Tag Archives: truth

The Walls of the Skeptics: Understanding the De-Converted Part 3

Originally posted to MySpace on:

July 9, 2007

As I’ve made clear in my last couple of journals, I’ve been trying to understand why certain Christians can justify abandoning their faith, especially after they’ve spent many years growing in it. I’ve already learned that Jesus prophesied of an end time apostasy, meaning that before the Anti-Christ can come to power (ushering in the end of time), a large percentage of Christians have to fall away so that faithful opposition against him is minimal. I’ve also come to realize that for such an event to happen, Satan has to work in overdrive to deceive the faithful, and that his range is broad—even the elect (the ministers, apologists, theologians, etc.) can fall into disbelief (through Satan’s deceit). In other words, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve lost good friends to Satan’s slithery messages, for any who go seeking unprepared can be caught, like a mouse sniffing for cheese on a mouse trap. In the process, however, I’ve also learned (or have been reminded) that Jesus never stops in His quest to retrieve the fallen (the parable of the Lost Sheep), and that even though many may fall away, any one of them still has a chance to return to truth.

Deceit is such a powerful weapon, and most people understand how to use it; even toddlers find ways to manipulate truth to get what they want. Words spun the right way can knock a foundation of belief right to the ground. It’s Satan’s specialty, a device that’s been in action since his Fall from Grace (he took a third of the angels with him), and perfected in his seduction of man (tempting Eve with knowledge). And for him to achieve such a massive apostasy, he must first use deceitful tactics to attack the very credibility of the thing that can expose him: the Word of God.

Since he knows the Bible’s teachings intimately, he knows how to spin a massive web of lies to trap the faithful.

The areas that manipulate Christians into apostasy (and keep skeptics lingering in doubt) are too numerous to address, but I thought I’d spend the last part of this mini-series addressing at least the issues that brought one friend down and incidentally the same issues that keep many others hanging onto skepticism.

1. Perhaps the biggest charge against the Word of God is its infallibility. Christians are taught that the Bible is error-free. Skeptics stand on the fleshly errors plaguing the humans who wrote it. Both camps lie in total contrast of the other. Both groups think the other is crazy.

Yes, the Bible is written by human hands. But it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit. That alone should be enough to convince Christians of its truth (though skeptics may still remain unconvinced). Anyone who believes in God will understand His perfection and understand that any passage His Spirit confirmed as valid was appropriate for the Bible.

But skeptics need more. Often times they are so consumed by the “contradictions” of the Bible, that they can’t accept its infallibility. Unfortunately, deceived Christians who forget that the Word of God is inspired by God (obviously) are tripped by the same issues. Most of the time they forget that God isn’t human and therefore cannot be compared to by human standards. If the Bible had any passage that was truly in error (despite who physically wrote it), then it wouldn’t have made it into the canon. Simple as that. There are many “Gospels” that never made it into the Bible for this very reason.

And yet, human minds are easily deceived, and therefore can find “contradiction,” even in the Bible.

How is this possible? Easily: problems with perspective.

Most people, skeptics and Christians alike, think that the Bible was written in the same way that most literature and history is written today: immediately, as it happens. However, that’s not how the Bible, or any work of the First Century for that matter was written. The culture of the First Century was an oral one, with stories, historical accounts, and theories passed down as word of mouth for several decades before ever being written down. In today’s culture that might be suicide for a work’s meaning since the world today doesn’t have the attention span to remember anything, much less details, without having something on paper to refer to. But the ancient world didn’t have the distractions that we have today, so the minds of people were more easily focused on words spoken to them, and thus, didn’t need everything written down right away.

As the decades passed, the messages became wider spread, with more people confirming the same story with the same details to each other, thus making the stories impossible to fabricate as they became written. By the time the Gospels were finally etched into parchment, so many people already knew them by heart, and that to misplace even a single idea in those days would’ve been caught and corrected. Thus, by 60 AD, the time that the Gospels were finally written, the Word of God was incorruptible, as too many people could’ve exposed it if something had changed.

