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Atheism, Scepticism, Miracles, Apologetics

Who's going to believe the dog really ate your homework?

I’ve been spending some time milling about the blog Debunking Christianity, the spot in the great www from the writer and debater John Loftus, a former Christian turned atheist.

I haven’t really engaged Loftus directly in any way, as I’m probably fairly unskilled at the kind of apologetics he is probably used to engaging. However, I spend a lot of time reading up and mixing myself in these kinds of debates on the Internet and with those I know, and the relentless arguing can get quite irritating eventually.

I have rejected atheism for a number of reasons, one of which include its tendency to be very one dimensional and quite sure of itself to have all the answers. I could go into detail, but that would be beyond the scope of this post.

What I really wanted to say is that I’m becoming increasingly aware that the arguments really don’t go far very quickly. I know that the debating between Christian apologists and Atheist apologists is mostly for the sake of those listening, not for the debaters themselves, who never really seem to change their viewpoints but just get more clever. But some of the arguments ARE indeed clever, and for most normal people perhaps overwhelming (so they easily lose faith) or irrelevant, depending on where they are at.

There’s a song we sing quite often at Church on the Square, called “Famous One” by Chris Tomlin. In the second verse, there is a line that says this about God:

“Revealed by nature, and miracles…”

I believe God is revealed through his creation (nature), and the Bible affirms this in Romans 1. But it does seem that this revealing can often be misunderstood, which is perhaps why God has also provided us with the Bible and other ways of revealing himself.

But one of his other ways of revealing himself is surely the use of miracles, which we see Jesus use extensively.

The fact of the matter is that I feel that most of the time miracles will probably cease all the arguing. Sure, a true sceptic will ALWAYS find a reason to disbelieve and that is one of scepticism’s principle weaknesses, but most normal people cannot dispute miracles, which perhaps includes the prophetic in some way.

Miracles and healing in the church has probably been ‘ruined’ in some way through some faulty theology surrounding it, and I think it should be the job of many Christians to try and break through and find the right theology surrounding it. In fact, we should probably spend more time doing that than getting involved in all these relentless arguments which, although helpful, are not the principal way we can actually DO apologetics. Jesus’ apologetics appears to not just be about arguing, but a lot of DOING as well.

About Ryan Peter


Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.

7 replies
  1. Nolan Beudeker
    Nolan Beudeker says:

    Interesting comment about atheists. I have heard many use exactly the same argument about Christians, Muslims, Jews, the list can go on and on. To “subscribe” to any one of these requires faith (including atheism). One has to choose one over the other, because you believe that particular viewpoint.

    As for me, I think I am finally coming close to being completely comfortable with “I don’t know”. Perhaps everyone is right, perhaps everyone is wrong; perhaps some are right and others wrong. We don’t know. And that is ok.

    There are basic tenets to live by that bring about harmony between human beings, the animal kingdom, and everything else that exists on this planet. If being a Christian brings that harmony to you, wonderful.

    I don’t think I am a sceptic. I just refuse to say that I am right and everyone who believes something different is wrong. Each to their own.

    Reply
  2. Ryan Peter
    Ryan Peter says:

    Hey Nolan!

    Remember my comment is directed at “atheism”, not “atheists”, which is worth mentioning in case you’re one who likes to be about semantics :) (I don’t think you are though…).

    There is a large part of Christianity that is one dimensional and pretends to have all the answers too, and I agree with you on that. In fact, my ‘faith walk’ has largely been one walking away from this sort of worldview.

    I’ve come to realise that it is true that modernism has infiltrated the church throughout the centuries, which is the real culprit to the above. Modernism as a whole is a worldview that insists that there MUST ALWAYS be one true answer to every question, and both atheism and Christianity have adopted it (although, I could argue that atheism was borne out of it, but that would be for some long discussion).

    A recent post I’ve found very helpful in outlining this quickly can be found here. While this is more pertinent to Christians, the graph showing the difference between Western/Greek thought vs Hebrew/Eastern thought vs Postmodern thought is quite an eye-opener, even if it generalises (which the author agrees it does).

    In it, we can see how our world has largely been shaped by Western/Greek thought (which is a historical reality) and how post-modernism is, quite thankfully, seeking to correct this in various ways. My journey has largely been one to go back to the ‘roots’, which would be Hebrew/Eastern thought. I’ve also grown up in a post-modern world and so find it easier to relate to that sort of worldview than a modern one. Although I admit I’m not always consistent with my goals.

