Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:32 pm

I should take a moment to nod to Plato and Socrates. To understand where Lewis was trying to take us with his argument from desire -- we long for perfect justice, thus there must be perfect justice somewhere, though perhaps not in this life -- we need to understand something Socrates said in Apologia when he was on trial for his life. He told a story of a man who had been chained in a cave so that he could only see one wall of the cave. There were many prisoners like him. There was a powerful fire behind them, and their captor would sometimes carry shapes past the fire. The prisoners would point to the shadows and say to each other, "Oh, look: A tree. A dog. A house." and so forth. They thought that these shadows were really trees and dogs and houses.

The man somehow escaped his chains and ran out of the cave, where he saw for the first time real trees, real dogs, real houses. He was re-captured, and put back among the prisoners. He tried to explain to them that the things they saw were merely shadows, and that there were real things in the real world. So the prisoners fell on him and tore him apart with their own hands.

This is Plato's "Myth of the Cave" and belief in a more real world outside this one is called "Platonism." Lewis was of a school of thought called "Neo-Platonism," which believes that there is a more real world outside us, and it is where God is.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:44 pm

Where did this leave me? Well, Wesley Salmon had taught me syllogistic logic, and Smullyan had taught me to reason with Ad Argumentum assumptions, peeling them back when I found a contradiction. so I proposed a General Premise to myself:

GP: If God exists, then life has an objective meaning.

The Existentialists then followed with the Specific Premise: "God does not exist." But this is not an acceptable method; it leads to no conclusion. To use that Specific Premise, the General Premise would have to be:

GP: If life has meaning, then God exists.
SP: God does not exist, thus
C: Life has no meaning.

Kafka would have gladly seized on my first GP:

GP: If God exists, then life has an objective meaning.
SP: Life has no meaning
C: Therefore God does not exist.

But these two syllogisms together lead us in a circle. So there was a very big problem with this line of reasoning. No terms were ambiguous, and the conclusion properly followed from the premises, and the premises seemed iron-clad. But it was that sort of logical circle that I would later find in Tolstoy:

A = A. X = X. 0 = 0.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:54 am

Another digression here: Please excuse the break in the narrative.
Tolstoy, in _My Confession_, Ch. V., wrote: My question - that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide - was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man from the foolish child to the wisest elder: it was a question without an answer to which one cannot live, as I had found by experience. It was: "What will come of what I am doing today or shall do tomorrow? What will come of my whole life?"

Differently expressed, the question is: "Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?" It can also be expressed thus: "Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?"
Tolstoy also talks of waking up in the middle of the night to ask himself, "Is there something you are supposed to be doing (or to accomplish) in this life? If so, what?"

These things, that Tolstoy kept being asked in his internal dialog, are collectively the Question of the Meaning of Life. In science, if we wish to follow the Scientific method, the first step is to define the question. This is the question: "Why am I here? What is the point of my being here? What, if anything, am I expected to accomplish?"
Tolstoy, continuing, wrote: To this one question, variously expressed, I sought an answer in science. And I found that in relation to that question all human knowledge is divided as it were into two opposite hemispheres at the ends of which are two poles: the one a negative and the other a positive; but that neither at the one nor the other pole is there an answer to life's questions.

The one series of sciences seems not to recognize the question, but replies clearly and exactly to its own independent questions: that is the series of experimental sciences, and at the extreme end of it stands mathematics. The other series of sciences recognizes the question, but does not answer it; that is the series of abstract sciences, and at the extreme end of it stands metaphysics.
"Sciences" here includes the hard sciences at one end of his scale, and the "soft" sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology, at the other end. Neither end has an answer to the Question of the Meaning of Life.

I am nowhere near as smart as Tolstoy. I am fortunate that translators are merciful when conveying his meanings in English. I tried once to translate this book from the French version that his daughter translated from Russian, but I came to grief long before I reached this point.

Still, somehow, by some means, not yet having read Tolstoy's confession, I came to the same conclusion: That the science I learned in Nuke school was harmless as kittens to the Theology that I learned in Sunday School, and vice versa. I can't claim any great credit in reaching this conclusion; and I found it rather frustrating. I could focus my logic to tear apart a sales pitch without hardly blinking an eye. I could explain why you can't have a perpetual motion machine even before my morning coffee. But I could not place a scratch on the indoctrination of my youth. Words and truths taught to me by people who barely knew more than I did, and then only because they were holding the answer book in front of them, were impregnable against the might of my mind.

