Some faith challenging questions

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Some faith challenging questions

Postby Wowboy on Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:39 pm

Over the last few years, I seem to be running into a lot of people who have either abandoned their faith or are themselves lost and grappling with aspects of religious belief that they can't seem to overcome. At the same time, I've been getting into apologetics more and more, where answers to these types of questions are somewhat dealt with.

Here are some questions I see coming up again and again, and I was wondering how some of you would answer them.


What explains the multiplicity of world religions?



How do you read an ancient text?



How do you determine what is true?



Why would God knowingly create us to err? And then demand us to fulfill an impossible law?



Why would God demand a blood sacrifice?
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby RevSears on Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:17 am

Those are some deep questions, Ones that books could be written on, but i'll give some short tries.


What explains the multiplicity of world religions?


Romans 1:18-32 paints the history of how this happened:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth [l]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [o]crawling creatures.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for [p]a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed [q]forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is [r]unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing [s]indecent acts and receiving in [t]their own persons the due penalty of their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit [u]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [v]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

In short, man wantd God's rules to be different, so they made new Gods with rules they liked better. As time as gone on, distance, corruption by ignorance or for power from within etc. have warped and fractured those religions even more.
How do you read an ancient text?


With knowledge of the culture it was written in, and the audience it was written two and in the most accurate translation you can find. It's best to read mutiple translations and notes from language experts to make sure your understanding it.


How do you determine what is true?



Something that is True must correspond to reality, it can have no false hood in it. It can't relative, and must be fixed, because a statement such as, "there are no absolutes" is an absolute and thus self refuting. Meaning Truth is only one thing. Thankfully archeology, philosophy, and even scientific studies have backed up the truth of the Gospel and their a wealth of material in each subject to point to Christ.


Why would God knowingly create us to err? And then demand us to fulfill an impossible law?

There is a great difference in creating someone with the ability to err and creating someone to err. I may train my son to complete a task, say potty training, but he has the ability to fail to properly use the toilet.

God made us like himself, with free will, unfortunately despite his desires that we would not, we eventually choose our own path. The law was made to show us just how imperfect we are!

Gal 3:24 says, " Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."

phrasing here is important is well. Is God cruelly demanding something, or is he stating the facts, sin can't enter in to heaven and therefore we must be perfect. Thankfully he knows we can't and thus provided that sacrifice for us.
Why would God demand a blood sacrifice?

Because it's the perfect symbol of sin causes, death. Sin kills, it destroys us in a way that's not as obvious as a bloody death, but it ends life just the same. The blood sacrifice can pay for that destruction instead of allow us to pay that penalty. Sin set the trap in motion that would take our lives, the blood sacrifice is simply Christ taking our place in front of that death trap and pushing away from it in safety. His demand in the OT for animal sacrifice was simply to train the Jews and foreshadow them to look for that one who would come and push them out of disaster, if they would allow it. This metaphor at first has it's problems untill you realize that many who are rescued from downing, actually try to fight back at first, we must choose to allow God to take our place. Since he has, we have to accept that, rather than continue to stand in the way of oncoming disaster, still to be hit.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby Matthew on Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:39 am

What explains the multiplicity of world religions?

Everyone is born to seek meaning, to seek truth. Religion is one way to seek that.


How do you read an ancient text?

Dunno :-)

How do you determine what is true?

Like Rev said, ask if they believe in absolute truths. For example is rape wrong? Is murder wrong? If so, why? If they are absolute wrongs, then someone had to create the absolutes.

Why would God knowingly create us to err? And then demand us to fulfill an impossible law?

I look at it this way. If God created everything, then He could have created us to be perfect "robots" to do exactly what He wanted. But He wanted us to love Him, not because we have to, but because we choose to. Choice comes from free will. For those of us with kids, I think we would all agree that we want our kids to love us not because they have to, but because they choose to.

Why would God demand a blood sacrifice?

This definitely goes back to ancient cultures. It was believed that blood = life, which is why they were commanded to not drink the blood (something like that). We have all sinned and the wages of sin is death. A blood sacrifice, or life sacrifice, was used to pay that debt.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby andrwfields on Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:55 am

I don't have decent answers to all of those questions, but I'll put my two cents in:

What explains the multiplicity of world religions?