    I’m comfortable with not ‘knowing’ in the sense of having all the right answers. I’m not comfortable with not ‘knowing’ God (relationally), though, and I’m not comfortable with giving up on the opportunity to know God. That’s my quest.

    My post though talks about miracles which I’ve witnessed many times. I’ve seen friends healed through prayer of some miraculous things, which helps to convince me again and again that Jesus is real. My own experiences do too, and so do many things I discover as I seek to find answers. Just know the answers I’m seeking aren’t FACTS in as much as relational truths. I seek to truly know God as a friend, a father, and a king.

    My issues with John Loftus (the atheist blog mentioned in the article) mainly revolves around his modernist worldview. It seems he rejected one one-dimensional worldview (his Christianity) for another (atheism). While it might not be consistent for me to say the guy is WRONG, it is perhaps fair for me to say the guy perhaps didn’t look at all of his options deeply enough. Perhaps if he sought to go to the roots of Christianity he would find it to be a very different thing than the American/Western/Modern Christianity he seems to have been brought up in.

    Since I see tremendous value in experiential knowledge, I’m saying that the experience of seeing or being at the receiving end of a miracle surely has more merit than the best and most consistent philosophical argument in the world. Most people seek for experiential reality, so do I.

    Unfortunately, most of the debating I’ve had there goes nowhere because I don’t feel the Bible has to provide all the answers nor do I feel God has to either. Yet, many of the atheists there feel that I can’t claim to be a Christian if I feel this way. And they may be perfectly innocent in doing so, as their cultural paradigm insists on it.

    Like many Christians, I think they don’t get the point of Jesus – Christianity is a spiritual relational dynamic, which is what Jesus came to teach us; not a set of beliefs, rules, facts, or bullet-point one-size-fits-all bunch of answers, which he so often spoke against even just through his method of teaching (using parables etc.).

    Reply
  3. Nolan Beudeker
    Nolan Beudeker says:

    Hey!

    I was about to say how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t know. But I stopped myself, thinking, I don’t know Zuma but I have an opinion about who he “is”. This said, regardless of the nature of the relationship, he is a tangible being (I can see, feel, or touch him). In my opinion, the struggle for people who don’t have faith in a spiritual relationship centres on tangibility. “There is only a physical world, beyond that nobody knows squat so why go there.”

    I do believe in spiritual relationships. I believe we have other senses that have been socialised out of us. And like you, I think Christianity that is taken literally (or any other religion for that matter) is dangerous. I would also go as far as to say that I believe in all probability the man Jesus did exist, and that his example is one to model life on. But then this is also true of Ghandi, who was Hindu.

    I read something that sparked something in me recently (in a Jodi Picoult book of all places). “A man should live his life in a certain way not because of some divine authority, but because of a personal moral obligation to himself and others.”

    We are all connected in ways we cannot possibly understand today. Does this connectedness continue after death? I don’t know, and I don’t mind if it does or doesn’t; but I will strive to live my life with respect for others and respect for myself. When I die, I want to be satisfied that I have done as much as I can to uplift the lives of those around me, to contribute as much as I can to the world and “make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come”.

    Reply
  4. Ryan Peter
    Ryan Peter says:

    Hey Nolan,

    A late response :)

    “There is only a physical world, beyond that nobody knows squat so why go there.”

    I go there because I don’t see the ‘spiritual world’ as one apart from the ‘physical world’. I’ve got to answer the callings of my heart, callings that it seems to me everyone has, even since they were young. Our spiritual relationships as you put it have real-life-physical-world implications, which makes it necessary to go there, amongst other things.

    We all can probably remember those times as children when something of a mystery surrounded us and we tried to reach out to it. Something we felt when we stared at a painting or went to a beautiful place. Or a secret place. A calling, a something beckoning toward us. As adults, the mystery visits us every now and then but most of us ignore it as we’ve ‘moved on’ from that, or gotten rational about it, etc. We claim to be ‘grown up.’

    Despite what I tell my heart to think, it’ll often think differently, and reach out to try and grab hold of this Mystery, something Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, two authors, call the “Sacred Romance”. I like this metaphor.

