh."
John 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this
man give us his flesh to eat?"
John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat
the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in
you.

I did know that the Gospels contain these statements of Jesus. Forgive my not recognizing the chapter where this occurs. And at the late hour I was, given reference only to John 6, rather than John 6:32-53, and I looked at the top of the chapter and didn't see this. Perhaps indeed it comes from the Catholic familiarity with these verses comes from hearing them read aloud at the Gospel of the mass, while protestants read the text themselves, in their Bibles rather than their missals and missalettes. (Those who don't read the missalette hear only "the Gospel according to John" without chapter reference)

It still is true that once one has decided to say that some parts of the bible are literally true while others are only allegorically true, then a valid point of view would be that this is to be taken allegorically. We can see into the mind neither of the evangelist who wrote this quotation, nor into the mind of Jesus. (Here, I am using the Christian viewpoint that there was indeed one person named Jesus who was the subject of all that is said about Jesus in the Gospels. As for my own view, I think indeed Jesus was a real figure at the time, but he may have been a composite character, with different events attributed to him being done by various persons of the time, and others, of course, being purely fanciful legends.)

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It is not to be expected that all will believe. There are many reasons for unbelief - many not at all intellectual in nature. E.g., there are motives for rebelling against God, so that one doesn't have to live by His moral commands.
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And others reject Christianity to accept the Kosher laws as God's law, or the laws of Islam (sharia, is it called?)--a difficult process. Does that make it true? No. Do you keep the kosher laws? Probably not; why obey laws based on ignorance, rather than laws based on the value and worth of all human beings, and wanting an orderly society with people not hurting one another? Are you and others Christian because you don't want to follow the kosher laws? I doubt it. I have too much respect for you.

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The "suppression of the Greek spirit" would be news to St. Augustine, a Platonist, or Boethius, or Anselm, or Justin Martyr or St. Irenæus or Origen or Tertullian or Erasmus or any number of Christian intellectuals. If - as you correctly say - Aristotelianism (as opposed to Platonism, which is also "Greek", last time I checked) became incorporated into Christian
philosophy and theology via Aquinas, how is it that it could be "suppressed" *again* for hundreds of years before the onset of the Renaissance and so-called "Enlightenment?" It simply wasn't. There may have been certain *aspects* of it, contrary to Christian thought, which were excluded. But the Church has always valued reason and philosophy. Indeed, Aquinas is thought by many observers to have been a crucial forerunner of modern science. Whether he was influenced by the Arab Muslims is
irrelevant. Truth can come from many places. You are trying to say (altogether typically of skeptics of Christianity) that Christianity was hostile to classical learning and philosophy. This is not the case.
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From the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
In 1277 the masters of Paris, the highest theological jurisdiction in the church, condemned a series of 219 propositions; 12 of these propositions were theses of Thomas. This was the most serious condemnation possible in the Middle Ages; its repercussions were felt in the development of ideas. It produced for several centuries a certain unhealthy spiritualism that resisted the cosmic and anthropological realism of Aquinas.

It takes a while for the Church to accept the new ideas. After these "several centuries" it was already the beginning of the enlightenment, brought about by questioning church doctrine. Was there no Index of Prohibited Books? Was it not only recently that the church admitted to being wrong about Galileo?

Why are the arguments against Christianity made by Celsus available only as excerpts as quoted in Origen's Against Celsus?


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>People had ethics long before Jesus.<

I didn't deny that. Christianity (and Jesus) presuppose this. What I said was that these systems "have insuperable problems."
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What I say is that these problems are not insuperable. Obviously, further, I would say that Christian ethics has the insuperable problem of being based on something one cannot prove. But both of these sets of problems I assume is what you refer to as the impossibility of strictly proving anything. To me it is much more obvious that we want to live in a just world at peace, than than that Jesus was God.

In my answer to Kung's "Why I Am Still a Christian", I quote him:
there can be no civilized society and no state without some system of laws. But no legal system can exist without a sense of justice. And no sense of justice can exist without a moral sense or ethic. And there can be no moral sense or ethic without basic norms, attitudes, and values.

I then say:
Then, strangely enough, he goes on to say "If (as I have suggested) it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to justify ethics purely rationally, then we cannot recklessly ignore the significance and function of ... religion ... without accepting the consequences," even though he has just justified ethics purely rationally, with the starting axiom of the need for a civilized society, in the preceding paragraph.

In order to have a civilized society we must have some system of laws. But no legal system can exist without a sense of justice. And no sense of justice can exist without a moral sense or ethic. And there can be no moral sense or ethic without basic norms, attitudes, and values. Since we want a civilized society, we must have some basic norms, attitudes and values. Q.E.D.

There's no need for revelation to say what these values should be.

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None of this mitigates against my thesis. I say that such ethical systems ultimately collapse if thought through properly, lead to despair, or else must be inconsistently lived-out by unconsciously benefitting from the moral and intellectual capital that Christianity still provides - even today - in western civilization.
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I don't see where humanistic ethical systems ultimately collapse. I could make the statement that the Christian ethical system ultimately collapses if thought through properly, as thinking things through leads to the realization that "divinely inspired" laws are the result of human ideals of a just society being placed into a theological construct in order to gain adherents, and that in order to perpetuate these ideals, a myth of divine revelation has occurred.

Yes, I believe in God, but divine revelation is the presence within us of a moral sense--that we do not wish to be hurt, so we agree not to hurt others. It is this internal moral sense that has led some ancient and some not so ancient peoples to build a mythology to incorporate those ideas. But some are outdated, and some are wrong, such as the kosher laws and prohibition of birth control, and non-acceptance of homosexuality.

One does not want to wait the 350 years that it takes (as in the case of Galileo, or for that matter, even Thomas Aquinas) for the Church to catch up with the rest of the world.

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There is no contradiction, because Kung would say that God is the ground and foundation of the universal sense of ethics which we find in the world. The atheist or non-Christian religionist is affected by God whether or not he believes in Him, because he is made in His image. So the theoretical "world-without-God" can only exist as an abstract, since God in fact exists. But we can point out the logical end of such systems. The logical outcome of atheism is Nietzsche: dying in despair and in lunacy.
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I agree that ultimately "God is the ground and foundation of the universal sense of ethics which we find in the world." But no revelation from scripture is necessary, as even Hammurabi was able to define good and evil to some extent. Ethicists constantly strive to increase moral knowledge, but it comes from within, and observations, not from writs inscribed from "above".