I like what both Rev and Matt said on this. One thing I would add is that a lot of religions have similar origins stories (other than the world being created in an egg). God or gods create man, man does what he wants, God or gods get angry and seek out their vengeance, a son-prophet-emissary of that God or gods are sent to die-fight-retribute the world, then [insert what creators of that offset of that religion want you to believe].

Christians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Muslims, and many others all have this is common. It all started somewhere though, and I think Rev was right when he said that certain people bent those religions to interpret the meaning as they saw fit.

My answer isn't as good because Christianity could objectively thrown into that pile though, so don't use it!

How do you read an ancient text?

Study your butt off, get a degree in reading that text, and confer with lots of colleagues to make sure you're reading it right?

How do you determine what is true?

Matt's answer was pretty close to what I was going to say. I think it was C.S. Lewis who spoke about this when he was making a case for the existence of God. He was talking about morals though. He spoke about murder and how all people from the most civilized cultures that had heard the gospel of Christ to the tribes buried deep in the third world who hadn't been reached by missionaries yet all knew that it was wrong without having a person to tell them that first.

Why would God knowingly create us to err? And then demand us to fulfill an impossible law?

Stick with Matt and Rev's answers on this!

Why would God demand a blood sacrifice?

I liked Matt's answers best.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby chad_ghost on Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:56 pm

andrwfields wrote:
How do you determine what is true?

Matt's answer was pretty close to what I was going to say. I think it was C.S. Lewis who spoke about this when he was making a case for the existence of God. He was talking about morals though. He spoke about murder and how all people from the most civilized cultures that had heard the gospel of Christ to the tribes buried deep in the third world who hadn't been reached by missionaries yet all knew that it was wrong without having a person to tell them that first.

Yep, that is from Mere Christianity.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby andrwfields on Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:23 am

I really need to go back and re-read that book. I love a lot of Lewis' ideas.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby Wowboy on Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:47 am

First off... thank you for your thoughtful answers and researched answers!

I didn't get too in depth as to where these questions came from... I actually have a lot more that we can go on to if you would like, but like in most discussions of this nature, often our discourse itself can lead to many more questions.

My first priority with this discussion is to assist my co-workers who are brothers and sisters in Christ. My primary employment/income source is as a defense contractor. Specifically, in the computer/aerospace engineering industry. I am blessed in that the majority of the people here are fellow Christians. However, as their interests have always been in the fields of math and applied science, they have delved very little into the realms of theology and doctrine. Many of them came to know the Lord many years ago, made their decision to follow Christ, and then pretty much left it at that. It is clear when talking to them that many of them have never read the scripture all the way through, and the ones that have, read it on a superficial level at best.

I don't even think that this is necessarily a bad thing... not everyone is meant to be a theologian, and the brethren at my workplace are all wonderful husbands and wives and outstanding parents to their children raising them to love the Lord. But, since this IS an engineering unit, we have some very intelligent people who have delved into things other than engineering. We have one such individual who is very unique in his worldview. He is not an atheist or even an agnostic. He is neither a Universalist nor a devotee to any one religion. I'll tell you at the end of this post what I think he actually is...

He has taken it upon himself to deconstruct religion. All religions. And because Christianity is the dominant belief here, he is heavily focusing on it and has lengthy discussions with the believers here where he attempts to trick them into admitting that their beliefs are not based on anything that is objectively true, but rather they just stem from their own cultural indoctrination and emotional needs.

The majority of the people here just don't pay attention. However some do, and I have seen some definite differences in the way that people think and behave.

Enter myself... and to me, this is a testament to how God can use any of us... but while I do have degrees in Computer Science and Aerospace Engineering, (and business, and Cybersecurity, etc.) my primary focus was in classics and letters. My specialty was medieval English literature. You simply don't go through all that education in medieval literature and NOT get a healthy dose of Christian theology and what Christians have believed for the past 2,000 years. So, I am uniquely gifted to actively engage this guy who is VERY well read and is prepared to use Christian writings against us. In fact, now that I am back at work, I am often commended by others because now that he seems to be taking all of his time and energy trying to verbally spar with me, he seems to be leaving everyone else alone. In any event, every day that I go to work I feel like I am truly entering the spiritual battlefield, and I need all the prayer that I can get, so keep me in mind when you're talking to God.

