An Objective Approach to Analyzing Miracle and Religious Claims

rakovsky

Member
Before the forum crashed, I asked about the best approach to use when addressing miracle or religious claims.

There are many miraculous faith or religious claims that people make in general, including:
  1. People seeing Jesus (or apparitions of saints) today,
  2. The Virgin Mary's body disappearing and going to heaven after she died (the "Assumption")
  3. Healings while praying with saints' relics (or Elijah's bones resurrecting a youth in the OT)
  4. Specific prayers to God (or to saints) being answered (like whether praying to a saint led to a certain person being healed)
  5. Charismatics speaking in tongues that their audiences understand
  6. Biblical prophecies pointing to events (like the Messiah's resurrection, or the world supposedly being scheduled to end in certain eras as the Second Adventists claimed)
  7. The disciples seeing Jesus resurrected
  8. Charismatics (like faith healers) making frequent "Signs, Wonders, and Miracles" (SWMs like the healings associated with some Charismatics such as Benny Hinn)
These claims could be real or the events could have happened, and most such claims are appealing. But whereas Christians would agree with #7 (the Resurrection), and with certain events being fulfilments of Biblical prophecies (#8), most Christians would be pretty skeptical about some others like the Second Adventists' claim that the world was supposed to end in the mid-19th century. One could add to the list if one includes claims made in other religions (like whether Buddhist or Hindu monks can achieve certain paranormal feats like levitation).

So what is the basic approach that one should use to determine whether a certain event (like a person seeing Jesus today) occurred or whether a certain religious claim is correct?

One common way that some people might rely on is emotion or personal appeal - the person accepts what inspires them. A second common criterion is checking whether the event is Biblically sound. And a third method is for people to ask in prayer to be guided to the correct understanding. To illustrate how believers sometimes use these methods: When it comes to #8 (frequent SWMs like frequent faith healings claims), some Christians could find the SWM claims appealing, and they might take the Bible in a way that doesn't contradict the claims of frequent SWMs. And they pray before getting involved in the SWM performances, which are claimed to occur during prayer meetings and sessions like Benny Hinn's.

I feel that these three methods (personal appeal, checking the Bible, and praying for discernment) are good methods, but they are not so definitive or strong as many people take them to be. For instance, most Christians are pretty skeptical of #8 (claims of frequent SWMs).

Another method seems to be an objective, neutral, dispassionate, unbiased approach, such as we use in other fields of knowledge like the physical sciences, academic history, criminal investigations. For instance, Lee Strobel, a former crime scene investigator, aimed to use this method in his book The Case for Christ. Under an objective approach, it seems best to put together the reasons in favor of the miracle claim having occurred and weigh them against the reasons that run counter to the miracle event's occurrence.

So for instance, for Claim #6, I believe that an objective analysis of the Old Testament shows that numerous chapters like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 predicted that the Messiah would be killed and resurrect. There are many objective reasons to consider this, such as the views of rabbis in the Talmud that the Messiah is the Servant in Isaiah 53.
 

rakovsky

Member
ISteveBMe responded:
So....
what happens when you're not a catholic, but do believe in Jesus, and you have no relics, iconography, etc.... but your medical doctors keep telling you that you are a miracle, because you are still alive, but medical statistics state you should be dead?
It doesn't require your belief to be true. Arguing about it won't make what you want true.
Jesus said that he is the truth.
I replied to Steve:
In that case, you can either look at your survival as God's will in the face of odds, or as being fortunate to have a positive result despite extreme odds to the contrary.


Bob Carabbio wrote:
t's always done the same here. Any report of "Miraculous occurrence" will be denigrated as "anecdotal", trampled underfoot, and then the reporter of the occurrence will be told that he/she is ignorant, deceived, disingenuous, etc. and that their story constitutes no proof that ANYTHING EVER happened. And, of course there'll be reports that the "Oogabaloogas" of Lower Slobbovia also have plenty of "miracles" that their god: "Waka-Patootie" performed for them, so obviously Christian Miracles mean nothing.
I replied to Bob:
Anecdotal evidence counts as evidence. If 100 people recount having a group vision, their testimony is evidence that they did have the vision, although a scientist can think of natural potential explanations for the phenomenon (like if they were either taking hallucinogenics or sleep and food-deprived before the vision). So anecdotal evidence does not necessarily prove that the event occurred, depending on the content of the anecdotes, the nature of the event, and other possible explanations of the event.
 

rakovsky

Member
theophilus (another forum user) wrote:
The first step should be to determine whether the signs are real of whether there is a natural explanation for them. If it can be shown that they are supernatural in origin the next step is to determine their source, whether they are manifestations of God's power or of Satan's. The Bible teaches that Satan can produce signs. Second Thessalonians 2:9,10 says, "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." The way to accomplish the second step is to examine the teaching associated with the signs to see whether they agree with what the Bible says.
I (Rakovsky) replied:
I agree that the first step is to see whether an event is supernatural or if there is a natural explanation. For the first step, I am trying to see if one should try to carefully analyze the event in an objective way like in other fields of knowledge, or use another method, like going with one's first impressions or with what one finds appealing?

Eve wrote that "the term analyze is very slippery..because to some analyze means scoff, downplay, deny, etc."
I replied:
By saying "analyze", I mean evaluate, scrutinize, inspect, weigh, or investigate & judge.
For instance, in analyzing the religious claim that the OT predicts the Messiah's resurrection, I was a bit surprised to find ways in which this is in fact true, eg. Isaiah 53 has in mind the Messiah as the Servant figure, even though most rabbis today would say that it refers to the Israelite nation.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
ISteveBMe responded:

I replied to Steve:
In that case, you can either look at your survival as God's will in the face of odds, or as being fortunate to have a positive result despite extreme odds to the contrary.