    Here’s what they say in their book:

    “If this poignant longing were the only deep experience of our soul, then we should not lose heart. Though we may not have tasted satisfaction yet, we would search for it all our lives. There are enough hints and clues and ‘tantalizing glimpses’ to keep us searching, our heart ever open and alive to the quest.

    “But there is another message that comes to all of us in varying shades and intensities, even in our early years. It often seems to come out of nowhere and for no discernable reason that we can fathom. It is dark, powerful, and full of dread. I think of it as the Message of the Arrows.”

    Reconciling this Sacred Romance with the Message of the Arrows is the longing of hearts, and my heart especially, as I know it better than anyone else’s. And its the Arrows that try and make us disbelieve that the Romance is real.

    I have found, for myself, that religion in the form of its continuous ‘do this and that to make God happy’ does not answer for the Mystery that visited me as a child and comes even to this day. Neither does the idea of living well to others, as good as that may be and as much as I’ll try to do so, actually answer this strange tugging. Neither does the purely-rational atheism, which seeks to put the Mystery down to some sort of explainable psychological / evolutionary answer, truly answer the longing of my heart. Neither do new-age ideas around an abstract spirituality that never involves a true heart-KNOWING this Mystery speak to my heart. All it offers are techniques that usually revolve around me knowing myself better or acquiring some sort of spiritual ability, rather than me truly knowing – intimately – this Mystery. I can’t touch it and enjoy it there.

    What speaks to my heart is a relationship with this mystery; a dance if you will; a friendship; a romance; an intimate knowing; a story. Christianity answers this longing of my heart – it says, unlike religion, that a knowing IS possible, that this Mystery is what we call God, and that knowing him is done through a simple thing of trusting Him. Jesus is the Mystery, the Word, God made flesh, who walked amongst us. I AM in a story, and it’s a story involving both pain and joy, and joy will win in the end.

    I realise the latter, about Jesus, is a rational stretch, but then there are rational reasons for seeing him as God having walked amongst us. These are based on both my experiences (again) and those of others, as well as things of history. Both of these, although they are not fully tangible, are rational reasons to believe.

    My experience has seen this Jesus answer the longing of my heart, and I believe this longing is a universal experience. For me Jesus was more than a good man, he showed us who the Mystery is and what the Mystery is doing and will do. He shows me that the tugging, the calling, the Mystery that came to me as a child and has always haunted me is actually real.

    “I believe we have other senses that have been socialised out of us.”

    This was interesting. Would be interesting for you to open it up a bit more?

    Reply
    • Nolan Beudeker
      Nolan Beudeker says:

      The Sacred Romance – I like that. It made me look up the word “sacred” (http://dictionary.reference.com).

      sa⋅cred

      –adjective
      1. devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated.
      2. entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy.
      3. pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to secular or profane ): sacred music; sacred books.
      4. reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object: a morning hour sacred to study.
      5. regarded with reverence: the sacred memory of a dead hero.

      Points 1, 2, and 3 are the definitions I expected. Points 4 (purpose) and 5 speak to me. So I looked up the word “reverence”.

      rev⋅er⋅ence

      –noun
      1. a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.
      2. the outward manifestation of this feeling: to pay reverence.
      3. a gesture indicative of deep respect; an obeisance, bow, or curtsy.
      4. the state of being revered.

      Points 1 and 2 come close to how I would explain my experience of “The Sacred Romance”.

      Where am I going with this? The senses we have “lost” are our inalienable connection to “The Sacred Romance”. The senses are not lost, they are merely unrecognised.

      Have you ever been with people having a perfectly normal conversation when without any seemingly obvious reason you are overcome with emotion? And known that the emotion was not your own. Have you ever experienced déjà vu, synchronicity or an inexplicable urge to speak with or see someone that has been long absent from your thoughts? Goosebumps – other than from coldness? These are some of the senses that I believe are discredited because they are “lost”. These are the senses that we seek answers for, or ignore.

      I accept what is; that there are experiences I have, and have had in the past, that I cannot explain. That I am connected to the physical and spiritual worlds simultaneously. And like you, I don’t believe they are separable.

      I don’t believe that I need a relationship with anyone or anything to experience life. Life is. And my quest is to live in harmony with what is. To not resist it, and in acceptance to find inner-peace. That is my earthly heaven, and perhaps I will find the same heaven in the after-life. But for now, what is is enough.

      Reply

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