A secondary priority is that I would like to move my academic career into the field of apologetics. In the last few months, I have established a dialogue with a professor of apologetics and think that I may be able to contribute to the field. I really think it is important to take some of the more difficult theological questions of the day and compile some useful answers in a book that a lay-person can understand. So, maybe someday I'll get some articles published that God can use to help some people through this sort of challenge.

Anyways, on to your responses! And I'll try to get them in a more sensible order so that they flow together a bit better.

I'll also try and respond to your answers in a manner consistent with the skeptic because I am also quite interested to hear more of your responses to these counter-arguments.

As you will see, it took me a bit to write this up... and next I want to offer my own responses as a believer... which may take a bit.

Wowboy wrote:How do you determine what is true?


RevSears wrote:Something that is True must correspond to reality, it can have no false hood in it. It can't relative, and must be fixed, because a statement such as, "there are no absolutes" is an absolute and thus self refuting. Meaning Truth is only one thing.


There are some very bold statements here. First "Truth must correspond to reality." Well... how do we define reality? Is it the physical? The spiritual? The abstract? All of these and more? Or possibly even none of these and less?

Second, "It can't be relative, and must be fixed..." How can a truth be conveyed beyond the original revelation without instantly becoming biased and thus relative to the immediate station, culture and attitude of the person receiving it?


RevSears wrote:Thankfully archeology, philosophy, and even scientific studies have backed up the truth of the Gospel and their a wealth of material in each subject to point to Christ.


If we can use archaeology to confirm the literal truth of the Bible, wouldn't we be able to use the same logic to confirm the literal truth of other ancient religious texts? For example, in Genesis, we get the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Archaeologists have found the remains of cities that they believe are the ruins of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. A fundamentalist Christian would point to this as proof of the truth of the Bible and especially of Genesis, even though there is no archaeological proof that God had a hand in destroying the cities. Using the same logic, the discovery of an ancient city in the same location and same description as the city of Troy in the Iliad would mean that the Iliad and Odyssey by extension are literally true. Yet, no one posits that Zeus, Athena and Apollo exist and influenced the outcome of the Trojan War, even though the charred remains of the walls of Troy point to the same events described in the Homeric texts.

I'll get on to Scientific studies below...

Wowboy wrote:How do you read an ancient text?


RevSears wrote:With knowledge of the culture it was written in, and the audience it was written two and in the most accurate translation you can find. It's best to read mutiple translations and notes from language experts to make sure your understanding it.


Above it was stated that scientific studies verify the truth of the bible, but here, it is stated that to read an ancient text, you must have a knowledge of the culture that wrote it. This is a slippery slope. Ancient Hebrews had a completely different understanding of the nature of reality than we do today, and yet fundamentalists will hold up Genesis chapter one as a literal, scientific description of how the Earth and the Universe came to be. If you read the text with an understanding of how an Ancient Hebrew would understand it, you would end up with a picture of the world that blatantly contradicts science. So, if reading the text with an understanding that truth is fixed and must be material, that you must understand the culture that wrote it and the audience that the words must have been intended for, and then you realize that what is being conveyed is NOT materially true from any fixed point of view, then the conclusion must be that the text is false.


Wowboy wrote:Why would God knowingly create us to err? And then demand us to fulfill an impossible law?


RevSears wrote:There is a great difference in creating someone with the ability to err and creating someone to err. I may train my son to complete a task, say potty training, but he has the ability to fail to properly use the toilet.

God made us like himself, with free will, unfortunately despite his desires that we would not, we eventually choose our own path. The law was made to show us just how imperfect we are!


You say that God made us like himself, with Free Will. If we are operating under the assumption that the Bible is true, where in scripture does it explicitly state that God himself even HAS free will? In fact, the simple statement that he is an eternal being negates the possibility of free will.

Think of it this way... You and I are finite beings trapped in our linear, material existence. With every deed and decision we make and perform, we change. It is inevitable. With every breath, every moment, of my own existence, I change. So, in every moment, I die and am reborn. If God is eternal, then he is incapable of being finite and incapable of change, and by extension, incapable of free will.