I recently read an Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest, September 20th, https://utmost.org/the-divine-commandment-of-life/


The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life

Having lived with stage 4, metastatic, malignant melanoma cancer since summer 1987, misdiagnosed in August 1990, with early metastises in 1991-2, and then dramatic growth to the point of being life threatening in late 96, to removal in July 1997, with 4 subsequent recurrences, 4 years of a clinical drug trial, well over 140 diagnostics scans over the course of 22 years...... I've been told by multiple oncologists, internal medical doctors, surgeons, nursing professionals, etc.... that I am a miracle.
While I'm familiar with the proverb that states---- a man's spirit will sustain him in his infirmity..... I've long found it curious that I would so dramatically survive so deadly a cancer, while friends, family, and numerous acquaintances would die from theirs.

Atheists have tried saying that God is a monster for letting me live, while their family members have died, and begged God for reprieve. Others have presented a couple of medical journal articles which state--- for some reason, spontaneous remissions do occur.

Yet this passage, from Oswald's devotional--- having been written decades ago, based on ideas, millennias old......
states.....

The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God

I think that this concept has been lost among humans..... God's Grace invests the supernatural in us, making it natural.

Furthermore, the experience of this becomes evidence in the practical, everyday details of life.

Thus.... the miraculous is the work of God's Grace in the lives of those whom God chooses, as he told Moses in Exodus---
I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and be gracious, to whom I will be gracious.

So..... add that to your directory of God's workings of grace, and mercy. The Miraculous does indeed exist today.

The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life
 

rakovsky

Member
Dear STEVEB,
I sympathize with what you are saying. A person can be medically predicted to die within a year and then live anyway with the ongoing terminal illness for another 60 years. For the person to survived can be considered a miracle due to the contradiction against what our understanding of medical science would say. And so someone can think as a result that this ongoing miracle of survival is probably from God, as He is supernatural and is connected with miracles, like when people pray and get miracles. So you are saying that there is a phenomenon of the supernatural ongoing in Christians' lives like this.

In terms of the Inspiration and Emotion approach, your story is very appealing. It's inspiring that someone surprisingly survives ongoing cancer despite contrary strong diagnoses.

With the objective approach on the other hand, we are supposed to put aside our emotions about how inspiring the experience or event is and try to look at it critically. Certainly what you experienced can be objectively verified, comparing your diagnoses and charts with your survival.

Does your survival contradict scientific understandings of physics in a way that is supernatural or paranormal? The Paranormal according to Wikipedia is "beyond normal experience or scientific explanation." I don't know if it's beyond normal science. Did the best researchers in the field give explanations? It's not the same as having your head cut off. It sounds like a situation where doctors are looking at scans and don't understand why the dangerous cancer hasn't grown to the point where it killed you.

It seems like arguably a minor paranormal event because on one hand normal experience or scientific explanations would predict that the cancer would have killed you. But on the other hand occasionally people live for many years with a condition that was predicted to kill them. One explanation could be that the immune system keeps it in check or that something in the cancer doesn't make it strong enough to grow beyond the fatal border.

To give an analogy, there is a Scandinavian man whose body can withstand extreme heat to the point where, as I recall, there was no explanation for this. In that case, it could be called paranormal. On the other hand, scientists IIRC found a gene in Aborigines that heats their bodies and allows them to stay sleep outside in the cold unprotected in a way where normal people would wake up from the cold. Had the gene not been discovered or a genetic explanation been given, science might consider their experience "paranormal." So some biological phenomenon appears classifiable as minor paranormal events, depending on how strictly one wants to define the "paranormal."

To relate your experience back to the topic question, your surprising survival can certainly be proven as a real, physical event, but whether it counts as "paranormal" or not depends on how strictly one defines the paranormal. In my own guess it would count as a miracle, because I personally believe in supernatural forces. But it's also not a miracle of the same kind that would defy our idea of the laws of physical matter like Christ's Ascension or Tibetan Buddhists levitating would. And since your experience is easily verified objectively, it wouldn't matter one tries to figure out if it happened using inspiration or a careful objective evaluation.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Dear STEVEB,
I sympathize with what you are saying. A person can be medically predicted to die within a year and then live anyway with the ongoing terminal illness for another 60 years. For the person to survived can be considered a miracle due to the contradiction against what our understanding of medical science would say. And so someone can think as a result that this ongoing miracle of survival is probably from God, as He is supernatural and is connected with miracles, like when people pray and get miracles. So you are saying that there is a phenomenon of the supernatural ongoing in Christians' lives like this.

In terms of the Inspiration and Emotion approach, your story is very appealing. It's inspiring that someone surprisingly survives ongoing cancer despite contrary strong diagnoses.

With the objective approach on the other hand, we are supposed to put aside our emotions about how inspiring the experience or event is and try to look at it critically. Certainly what you experienced can be objectively verified, comparing your diagnoses and charts with your survival.

Does your survival contradict scientific understandings of physics in a way that is supernatural or paranormal? The Paranormal according to Wikipedia is "beyond normal experience or scientific explanation." I don't know if it's beyond normal science. Did the best researchers in the field give explanations? It's not the same as having your head cut off. It sounds like a situation where doctors are looking at scans and don't understand why the dangerous cancer hasn't grown to the point where it killed you.

It seems like arguably a minor paranormal event because on one hand normal experience or scientific explanations would predict that the cancer would have killed you. But on the other hand occasionally people live for many years with a condition that was predicted to kill them. One explanation could be that the immune system keeps it in check or that something in the cancer doesn't make it strong enough to grow beyond the fatal border.

To give an analogy, there is a Scandinavian man whose body can withstand extreme heat to the point where, as I recall, there was no explanation for this. In that case, it could be called paranormal. On the other hand, scientists IIRC found a gene in Aborigines that heats their bodies and allows them to stay sleep outside in the cold unprotected in a way where normal people would wake up from the cold. Had the gene not been discovered or a genetic explanation been given, science might consider their experience "paranormal." So some biological phenomenon appears classifiable as minor paranormal events, depending on how strictly one wants to define the "paranormal."