It sounds boastful to say "The might of my mind." I was not Tolstoy. I was no chess grandmaster. I was not close to Richard Feynman. But I had a strong mind and I worked it to make it stronger, and I was frustrated by an immovable object. In terms of physical strength, as an analogy: If mental strength were physical strength, I would not be able to go 12 rounds with a prizefighter. But on the hand, if we were in a bar and I told you to get out, you'd put down your drink and leave. Again, not to boast, merely to tell you what I'm working with here.

One part of my mental workout regimen was a game called "There is No Australia." I would attempt to prove to my long-suffering shipmates that there was no such place as Australia using various clever arguments, and defying them to argue me out of my position by using logic and reason. I never once lost. This game originally arose as a joke, when we had twice gone on a voyage in which we were supposed to stop in Perth, and each time circumstances diverted us. So we started to think that there was no such place as Australia. To this day, I find it useful as a tool to demonstrate principles of logic and of faith.

I can tell you some of the books I read at that time, but not all of them. I remember reading a few passages from the Koran. Richard Carrier, in one of the passages SEG quoted at me, mentioned finding a Taoist text that made perfect sense to him in a way that the Bible never did. I had the opposite experience with reading passages from the Koran. They were meaningless pseudo-religious babbling. Granted, I did not read those passages in the Original Arabic, but what I read was without the form or structure that I have spoken of in the Bible. I found nothing of substance, no grist for the mill. Since then I've studied more about the Koran, and I have come to the conclusion that as a source of truth, it's no better than the local car trader magazine. But that's another story.

I don't remember all of who or what I read. I know that it was much later in my life when a friend challenged me to read _Why I Am Not A Christian_ by Bertrand Russell. Frankly, don't waste your time on it; for a man who was so logical in everything else to be so sloppy when thinking about religion is utterly appalling. As a challenge, please explain his fig tree argument to me in a syllogism. Anyone. Please.

I do remember that I tried to cheat by finding arguments that other people had against God. In those days we didn't have the internet, so I had to go to the San Diego Public Library and find books in bookstores. I found in general that even cheating didn't help. Atheists I found were merely angry against God, like the atheists of whom Chesterton wrote in _Orthodoxy_. They were spoiled Christians, neither close enough to see the function of Christianity nor far enough from it to see it's design and beauty. I had not read Orthodoxy at that time; reading it later was another confirmation that I had made the right choice, as was reading Russell many years later. But I could not find any atheists who had grist for my mill; logical arguments for me to use in my attempt to break down the indoctrination of my youth.

So I remembered a rhetorical technique that one of my brothers used to use against me. When we argued, he would simply ask me a few questions to keep me on the defensive, explaining and explaining and explaining until finally I would say something -- usually quite peripheral and mostly unrelated to the original dispute -- that he could leap onto and hammer me with. In retrospect, it was good training; I've gotten quite good at defending ideas. But I resolved to do this with religion: I would read Christian writers until I found a problem with what they wrote.

Now, those of you who have been down this road will laugh at me. Earlier I tried to dissolve my religion in science, and now I was going to pick my religion apart until I found some piece that could be dissolved in science. But science did not change: It still was not a suitable solvent, no matter what I tried to make of the solute. I read writers like my old friend "Jack," that is, C.S. Lewis. Like Tolstoy, or even Russell, he was a mental giant compared to me. In a mental prize fight, I could make hash of an average man, but Jack could make applesauce out of me.

I read _Mere Christianity_ again. And it still made sense. I read _God in the Dock_ where Lewis put God on trial and brought charges against him -- and I could not fault him even once in bringing the charges to naught. If you think I was too soft on Old Jack, have a go at it yourself. Read _God in the Dock_ and tell me where he went wrong. Please, tell me. I read _Surprised by Joy; The Shape of my Early Life._ You'll never read a more frank and honest biography. In that book, Lewis gives his story, from his childhood and education to the day he abandoned the CoE and became an atheist, his reasoning and his relief at having no God to judge him. He reasoned, and please take note of this, that Hamlet can never speak to Shakespeare because they live in different worlds. Different universes, even. From this he concluded that he could never speak to God, nor God to Him; God was as fictional to Lewis as Hamlet.