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Yeah, you mean by shoving condoms at every teenager, rather than explaining the ill and now manifest consequences of premarital sexual promiscuity? By giving a condom to a homosexual, where he will entrust the risk of getting AIDS and possibly dying to a piece of thin rubber? If that's not "shoving under the rug," I don't know what is.
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I suppose you think that adding safety belts and air bags makes driving perfectly safe. Entrust one's life to a strip of nylon or bag of plastic? I think more people die in auto accidents than of AIDS, but heck, a hell of a lot of people die in auto accidents; in principle if everything that carried a danger were considered morally wrong, we wouldn't do anything. We didn't always have various safety equipment on cars. If car-driving were considered immoral, we'd say that devising safety methods for cars would only encourage people to drive, thereby endangering themselves.

I'm not saying that anal sex is good for anyone, but gays also have other ways of expressing their sexuality such as manual stimulation. But once they are aware of what dangers there are, then they are adults and can do what they want, making an informed choice. (the choice is in the actions, not in the desires). Considered from the moralistic standpoint, no progress would ever be made in making anything that was once unsafe, safer.

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Yeah, the sexual morality of traditional Christianity destroyed our culture and our personal "freedom", whereas the ethics of the sexual revolution have clearly strengthened the bonds of love, commitment, marriage, family, the inner city communities, personal fulfillment and happiness, etc. Yeah right . . . And I have some ocean-front property in Kansas for you, too.
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What values people find in these things (and different people have different values) is up to them. If they find the lack of commitment, etc. to be unfulfilling, there is nothing preventing them from living monogamous or even abstinent lives. Again, your pointing out of the bad consequences of certain behaviors, also shows that there is a purely rational argument to be made for what you call "christian" values, but which are subscribed to by various non-christian religions, and also even by some professed atheists. If lack of certain morals leads to such horrors, then why do you need an external God, acting through biblical writers and evangelists, to tell you what to do?

By the way, even monogamous people use birth control. And they don't have fewer children to share the world with than abstinent people.

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>Problems are problems regardless of where they come from, and our God-given intelligence is here to solve them, rather than to rely on arguments from "authorities" from the past.<

I agree on the first part. I just don't pit intelligence against Church authority, which was given by God, just as our intelligence is.
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That indeed is the question that concerns us.

Hi Charlie,

>You indicate "being lost" following what I say is one of my arguments against Christianity: (1) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is true(2) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is false (3) From the contradiction implied by Christianity's being true, we see that Christianity must be false.

The argument is of the form
p implies q
p implies not q
therefore p is false, as it leads to the contradiction (both q and not q).
p is the proposition Christianity is true
q is the proposition Catholicism is true

You obviously go along with p implies q, based on early Christianity's Church   Father's etc., being the early Catholicism. You disagree with p implies not q. That is the argument made by protestants, quoted in http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth6.html.
One of the items mentioned there was the one about Jesus warning that no one should call anyone rabbi or father, contrary to Catholic usage for its priests.<

This is far too simplistic and insubstantial. I deny both the premises and the conclusions, of course.

>Note that it is not equivalent to "Catholicism is not Christian"; that would be q implies not p. It is merely that Catholicism is not the "true" form of Christianity. My stance of course is that there is no form of Christianity that is true as Christianity is false.<

So Protestants (and agnostics) say, but it is a very weak argument.

>Again, I'm not *that* concerned as to which is the proper type of Christianity, just that the assumption of Christianity leads to contradictions, with some people seeing that it requires Protestantism, others that it requires Catholicism.<


Then why bother critiquing an entire book of conversion stories? That's a lot of work and mental energy. What is in it for you? Wouldn't your zeal and obvious intelligence be put to better use propounding a positive view of the good life, or the meaning of life (whatever you think that is), rather than merely negatively critiquing someone *else's* outlook? The reason I challenged you initially was because I thought that if you were so into questioning people's reasons for conversion, then you would surely take on my story. But instead you seem to want to do a garden-variety "1001 objections to the Church and Bible routine," which I have neither the time nor desire to engage in (it always proves futile), except in brief. Note that I didn't say I was *unable* to do it. I trust that you can see that distinction. At the moment I am debating an evolutionist (soon to be added to my website - the longest paper on it), an ultraconservative Catholic, another agnostic, and an Orthodox.

>But if fewer modern theologians believe in Limbo, while maintaining the "of faith" doctrine that the unbaptized are excluded from the vision of God in Heaven, then that leaves to them a fate worse than Limbo, which seems cruel.<

No; the view would be that they would go to heaven, based on God's mercy and loving nature. Or else they would be judged on what they *would* have done, had they lived (God knowing everything past, present, future, even contingencies and potentials). They wouldn't go to hell out of predestination, with no choice of their own. That is Calvinism, not Catholicism, and it is blasphemous, IMHO.

>However, the average Catholic, or even the informed Catholic, would be hard put to define *all* the obligatory doctrines.<

Well, it can be difficult at times. But truth is like that, isn't it? Catholicism is a thinking man's religion. We wouldn't expect it to be simple, if deeply analyzed.

>You recommend the Cathechism.<

Indeed I do.

>More to the point, the infallibility of the pope depends on the infallibility of the council which defined the infallibility of the pope. That in turn rests upon the "authority of the church". But the church is all the people. At one time 2/3 of bishops and their flocks believed in Arianism, yet were later declared wrong. It is arbitrary to say that only by meeting in council can declarations be made infallibly. In logic, it is known as begging the question. Maybe that early majority was right and the council wrong; who's to say? (Of course I agree with anyone who says Jesus was just a man, assuming he existed as one individual at all.)<

The teaching of papal infallibility is grounded in Scripture itself. See:

The Papacy & Infallibility (Biblical Treatise)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ62.HTM
Infallible Interpreters of Infallible Guides (G. Michuta)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ201.HTM
Dialogue on (Supposedly Fallible) Pope Honorius
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ248.HTM
Papal Infallibility (D. Palm) http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ259.HTM

Furthermore, the Catholic teaching has always been that Ecumenical Councils were valid or infallible in particulars, only if ratified or accepted by the pope. Therefore, the decree on infallibility wasn't circular. It was merely making dogma what was always accepted as a matter of course.