To relate your experience back to the topic question, your surprising survival can certainly be proven as a real, physical event, but whether it counts as "paranormal" or not depends on how strictly one defines the paranormal. In my own guess it would count as a miracle, because I personally believe in supernatural forces. But it's also not a miracle of the same kind that would defy our idea of the laws of physical matter like Christ's Ascension or Tibetan Buddhists levitating would. And since your experience is easily verified objectively, it wouldn't matter one tries to figure out if it happened using inspiration or a careful objective evaluation.

Which is why I liked what Oswald said in his devotion for September 20th.

The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life

I don't think that the supernatural, as defined by what religionists think it is, is genuine supernatural.

Everything we see around us-- planets, rocks, gems, gold, silver, magma, flowers, birds, animals, stars, moon, cosmos, people, etc....... these all exist because Jesus made them. John 1:3, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2, Psalm 33:6-9, Genesis 1:1.......

This is, I think, why it all has the appearance of what others like to call--- evolution. It all exists in so natural a manner. As I grow older--- 60 now--- I'm seeing more and more that God operates using all the laws of nature, to achieve what is so often called- miraculous.

Ever heard/read the joke about Jesus, Moses, and an old man who play golf?
Jesus swings, hits the ball over the water feature, and the ball stops in the middle. He walks out across the water, and hits the ball and sinks it, for a par 2. Moses hits the ball, and it sinks in the middle of the lake. He walks out, splits the water, walks across the lake on the dried out floor, and also hits the ball for a par 2.
the old man wildly smacks the ball, and it bounces off the maintenance hut out into the street, which then bounces off a passing truck, hits a tree inside the course, and then bounces off another tree, and lands on a water lily on the lake. A frog happens by, grabs the ball, and then an eagle swoops down, grabs the frog, with the ball in its grasp, who then freaks out, spits the ball out, and it drops into the hole, for a hole in one.
Moses turns to Jesus, and says-- I really don't like playing with your dad. He always gets a hole in one.

While intended to be humorous, it eludicates the point that God uses everything he created to accomplish his purposes. and all the while, it appears completely natural. Yet..... in every way possible--- it's miraculous.

This is why I so liked the statement made by Chambers----

The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life

The supernatural becomes natural as a result of God's grace..... and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical everyday details of life.....

Our entire lives as followers of Jesus becomes an expression of the "supernatural" nature of God's character.


Eg.,
My gift of biblical recall--- a gift of the Holy Spirit- (John 14:26)-- is a supernatural event. I fried my memory cells by taking drugs in high school. My friends in my early 20's used to constantly compliment me, and tell me how they were jealous, because I had such great recall. I'd tell them-- God gave me this, and he can give it to you too. After several years of their compliments, and comments, one day I responded-- yeah. it's pretty cool. I am pretty smart, aren't I!
Like Nebuchadnezzar becoming like a wild animal, and having lost his mental faculties, I lost it..... for 9 months I wandered around, and couldn't recall a thing. It'd be right on the tip of my tongue, but I just couldn't get it. After nine months, I repented, and said-- God, you're right. This is a gift you've given me. I'm sorry, please forgive me. Ever since, I've had recall like no one I've ever heard of, nor have my friends, elders in my church, etc.... I've had to really get them to understand--- it's not my memory that is recalling scripture.Some have accused me of memorizing scripture. I keep telling them-- all I'm doing is just reading.... a chapter a day, and I pray. I do not memorize--- at all.

It's the Holy Spirit, start to finish.

Our lives as followers of Jesus..... God's Grace is active in them, or should be. If it's not, then there's no life there. Grace, I think is defined in Titus 2:11-14, 2 Cor. 12:9-10, Eph. 1-4, Col. 1-3, Rom. 1-8,

I encourage you to consider this idea....

The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life
 

rakovsky

Member
Dear Steve,
I like your joke about God using natural processes, and it makes sense that evolution would be one of his tools. The idea of evolution being a tool that God could use is not even against the theory of Creationism. In a Creationist school that I briefly attended, IIRC they had the idea that after the events of the Creation occurred, then natural biological processes of evolution went into effect, like animal adaptations observed scientifically and studied in the last thousand years or so. There is a famous example about the majority moths changing colors during the Industrial Revolution from white to black due to natural selection.

There is a "non-Creationist" theory that natural earthly Evolution itself, through millions of years, was directed by God, called, as I remember something like "Theistic Evolution". This idea makes sense to me, whereas the idea that mankind, animals, and plants were all first created in only 6000-5000 BC does not seem reasonable to me, one reason being the fossil record.

My idea is that God is omnipresent, so the idea of God using evolution to create Man, or in your case bodily biological processes to keep you alive when normally one would expect the cancer to take over, makes sense to me. But more strictly speaking, the spiritual plane exists alongside the physical plane and interacts with it, so the idea that there can be a paranormal or supernatural element in evolution or in your healing also makes sense.

You mentioned another potential miracle: your Biblical recall. This seems less strongly a paranormal event or miracle because some people are known to have a great memory. An extreme example are the idiot savants who can easily memorize the phone book. However, in light of my idea that the paranormal/spiritual works alongside the natural, the idea of God giving this as a gift, or that it comes as a spiritual-motivated ability, also makes sense.

When we are talking about God being involved in Evolution, in surprising cases of bodily resistance to illness, or Biblical recall abilities, these seem more within the bounds of the natural order than the theory of Creation or TIbetan Buddhists levitating, or the Ascension. As a result, when it comes to putting aside my biases, I find it easier to trust you when you tell me about your surprising healings than for me to trust in the other ideas like Creationism.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Dear Steve,
I like your joke about God using natural processes, and it makes sense that evolution would be one of his tools. The idea of evolution being a tool that God could use is not even against the theory of Creationism. In a Creationist school that I briefly attended, IIRC they had the idea that after the events of the Creation occurred, then natural biological processes of evolution went into effect, like animal adaptations observed scientifically and studied in the last thousand years or so. There is a famous example about the majority moths changing colors during the Industrial Revolution from white to black due to natural selection.
Except I don't see where he did "use evolution" to create the cosmos, and the earth, and its contents.
Psalm 33 makes it pretty clear that he spoke the cosmos into existence.
In Genesis 2, we see that God formed the man from the dust, and fashioned the woman from the man.
Having studied physics, I find myself curious that someone could be so concise with DNA that our human attempts at manipulating DNA results in cancer.
In my chemistry courses, form makes function was an idea that was stated over, and over and over again.
Change the form, and you change the function.
So, moving something to be in a place where it was not designed to be, completely changes the function.