In such a state of mind he went to war, near the end of WW1, and returned to Oxford, where he lectured on medieval literature. There he met J.R.R. Tolkein, of _Hobbit_ fame, and his son, Christopher. Both of them were Roman Catholics, but Lewis did not hold that against them. Still, he found himself surrounded by Christians, such as Owen Barfield and Walter Hooper. In time, he saw a problem with his prior reasoning about Hamlet: It might actually be possible for Hamlet to speak to Shakespeare, so long as it was Shakespeare's doing. That is, Shakespeare could write himself into the story of Hamlet as a Character, and then he and Hamlet might converse on a level basis.

That thought shook him. It smacked of the Incarnation. It made him fear that perhaps God might actually be out there, stalking him. People suggested to him that such thoughts were merely "Wish-Fulfillment" fantasies; a pop-psych term in vogue in those days. Lewis would stare down such people and ask them, "Why should a mouse wish for a cat?"

Why indeed. You see, if there were a God, then Lewis was liable for his deeds. So long as there was no God, he could live as he liked, and so long as he was mostly a good chap, well, who could complain? But God entering the picture would change everything. There is a parallel biography that Lewis wrote in 1933, called _A Pilgrim's Regress_. Make sure that you find the edition with margin notes or else the book will make little sense to you at all. It is the allegorical story of Lewis' internal path, from an indoctrinee of an inscrutable faith, through his period of uncertainty, addressing the various thoughts and ideas that held him prisoner. In one place, when he was in bondage to the Zeitgeist -- the popular psychology of his day -- A Daughter of Wisdom, dressed like Joan of Arc, rides into the realm and defies the giant (the zeitgeist) using Logic. Her three questions are worthy of note:

1. What color are the inward parts of a man?
(Answer: There is no color where there is no light).
2. By what infallible rule may a copy be distinguished from an original?
(It was claimed that the passions of a human were copies of simple carnal lusts -- back to Kafka! -- but Lewis argued that the lusts were fallen passions, and not the passions as glorified lusts)
3. A man and his enemy ride the same train to the man's home. Neither can escape the other, nor go faster nor slower. There is a bridge the train must cross. The man's wife sends word to him: Shall she tear down the bridge, that the enemy may not cross, or shall she leave the bridge, that the man may cross. What should he say?
(Answer: The bridge is Logic and Reason. The Zeitgeist cannot both pretend to use reason and also tear it down.)

Lewis then finds himself in the house of Wisdom, and the remainder of the book, until the climax, involves his investigations of various schools of thought, seeking one that will save him from religion. In the end, the only way to reach the place he desires to be is through the church.

And again, I could find no fault in him. Okay, he was hung up on arguing against some of the ideas prevalent in his day, which are now obsolete and outdated, but his logic was sound. I was not finding a toehold to tear down his logic.

There were smart people on both sides of the aisle, but the Christians were scoring all the points, while the atheists were merely mocking and making faces. I was starting to see a preponderance of evidence in one direction.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:44 am

I will pause at this point and address a thought from the opening post. SEG suggested four explanations for my Christian Faith and I summarized them thus:
Og3 wrote:1. I was thoroughly and completely indoctrinated, and by using confirmation bias, am now blindly convinced of Christianity -- which would essentially be the sort of Kripkean Dogmatism that I talked about in the "New Proposition" thread, on the very first post;
2. I saw someone recover from near death and made a sudden inductive assumption that God caused it;
3. I was a sinner doing bad things and my friends told me to "Get Right or Get Left" causing me to have an epiphany;
4. I think I reasoned out God, but really just confirmed all my biases while deceiving myself.
So at this point, I think we can decide whether the predictions are correct. The things speaks for itself.

1. I was indeed well and thoroughly indoctrinated. But I think that the charge of confirmation bias and of blind assumptions -- Kripkean Dogmatism -- fail utterly. Indeed, if I were merely blindly asserting my belief in defiance of all logic, what would be the point in my having taught you logic? Why would I carefully show you all the tools of reason if my reason were but blind assumptions?

And I have laid bare the path that down which my reason took me. You see above what I read and what I gleaned from that reading. Now there may be some who can find flaws in my thoughts, and I would welcome those. But no one can allege that I did not expend the full power and force of my intellect in pursuit of the raw and unvarnished truth about God.

