Grasping Our Reason To Live

MODERN EMPIRICISM AND OUR REASON TO LIVE

Although some of us give up immediately while others do not, every one of us searches for a reason to endure after tragedy strikes. Through spiritual intuition, humans are able to perceive there to be a truth as to why we are here, on a plane of existence concurrent with the experience of pain. This perception of truth acts as an intrinsic, internal compass, insisting there must be more to this existence. Our internal compass is not lying: the truth is, we are here for a reason. Pain seeps in when it feels as though we can’t seem discover what that reason is in our spirit, making the suffering we experience more intolerable, and seemingly less purposeful.

When we can’t seem to understand what our purpose is — what reason we are here for — we have a tendency to fill in the blanks with anything we can to make sense out of our confusion; even if the reason we conjure is an incarnation of merely settling, and not a purpose we find soulful and fulfilling. We do this by using logic and reasoning to help us deduce why we might not be here for, such as, for example— we are not here just to experience pain and then die. We can’t accept that as a truth (nor should we), so we may use logic, which tells us, “If I am going to experience so much pain, I should at least enjoy myself.” There is an aspect to this approach which hinders on our ability to lead a more fulfilling life, and I will explore that in this article. 

THE PROBLEM BETWEEN FAITH AND LOGIC

When we turn to relying solely on ratiocination to make sense of life, two titans of existentialism—purpose and meaning—lose substance. Purpose finds value in places such as the awe-inspiring beauty of the sky, the delicate nature of a butterfly’s movements, or the humbling treasure of a child’s playful laugh—because purpose does not measure by size; rather, it measures by significance

While logic is powered by strict principles confined to this world, purpose is birthed by the ethereal breath of God. Logic and reason may be perspectives through which purpose can be considered—but logic, by itself, cannot explicate the complex mechanism that is life, and simultaneously comprehend the intrinsic aspirations of the soul. When we search for life’s purpose by only using the criterial facets of logic, the search will culminate in disappointment, because the very nature of logic fails to grasp the depth of purpose, nor its measurement of quality.

THE BOND OF PURPOSE WITH FAITH

Logic’s failure to understand the soul is evidenced by its inability to comprehend the significance of purpose. Purpose demands a higher calling for life’s meaning than any intellectual explanation can offer because it is fueled by the substance of faith. Let me explain.

Faith instills a meaningful dimension within our soul nothing else is able to match. When we rely solely on a source outside of faith, the missing interaction between faith and intellect ends up forcing us to turn to the empty, limited verisimilitude of reason. This is what I faced during the stint leading up to my discovery of faith: I came to a breaking point, where I decided if I could not find an authentic reason to keep living, I would end my life. If you have not already, you may read my testimony here. Years later, the wisdom I learned was that logic cannot answer our question of purpose, but faith can.

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR US

Purpose and a meaningful life are particularly fond terms in Christianity. There are two ways to view purpose: Self-determined purpose, built on the tragedy of hedonism; or, on the other hand, God’s purpose for us, birthed from His sovereignty and selfless love.

Our purpose on Earth is to be in relationship with God through Christ. To enter into this purpose, a believer is called to surrender himself to Jesus (Luke 9:23). When a believer resists Christ’s invitation to surrender his life, he denies himself the blessing and fruit of a transformative relationship, planting in his spirit the seed leading to a relationship with the world, in which every rock will be overturned (Mark 13:2).

ACTIVELY SEEKING CHRIST

Logic’s disappointing limitations are evidence enough that relying on it to discover purpose will undermine our search altogether. Instead, we can discover purpose by relying on our relationship with Jesus. Furthermore, we can be assured of the strength of that relationship — and, consequently, the veracity of our purpose — by the manner in which we actively seek Him; His love overcoming our selfishness, His humility exposing our pride; His omnipresence refocusing our loneliness on His unceasing attention to our deepest needs, and His invitation for us to be truly known by belonging to a community of people who live, serve, and love each other by His grace. 

SHARING JESUS WITH THE WORLD

Not everyone’s eyes will open, not all ears will hear, but that cannot stop us from sharing the word of God with the whole world. A Christian is set apart from the world by how he loves others (John 13:35). The sheep know their shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). When we hear Jesus calling, we open the door and let Him in to eat with us, and us with Him (Revelations 3:20). It isn’t our decision, whether or not someone will hear Jesus’s call. We are called to be obedient unto Christ, and that is the command we are to follow. Let others witness the power of His Good News in our words and actions, and may He who gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) soften theirs towards Him as well, in Jesus name. 