>Regardless of the universality of a given belief, or the changeability or lack thereof of dogma, there is still no real basis for belief in the Church to begin with.<

I see. With no reason given, how do you expect me to respond? I have a ton of reasons why *I* believe in the Church on my "Church" page. Not that *you* would be conviinced of any of it. Christian belief requires God's grace as well as reason. One can spurn that grace and become overly skeptical, and adopt fallacious objections.

>This is even worse: the interpreter then first gets to decide which portions are allegory and which are literal. Then he gets further to decide upon the meanings of the allegorical parts. While you may feel this is objective, I'm sure the protestants feel equally strong that, say, Luke 22:19 should be taken symbolically rather than the literal interpretation that Catholics give.<

The difference being, of course, that we take into account historical interpretation and hermeneutics. We don't approach the Bible in a vacuum, as if no one had ever thought about its meaning before. Catholics believe that the apostolic Tradition has been passed down historically, and that we are not at liberty to change it in any essential manner. So that affects biblical interpretation. We don't re-invent the wheel in each generation, as Protestants do in some measure.

>I do not understand the use of John 6 in defining transubstantiation--the real presence. But regardless of what passage is in question, be it Luke 22:19 or John 6, while "the Catholic interprets [it] *very* literally, because it is a proof - we believe - of transubstantiation and the Real Presence in the Eucharist" that is an example of a completion of the circle in a circular argument,
for it is necessary to interpret Luke 22:19 literally in order to use it as a proof of transubstantiation, but now you're saying its the fact that it constitutes (or is needed to constitute) proof of transubstantiation that makes the Catholic consider it literally. Perhaps you meant "it's apparent that Catholics take it literally, as evidenced by the fact that it's considered a proof". That would take away the admission of circularity, but it still begs the question of why this particular passage should be taken
literally when so many others are taken allegorically or symbolically. That's why I'm tempted to take your statement at face value: it's needed as a proof of Catholic doctrine, and that's why it's taken literally.<


You love the charge of circularity, don't you? But you have failed to establish it in all cases thus far. The reason to interpret John 6 literally is based on the linguistics and context, not a prior commitment at all. I go into this at great length, with much biblical and linguistic rationale given:

The Eucharist (Biblical Treatise)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ67.HTM
The Biblical Roots of the Word "Eucharist" & its Relation to John 6
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ337.HTM

>What evidence is there that "three days and three nights" is a Jewish idiom   that doesn't really require three nights? Likewise, what evidence is there that Jesus' admonition not to honor mere humans with titles like teacher (rabbi) or father, was mere hyperbole?<

This takes us into areas where it would take a great deal of time to deal with (which I don't have). But as to the second, I have two links on my Church page, in the following section:

PRIESTHOOD, CALLINGS, GENDER, CELIBACY

Priesthood and Apostolic Succession

Calling Priests "Father" (James Akin)
"Call no Man Father" (Bob Stanley)

>For the former, you might say that it's obvious that the authors wouldn't contradict themselves so obviously (Fri-Sun vs. 3 nights). But a more parsimonious explanation (remember Ockham's razor)<

In other words, the one you will always take, as it is the *skeptical* one.

>is two separate traditions that got written down together despite their mutual exclusivity, similar to the way, in Genesis, separate strands got mixed, one of which had a mere single pair of each of the types of animal go aboard the ark, while the other had seven of each clean animal, but a single pair of each unclean. Spliced together the two stories don't
really make sense.<

Do you believe, e.g., that present-day evolutionary theory is entirely consistent, coherent, and has no serious difficulties to be grappled with? Perhaps you will acknowledge this. Yet you believe in it, anyway, don't you? Why is that? This goes beyond the typical caricature of science vs. religion. It is a matter of believing something even though one doesn't have explanations for all of the objections which might be raised by an outsider. See, e.g.:

Relative Rational Credibility: Scientific Materialism vs. Christianity (D.
Davis)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ294.HTM

>Referring to the Secular Web, you say,
"I would have to see what this website says, in order to properly respond. But I have stated my own views, and I explain them in much more depth in various pages on my website."
Indeed. The Secular web (at www.infidels.org) is no simple web site. It has numerous writers, from ancient times to modern. It's well worth a visit--or many visits.<

I wish I had the time. I would like to visit it sometime, at the least. I would love to demolish the many myths, half-truths and falsehoods no doubt to be found there upon examination. I used to do more general apologetics, dealing mostly with the "hard cases" like yourself LOL (way back in the early 80s). But now I do mostly Catholic apologetics, which starts at a later point epistemologically. I continue to "do" the other indirectly through links on my website. But I have a wife, three children, and a
full-time job now, as well as all this correspondence to barrel through, so the time needed for dealing with every objection you could come up with is simply not there. My website is designed to answer most of these, anyway. E.g., I have two links, I think, to "biblical contradictions," on my Bible and Tradition page.
>In the various pages to which you refer on your website, for example at RAZ157, I see for example the very "Why Believe In Christianity?" that you say is a "cursory overview", plus some writings denouncing "modernism", etc.
It's very hard to find what you consider, among these pages, specific documents that could serve as a better detail of why to believe in Christianity.<

I believe I referred you (it might have been someone else) to these pages:

The Holy Trinity http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ14.HTM
Creation, Creationism, & Empirical Theistic Arguments
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ15.HTM
General Christian Apologetics, Worldview, & Philosophy
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ157.HTM
Heresies, Occult, & the New Age Movement
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ159.HTM
Catholic Documents & General/Apologetics Websites
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ24.HTM

C.S. Lewis Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ26.HTM
G.K. Chesterton Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ27.HTM
Ven. John Henry Newman Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ22.HTM
Malcolm Muggeridge: The Iconoclast http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ28.HTM
Thomas Howard & Peter Kreeft: Master Apologists
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ29.HTM
St. Augustine & St. Thomas Aquinas http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ160.HTM

And of course, all my pages on specifically Catholic beliefs.