So Charge 1 fails. Wrong.
Charge 2, sorry, simply wrong.
Charge 3, well, I've been a sinner, and I still am -- Romans 3:10 and 3:23 you know. But it wasn't some moral crisis that brought me back into the fold. Wrong.
Charge 4... Well, I do think I reasoned out God. I think that the path I've explained above is a clear, reasonable and logical progression to the point where I found myself at that time. I can honestly say that I did not deceive myself. So, again, wrong.

The story will continue. There's more to say. But I think we can dispense with the charges that SEG pre-supposed as how I came to be the Christian I am today.

But since we've digressed this far, let's go one further:

I tell you, and I think you can see, that I am a smart man. And further, I have invested the full force and power of my not-inconsiderable intellect against this problem. From time to time, SEG suggests that I am a gullible fool. I think that we can dispense with that idea as well. You have seen that I consider ideas carefully, and do not blindly accept all that I am told. And you see how my mind works.

So some of you will be left with a conundrum. Here is a smart man, who reasons well (perhaps I flatter myself) and yet he believes in the Christian God. He's not a gullible fool; he seems to be guided by reason. So perhaps the Christian God is a reasonable inference.

You can escape the point.
Perhaps I'm not so smart after all.
Perhaps I'm lying about reading those books, and you should read them yourself to find where I'm bluffing.
Perhaps I'm lying about how logic works.
Perhaps I'm a figment of your fevered imagination.

But suppose you were to take those principles that I set for myself in the early posts -- That a man is obligated to believe what is true, and that a man should not discard an idea until he can tell where it went wrong. Can you find a place where my reason went wrong? Where I'm lying, thinking poorly, being illogical?

Don't kneejerk here and say "Oh God of the Gaps, and you're Assuming God, Begs the Question!" Really, none of those apply. I've told you how I got to the main point of the crisis, so IF you can legitimately, logically, show a place where my reason failed, then by all means, say so.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:49 am

To finish on Lewis: He eventually made the concession that he should become a Deist. It was reluctant, begrudging, and against his will, but it was where his logic led him. Later, during a motorcycle ride, he got into a sidecar as a deist and got out convinced that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Exactly where and how that happened, he could not say. I urge you to read anything that he wrote. You won't be disappointed.

Coming next:
The great crisis and its resolution
The confirmations
The catalog of experiences.

With those three steps, I hope to have completed a sufficiently thorough testimony, and I shall turn the matter over to the judges.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:42 pm

So where did Lewis and other writers leave me?

I had this one proposition that I could not dispose of, namely, that the religion of my youth was in fact true and correct. Now, I was willing to grant a small degree of severability, based on the fact that I knew the faith and the Bible not to be monoliths. Otherwise, I could simply have scanned until I found a misplaced semi-colon and blown the whistle -- "Look! A semi-colon that should be a colon! Foul!" -- but I was looking for a reasonable inference, and not an excuse to dismiss. An example of this would be in, for example, Genesis 41:49, in which Joseph gathered corn. Corn was not known in Egypt ca. 2000 BC/BCE, thus Joseph could not gather corn.

But Corn is the term used here by the KJV translators of 1611, who knew corn. They should have said "wheat," and elsewhere in the Bible Strong's word H1250 is translated as "Wheat." So while that would seem to be a contradiction, it was not. I was willing to sever errors like that in translation, and still retain the intended meanings. And I believe that this is the reasonable approach, whether we are interpreting ancient texts on the Sunday newspaper.

That proposition --the religion of my youth -- had a certain amount of support, in that there were some very smart writers, such as Lewis, who endorsed it. I could have called Lewis a gullible old fool and thrown out his writings, but honestly, the man was extremely smart, extremely well-read, and extremely logical. It would have been pretty horribly arrogant of me to say that I, a fool on a ship, knew more than the careful reasoning of an Oxford Lecturer and later Cambridge Don -- First Chair of the Cambridge Department of Medieval and Renaissance literature. On the other side of the aisle, however, were very smart men like Bertrand Russell.

But in Russell I found nothing but scoffing and ridicule, and formed a new personal rule: Ridicule is not refutation.

An aside here: People sometimes refer to the logical process called Reductio Ad Absurdum, or the reduction to absurdity, and believe that it means that if you can laugh at something, it must be false. That is simply WRONG. The Reductio refers to Logical Absurdity, that is, contradiction. It works like this:

Sign A: Only this sign is true.
Sign B: Both signs are true.