There is a "non-Creationist" theory that natural earthly Evolution itself, through millions of years, was directed by God, called, as I remember something like "Theistic Evolution". This idea makes sense to me, whereas the idea that mankind, animals, and plants were all first created in only 6000-5000 BC does not seem reasonable to me, one reason being the fossil record.
I've heard about them.
I think there are numerous problems with how people think things work. I'd read several years ago that a fossilized bone had been found with marrow cells in it. It's ironic that the guy who discovered it was fired for showing it.
My idea is that God is omnipresent, so the idea of God using evolution to create Man, or in your case bodily biological processes to keep you alive when normally one would expect the cancer to take over, makes sense to me. But more strictly speaking, the spiritual plane exists alongside the physical plane and interacts with it, so the idea that there can be a paranormal or supernatural element in evolution or in your healing also makes sense.
I think that the idea of evolution creates a series of problems because evolution is based on death.
Paul tells us in Romans 5 that death did not enter in until Adam sinned.
So.... evolution.... doesn't work.

You mentioned another potential miracle: your Biblical recall. This seems less strongly a paranormal event or miracle because some people are known to have a great memory. An extreme example are the idiot savants who can easily memorize the phone book. However, in light of my idea that the paranormal/spiritual works alongside the natural, the idea of God giving this as a gift, or that it comes as a spiritual-motivated ability, also makes sense.
Yeah, I used to think that. But I also told you that I destroyed my mental faculty by my use of LSD, PCP, and other drugs.
So, let's say it is simply a really great memory--- you first have to deal with the restoration of my memory, after several years of drug use/abuse.
Furthermore, you appear to have ignored the part where I told you after several years of enjoying it, and receiving accolades by friends, I took credit for it, and immediately lost it, and nothing I did could restore it, until I repented, and gave God the glory for it. Then it was immediately restored, and has only gotten better ever since.
This is not simply a good memory, or the mental faculty of an idiot savant.

You can construe it however you want. I don't really care. I know the truth, and so do my friends, and family, who've known me for the past 43 years.


When we are talking about God being involved in Evolution, in surprising cases of bodily resistance to illness, or Biblical recall abilities, these seem more within the bounds of the natural order than the theory of Creation or TIbetan Buddhists levitating, or the Ascension. As a result, when it comes to putting aside my biases, I find it easier to trust you when you tell me about your surprising healings than for me to trust in the other ideas like Creationism.
I'd say you need to stop trying to explain this in natural terms, and take it for what God says it is.
 

rakovsky

Member
Steve,
You wrote: "Except I don't see where he did 'use evolution' to create the cosmos, and the earth, and its contents. Psalm 33 makes it pretty clear that he spoke the cosmos into existence."

I took you as saying that you saw God as working through evolution when you wrote: "This is, I think, why it all has the appearance of what others like to call--- evolution. It all exists in so natural a manner." But now I see that you did not mean this.

I feel that it could merit a separate thread, but one example is the fossil record. The early animal layers like mollusk fossils are found deep underground like stuck in the coal in mines. Ancient human bones and other objects from 6000 BC are not found stuck in such deep layers AFAIK. In fact I doubt that any human bones have been found in such a deep layer of the fossil record. This points to the mollusks being much older than 6000 BC.

You write:
Furthermore, you appear to have ignored the part where I told you after several years of enjoying it, and receiving accolades by friends, I took credit for it, and immediately lost it, and nothing I did could restore it, until I repented, and gave God the glory for it. Then it was immediately restored, and has only gotten better ever since.
This is not simply a good memory, or the mental faculty of an idiot savant.
If we weigh this using inspiration, then I find it inspiring. Further, I find the Spiritual plane to be real, so I am ok with thinking of this as having a kind of supernatural or divine impulse. I don't have a strong opinion. I believe you that you had this experience, one reason being that I heard of people having this kind of memory ability. Conceivably the drug use could even switch on a part of your brain that was more interested in this area. Plus, it is not the same level as if you told me that you walked on water, which would push credulity.
You are also saying that you lost the ability for a while when you took pride in it. If we want to look for a possible psychological explanation, we can say that maybe you realized at a subconscious level that you were becoming too prideful and you lost your confidence. In a way I guess it could be like when a person is walking on a ledge and then looks down. This is because you are describing a psychological ability and evaluating why it came and went. I am not dismissing your past ability or suggesting that it probably had no divine involvement. I am talking about using the various approaches to evaluate it.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Steve,
You wrote: "Except I don't see where he did 'use evolution' to create the cosmos, and the earth, and its contents. Psalm 33 makes it pretty clear that he spoke the cosmos into existence."

I took you as saying that you saw God as working through evolution when you wrote: "This is, I think, why it all has the appearance of what others like to call--- evolution. It all exists in so natural a manner." But now I see that you did not mean this.
Nope.....
I don't think evolution is part of it at all.
Death is a primary component of evolution. Romans 5 says that death did not enter in until Adam sinned.

I feel that it could merit a separate thread, but one example is the fossil record. The early animal layers like mollusk fossils are found deep underground like stuck in the coal in mines. Ancient human bones and other objects from 6000 BC are not found stuck in such deep layers AFAIK. In fact I doubt that any human bones have been found in such a deep layer of the fossil record. This points to the mollusks being much older than 6000 BC.