If you can't find enough material to sink your teeth into in all those
pages, then I guess my website isn't for you.

>I see, for example, supposed man of faith Fr. Wm. G. Most, Ph.D,<

"Supposed?" Why question that, pray tell?

Fr. Most's lack of faith in Mormon hermeneutics.
>saying "Mormonism rests on alleged appearances of an angel to Joseph Smith. But there is no hard proof of it. And further, since it does not follow the Gospel, it falls under the condemnation given by St. Paul in chapter 1 of Galatians, where Paul says that even if an angel from the sky should teach a different doctrine: Let the angel be cursed. That applies to Joseph Smith." But there is no hard proof of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John's writings either--that's why there's faith.<

Archaeology, history, manuscript evidence, eyewitness testimony of the earliest Christians, inability to explain the empty tomb, etc. You are far more skeptical than the average scholar familiar with the real evidence would be ("no hard proof" for all the Gospels!!!). That's why it is useless to dialogue in any depth with you. Clearly, no proof is sufficient for you, even the most undeniable ones. And of course that leads one to suspect that there may be factors going in in your life besides merely intellectal ones, to make you so hostile to Christianity.

>And Christians (such as Paul) were booted out of the synagogues, much as Paul would condemn those who tell a different story from his. We could say the rabbis (or temple priests, of earlier days) warned against idolators, like Paul. Plus ca change, plus le meme chose. One man's new religion is the old one's heresy. The book of Mormon should be rejected because it contradicts the Gospel and was what Paul warned about. Well the Gospel should be rejected because it contradicts
Judaism and was what the Jewish priests warned about (idolatry in worshipping a man).<

Here we go with circularity again. The NT and Christianity are accepted on the authority of Jesus, passed down through the Apostles, and attested to by miracles and eyewitness testimony, and the Resurrection. It builds on the OT, as opposed to rejecting it altogether. Mormonism is based on Joseph Smith, who has been proven to be a fraud and a plagiarist, and of quite
dubious character, among other things. Mormons even construct a ridiculous archaeology of the New World which no scholar besides themselves would seriously consider for a moment.

>The bottom line is that there's not much there to convince those outside the church to come in.<
"There's literally no way for me to open the book up to you if your mind is closed on it." -- Mormon missionary on the Book of Mormon.

Not if they are entirely closed-minded as you are. If they are open at all to the evidence, there is *plenty.*

>If you could point to one particular document that seems convincing in your eyes, please point it out.<

I wouldn't point to one, because I believe it is a *cumulative* argument for the faith which is compelling.

>C.S. Lewis, of course, is the proponent of the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" trilemma, which I pointed out does not exhaust the possibilities. Your reply did not address this portion of my message. As I said "Another choice is he never said it. The Gospel of John is at least 60 years after Jesus' death--plenty of time for add-on stories to grow."<

And I believe I asked you to prove that, which you have not done.

>By the way, a couple of the many documents on the Secular web refute Lewis:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/the_fool/mere.html
http://www.infidels.org/org/ffrf/lfif/assertions.html
The first of the above is by "the fool", who presumably calls himself that as he says in his heart there is no God. He also refutes McDowell in http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/the_fool/more.html.<

These I will have to check out, as Lewis is my favorite author. And I may place links on my Lewis page, just as I placed a link to your material on my Church page, "Converts" section. People can see how weak the arguments are for themselves.

>I notice your site points to some of Peter Kreeft's work, including an article supporting the resurrection. It repeats arguments (or vice versa) in his (and Tacelli's) Handbook of Christian Apologetics, which also at least expands somewhat beyond the trilemma, but which I refute in http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth5a.html.<

So Kreeft, too, is circular . . . Why don't you present to me *your* non-circular, coherent view of the world, the universe, reality, purpose, etc.? Maybe you can only shoot down others' views, while not having one of your own? Of what use is that? If that is the case, I maintain that that is intellectual cowardice. It is always easier to poke holes in another view than to boldly present and defend one's own. I freely admit, e.g., that it is much easier to cast doubts upon evolutionary theory than to present an alternate creationist version. But I am honest enough to admit that I haven't developed an entire creationist scenario (and that this is a weakness in the overall position), while still being justifiably skeptical about present evolutionary theory. The least you could do is admit that you don't have anything to offer the world which is superior (or even equal) to what Christianity has offered it (even considered apart from its ultimate truthfulness).

Yours in God,

Dave Armstrong



Hello Dave,
You write:
<<
>You indicate "being lost" following what I say is one of my arguments
against
Christianity: (1) If Christianity is true then Catholicism is true(2) If
Christianity is true then Catholicism is false (3) From the contradiction
implied by Christianity's being true, we see that Christianity must be
false.

... snip further quotation ...

This is far too simplistic and insubstantial. I deny both the premises and the conclusions, of course.
>>
Of course they are simplistic--this is just a summary or gist of "Defending the Church", the link to which I had referred, in which Protestants make sometimes valid, but sometimes invalid criticisms of Catholicism.  But I thought that the first premise (which basically is that truths within Christianity point to Catholicism being the true form of Christianity) was a point of view that you held, and that you deny the second premise and the conclusion.

<<
>Again, I'm not *that* concerned as to which is the proper type of Christianity, just that the assumption of Christianity leads to contradictions, with some people seeing that it requires Protestantism, others that it requires Catholicism.<

Peter Kreeft, Catholic Apologist, states in his book, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (page 391),
"Here is a door [Christianity], behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that's true, or it isn't. And if it isn't, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal 'sell' on record. Isn't it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?"