To use the Reductio here to disprove sign B, we would say, "Suppose Ad Argumentum (for the sake of the argument) that Sign B is true. Then that would mean that sign A is also true. But sign A implicitly states that sign B is false. Thus if sign B is true, then it is also false; this is a contradiction, also called an absurdity; therefore sign B is false."

So you see that Sign B is false because it can be reduced to an absurdity, that is, a contradiction. (Incidentally, I learned such riddles at the hand of Smullyan, from his The Lady or the Tiger. Salmon, in his Logic, taught me what to call that sort of thing.)

Thus, merely being able to scoff at a thing, or to say that it is silly, is insufficient to prove it wrong. Thus Bertrand Russell, boiled down, really said nothing of relevance.

I hadn't yet read Tolstoy's Confession, only his War and Peace. But I had to agree with him that if Life had meaning, it came from outside. Solomon and Kafka had convinced me that there was no meaning to be found from within this life, and watching Camus struggle with the same question, and having no better explanation for why Mersault shot the Arab five times than to simply say, "C'etait chaud..." Well, if life had meaning, it came from somewhere outside this life.

GP: If life has meaning, then it comes from outside of this life.

I did, and I do, believe that life has an objective meaning. I think that most people believe this, though few can say why. It just seems like there's more to this life than what we see. If there's no objective meaning, then there's no justice; It's just a word we use to fight for more of what we want. If there's no objective meaning then there's no love; it's just a word we use for how we get what we want from other people, using them to trigger our chemical release of endorphins.

Lewis remarked on this in Mere Christianity. He says, "Mankind is the only species afraid of the bones of its own kind." I have had avowed atheists tell me in one breath that there is nothing spiritual and nothing numinous, then in the next breath tell me of their encounter with a ghost. I've had an atheist tell me that he embraced Taoism, and then quickly retreat: Not all the spiritual taproot and yin/yang business, you understand, but only the philosophical aspects. This would be like someone saying that they embraced Christianity, but only the moral teachings, you know, like Jefferson -- If you've read the New Testament, you know what mental gymnastics Jefferson had to undertake to subtract the spiritual teachings from the moral.

So if there is nothing numinous, nothing objective, nothing spiritual, why do we feel that there should be? Lewis compared this to a fish realizing that it was wet. How would a fish know that it was wet unless it also realized that somewhere there is a place where things are dry? And from this Lewis argued for his NeoPlatonist views, which we talked about above.

I was not ready to plunge back into Christianity just because Lewis did. I did find that I had to concede that there was something to this religion thing, because how else would a fish know that he was wet? Why else would men fear the bones of other men? Why else would we find graveyards a bit spooky, or even have a word that means spooky?

So I began to examine religions.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:34 pm

Another digression is necessary, so that we can dispose of a very silly thing that people sometimes say: "All religions are the same." This may be expressed as "God has many names" or "There's more than one holy book" or "We are all climbing Mount Fuji from different sides." I am sorry, but that is just ignorant nonsense. And here's why:

If all religions are the same, then the Amish who live in peace with God, man, and nature, who will not lift a punitive finger against their livestock, are on the same level of spiritual integrity as the Mayans, who ripped the beating hearts of their enemies from their chests. That is an absurdity; a contradiction in terms. Now, there is one way that "All religions can be the same" and that is if they are all false. Then their incompatibilities are meaningless. But if we say that, then we need not mention religion at all: It reduces to atheism.

Since the question under examination is: "If, ad absurdum, a religion is correct, which one is it?" to say "None" was a solution of exclusion; that is, only when all had been examined could that be the answer.

And this did give me an out, logically speaking. If I could assert that no religion was correct, then I had a bar against Lewis' assertion that mankind is afraid of the bones of his own kind. I could claim a draw, or a stalemate, and retreat with honor from the field, having not won but also having not lost. So I examined religions.

I quickly disposed of all religions not in current practice. My logic was this:

GP: If there is a god, then he has been worshiped from ancient times until today.
SP: Many ancient religions have fallen into abeyance.
C: Thus they are wrong.

Now, you can attack the GP here, but the method is solid, and no terms is ambiguous. So I remain confident of this syllogism.