And even through the generations, the familiarity of the Word was so great (and the documents so well guarded, just like our Constitution and Declaration of Independence today), that for any man (or church) to change it without someone noticing was impossible.

So how does that brief historical account affect the alleged contradictions found in the Word of God? Well, the answer goes back to the oral tradition. Each writer of the Gospel shared the same story about Christ, but presented it from a different perspective. And each perspective became passed down as another branch to the great story of Christ. Again, the people, though primarily uneducated in math, science, English, etc., were still very attentive, and very keen to notice when four accounts of the same thing taught something different. Since the argument was never raised in those days, then it’s safe to assume that maybe these four writers were telling the same story.

We can look at it another way. Imagine Jesus is standing in the center of a living room preaching the Word of God to a group. You have Matthew standing by the window, Mark standing by the television, Luke somewhere in the kitchen, and John sitting comfortably on the couch. All four hear the same message (even Luke, who doesn’t see a thing, but hears every word), so each presents his story with the same message. But each describes a different detail based on what he sees. For example, Matthew can see the couch clearly (and the facial expressions of everyone sitting on it), but John can’t see it because he’s already sitting on it. John, however, can see the rest of the room from his perspective, where Matthew just sees the couch. Mark can see much of the room, but can’t see the painting on the wall because a large tree blocks it. John can see the painting, and thus has the detail in mind for his account of the event. Mark, on the other hand, may write only about the tree, since his vision is blocked beyond that. Luke doesn’t see any of it, because he’s in the kitchen, but can deduce what’s going on by the responses in people’s voices; plus he can ask the group later for those details he missed personally. And so on and so on.

Anyone with a sense of wisdom can figure out that the message in all four Gospels is exactly the same, as each person heard the same thing, thus proving its infallibility. However, the skeptics are so hell-bent on discrediting it (and why shouldn’t they; it forces them to evaluate who they are and whether their moral fiber is sound enough), that they’ll treat even the slightest differences in perspective (one may see green, while another may be color blind) as the thing that de-threads the validity of the Bible as truth. And it’s a dangerous trick, especially for those who fall for it, but it’s realistically the only thing the devil has in his arsenal. The Word of God can disprove any lie he throws at humanity, and he knows it. His only chance is to attack man’s petty nature. Unfortunately, man doesn’t exercise the sense to resist it.

The petty nature continues into the issues of translation, with original words meaning something different than what words in the same position mean today. But because the translations don’t affect the meanings of the messages (only the details), this shouldn’t even be an argument. There is one specific example that gets most skeptics “a-ha”ing, so I will address it as a separate account in a couple minutes, but for the most part, the translation issues bear no change in meaning, and thus have no cause for argument.

Another criticism brought up by some skeptics deals with the authorship of the Gospels. Some believe that the texts were written by men other than those to whom they’re credited. Again, this is a petty argument, as the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so it doesn’t matter by whose hand it’s actually transcribed. But some may find it misleading, so here’s a link to a page that describes the issues of authorship in great detail:

http://www.tektonics.org/ntdocdef/gospdefhub.html

I should warn all readers (especially skeptics) that the dissertation about Gospel authorship on the above page requires the reader to exercise common sense as he or she processes the information. Any attempt to over-analyze or to embrace pettiness, based on the reader’s own limited perspective, may warrant additional doubt in the validity of the text.

2. Now, as I stated a moment ago, there is one specific argument that skeptics raise whenever dealing with the translation issues of the Bible: the word “virgin.”

People today understand what the English word “virgin” means. I hardly have to define it here. So, whenever readers see it used to describe the mother of Jesus, the automatic assumption is that she was “untouched” at the time of conception. And honestly, according to the events in the text, there’s no reason to dispute that.

But skeptics pitch a fit whenever the truth is revealed that the original Greek word first used in the Gospel didn’t mean “virgin,” according to our definition, but “maiden.” All of a sudden there’s this great mob standing at the church gate demanding retribution against the great deception, as this puts the very identity of Jesus in question.

Whoa! Hold your horses there, petty critical types.