Then why bother critiquing an entire book of conversion stories? That's a lot of work and mental energy. What is in it for you?
>>

At the time I was writing, an agnostic friend (another former Catholic) said that I should seek the other point of view.   The first book that presented itself was "Surprised by Truth", and I read through it, disagreeing, of course with its main assumption: the truth of Christianity.   I have since found other works, previously mentioned, that address themselves to that issue, and I have continued with those.  But yes, "Surprised by Truth" was sort of a detour from what I was really getting at.
<<
Wouldn't your zeal and obvious intelligence be put to better use propounding a positive view of the good life, or the meaning of life (whatever you think that is), rather than merely negatively critiquing someone *else's* outlook?
>>

At my website you can see "But What About Morality?" and "What Am I?"  The first is my view of ethical behavior; the second my view of ultimate reality.  Needless to say, neither of us has invented a worldview in a vacuum.  Your view is based on that of the Catholic Church.   I, on the other hand find myself in agreement with thinkers like Descartes, Bentham and Mill (to take one metaphysician and two ethicists), and more moderns, like Alan Watts.   Both of us include quotes from others supporting our respecive positions.  A quote that means something to me is:

There is Being. Being is aware. Being acts. The action of Being (from our perspective as participants) represents itself (in part) as the physical universe in historical space and time. The universe enacts a pattern of evolution in which accumulating action propagates as continuing process. Evolution results in a nucleation of processes into complex process-structures which are the physical representation of the nucleation of Being into individual centers of awareness and action.

I'll also admit to a lack of knowledge: I can't know everything.  In that sense you could say that I am an agnostic.  But that Being, with a capital B, in the above paragraph is the same personal Being that Berkeley calls God, and keeps the universe in existence, and of which we are the nucleations.  I have to accept that this is about all we can say about ultimate reality.  It's not true because someone said it; it just presents itself to me as being true.  There is no one source for ultimate truth, but truth can be sought through the means you and I agree on: Experience (empiric truth), logic and Ockham's razor. I even trust what is said by some reporters, but I apply Ockham's razor on which.   (I take to heart that maxim: believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you see.)

<<
The reason I challenged you initially was because I thought that if you were so into questioning people's reasons for conversion, then you would surely take on my story. But instead you seem to want to do a garden-variety "1001 objections to the Church and Bible routine," which I have neither the time nor desire to engage in (it always proves futile), except in brief. Note that I didn't say I was *unable* to do it. I trust that you can see that distinction. At the moment I am debating an evolutionist (soon to be added to my website - the longest paper on it), an ultraconservative Catholic, another agnostic, and an Orthodox.
>>
Perhaps the reason it is "garden-variety" is that it is common sense.   That's why they have whole books devoted to "difficulties of the Bible", as if God's personally inspired writers couldn't write clearly enough.

<<

You can see the Catechism at: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/ccc_cont.html

The following paragraphs from that Catechism indicate that "parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth", and yet "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God". If God is merciful, it really doesn't matter if the parents get a quick baptism for their baby, does it?

1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.[50] The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.[51]
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.[59] He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.[60] Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.[61] The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"[63] allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
>But if fewer modern theologians believe in Limbo, while maintaining the "of faith" doctrine that the unbaptized are excluded from the vision of God in Heaven, then that leaves to them a fate worse than Limbo, which seems cruel.<

No; the view would be that they would go to heaven, based on God's mercy and loving nature. Or else they would be judged on what they *would* have done, had they lived (God knowing everything past, present, future, even contingencies and potentials). They wouldn't go to hell out of predestination, with no choice of their own. That is Calvinism, not Catholicism, and it is blasphemous, IMHO.>>
>>
Remember the quote from the Catholic Dictionary, with nihil obstats by Georgius D. Smith, S.T.D, Ph.D, and Hubertus Richards, S.T.L., L.S.S., and imprimaturs from E. Morrogh Bernard and Georgius L. Craven, which, while agreeing with you that Limbo is not a required belief, said that "It is of faith that all, children and adults, who leave this world without the Baptism of water, blood or desire and therefore in original sin are excluded from the vision of God in Heaven."  This certainly sounds like a required belief.

<<
>However, the average Catholic, or even the informed Catholic, would be hard put to define *all* the obligatory doctrines.<

Well, it can be difficult at times. But truth is like that, isn't it? Catholicism is a thinking man's religion. We wouldn't expect it to be simple, if deeply analyzed.
>>
Truth indeed requires thinking.  But if one's thinking leans in the direction of the Catholic faith then one would think that one had found the answer in a book with those Nihil Obstats and Imprimaturs, as assuring of what is "of faith".  On the other hand, thinking about the human condition, how we'd like to be treated by others, and why that is important, transcend the boundaries of a particular faith.

<<
>You recommend the Cathechism.<

Indeed I do.
>>
I'm sure you'll come up with a reason why this should be trusted more than the Catholic Dictionary, with its ecclesiatical assurances of agreement with Catholic truth.  But I'm sure most persons would be bewildered.

<<
>More to the point, the infallibility of the pope depends on the infallibility of the council which defined the infallibility of the pope. That in turn rests upon the "authority of the church". But the church is all the people. At one time 2/3 of bishops and their flocks believed in Arianism, yet were later declared wrong. It is arbitrary to say that only by meeting in council can declarations be made infallibly. In logic, it is known as begging the question. Maybe that early majority was right and the council wrong; who's to say? (Of course I agree with anyone who says Jesus was just a man, assuming he existed as one individual at all.)<

The teaching of papal infallibility is grounded in Scripture itself. See:

The Papacy & Infallibility (Biblical Treatise)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ62.HTM
Infallible Interpreters of Infallible Guides (G. Michuta)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ201.HTM
Dialogue on (Supposedly Fallible) Pope Honorius
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ248.HTM
Papal Infallibility (D. Palm) http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ259.HTM

Furthermore, the Catholic teaching has always been that Ecumenical Councils were valid or infallible in particulars, only if ratified or accepted by the pope. Therefore, the decree on infallibility wasn't circular. It was merely making dogma what was always accepted as a matter of course.
>>
When you go back to the scripture to seek validation for the very Church which itself vouches for scripture, you invite the very charge of circularity that you later complain that I raise so often.  The canon of the scripture was *decided* by the church (one of the Catholic arguments against Protestants is that they accept the Catholic church's definition of the Canon -- for the most part, anyway--certainly the Gospels). This was a very symbiotic relationship in the early church, and in fact, the Pauline letters are part of the formation of that church, that is, the branch of Christianity that won out.   (And history is written by the victors; in this case, not he Arians, Gnostics, etc.)
<<
>This is even worse: the interpreter then first gets to decide which portions are allegory and which are literal. Then he gets further to decide upon the meanings of the allegorical parts. While you may feel this is objective, I'm sure the protestants feel equally strong that, say, Luke 22:19 should be taken symbolically rather than the literal interpretation that Catholics give.<