The gods of Egypt, of Greece, of Rome, of Norway, of Syrio-Phoenicia and Carthage (THANK GOD!) all fell by the wayside.

Left Standing:
Pantheistic religions, Abrahamic religions, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto.

I took another logical sieve and sifted them again:

1. Only this religion (x) is true.
2. Both this religion (y) and the one above is true.

Any religion with an exclusivity clause can be placed in the first premise as "x;" any religion that embraces another can be placed in the second as "y;" and we will find ourselves in the same place we were when we talked about Reduction to absurdity, above.

Christianity is exclusive: John 14:6 tells us, in pertinent part, "... No man comes to the Father but by me."
Judaism is exclusive: Isaiah 43:10 tells us, in pertinent part, "... Before Me there was no God formed, / And there will be none after Me."
Islam is exclusive: The Salaat tells us "There is no god but allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."

Shinto tells us that you may be Shinto and another religion, such as Christian.
Hare Krshna tells us that you may use "Christ Consciousness" to achieve "nirvana."
Hinduism and Buddhism teach that what you actually call your religion is not important, so long as it follows the eight-fold path.

To my knowledge, Confucianism and Taoism say nothing with respect to exclusivity.

So pantheism is eliminated, and with it Shinto.

Earlier, I had accepted as a general premise that the meaning of life comes from without this life.

GP: If life has meaning, then it comes from outside of this life.

Confucianism and Taoism both involve the acceptance of this life and the flow of energy. They do not acknowledge an external meaning, nor a personal God. In what may be called a pun, I asked myself, "If life has meaning, doesn't that imply that there is someone who means it?" My point here is like that of Socrates, when he answered the charge that he was an atheist: "Can a man believe in horsemanship and not believe in horses?"

I posited that the Confucian and Taoist faiths were like believing in horsemanship without believing in horses, and because of that contradiction, I excluded them.

I was left with the Abrahamic religions.

But there was a second screen in my second sieve. Islam was clear in its exclusivity, and yet, Islam acknowledges Issa (Jesus) and calls him a great prophet. It states that he was the greatest of men, born from a virgin (in the narrowest sense), prophesied while still in the womb, and gave life to clay doves. No one else in Islam is attributed with such qualities; not even Mohammad himself.

1. Only this religion (x) is true.
2. Both this religion (y) and the one above is true.
C: Religion y, Islam, is false.

But even if we reject that reduction to absurdity, we are faced with another paradox: Islam states that Jesus (Issa) was a prophet and a great man, but merely human. The very big problem with that is this: Jesus was not a great human. Chesterton makes this clear in The Everlasting Man, Lewis in Mere Christianity, and finally McDowell summarizes it in More than a Carpenter. Either Jesus was the most evil of humans, or else He was God incarnate. You can't have it both ways.

So I was left with Judaism and Christianity. Like I would later find in G.K.Chesterton, I was the navigation impaired explorer who traveled thousands of miles, planted a flag on a beach to claim it for God and King, and then discovered that it was Brighton Beach, and that I was not the first, but merely the last to set foot there.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:50 pm

I can explain easily why I rejected Judaism, and why I did so gently.

Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. The Maschiah, Coming King, Suffering Servant, Son of Man, Son of God, Son of David, Priest after the Order of Melchizedek -- I already knew Him. I had met Him in my earliest childhood, and had played on the grounds of His house. I had eaten his bread and drank his wine, just like Abraham before me.

The entire book of Hebrews discusses this idea, so I will not confound the words of Barnabas by filtering them through my own keyboard. Suffice it to say that I had come full circle.

Now, I might have rejected the New Testament at this point, but I had already done studies, years before, on the reliability of the scriptures. I had nowhere to run. I was faced by Jesus of Nazareth saying "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and "Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am" and admitting to the sanhedrin, when forced to speak against the charge, that "As thou sayest, and truly I tell you, that you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the father." I knew what he had done when Peter had called him the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He did not tear his clothes, as blasphemy required; He instead praised Peter, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to him. When Thomas fell to his knees and cried out, "My Lord and My God!" Jesus accepted this title also, and received his worship. When Pilate asked, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "It is as you say, but my Kingdom is not of this world."

Lewis makes it clear in _Mere Christianity_ that there are three things we can believe: That He was a cruel and evil demoniac, That he was as insane as a man who thinks he is a poached egg, or that He was the Son of God.