First of all, the meaning of the original word isn’t hidden. Anyone who bothers to look will find that the Bible (and its translators) makes no secret to this meaning. My New American Standard Bible footnotes the verse that mentions “virgin” (in the Book of Isaiah) with the words: or maiden right there in plain sight.

No secret here.

Which means, the problem isn’t with the meaning, or its availability to understanding, but with the pettiness of semantics. Anyone who uses common sense will realize that the two differing words don’t actually affect the events or details that define our faith.

Let me break it down further. We know what virgin means. But do we know what maiden means? Traditionally, it refers to an unmarried woman (or girl). In First Century Jewish culture, girls who had sex outside of marriage weren’t brushed aside as inconsequential (or harmless) as they are today. They were stoned to death. Thus, for a girl to even risk such a thing was absurd. Since we know that Mary was a maiden, we have to assume, based on the extreme nature of her culture, that she was also a virgin.

But even if we can’t separate ourselves from the frivolity of our own promiscuous culture, and thus remain tempted to believe that Mary had the nature of a rabbit, we still have to understand one thing: the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not by Joseph. There’s no other way to describe or clarify that. It’s right there.

On a similar note, an argument came up that the Jews believed their Messiah would be born of man (like everyone else). Well, yeah: Jesus was born of man, rather than falling out of the sky like Superman. It doesn’t affect his deity any—he was still conceived by the Holy Spirit. All the truths, prophesies, etc. line up.

As I said earlier, there are many ways in which a skeptic can fall into doubt. I cannot possibly address everything. I’m only addressing the specific things that came up in the arguments of those friends who fell away (and the things that most truth-seekers claim as the evidence that drove them from their faith). Obviously, Christians can turn for a number of reasons, as many skeptics can remain in their states of denial for the same reasons, be it human perspective, desire for ungodly living, laziness, etc. But I suppose that also proves Satan’s deep well of resources for snagging our hearts away from the One who loves us.

I’d like for these journals to serve as a source for understanding for those who are teetering on the edge, and for those I care for who have already turned that I desperately want to come back to Jesus, that they may keep their inheritance in Heaven. I understand that it takes more than just my words to convince anyone of such a thing. It takes the Spirit of God to break down the walls of the skeptics, and to retrieve the lost hearts of those who’ve been deceived. I don’t have all the answers, certainly, but then, I’m human so I shouldn’t have to. What matters is that God and His big picture are much greater than I, and much greater than explanation, and that the key to faith is to understand that He’s bigger than us, and to live each day trusting that God has the truth and is able to lead us His way.

Lastly, I don’t want to discourage others from researching the truth, if they feel they should. I just want truth-seekers to be aware of the traps that lie at their feet. The search for truth is a minefield if one embarks without the Holy Spirit or the understanding that Satan has doctrines waiting that are designed to deceive and to kill. In other words, anyone who goes out there without being properly equipped goes with a target on his forehead. Satan is smarter than all of us, understands the workings and the history of this world better than any of us, and is very clever in deceiving us. His hold on the world cannot be complete and his agent of lawlessness (the Anti-Christ) cannot step up until enough Christians have fallen away, so be certain that he’s trying to confuse and destroy us all, that he may finally have his time to rule. I don’t recommend treading those dangerous waters, certainly, as the Bible is truth enough; likewise, good friends of mine were sucked under during their own “quests,” which makes me even more against such an embarking. But for those who think they need to discover more, don’t get caught with your pants down. Forfeiting your soul over a vocabulary word is insane.

–July 9, 2007

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Too Complicated

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 29, 2007:

It’s too complicated, too heartbreaking to have something to say and not the freedom to say it. It’s too strenuous to have a truth to share and not the proper reception of others to receive it. It’s too horrible, too painful to watch a friend throw away something she knows is true, to allow something in place that intentionally tries to dismantle truth, replacing it with a new truth (a fabricated truth). But then, who am I to judge? If the Christian world is quick to judge those who step away, then why should I cater to that stereotype if I’m to be the example of love?