CONNECT WITH ME

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20 thoughts on “Grasping Our Reason To Live

  1. “First off, God finishes the work He starts in us (Philippians 1:6). This is a promise. If He has started work in your soul, He will finish that work. A person who considers the faith and thinks about the faith but never walks the walk is somewhere between an agnostic and a pagan—but not a Christian. It is entirely unbiblical to say that Jesus claimed us but that the invitation wasn’t strong enough to keep us walking through the narrow gate. Jesus compels the soul (2 Corinthians 5:14), and there is no “realizing later on” that Jesus is fake unless we never understood He was real.”

    OK, what about someone like me (and the tens of thousands who’s stories are similar to mine), who accepted Jesus at 17 and spent the next 10 years attending church regularly, prayed daily, studied the bible, consistently gave of my money and time, taught Sunday School, agonized over “sin”, sought guidance from God in all things, fellow-shipped at every opportunity with believers, avoided situations that could lead to temptations – then – spent the next 15 years agonizing over the seeming lack of contact with God, prayed without any effect, hoped for some relief from the God I had believed in and worshiped for so long, observed my fellow believers going about their daily lives as if all was well, yet not seeming to be affected by their sin and lack of empathy for their fellow travelers.

    In a nutshell – I could find no evidence in my life – OR – the lives of my fellow Christians, that any of us were being moved or motivated by a supernatural God…and that is one of the reasons I became an atheist 17 years ago, after 25 years of belief – the only detectable difference between a Christian (you) and an atheist (me) is what they believe. And that belief has so little affect on the daily life of the Christian that they are unrecognizable in line at the grocery store. There is nothing about them that signifies a god is in control of their life. The only way I would suspect they are a Christian is if a small cross was hanging from a chain around their neck, or if they just happened to open their mouth and say something about God, Jesus, or church.

    You could have saved a lot of blog space if you just proclaimed, “They were never ‘true’ Christians to begin with” [yawn].

    If you desire to, or do not care whether you insult former believers or ex-Christians, then just say that. The next time you are in line at the grocery store, and you ask the person in front of you if they know Jesus (which I am confident you never do) and if they respond that they used to be a Christian but are now an atheist – just say “You were never a ‘true’ Christian” and see how the conversation progresses for you.

    “One of the most constant characteristics of beliefs is their intolerance. The stronger the belief, the greater its intolerance. Men dominated by a certitude cannot tolerate those who do not accept it.
    ~ Gustave Le Bon 1911

    r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

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    1. Bob, I really appreciate your comment because it tells me where you are on your own walk of faith, which appears to be unbelief at the moment. Your response also tells me how you receive a message such as the one delivered here. I would like to first say how I empathize with your frustrations and disappointments in believers whose only noticeable sign of faith is the emblem of the cross they wear more for show than as an important symbol of their faith walk. I can tell you that you are not alone in witnessing this truth; so many people masquerading under the title of “Christian” while living like anything BUT that. The disappointment in this truth is real, and it’s damaging to the world of unbelievers, such as yourself, who would likely be refreshed to find someone who stands out as a true follower of Christ in both action and in “title.”
      With regards to your words on the first 25 years of belief to 17 years of disbelief, I cannot say many words because I don’t know every detail of your story, and much is missing to make an astute observation. I don’t know how much trust you had in God at the time you were a believer, nor do I know how much time you devoted to “rituals” instead of intimate prayer/worship/quieting yourself to hear Him speak to you personally. I know none of these details of your past experience, and I know based on first-hand experience of my own faith walk with Christ that these are the pivotal differences between a believer and any person just reading the Bible without context, intention, worship, curiosity, sincerity, or faith. Reading the Bible without these—which is how I used to read it before I became a believer at 22—changes everything about the experience of reading it. The Bible comes alive with these differences, and remains lifeless without them. One person can read the Bible as merely a book while another person reads the Bible and is wholly transformed by a change in how they perceive the words—because life only comes to those who seek it. “Seek and you shall find,” (Matthew 7:7) is really as simple as it gets. If you seek and don’t find, try again. Jesus never preached about giving up.