The first two were excluded for me. I had read the writings of the Wise King. I understood how the eye is the window of the soul, and how by worry a man cannot add one hair to his head. These were not the sayings of a demoniac nor a lunatic.

And so I knelt one night in a dark room near the Fo'c's'l of the ship -- the transverse room just abaft frame 54, if you're familiar with Knox-class. There I recommitted my life to Jesus, the only begotten son of God, who is Lord of All, and has come to Earth in the flesh.

That was the end of my intellectual struggle: Across the seas and back to find myself where I started: In the arms of Mother Kirk.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:19 pm

Now, in confirmation that I had made the right choice:

On my next leave from the Navy -- Sailors in those days were given 30 days of leave in every calendar year, as compensation for being away from home port for possibly extended periods -- I found a new world. Some of my friends had formed a college fellowship for Christians, and a certain house on the West of town was filled with young Christians night and day. There Iopened a Bible at random and stumbled onto this passage, from Isaiah, 500 years before Christ:
[Isa 53:1-12 NASB]
1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no [stately] form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being [fell] upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [was due?]
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting [Him] to grief; If He would render Himself [as] a guilt offering, He will see [His] offspring, He will prolong [His] days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see [it and] be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.
It floored me. Who does the prophet describe, if not Jesus, pierced through for our transgressions, and silent before his accusers, being scourged that we may be healed, numbered with transgressors, but with a rich man in his death, a guilt offering, but he will see his offspring and will prosper -- how if he is dead, except that he be resurrected again.

Now you will say to me: Don't use the Bible to prove the Bible! I am not; I am showing how the Spirit brought this Word to life within me as I read it. I do not expect you to feel as I did on reading this passage, but to me, as I read it, the Spirit said, "See? You were right. You chose well." No audible voice, but the overwhelming feeling of assurance and confidence.

This happened again in another passage, this time a Psalm of David, 1000 years before it happened, and 500 years before crucifixion was invented:
Psa 22:1-19 NASB] 1 For the choir director; upon Aijeleth Hashshahar. A Psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
2 O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest.
3 Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4 In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them.
5 To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, [saying,]
8 "Commit [yourself] to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."
9 Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust [when] upon my mother's breasts.
10 Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb.
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong [bulls] of Bashan have encircled me.
13 They open wide their mouth at me, As a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;
18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
This is pretty much a subjective first-person description of crucifixion, and Psalm 22:1 is one of the things Jesus said on the cross: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.

Again, I had to stop and ask my friends, "Hey, have you read this?" And again I found myself amazed at the prophetic word. The Bible spoke to me through this passage: I knew beyond knowing that the Spirit was confirming my decision to follow Christ.

Yes, in this post I'm telling you of emotional and subjective personal spiritual evidence, but again,nothing in this post is meant to convince you of anything. I am including it only because it was a part of my spiritual journey, and I want that to be complete.

There was intellectual confirmation as well. A year or two later, when I read Tolstoy's Confession, I said to myself, "Yes, I knew it!" because Tolstoy confirmed what I already knew: There is no meaning without God, the assumption that there is no God is an error because it makes every equation an identity, and there is only one bridge connecting the finite to the infinite: The church. To connect the finite and the infinite, we must have the infinite in our equations.

I read Perelandra, and it made sense to me. I had been carried along by that stream just like the Green Lady, and in reading that book, Maleldil made me older.

Later still I read Till We Have Faces, a book I had started and lost in library of my local college before all of this began. I read Chesterton's The Everlasting Man, and still the Spirit tells me that the words in it are true, even as my mind tests Chesterton's reasoning.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:01 am

Now, I hesitate to catalog my experiences, but because I said that I would, I will. We are not to cast our pearls before swine, to be trampled into the mud, after all.

Understand, my intellectual journey, above, is sufficient without these. I could leave it there and you would have my testimony: All the essential parts. Also, and let's be clear: I don't expect you to accept what I tell you here. This happened to me, and I read it in this way, and you can argue P-values until we all expire of old age. But these things, along with my intellectual journey, help to confirm it to my mind.