I'm not saying that there's nothing prior to the human chain. According to Deuteronomy 29:29, God has kept secrets, but given us enough to know him, and keep his word.
I simply don't have enough information to say that YHVH lied when he said he spoke it into existence. As much as the serpent would love for us to call God a liar, I'm not interested in doing so.


You write:

If we weigh this using inspiration, then I find it inspiring. Further, I find the Spiritual plane to be real, so I am ok with thinking of this as having a kind of supernatural or divine impulse. I don't have a strong opinion. I believe you that you had this experience, one reason being that I heard of people having this kind of memory ability. Conceivably the drug use could even switch on a part of your brain that was more interested in this area. Plus, it is not the same level as if you told me that you walked on water, which would push credulity.
You are also saying that you lost the ability for a while when you took pride in it. If we want to look for a possible psychological explanation, we can say that maybe you realized at a subconscious level that you were becoming too prideful and you lost your confidence. In a way I guess it could be like when a person is walking on a ledge and then looks down. This is because you are describing a psychological ability and evaluating why it came and went. I am not dismissing your past ability or suggesting that it probably had no divine involvement. I am talking about using the various approaches to evaluate it.
That's an easy out for the inexperienced.
It's not about confidence. It's about ability. the source of my ability was squelched, and I literally was not able to recall things.
 

rakovsky

Member
Steve,
On a sidenote, you write: "Death is a primary component of evolution. Romans 5 says that death did not enter in until Adam sinned."
Certainly I am sympathetic to your idea. But I would have to investigate that more to have a strong opinion, because there are even Creationists who teach that death existed before the Fall. They interpret passages like Romans 5 in agreement with their idea, eg. they think that it was just referring to humans' deaths. I expect that Aquinas was a Creationist. The Biologic "Evolutionary Creationism" website refers to him:
The Bible passages that teach about sin and death are clearly referring to the death of humans. Do these passages also refer to animals? Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) didn’t think so. He believed that God’s original creation included animals that killed each other, writing that “the nature of animals was not changed by man’s sin.”1 Pastor Daniel Harrell makes a logical argument for animal death, writing that “there had to be death in the Garden, otherwise Adam would have been overrun by bugs and bacteria long before he took that forbidden bite of fruit.”2 Animal death is also necessary to maintain population levels in a balanced ecosystem (see below for more). Some Bible passages portray predatory animals as part of God’s original plan for creation (Job 38:39–41, 39:29–30, Ps. 104:21, 29). Other passages speak of the “wolf laying down with the lamb” instead of killing the lamb (Is. 11:6–7, Is. 65:25), but these verses refer to the future kingdom of God, not the original creation. While animal death and suffering raises other theological questions, it does not contradict Biblical teaching about death as a consequence of sin.

To be more Biblically based, I can point out that the men and animals are said in Genesis 1 to eat plants, which implies that the plants died:
I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
I feel I am getting sidetracked, sorry...
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Steve,
On a sidenote, you write: "Death is a primary component of evolution. Romans 5 says that death did not enter in until Adam sinned."
Certainly I am sympathetic to your idea.
It's not my idea.
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

But I would have to investigate that more to have a strong opinion, because there are even Creationists who teach that death existed before the Fall. They interpret passages like Romans 5 in agreement with their idea, eg. they think that it was just referring to humans' deaths. I expect that Aquinas was a Creationist. The Biologic "Evolutionary Creationism" website refers to him:
The Bible passages that teach about sin and death are clearly referring to the death of humans. Do these passages also refer to animals? Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) didn’t think so. He believed that God’s original creation included animals that killed each other, writing that “the nature of animals was not changed by man’s sin.”1 Pastor Daniel Harrell makes a logical argument for animal death, writing that “there had to be death in the Garden, otherwise Adam would have been overrun by bugs and bacteria long before he took that forbidden bite of fruit.”2 Animal death is also necessary to maintain population levels in a balanced ecosystem (see below for more). Some Bible passages portray predatory animals as part of God’s original plan for creation (Job 38:39–41, 39:29–30, Ps. 104:21, 29). Other passages speak of the “wolf laying down with the lamb” instead of killing the lamb (Is. 11:6–7, Is. 65:25), but these verses refer to the future kingdom of God, not the original creation. While animal death and suffering raises other theological questions, it does not contradict Biblical teaching about death as a consequence of sin.

To be more Biblically based, I can point out that the men and animals are said in Genesis 1 to eat plants, which implies that the plants died:

What others believe..... those have ceased being my concern. We who follow Jesus are told to not follow others. We're told to only imitate those who follow Jesus, and Jesus told us--- if you want to be my follower, pick up your cross, deny yourself and follow Me.

He did not tell us to follow the pastor, not to follow other people who are following Jesus. We read in Hebrews 12:

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Following other people creates problems which often cannot be identified until long after we've gotten off on some side-track, which has nothing to do with the bible, or following Jesus.

When Peter was on the lakeshore with Jesus, and Jesus was describing to Peter what he wanted Peter to do, Peter turns back, and seeing John, asks Jesus--- what about him?

Jesus tells him--- what difference does it make to you if I decide he should stick around until I return? You follow me! John 21.

Jesus tells all of us the same thing---- what difference does it make what I've asked them to do. You follow me!
 

rakovsky

Member
That's an easy out for the inexperienced.
It's not about confidence. It's about ability. the source of my ability was squelched, and I literally was not able to recall things.
The thread is talking about Inspirational vs Objective Evaluations where you consider the skeptical explanations. The skeptical explanation can be that you are talking about a psychological phenomenon like impressive recall abilities. Since the phenomenon is psychological, there can be psychological explanations for why the ability turned on and then turned off.
Here is a list of people with an "eidetic" (or "photographic") memory:

An example where impressive memory comes and goes could be in children. They can both pick up and forget languages quicker than adults.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
The thread is talking about Inspirational vs Objective Evaluations where you consider the skeptical explanations. The skeptical explanation can be that you are talking about a psychological phenomenon like impressive recall abilities. Since the phenomenon is psychological, there can be psychological explanations for why the ability turned on and then turned off.
Here is a list of people with an "eidetic" (or "photographic") memory:

An example where impressive memory comes and goes could be in children. They can both pick up and forget languages quicker than adults.
Are you aware that there will be hundreds of millions of people who will be in hell, and ultimately the lake of fire who found the most explicit ways to justify ignorance, in the name of "skeptical explanations"?