The difference being, of course, that we take into account historical interpretation and hermeneutics. We don't approach the Bible in a vacuum, as if no one had ever thought about its meaning before. Catholics believe that the apostolic Tradition has been passed down historically, and that we are not at liberty to change it in any essential manner. So that affects biblical interpretation. We don't re-invent the wheel in each generation, as Protestants do in some measure.
>>
But that process of hermeneutics or exegesis, in instances such as "in the lifetime of some of my listeners", goes against the common understanding of words.  This is what makes me and others like me feel that hermeneutics is just a way around common sense approaches to understanding, to avoid the embarassment that different, conflicting belief systems has their ideas incorporated into church teachings.  The belief system that included Jesus coming within the lifetimes of some of his apostles obviously had to go later on, but the evangelists were stuck with what couldn't be denied of the early teachings.

Whereas you apply "hermeneutics", which I would call "obfuscation with the desire to reach a pre-ordained conclusion", the rationalist would apply Ockham's razor:  Is it really more likely that someone rose from the dead (an extraordinary claim that demands extraordinary evidence) or that seemingly conflicting stories are in fact conflicting, and therefore part of a self-contradictory belief system?

<<
>I do not understand the use of John 6 in defining transubstantiation--the real presence. But regardless of what passage is in question, be it Luke 22:19 or John 6, while "the Catholic interprets [it] *very* literally, because it is a proof - we believe - of transubstantiation and the Real Presence in the Eucharist" that is an example of a completion of the circle in a circular argument,
for it is necessary to interpret Luke 22:19 literally in order to use it as a proof of transubstantiation, but now you're saying its the fact that it constitutes (or is needed to constitute) proof of transubstantiation that makes the Catholic consider it literally. Perhaps you meant "it's apparent that Catholics take it literally, as evidenced by the fact that it's considered a proof". That would take away the admission of circularity, but it still begs the question of why this particular passage should be taken
literally when so many others are taken allegorically or symbolically. That's why I'm tempted to take your statement at face value: it's needed as a proof of Catholic doctrine, and that's why it's taken literally.<


You love the charge of circularity, don't you? But you have failed to establish it in all cases thus far. The reason to interpret John 6 literally is based on the linguistics and context, not a prior commitment at all. I go into this at great length, with much biblical and linguistic rationale given:

The Eucharist (Biblical Treatise)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ67.HTM
The Biblical Roots of the Word "Eucharist" & its Relation to John 6
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ337.HTM

>What evidence is there that "three days and three nights" is a Jewish idiom   that doesn't really require three nights? Likewise, what evidence is there that Jesus' admonition not to honor mere humans with titles like teacher (rabbi) or father, was mere hyperbole?<

This takes us into areas where it would take a great deal of time to deal with (which I don't have). But as to the second, I have two links on my Church page, in the following section:

PRIESTHOOD, CALLINGS, GENDER, CELIBACY

Priesthood and Apostolic Succession

Calling Priests "Father" (James Akin)
"Call no Man Father" (Bob Stanley)

>For the former, you might say that it's obvious that the authors wouldn't contradict themselves so obviously (Fri-Sun vs. 3 nights). But a more parsimonious explanation (remember Ockham's razor)<

In other words, the one you will always take, as it is the *skeptical* one.

>is two separate traditions that got written down together despite their mutual exclusivity, similar to the way, in Genesis, separate strands got mixed, one of which had a mere single pair of each of the types of animal go aboard the ark, while the other had seven of each clean animal, but a single pair of each unclean. Spliced together the two stories don't
really make sense.<

Do you believe, e.g., that present-day evolutionary theory is entirely consistent, coherent, and has no serious difficulties to be grappled with? Perhaps you will acknowledge this. Yet you believe in it, anyway, don't you? Why is that? This goes beyond the typical caricature of science vs. religion. It is a matter of believing something even though one doesn't have explanations for all of the objections which might be raised by an outsider. See, e.g.:

Relative Rational Credibility: Scientific Materialism vs. Christianity (D.
Davis)
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ294.HTM
>>

From part of James Akins' site:
A: According to the native French-speakers I have consulted, the best translation is:
"Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis."
Q: Does this mean that the pope was endorsing evolution?
A:
Actually, no. The CNS story has it right when it says: "His point was that evolution was now accepted by a wide range of scientific disciplines doing independent research." ...
Q: If the pope did not endorse the theory of evolution in the above quote, did he attack it in his speech?
A:
No, that would have been a reversal of what has already been said. In 1950, Pope Pius XII indicated in his encyclical
Humani generis that the idea that God used evolution to create the body of the first man did not contradict the deposit of faith provided certain provisos were maintained. In his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul emphasized these provisos, saying:
"In his Encyclical Humani generis [1950], my predecessor Pius XII had already stated that there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points (cf. AAS 42 [1950], pp. 575-576)."
<<
>Referring to the Secular Web, you say,
"I would have to see what this website says, in order to properly respond. But I have stated my own views, and I explain them in much more depth in various pages on my website."
Indeed. The Secular web (at www.infidels.org) is no simple web site. It has numerous writers, from ancient times to modern. It's well worth a visit--or many visits.<

I wish I had the time. I would like to visit it sometime, at the least. I would love to demolish the many myths, half-truths and falsehoods no doubt to be found there upon examination. I used to do more general apologetics, dealing mostly with the "hard cases" like yourself LOL (way back in the early 80s). But now I do mostly Catholic apologetics, which starts at a later point epistemologically. I continue to "do" the other indirectly through links on my website. But I have a wife, three children, and a
full-time job now, as well as all this correspondence to barrel through, so the time needed for dealing with every objection you could come up with is simply not there. My website is designed to answer most of these, anyway. E.g., I have two links, I think, to "biblical contradictions," on my Bible and Tradition page.
>>
It sounds like you have the same attitude toward the secular web as those on our side have about apologetic sites.  In the battle of "who is more open minded" however, at least I have changed from Christian to non-Christian.  At some point in my life, I had to look carefully at what the other side (the non-Christian side) had to say.  And I was a Christian (all of that time Catholic) for about 40 years, depending on when you'd say my Christianity began.