On one occasion I prayed and saw God. It was, for me, a time of spiritual coldness, and I was going through rituals of prayer, not expecting any supernatural confirmation. I knelt at an altar, knowing it to be a wooden frame with fake leather stretched over it at a convenient height to rest one's elbows. I was wide awake, not under the influence of any substance, not sleep-deprived, not hungry, in good health physically and emotionally, and there was nothing to make me think that I was psychotic, delusional, or hallucinating.

And yet when I closed my eyes I was kneeling in the throne room of God, at his feet, afraid to look up at Him. At his right hand stood Jesus Christ. And to my trembling soul there seemed to be a message: "Are you through fooling around?"

I opened my eyes at once and the vision was gone; still I trembled. With a burst of determination, I closed my eyes, and once more transported to the throne-room of Almighty God, I said a prayer of three words -- the shortest I could compose under the circumstances -- then I quickly got up and moved hastily back to my seat. A friend later chided me: "Why did you even go up there? You barely even knelt then you got up and came back!" I had no words.

There was no lost time, no swoon, no dream: The friend confirmed the brevity of the experience. I am sure that the right drugs or the right electromagnetic environment could make me feel that presence and that message in a similar fashion -- but there were no drugs, and no electromagnets.

I don't expect you to be convinced. I expect you to say, "Pfft. Og, you just had a hypnogogic hallucination! Happens all the time." And you are welcome to believe that. But I saw what I saw.

God spoke to me through the radio. It was during my period of depression, and I was driving in my car. It was a Country/Western station, and the announcer stated that the next song was a dedication. I said, as a game, "I'll pretend it's a message for me." I knew it wasn't but I was going to see what if it was, like opening a fortune cookie. The song was "On the Wings of a Dove," a song about God's love for me.

Even though I was walking apart from Him, and even though I wasn't sure I believed in Him, that song broke my heart. I started weeping uncontrollably, and had to park my car until I was able to stop sobbing. It is uncharacteristic for me to be so emotional, but I was literally out of control at that moment.

On another occasion, God spoke to me through His word. In fact, more than once. One one occasion, I had just lost my job and was worried about my immediate future. The announcer at the Christian radio station (another radio!) read a verse and that said,
Matt. 6:26, NASB:
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"
I said to myself, "Alright, that fits my circumstance, but it doesn't make me feel any better." and I continued to work out if I had enough money to pay bills at the end of the month, and where to look for another job. Later, it happened again:

I was teaching Sunday School in those days, for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders (6-8 years old). I opened the teacher book to study the lesson (didn't want one of those tykes to outsmart me, after all) and discovered that the passage we were teaching that week was Matthew 6:25-33. Which includes v.26, and goes on to make the same point several more times. I shook my head and said, "Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is conspiracy."

That Friday, I was going to a men's church event, and overnight camp at a nearby lodge. On Friday night, before the speaker started, we were all sitting around, and for no reason whatsoever, a man sitting directly in front of me -- a man named BIRD -- spontaneously remarked: "My favorite verse in the entire Bible is Matthew 6:26, "Behold the BIRDs of the air, that do not sow, neither do they reap, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them." He grinned. "I've always thought that had a personal application for me."

So I said in my heart, "Okay, God. I get it. You've got this under control." After all, three times that verse was in front of me, the last time from a man named Bird. It seemed pretty clear that God wanted me to learn from the Birds. Okay, so what's the P-value of that? Well, there are 23,000 or so verses in the entire Bible.Take out the begats and verses that couldn't be relevant in any way, and you're down to say, 15,000. Trim it again to verse you're likely to teach to 3rd graders, call it 10,000. So 10,000^3= 1:100,000,000,000. Not too unlikely, I suppose...

But again, it was a message to me, not to you. Doubt it if you want; you won't hurt my feelings.

And two weeks later I got a job I had applied for. I'd been applying for different jobs for months, from long before I lost my job. It was like dropping rocks into the ocean. But this job came just when I needed it, and just after God had assured me that He had it under control.

There are others. There are times I've prayed and almost as soon as I spoke there was an answer in my mind. There are times someone has spoken to me and it seemed as if certain of their words were aimed at me in a different context. There are times I've read something in a book, and the next day at church someone will come up to me and start talking about that book. There have been times a pastor's sermon was so clearly aimed at me that I started suspecting he'd been reading my mail.

Again, not convincing to you: Not supposed to be. But I have felt the hand of God, and am convinced that He has acted in my life. You may disagree and if you do, you have a right to be wrong.

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