There are two bulls staring each other eye-to-eye. Both stand on opposite sides of a pen, but they’re ready to charge, ready to headbutt, until both knock each other to the ground. At one time they ate from the same trough, but now the circumstances have changed. Now one refuses to share with the other. The one wants to understand the other, but the other wants to be left alone. What once served as common ground has been split in two, divided at the trough. The one can ask what happened, but judgment is implied. Now the truth must be concealed, for respect is endangered. And though love might convince the one to “rescue” the other from separation, the other’s perception of judgment is already implied, and now the horns have been lowered from the other side, for no agreement can be made.

I’ve been criticized for explaining too much, and maybe that’s justified. I’ve been criticized for needing too much, and maybe that’s false advertising. I’ve been criticized for being too nice, and maybe that’s a fault. I’ve been criticized of not laughing enough, and maybe that’s a joke. I’ve been criticized for being too closed-minded, and maybe that’s a stereotype. But then, who are they to judge? Clearly, to judge me without knowing me is to misunderstand who I am.

A famous line from The Usual Suspects claims that “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he doesn’t exist.”

In scouring the testimonies of ex-Christians, of seeing what could possibly convince them to forsake the truth they knew, one element that seems surprisingly absent is the Devil himself. No one acknowledges the fact that he knows us very keenly, and knows how to trip us up. No one acknowledges that there’s a war for the heart of man and that Satan is pulling every trick he can to pull us away from God. No one acknowledges the fact that he can use our quest for understanding against us if we let him. No one acknowledges the fact that he can use anyone, regardless of race, gender, or religious affiliation or stature for his own malicious purposes. No one acknowledges the fact that his first attempt at playing the deception game was to tempt Eve with knowledge (and understanding)—the contradiction to relationship (experience). They just “see” something wrong with Christianity—whether something failed to line up in their understanding or if they trusted the doctrine of a false witness, or even if they find fault with the Bible itself—and so their understanding of truth is lost.

It’s as if the line “lean not on your own understanding (for the heart is deceitful)” actually speaks truth.

Unfortunately, we cannot explain the truths that we know to them—the ones who fell away—for their hearts are now hardened. We cannot adequately provide the love they need because they refuse to let us into their hearts to understand them. All we can do is to be nice, so that we don’t step on their toes and drive them further away. And though we might want to laugh like old times, we can’t separate ourselves from the fact that our hearts are now broken, for the friend we once celebrated with has turned down another path, and has no interest in coming back. And all we want is to understand what brought them there, even if it means, too, that we want to find a way to return them to the truth that we know, whether what we consider truth is true or not, just because we love our friends too much to see them slip away. But alas, that comprises the love that they want from us—the love that says, “I won’t try to ‘rescue’ you.”

These are haphazard thoughts that I’m sifting through, with details far too complicated to flesh out. And I suppose much of me is in disarray, for this revelation came out of the blue, and I wasn’t prepared. But bear with me.

This happened once before, ten years ago, with another close friend, a friend who loved God, a friend who not even a year earlier had written research papers on grace because he was so enamored with the subject. He tried to analyze the depths of God, beyond what God shares with us, and couldn’t do it. His secular college groups couldn’t help. Now he’s an atheist, for his intelligence couldn’t process his investigation. He had leaned on his own understanding.

When a devout, passionate Christian falls away, based on his or her findings through the investigation, I can’t help but to be suspicious. Sure, our faith as a whole is criticized for being one that we just accept without investigation. But these same people who criticize us fail to realize that there are accounts of mathematicians and science scholars who set out to disprove the Bible and the truths behind it, through investigation, only to get saved because they couldn’t find the inconsistencies that so many skeptics and information hunters claim are there. So I find it suspect when those who decide to dig deeper end up falling away because something they found didn’t line up to their current beliefs. It makes me, first, suspicious of their researching skills, but second, and more importantly, suspicious of the sources that fed them these “truths.”