The example of the potty training is a good one... but it lacks a dimension... when you potty train your son, you do it in the confines of your home and the world around you with the idea that you will train your son at home so he can then properly use facilities elsewhere on his own. What is lacking is that you are not God. If you were, you would have the ability to simply shape your home and the world around you in such a way that it would impossible for your son to fail at potty training. So, the question stands... why did God create a world in which the recipients of his breath of life, those created in his image (whatever that means) would be able to fall?

RevSears wrote:Gal 3:24 says, " Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."

phrasing here is important is well. Is God cruelly demanding something, or is he stating the facts, sin can't enter in to heaven and therefore we must be perfect. Thankfully he knows we can't and thus provided that sacrifice for us.


Ok... it's a lot like getting irradiated and having to muddle through the tedium of a decontamination line. The law represents what needs to be done in order to "decontaminate" oneself of sin. Since it is simply too much for any one person to accomplish... God provides a means of doing the decontamination for us. Except... the decontamination is STILL contingent on our actions. We have to make an assertion that something is true that is very much contingent on a cultural point of view. Are those whose culture teaches them something contrary to salvation through Christ condemned simply for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time?


Wowboy wrote:Why would God demand a blood sacrifice?


RevSears wrote:Because it's the perfect symbol of sin causes, death. Sin kills, it destroys us in a way that's not as obvious as a bloody death, but it ends life just the same. The blood sacrifice can pay for that destruction instead of allow us to pay that penalty. Sin set the trap in motion that would take our lives, the blood sacrifice is simply Christ taking our place in front of that death trap and pushing away from it in safety. His demand in the OT for animal sacrifice was simply to train the Jews and foreshadow them to look for that one who would come and push them out of disaster, if they would allow it. This metaphor at first has it's problems untill you realize that many who are rescued from downing, actually try to fight back at first, we must choose to allow God to take our place. Since he has, we have to accept that, rather than continue to stand in the way of oncoming disaster, still to be hit.


This metaphor does indeed have it's problems. For one, traditional Christian teaching continually holds that God is all powerful, but in this metaphor, his power consistently has limits.

We come back again to the issue of the fall. You assert that sin set a trap. If God is, as the Judeo-Christian tradition asserts, the all-powerful creator of the universe, why did he build the mechanisms for this trap in the first place? Assuming of course, that an all-powerful creator just allowed this to happen for whatever reason, why then did he decide that the ONLY way to fix it was death? And not just a singular, physical death, but a never-ending torment of spiritual damnation? If God is indeed all-powerful, then he sets the rules. He gets to decide what is and isn't sufficient for payment, so why such an extreme? The only other conclusion, and it seems to be the one that the tradition ACTUALLY operates under, is that the Judeo-Christian God ISN'T all-powerful and is subject to universal forces that dictate what can and cannot exist either in the spiritual or material realms.

So we have two conclusions here... 1) God is all-powerful and likes to watch his creations suffer and jump through hoops, or 2) God isn't all-powerful and is therefore not worthy of worship.


And with that, I leave you with some of the nonsense I've been having to put up with both at work and at the University. I look forward to hearing your refutations, and I will work on some of my own!
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby RevSears on Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:31 am

I don't have time to respond in full now, but I did want to pipe in and add another word in support of mere Christanity.

Some of the questions i hear you asked are also dealt with Dr. Norman Giesler in various books of his ( i have 7 or 8 of his so they blurr together I'm afraid)

The stand to reason podcast on stitcher is an excellent audio resource, and the host (Warner) also wrote a book called cold case Christianity. It's a great resource and goes a long way in making a circumstantial cause for Christianity. I think that's important to see how a legal cause can be made that wins, but doesn't have the smoking gun that some Athiests demand.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby Wowboy on Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:17 pm

Curious if anyone had anything else to add?

I've been busy trying to learn French and German this semester while teaching an online humanities course, in addition to my working full time for Northrop Grumman, so I've been restricted to very brief posts here and there.

And this place has been really dead lately :(
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby Matthew on Mon Nov 04, 2013 4:29 pm

Very dead :-). We do have a facebook page if you are on there. Kinda dead there too though :-)
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby chad_ghost on Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:08 pm

Yep. Time is a valuable commodity.
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Re: Some faith challenging questions

Postby Wowboy on Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:14 pm

Matthew wrote:Very dead :-). We do have a facebook page if you are on there. Kinda dead there too though :-)


The demands of my job don't allow me to have a facebook page... so I can't participate much on there.
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