      It’s true that the mark of a Christian is not, “If you turned away from your faith, then you were never a believer to begin with,” for the mark of a Christian is compassion, love, and grace. I would rather ask, “So how do you see Jesus now, and how did you arrive at the conclusion you have at this moment? How would you LIKE to see Jesus?” These questions are more important and more true than judgmental statements like “You were never a believer.” Who am I to tell someone what they did or didn’t/do or don’t believe? That isn’t the context of the words in my article. I am not telling any one unbeliever, “You were never a believer!” My words merely state an observation, rather than labelling anyone’s walk. What I am saying in my article is that those who truly fall away from their faith were never absolutely sure of theirs to begin with. Surely, someone seeking Jesus would not give up, just as one does not give up on a close companion they long to know and understand more deeply. If for 25 years straight you’re telling me you never heard from God even once in any form or capacity (nature, inner voice of God Himself, a prayer from a friend, a sense of the spirit when reading Scripture, etc.), then I would question your motivations to hear Him speak. I would question how much of yourself and this world you surrendered to hear His beautiful whispers. I would question how much faith you had in what you studied, and if the reason you studied was because of obligation or because of desire. Again, I do not know your personal experiences/intentions, only what you have told me, and also what I know to be true from my own walk. If you tried for a quarter century and never heard from Him/perceived Him, what does that tell you about your pursuit of Him? I will let you consider that question for yourself, Bob—you do NOT have to answer ME. I truly hope you can come to see that your decision to turn to unbelief was not caused by God’s non-existence or disappearing, it was a choice you made on our own behalf. You could have continued to try pursuing Him, and yet you did not. That is not evidence or proof in His non-existence, but in your stubbornness not to try again. God never gives up on us; why do we give up on Him? I would heavily urge you to reach out and seek His voice in your life again. I truly hope you will, but that is obviously not a decision I can make for you. I hope you will make the best choice.
      God bless, Bob.

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      1. YOU – “I empathize with your frustrations and disappointments in believers whose only noticeable sign of faith is the emblem of the cross they wear more for show than as an important symbol of their faith walk. I can tell you that you are not alone in witnessing this truth; so many people masquerading under the title of “Christian” while living like anything BUT that.”

        You misunderstand my point, but that’s to be expected since we are not face to face – when I was a believer, I was disappointed in my personal lack of any sign that I actually had a “relationship” with God, and I was also disappointed in the apparent lack of said relationship my fellow believers had with God – but – now, as a non believer, I am NOT disappointed in the Christians I observe. They are not bad people or behaving badly. They just do not exhibit any particular behavior or attitude traits that I find are in any way EVIDENCE that they have something that I should want or need. Just like I have not read anything you have said that makes me say – “Hey, I want what he has”. That doesn’t make you a bad person, you just don’t give me any “sense” that you have something special. You are just a Christian.

        YOU – “I don’t know every detail of your story, and much is missing to make an astute observation.”

        So…you either have to take my word for it, that I genuinely believed in God, and trusted Jesus to save me from my sins, and repented from my worldly ways…or…speculate?

        YOU – “I don’t know how much trust you had in God at the time you were a believer…”

        Are there degree’s of trust? If I trusted in God 70% and you trusted 90%, does that mean you were more “saved” than I was? Tell me “how much trust” do you have in God. Give me a number…

        YOU – “…nor do I know how much time you devoted to “rituals” instead of intimate prayer/worship/quieting yourself to hear Him speak to you personally…”

        Again, you can either take my word for it or not, but my Christian life was anything but rituals. I despised rituals and established church traditions. I am going to guess you have not read of Rees Howells (Intercessor), or Richard Wurmbrand (In Gods Underground), or David Brainerd (An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd ). If not, read on them and you will understand what I wanted my Christian walk to be like. I wept as I read of their lives.

        YOU – “…reading the Bible without context, intention, worship, curiosity, sincerity, or faith. Reading the Bible without these—which is how I used to read it before I became a believer at 22—changes everything about the experience of reading it.”

        Well, perhaps I had all my fellow church members fooled, my close friends who I met with weekly and prayed openly, my pastor who would call on me to pray before the congregation, my friend Scott who I met with every week for a year to study the bible, my evangelist friend Don who would met with me when he was not preaching out of town, and we would share our recent experiences in our “walk with Christ”. But because I no longer have Christian beliefs, you have to assume that I never actually, truly believed.