I've heard of photogenic memory. I had a friend when I was in high school, who was 19, and had his PhD. I'd already done enough LSD, and PCP to have done the damage. So, if I did have a photogenic memory, I'd destroyed it before I even got started.

But, let's do it this way.....
Let's say I did have a photogenic memory. Having destroyed it with LSD, PCP, weed, alcohol, and whatever else I'd taken then, to repair it, God would've had to have healed it, so it could be used for his glory.

So, you're still having to deal with the miraculous.

I remember when I was 18..... I'd started going to a small local church, and on Saturday nights they would do christian movies. As it was the town's old movie house, it was a perfect place for a church. One night, I'd been acting as an usher, passing out fliers, etc..., I recall talking to God about my mind, and the impact my years of drug use. At that instant, I felt like someone was tickling the top of my head. For whatever reason (Jesus said in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit would bring to our remembrance the things he taught us), Acts 2 came to mind, where the Holy Spirit had come on the 120, and filled them with the Holy Spirit, and was like tongues of fire on their heads. I ran over to one of the movie post cases, to see if I had flames of fire on my head.....
Not that I could see with my eyes.
So..... If I did have a photogenic memory, and had destroyed it because of my drug use, God healed it, restoring to me what I'd thrown away because of my selfish lifestyle of drug abuse.

So..... no matter how you try to skeptify or skepticize it out of existence, God is involved.
Going back to what Oswald Chambers said in Sept. 20th's devotion----

The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God. And when we come in contact with things that create confusion and a flurry of activity, we find to our own amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of it all.​

I simply think that it's God's Spirit doing what he does---- bringing to our remembrance all the things that Jesus taught us. John 14:26.
 

rakovsky

Member
Are you aware that there will be hundreds of millions of people who will be in hell, and ultimately the lake of fire who found the most explicit ways to justify ignorance, in the name of "skeptical explanations"?
Well, the simple answer is "No", in the sense that your statement sounds categorical and you are talking about a future event where the Lord can have mercy. So for instance, in the Story of Jonah, was Noah aware that from his point in time Nineveh will be destroyed? Jonah had God's prophecy, but the prophecy had not yet come to pass, and God bestowed mercy due to Nineveh's repentance. It is like whether one is "aware" that one "will" be saved. It sounds too definitive, when in fact we only can have hopes and beliefs and trust, etc. on these topics.

In some sense your statement could have truth, because to give an example, imagine a case where a cruel person joined the German army in WWII and you kept making moral arguments to him as to why he should avoid the war, like saying, "All men are brothers." Imagine that the person was deaf to your entreaties and closed them off, saying that he was skeptical about your arguments about brotherhood of all peoples. Certainly his morality would appear dark. One difference with that situation and certain Christian miracles, is that whereas the German army had a basic moral problem, the challenge with the miracles has to do with physical ideas about matter. In other words, it's not a question of whether Jesus should have resurrected morally, but whether this good thing occurred as a fact in time. It would be like doubting not whether Germany was right to invade its neighbors, but whether or not Germany had a base in Antarctica.

My guess is that you are referring to places like Mark 16 where the resurrected Jesus says: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature... He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Biblically, this statement needs qualifying, because it sounds very categorical when taken alone.
  1. First, it needs to be clarified what Gospel exactly needs to be believed. ie. Does one just need to believe that (A) Jesus was the Christ, or that (B) He lived on after His death, or (C) does one need to believe what we find in the Nicene Creed, which is a good summary of Gospel beliefs? I guess C, but it's not immediately clear.
  2. Second, in His parable prophecy of separating the sheep from the goats, the separation is done along the lines of works over and against professions of Christ: those who took care of the sufferers are the sheep who go to heaven, whereas the goats are rejected despite their prophecying in Jesus' name and despite their casting out demons in Jesus' name, etc.
  3. Third, there is the issue that this ending of Mark 16 has notations that early Bibles are divided on whether to include this ending. You are probably aware of this text issue. It's not a crucial problem because the idea can be found elsewhere in the Gospels (IIRC in the middle of Luke when Jesus sends out apostles to preach in Judean villages.).
  4. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan has the "wrong" religion, he doesn't perform the sacrifices in Jerusalem. Maybe this means that he doesn't follow Torah. Yet in the story, it is his good work that makes him look holy, whereas the others with the right religion are seen as lacking.
  5. In the stories of Jesus or apostles casting out demons like "Legion" by the sea of Galilee, the demons recognize Jesus' identity and divinity. Yet the demons of course are evil. So theoretically the mere mental recognition or belief that Jesus is Lord, etc. does not entail that the being will be saved. Demons of course are separate from people, but the principle still seems to exist.
  6. Thomas says that he will not believe until he puts his hands in Jesus' wounds. Instead of leaving it at that, Jesus shows up and Thomas sees the wounds and believes.
    1. The story of Thomas is a basis for a classic Christian idea of "Holy Doubt", where the person doubts but he doesn't definitely become closed minded against the Christian ideas. Maybe he is still searching.
Putting aside the issue of whether Christianity treats the issue of belief vs skepticism categorically for the Last Judgment, there is alo the issue of whether it would be right for a religion to use the criteria of belief as the basis for one's afterlife judgment. In other words, if you come into a universe with 5 religions and 4 of them say that only if you achieve belief that their non-objectively-verifiable supernatural claims are factual do you go to heaven, does that seem like they are making good criteria? It seems more like judgments of reward and punishment should be based on morality instead of credulousness. Because if you just base it on credulousness, then a bad person whose mind automatically accepts the factucal claims gets rewarded but a good person who is skeptical about extreme miracle claims is punished.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Well, the simple answer is "No", in the sense that your statement sounds categorical and you are talking about a future event where the Lord can have mercy. So for instance, in the Story of Jonah, was Noah aware that from his point in time Nineveh will be destroyed? Jonah had God's prophecy, but the prophecy had not yet come to pass, and God bestowed mercy due to Nineveh's repentance. It is like whether one is "aware" that one "will" be saved. It sounds too definitive, when in fact we only can have hopes and beliefs and trust, etc. on these topics.
Ok. So who did the ninevites believe? Their skepticism regarding the prophetic judgment of God due their sin, or the word of God regarding the prophetic judgment of their sin?
From what I read in the narrative, they believed the prophetic word of judgment due sin and the offer of mercy, to escape the judgment due sin.
The only scepticism I read about is Jonah's irritation at having to go warn so wicked and evil a people. And even then Jonah acknowledges that God would have mercy, and they would turn to him from their sin.
So, his skepticism was not questioning God's word. It was simply he wanted nothing to do with their repentance. He would've been quite happy to see them roast in judgment.