<<
>In the various pages to which you refer on your website, for example at RAZ157, I see for example the very "Why Believe In Christianity?" that you say is a "cursory overview", plus some writings denouncing "modernism", etc.
It's very hard to find what you consider, among these pages, specific documents that could serve as a better detail of why to believe in Christianity.<

I believe I referred you (it might have been someone else) to these pages:

The Holy Trinity http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ14.HTM
Creation, Creationism, & Empirical Theistic Arguments
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ15.HTM
General Christian Apologetics, Worldview, & Philosophy
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ157.HTM
Heresies, Occult, & the New Age Movement
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ159.HTM
Catholic Documents & General/Apologetics Websites
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ24.HTM

C.S. Lewis Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ26.HTM
G.K. Chesterton Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ27.HTM
Ven. John Henry Newman Mega-Links Page http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ22.HTM
Malcolm Muggeridge: The Iconoclast http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ28.HTM
Thomas Howard & Peter Kreeft: Master Apologists
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ29.HTM
St. Augustine & St. Thomas Aquinas http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ160.HTM

And of course, all my pages on specifically Catholic beliefs.

If you can't find enough material to sink your teeth into in all those
pages, then I guess my website isn't for you.

>>
When I referred to "specific documents", I meant, not lists of links to other documents, or even other lists of links.  Just General Christian Apologetics, Worldview, & Philosophy
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ157.HTM alone contains many links, including, at the top, your "Why Believe in Christianity?", which you say "That was meant to be a cursory overview of the reasons to be a Christian. I wrote it very fast, and it is not nearly as rigorously reasoned as my longer testimony was."  Just as you only "wish [you] had the time" to peruse the Secular Web, I also lack the time to wade through many documents that have no real bearing on the questions I ask.

<<
>I see, for example, supposed man of faith Fr. Wm. G. Most, Ph.D,<

"Supposed?" Why question that, pray tell?
>>
He doesn't have faith in the book of Mormon.  He doesn't use Mormon hermeneutics to see past the seeming absurdities of that book.  I'm surprised you didn't see that one coming. 
<<
>saying "Mormonism rests on alleged appearances of an angel to Joseph Smith. But there is no hard proof of it. And further, since it does not follow the Gospel, it falls under the condemnation given by St. Paul in chapter 1 of Galatians, where Paul says that even if an angel from the sky should teach a different doctrine: Let the angel be cursed. That applies to Joseph Smith." But there is no hard proof of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John's writings either--that's why there's faith.<

Archaeology, history, manuscript evidence, eyewitness testimony of the earliest Christians, inability to explain the empty tomb, etc. You are far more skeptical than the average scholar familiar with the real evidence would be ("no hard proof" for all the Gospels!!!). That's why it is useless to dialogue in any depth with you. Clearly, no proof is sufficient for you, even the most undeniable ones. And of course that leads one to suspect that there may be factors going in in your life besides merely intellectal ones, to make you so hostile to Christianity.
>>
Your, and Karl Keating's, claimed way out of the circularity charge rests upon treating the books of the Bible, including the Gospels, as history texts.  They are not.   You claim historians (even non-Christian, non-Jews) support Biblical claims.   If that support goes beyond, say, the historical support that Schliemann gave to the Homeric epics, and includes the whole of the new testament, including the resurrection, then how could these people not be Christians?  If on the other hand the support is merely like that of the discovery of Troy, and Agamemnon's tomb, etc. then the Bible is no more shown to be accurate history than is the Illiad/Odyssey.

The "eyewitness testimony" is only *claimed* eyewitness testimony by the authors of the Gospels.  There is no need to explain an empty tomb if it was not empty, or if the story about the guards at the tomb was an embellishment to add to the veracity of the claims.  Remember, the heavier burden of proof is on the one with the more extraordinary claims.  Extraordinary claims are such things as minotaurs and resurrections.

"No proof is sufficient" for me?  Indeed no existing proof is sufficient.  But if all the Jews of Jesus' time had converted to Christianity, that would have been at least some verification.  It would have made such a splash that even the Romans would have taken note of such a sea change in their subject nation's beliefs.  However even the sectarian stories we have (the Gospels) don't, for example, have Jesus saying "People will say your crazy, but God is three persons and I am one of them".  No, we have some sayings about how the Holy Spirit will be sent, and "come over you", etc., nowhere indicating that the Holy Spirit is part of God any more than Gabriel or Michael were.  You have only one (the latest, and most developed) Gospel having Jesus say "Before Abraham ever was, I Am."

Yes, a lot of scholarship has gone into devising ways of making the stories fit together.  Whether it's called hermeneutics or rationalization depends on your point of view.

You say "And of course that leads one to suspect that there may be factors going in in your life besides merely intellectal ones, to make you so hostile to Christianity".  Let me share with you a personal anecdote:  When I was maybe 10 years old, rather old for such things, my father and my brother wondered why I still believed in Santa Claus.  This was rather shocking to me.  This is what they told me to believe, so why shouldn't I?  Where is faith and trust?    Later, people would tell me I should not have been shocked; people tell lies out of love.

During my Catholic years, however, it still bothered me.  It bothered me that some people, not myself, might see an analogy with religion.  I believed much as you do now. (Except I went along with the general consensus in Catholicism that Evolution is correct as a scientific theory.) I spent years with the humiliation of confessing masturbation to a priest.  You say, ahah! You just want sexual license.  Wow! Masturbation causes AIDS? (You imply that sexual immorality leads to disease,etc.)  No! If more people masturbated there would be less AIDS.  It's perfectly legitimate sexual release that priests somehow made us believe fell under the 10 commandments prohibition against adultery.  Talk about double-talk.