In an attempt to understand this friend’s position better, I decided to retrace some of these tracks that led her to these conclusions. The one I found most startling, as a source, was a group of academicians and scholars called the Jesus Seminar who claimed to be on a mission to uncover the real sayings and actions of Jesus. It seemed like a worthy group, if not somewhat unnecessary, that wanted to bring the deeper truth of Jesus to light. The most notable work of this group is a book called The Five Gospels, which color codes phrases from the four canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas—a Gnostic work discovered in the 1940s full of “sayings,” most of them mystical in nature—and bases those colors on the likelihood that Jesus really said that, or that it was said by someone else, or that it was too “out there” to be said by anyone at all. According to ChristianAnswers.org, nearly the entire Book of John was “black-coded,” meaning invalidated as the actual words of Christ, because it refers too much to supernatural instances, and “science” cannot support it. On the contrary, the only sayings to get “red-coded,” as in there’s absolution here, are the ones that sound like fortune cookie lines. In other words, The Five Gospels, after everything is color-coded, makes Jesus look like a hippie, and nothing more. In the end, I can see where a serious Christian looking for serious answers would be disheartened by this revelation—as I would, too, if I thought my Savior was not in fact who He said He was but just another hippie.

Including a Gnostic work into the collection left me suspicious anyway, especially when it received the most red marks of all the Gospels combined (ironic for a Gospel that was never accepted into the inspired Word of God). But I still had to understand more. I mean, these people are former professors, theologians, etc., many with doctorate degrees, so they have every right to be considered authorities on the subject of Christian investigation and truth hunting and the personage of Christ, if that’s what they spent their lives doing. But when the membership drops from 200 to 78 because ill-feelings about the project surmount its scholars, and when half of the remaining members are full-blown liberals, while only a tiny fraction consist of Christian, Catholic, or Jewish faith (a fraction that has very little popularity or say in the “consensus”), and when the consensus that votes on the authenticity of the words (or actions or whatever) can be between as few as two people, and when the founder (a Unitarian in practice) claims toward the end of his opening speech that the Bible is just a work of fiction, with a beginning and ending that have already been voted “hard to accept,” that needs to have its middle portions reevaluated and rewritten (yes, rewritten!!!) to portray a “new Jesus” so the new fiction holds water, then I can’t help but to be suspect of the validity of this group’s “findings.”

I could go on speculating for hours and days and never find an ending to these examples. But for Christians to investigate faith without also investigating the sources behind various claims, I think it’s foolish. If anyone were to accept the statements made by “scholars” and “experts” such as these without questioning whether or not the founders were purposely trying to discredit the Christian foundation, then it’s no surprise that the person investigating would step off the path if the answers looked like truth but were deceptive.

It would be naïve of me to assume that this is the only source of this new confusion, of course. I’m under the impression that many sources contributed to this loss of Christianity (most of which were not listed). But, though the source of the information is unknown to me, the biggest stab through the heart for my friend was the discovery that the Bible we have today doesn’t contain the original text that was written in that first century. Something to do with translations being messed up and whatnot, if I comprehended correctly. Ultimately, the subject of contradictions also came about (something that my other friend who walked this path ten years ago had claimed). Never mind that the translation problems that are present had merely altered the details rather than the messages—an alteration of any kind is still grounds for dismissing the Bible as truth, according to the critics. Never mind that the contradictions are in “scenery items,” like one gospel reporting Jesus interacting with two blind men, while another reports Him interacting with just one. In filmmaking, the screenplay rarely includes any such detail, while the film itself shows everything. It’s still the same story, but with different imagery. In truth, the scenery isn’t what matters. Since the Gospels were retained as memories before they were written down, it’s easy for two different authors to remember (or hear) differing accounts of scenery items. But, because the infallible Word of God was described through different authors with different memories (though the written narrative of the messages was still under the direction of the Holy Spirit), the minor inconsistencies caused the infallibility to fall, according to the critics, and thus the Bible is no longer truthful. And that’s not to include the corruption of those who handled the translations throughout the generations. Never mind that hundreds of people risked their lives (many of who lost them) to get the scriptures to the right people, to keep them preserved and properly translated. They did it for nothing, because the church corrupted it with its own agenda, writing in its own sayings as truth, so say the skeptics. Again, translations against the original Greek and Hebrew versions show that the changes were minor, affecting only the inconsequential details and not the messages, but that’s just not acceptable, is it? In truth, the only big corruptible change that the Bible did incur during those early years was not in the content, but in the order of the books. The original Bible was written a specific way (with a specific number of Books), but the Roman church decided to mess with the order a bit and split a few books into separate accounts. And though that might get the skeptics roaring with “a-ha!,” it doesn’t change the fact that the original order has been recorded, and that anyone wanting to read it in the right order can just refer to the list when reading the Bible they have. In fact, this would be recommended since certain verses might make more sense if the reader knows what it refers to (oftentimes to the book that follows it in the original order).