In some sense your statement could have truth, because to give an example, imagine a case where a cruel person joined the German army in WWII and you kept making moral arguments to him as to why he should avoid the war, like saying, "All men are brothers." Imagine that the person was deaf to your entreaties and closed them off, saying that he was skeptical about your arguments about brotherhood of all peoples. Certainly his morality would appear dark. One difference with that situation and certain Christian miracles, is that whereas the German army had a basic moral problem, the challenge with the miracles has to do with physical ideas about matter. In other words, it's not a question of whether Jesus should have resurrected morally, but whether this good thing occurred as a fact in time. It would be like doubting not whether Germany was right to invade its neighbors, but whether or not Germany had a base in Antarctica.
This makes no sense whatsoever.

My guess is that you are referring to places like Mark 16 where the resurrected Jesus says: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature... He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Biblically, this statement needs qualifying, because it sounds very categorical when taken alone.

[*]First, it needs to be clarified what Gospel exactly needs to be believed. ie. Does one just need to believe that (A) Jesus was the Christ, or that (B) He lived on after His death, or (C) does one need to believe what we find in the Nicene Creed, which is a good summary of Gospel beliefs? I guess C, but it's not immediately clear.
When did the nicene creed come into existence? 325-340AD? A full 300 years after the fact?

So since Jesus was alive in the early first century ad, consider that the gospel preached--
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world may be saved.
And while this is a matter of semantics, it's not that Jesus lived on after his death. Rather it's that God raised him from the dead to be the savior of the human race, and the Messiah of Israel.

[*]Second, in His parable prophecy of separating the sheep from the goats, the separation is done along the lines of works over and against professions of Christ: those who took care of the sufferers are the sheep who go to heaven, whereas the goats are rejected despite their prophecying in Jesus' name and despite their casting out demons in Jesus' name, etc.
If you look at the passage in Matthew 25, you'll note that this takes place at the end of this phase of human civilization. And is noted as the judgment of the nations.

[*]Third, there is the issue that this ending of Mark 16 has notations that early Bibles are divided on whether to include this ending. You are probably aware of this text issue. It's not a crucial problem because the idea can be found elsewhere in the Gospels (IIRC in the middle of Luke when Jesus sends out apostles to preach in Judean villages.).

The gospel is the same during his life on earth, as it is now.

God sent his son to be the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and whosoever shall call on his name shall be saved. Those who refuse shall be judged for their sin.


[*]In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan has the "wrong" religion, he doesn't perform the sacrifices in Jerusalem. Maybe this means that he doesn't follow Torah. Yet in the story, it is his good work that makes him look holy, whereas the others with the right religion are seen as lacking.
Actually, he's a half breed Jew, and due to the internal racism against the Samaritans, they are not welcomed by the rest of the nation of Israel and as such, are not entitled to keep the levitical commandments dealing with sacrifices and offerings.
Moreover, the law has a component that gentiles are not allowed in the temple. It get mingled with tradition and so racism erupted.



[*]In the stories of Jesus or apostles casting out demons like "Legion" by the sea of Galilee, the demons recognize Jesus' identity and divinity. Yet the demons of course are evil. So theoretically the mere mental recognition or belief that Jesus is Lord, etc. does not entail that the being will be saved. Demons of course are separate from people, but the principle still seems to exist.
As is written in James, intellectual assent to the reality of God is not enough.

We must commit ourselves in reliance on God's Provision of salvation for repentance towards God and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, and regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5



[*]Thomas says that he will not believe until he puts his hands in Jesus' wounds. Instead of leaving it at that, Jesus shows up and Thomas sees the wounds and believes.
But does he just acknowledge or does his belief result in his full submission of his life to Jesus?

[*]The story of Thomas is a basis for a classic Christian idea of "Holy Doubt", where the person doubts but he doesn't definitely become closed minded against the Christian ideas. Maybe he is still searching
On the following section of the forum I posted links to 2 books.
Dealing with Doubt, and
The Thomas Factor.
I encourage you to read them.
They are online, and free from Gary's website.


Putting aside the issue of whether Christianity treats the issue of belief vs skepticism categorically for the Last Judgment, there is alo the issue of whether it would be right for a religion to use the criteria of belief as the basis for one's afterlife judgment. In other words, if you come into a universe with 5 religions and 4 of them say that only if you achieve belief that their non-objectively-verifiable supernatural claims are factual do you go to heaven, does that seem like they are making good criteria? It seems more like judgments of reward and punishment should be based on morality instead of credulousness. Because if you just base it on credulousness, then a bad person whose mind automatically accepts the factucal claims gets rewarded but a good person who is skeptical about extreme miracle claims is punished.
having doubts, questions, and concerns isn't the problem here.