Yes, I have personal reasons, good reasons, for not wanting such idiocies visited upon others like myself, with certain mythologies brought in to support the power of the priests to enforce their own morality and claim it has divine authorization.  Beliefs have consequences, indeed. Actions also have consequences, and should be judged on those, not on ancient stories.
<<
>And Christians (such as Paul) were booted out of the synagogues, much as Paul would condemn those who tell a different story from his. We could say the rabbis (or temple priests, of earlier days) warned against idolators, like Paul. Plus ca change, plus le meme chose. One man's new religion is the old one's heresy. The book of Mormon should be rejected because it contradicts the Gospel and was what Paul warned about. Well the Gospel should be rejected because it contradicts
Judaism and was what the Jewish priests warned about (idolatry in worshipping a man).<

Here we go with circularity again.
>>

"The NT and Christianity are accepted on the authority of Jesus"--but they came after Jesus.  One line of the story goes that he came not to change one jot or tittle of the law, not found a new religion.  And, it is only the authority of the NT that attests to Jesus.  If this is not circularity, I don't know what is; "passed down through the Apostles"--whose existence is only attested to by the Gospels, epistles and early church fathers.   "attested to by miracles and eyewitness testimony" -- but the miracles took place only according to the scriptures.  Jesus, apostles and miracles --> Scriptures-->Jesus, apostles and miracles. "Mormonism is based on Joseph Smith, who has been proven to be a fraud".   It's easier to prove fraud (and accept it as fraud) when it takes place in modern times, not having the patina of age to hallow it.  " and a plagiarist" Did not Matthew and Luke copy from Mark?  Or is it not just that God's inspired writings, of course, will show similarities with each other, as it is all the truth? "Mormons even construct a ridiculous archaeology of the New World which no scholar besides themselves would seriously consider for a moment" Indeed, but then amidst real historical places and kings, there's also that mix up about Tyre, Sidon, the Decapolis and the Sea of Galilee, and the timing of the Herod the Great vs. the census of Quirinius.

<<
>The bottom line is that there's not much there to convince those outside the church to come in.<

Not if they are entirely closed-minded as you are. If they are open at all to the evidence, there is *plenty.*
>>
I am closed minded if I do not look through your voluminous set of links to links, while you can't examine the Secular Web?  Or is it because I don't agree with you?  As mentioned, I am the one who changed after 40 years of thinking one way, and after examining the evidence, decided Christianity is just not true.


<<
>If you could point to one particular document that seems convincing in your eyes, please point it out.<

I wouldn't point to one, because I believe it is a *cumulative* argument for the faith which is compelling.
>>
Indeed it was a cumulative argument that took me a while to become convinced that my previous convictions were wrong.  And I felt like that little boy again, having believed in Santa Claus too long.  Here I was ridiculing beliefs in UFO encounters, poltergeists, Mormonism, etc., when all the while I hadn't really examined my own.   Now I have.

<<
>C.S. Lewis, of course, is the proponent of the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" trilemma, which I pointed out does not exhaust the possibilities. Your reply did not address this portion of my message. As I said "Another choice is he never said it. The Gospel of John is at least 60 years after Jesus' death--plenty of time for add-on stories to grow."<

And I believe I asked you to prove that, which you have not done.
>>
To say that something is a *possibility* does not require proof.  Do we require proof that Lunatic is a possibility?  It was included in the trilemma.  Myth is just another possibility.  However, once it is recognized as a possibility we see that it makes a lot more sense than "Lord."  Remember how extraordinary that claim is.  Certainly it demands extraordinary proof.  Myths occur all the time.   It does not require extraordinary proof to allow that a given belief is myth.

<<
>By the way, a couple of the many documents on the Secular web refute Lewis:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/the_fool/mere.html
http://www.infidels.org/org/ffrf/lfif/assertions.html
The first of the above is by "the fool", who presumably calls himself that as he says in his heart there is no God. He also refutes McDowell in http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/the_fool/more.html.<

These I will have to check out, as Lewis is my favorite author. And I may place links on my Lewis page, just as I placed a link to your material on my Church page, "Converts" section. People can see how weak the arguments are for themselves.

>I notice your site points to some of Peter Kreeft's work, including an article supporting the resurrection. It repeats arguments (or vice versa) in his (and Tacelli's) Handbook of Christian Apologetics, which also at least expands somewhat beyond the trilemma, but which I refute in http://members.aol.com/chasklu/religion/private/truth5a.html.<

So Kreeft, too, is circular . . . Why don't you present to me *your* non-circular, coherent view of the world, the universe, reality, purpose, etc.? Maybe you can only shoot down others' views, while not having one of your own? Of what use is that? If that is the case, I maintain that that is intellectual cowardice. It is always easier to poke holes in another view than to boldly present and defend one's own.
>>
Maybe if you looked harder you'd see it. The link on my main religion page to "What Am I?" points out my metaphysical outlook, and "But What About Morality?" my ethical outlook.  Each is only one page--not a hundred links to other links, so it's not like the whole secular web, or your site.

Of course, pretending to know what one does not is intellectual braggadocio.  I freely admit the limitations of human reason in finding *all* the answers.  When confronted with a lack of epistemological knowledge, I don't seek to find it in some inerrant source of revelation.  That is not cowardice, but ordinary prudence.
<<
I freely admit, e.g., that it is much easier to cast doubts upon evolutionary theory than to present an alternate creationist version. But I am honest enough to admit that I haven't developed an entire creationist scenario (and that this is a weakness in the overall position), while still being justifiably skeptical about present evolutionary theory. The least you could do is admit that you don't have anything to offer the world which is superior (or even equal) to what Christianity has offered it (even considered apart from its ultimate truthfulness).
>>

I do my best in this world.  I write letters to the editor, supporting utilitarian positions and human rights.  Each of us does what he or she can to better the world.  None of us is a Messiah or Pope. Each has his or her own small gifts.

By the way, the hardest thing for me to understand about Christianity (and I glossed over this lack of understanding while a Christian), is: Whatever does it mean to say that Jesus was/is God?  To be God is to be omnicient and unchanging, yet Jesus grew in wisdom while he was growing up, according to the Bible. A baptist neighbor has said this is called kenosis.  To me that is just what each and every one of us, "made in the image of God", does, and, as God is Our Father also, this is no different from what we are.  To say that it is a mystery is an insult to language; when we say something, it should mean something, otherwise we are not really saying anything.

As Bob Ross says at the end of his painting shows,

God Bless.

Charlie


Contents - Part 2 of Dialog