I don’t know—this is all philosophical, and biblical philosophy isn’t my strongpoint. I’m probably missing a lot of points here. Then again, a subject like this can have points to support and criticize all across the board and the board stretches the span of the world. I can’t address everything, nor can I understand everything. Maybe there is a deeper truth that could challenge our faith. But then, what would be the point of Jesus? I guess logic can run a healthy course, but common sense should have its rightful place, too. And let’s not forget personal experience. Ex-Christians are quick to point out the “emotional” response to things that current Christians might refer to as healing or spiritual. But that doesn’t explain the personal relationships with Jesus, or the interpretation of tongues, or the ability some people have to prophesy, or the specific gift of healing (one ex-Christian refuted this by justifying the timing of his body’s natural healing—on a related note, I may have a 9 1/2 shoe size, but I can justify being a size 11 if I stuff cotton in my shoes or change my interpretation of the measuring scale), or even (gasp!) the origin and purpose of love (not the romantic kind, but the unconditional kind).

In the end, I’m heartbroken because a friend in Christ became disgusted with Christianity and thus “jumped ship.” And I’m heartbroken because I think she got there by trusting false sources for truth. And I’m heartbroken because now she won’t listen to what I have to say because she just wants to accept her new beliefs in peace. And I’m heartbroken because I know in my heart that I have to honor this request, despite my desire to share the truth that I know, a truth that clearly validates all the points that were made invalidated, the truth that goes beyond logical findings to invite experience, and even common sense into the picture, because to dishonor it would be “unloving.” And it sucks because I don’t know how to respond. Our common ground was through Christianity, through faith. Without that common ground there isn’t much else to share. And yet, the stereotypically Christian thing to do would be to abandon her now for her change in faith. But, ironically, abandonment is not what Jesus would do, and thus, despite my uncertainties about the state of our connection, I can’t do such a thing, either, even if other Christians might find judgment and abandonment easy.

I may not be perfect. I may have my share of sins. I may have my problems with relational issues. But I hope I’m not a hypocrite. I hope. I hope. I hope. In this hour of my friend’s confusion, it would be unfair of me to become one now.

Though, I admit that I don’t know where I stand in this friend’s life now that this is reality, as the tendency, it seems, for ex-Christians is to detach themselves from fellowship, or at least trust, (for fear of judgment) with other Christians. Though, I argue that it’s just another confirmation that the Devil has her hand, as it’s his every intention to divide the Body of Christ, and what better way to do that than to lead the confused away from the very people who could (and should) offer support? Again, the ex-Christians fail to see this. I wonder why.

Some may criticize my actions tonight. I stepped into the hornet’s nest to see what drew her in, and it was risky considering the effect that it had on many others who ventured in and never returned. I admit that I didn’t go in searching for myself, as I really have no interest in sabotaging my faith, since I’ve already gone through the trials that would test the truth of my faith and found that my faith endured (Praise God), and I could care less about the things that agnostics, liberals, Unitarians, cult leaders, etc. are trying to pass as biblical truth for my own understanding. But I did want to know what the thorns were that made her bleed, and discover for myself their validity, so that I might understand where she’s standing. In the end, the above is what I found. Based on what I found, I’m sad to say that a good, strong, inspiring, and gifted Christian seems to have slipped off the path for nothing. And I can’t show her why.

Just like my namesake, I have a message to share, but to deaf ears. And like my namesake, the hardened heart makes me cry. And to be honest, I hate being here, for the tears of frustration seem never ending on my side.