The problem is the refusal to follow through with God, oneself and take the time to engage God himself on his terms and work through the process of learning.

According to Isaiah 1:18, God says, come now, let's reason together.

In Isaiah 41:1, God says, let them renew their strength and come near, together for judgment

In Isaiah 41:21, God says, present your strong case....

Each of these are God's invitation to us to come and work through our issues with him.

The key being-- with him.

He's not afraid of our problems with the bible, with him, with christianity.

If he was, do you really think he would have allowed much of the old testament, and some of the gospels to be published?
 

rakovsky

Member
Steve, you write:
So who did the ninevites believe? Their skepticism regarding the prophetic judgment of God due their sin, or the word of God regarding the prophetic judgment of their sin?
From what I read in the narrative, they believed the prophetic word of judgment due sin and the offer of mercy, to escape the judgment due sin.
The Ninevites heeded Jonah's call instead of being too skeptical about it. Sure. My point is that the story shows that one cannot be categorical about how the judgment will occur. God said that Nineveh will be destroyed, not Nineveh will be destroyed if Condition X. But the real situation was that Nineveh would be destroyed if Condition X. So God made a statement about Judgment in the story of Nineveh, but it turns out that there were unspoken conditions attached to his statement.

You write about my italicized comment:
(((In some sense your statement could have truth, because to give an example, imagine a case where a cruel person joined the German army in WWII and you kept making moral arguments to him as to why he should avoid the war, like saying, "All men are brothers." Imagine that the person was deaf to your entreaties and closed them off, saying that he was skeptical about your arguments about brotherhood of all peoples. Certainly his morality would appear dark. One difference with that situation and certain Christian miracles, is that whereas the German army had a basic moral problem, the challenge with the miracles has to do with physical ideas about matter. In other words, it's not a question of whether Jesus should have resurrected morally, but whether this good thing occurred as a fact in time. It would be like doubting not whether Germany was right to invade its neighbors, but whether or not Germany had a base in Antarctica.))

This makes no sense whatsoever.
I am saying that it seems different to condemn someone for (A) a moral mistake vs. (B) skepticism about a physical fact.

(A) It makes sense for someone to have condemnation for being skeptical that German WWII abuses were wrong, because German WWII abuses were immoral. That's a moral issue.

(B) A physical fact on the other would be whether the Germans landed in Antarctica and made a base there. Apparently some people believe it, whereas others are skeptics.

You ask:
"When did the nicene creed come into existence? 325-340AD? A full 300 years after the fact?"
You are giving a correct estimate, depending on how you want to date the Gospels and the Creed. If John's Gospel was written after his death and was finalized in about 100 AD, then you are looking at 225 years' difference at least.

You write:
Second, in His parable prophecy of separating the sheep from the goats, the separation is done along the lines of works over and against professions of Christ: those who took care of the sufferers are the sheep who go to heaven, whereas the goats are rejected despite their prophecying in Jesus' name and despite their casting out demons in Jesus' name, etc.

If you look at the passage in Matthew 25, you'll note that this takes place at the end of this phase of human civilization. And is noted as the judgment of the nations.
I feel like I am going on a tangent, but I don't agree with the interpretation that this is just collective judgment between nations (eg. ram nations vs goat nations). Anyway it is evidence about how the divine judgment works.

You ask:
"Thomas says that he will not believe until he puts his hands in Jesus' wounds. Instead of leaving it at that, Jesus shows up and Thomas sees the wounds and believes."

But does he just acknowledge or does his belief result in his full submission of his life to Jesus?
I would have to review it, but IIRC his acknowledgement was explicit whereas submission was implicit.

Anyway, the point is that in this case you had a skeptic person who was not just skeptic but actually said he wouldn't believe it unless he touched the wounds... And yet he ended up getting his vision and faith. So it is hard to make some kind of blanket statement like skeptics don't get saved or something, because there are all kind of unwritten conditions. This is what I am trying to emphasize in my message to you. In Thomas' case, he was a rejectionist skeptic, BUT THEN he got proof and believed.
Nineveh was going to be destroyed BUT THEN REPENTED and was not destroyed.
The goats worked miracles in Christ's name, but were condemned at judgment.
Demons recognize Christ and get demoniacs to repeat their recognition, but they don't automatically become holy.

There are lots of these kinds of conditions that it does work to make some categorical statement to the effect of "Believers get saved, skeptics go to hell."

Thanks for the links to Gary's site. I checked it and think maybe I read it before. I have also read and listened to Gary on this topic. For instance, he supports the Turin Shroud, which I put on my list of arguments for the Resurrection. I am happy hearing more from Gary.

You ask:
He's not afraid of our problems with the bible, with him, with christianity.

If he was, do you really think he would have allowed much of the old testament, and some of the gospels to be published?
You are suggesting- a situation where God could be afraid of our problems with the Bible, etc. Well, first I am doubtful that it would be right to speak of God as "afraid". Maybe Christ was "afraid" of the Passion in Gethsemane. Or maybe the Holy Spirit was "afraid" of going to Nineveh in Jonah's story. (Jonah means "dove" and the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.) But still, that is not clear.

Anyway, suppose that God was actually scared of us having theological or psychological problems with the Bible, then he could allow those books to be written but also have provided tools or guides to allow their interpretation.

This is kind of a sidenote, but many Protestants typically answer that the Holy Spirit guides reading the Bible, and also using logic. But it seems like objectively speaking these are not enough because of how much Protestants disagree among themselves on it like with issues with the infant baptism. So earlier Churches like the EOs and Catholics answer that the Church and Tradition is one more guidance tool besides just the individual's own reliance on the Holy Spirit. Many Protestants agree with this EO and Catholic answer, but many of them would not openly agree. Still in fact those Protestants do rely on their own "traditions" in forming some kind of collective interpretation.

Thanks for writing. Sometimes I have a challenge how to answer in both a sympathetic way and also trying to get carefully into the issues you raise.
 
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