        YOU – “Who am I to tell someone what they did or didn’t/do or don’t believe? That isn’t the context of the words in my article. I am not telling any one unbeliever, “You were never a believer!”

        You didn’t come right out and say it – but there is a very large gap between the lines. You know what you believe so you might as well be completely honest and say it.

        YOU – “This is a promise. If He has started work in your soul, He will finish that work.”

        In other words – if you were truly saved, you are still saved. If you truly believed, you would still believe.

        YOU – “A person who considers the faith and thinks about the faith but never walks the walk is somewhere between an agnostic and a pagan—but not a Christian.”

        But what about the person LIKE ME and so many others, who DID “walk the walk” but came to the conclusion that they had no good reason to believe in God / Jesus in the first place, and gave it up?

        YOU – “It is entirely unbiblical to say that Jesus claimed us but that the invitation wasn’t strong enough to keep us walking through the narrow gate.”

        Perhaps it is “unbiblical”. I am governed by logic and rational thought, not the dictates in a 2,000 year old religious book edited by men of unknown or questionable beliefs. I don’t care if it’s biblical or not, it’s simply true – people begin to believe in absurd claims and people cease to believe in absurd claims. Of course I was never “truly” saved to begin with – salvation is a myth! I wasn’t saved then and you are not saved now – it’s just a religious belief…and I did believe it but I don’t now.

        YOU – “What I am saying in my article is that those who truly fall away from their faith were never absolutely sure of theirs to begin with.”

        And yet, I was absolutely sure I would spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus when I died, as did many, many thousands of former Christians.

        YOU – “Surely, someone seeking Jesus would not give up…”

        There you go again – if I gave up I must have not been “truly seeking Jesus”…For someone who is not saying something, you sure say it a lot.

        YOU – “If for 25 years straight you’re telling me you never heard from God even once in any form or capacity (nature, inner voice of God Himself, a prayer from a friend, a sense of the spirit when reading Scripture, etc.), then I would question your motivations to hear Him speak.”

        Oh, I BELIEVED I heard from him at the time…”that still small voice tugging at my heart”…but no, I came to realize that it was simply wishful thinking masquerading as the Holy Spirit. It was all in my mind. it was the result of religious indoctrination.

        YOU – “I would question how much of yourself and this world you surrendered to hear His beautiful whispers.”

        Puh-lease!

        YOU – “I would question how much faith you had in what you studied, and if the reason you studied was because of obligation or because of desire.”

        Of course you would question my motivations. The problem can not possibly be that all of your Christian experiences are the results of ignoring the negatives and focusing on the positives. In your mind, the problem has to be me. That is why you can not fathom the idea that I was once just like you – a sincere believer and follower of Jesus the Christ.

        YOU – “If you tried for a quarter century and never heard from Him/perceived Him, what does that tell you about your pursuit of Him?”

        It tells me that I honestly and genuinely sought Jesus for almost half my life and what I got in return was SILENCE!
        It tells me that the invisible and the non existent often look very much alike.
        WHAT DOES MY 25 YEAR PURSUIT OF JESUS TELL YOU ABOUT ME ????

        If Jesus is real, and for 25 years he did not make his presence known to me – then HE is at fault, not me. I tried. And for people like you who tout that those of us who once believed but no longer believe, must have never actually believed in the first place (and that IS what you are saying, you just have a hard time admitting it) it is an insult and a sure sign of arrogance on your part.

        YOU – “I truly hope you can come to see that your decision to turn to unbelief was not caused by God’s non-existence or disappearing, it was a choice you made on our own behalf.”

        I call B.S. I did not make a decision to stop believing. No one says, “Hey, I know, I’ll just stop believing in God.” I am not even going to spend the time trying to explain to you how people come to conclusions. People don’t “decide” to start or stop believing, they simply begin to believe or cease believing. It is a result of them finding something believable or unbelievable.

        YOU – “You could have continued to try pursuing Him, and yet you did not. That is not evidence or proof in His non-existence, but in your stubbornness not to try again.”

        B.S. Again! B.S.!!! You are incredibly arrogant, calling me stubborn because I didn’t keep plugging away, trying over and over again for the rest of my life, seeking a God who had not responded for 25 years. Where do you get the ego?

        I could have continued to pray, go to church, study the bible with the preconceived notions of faith, but I actually had to be honest with myself:

        1 – Why does God seem to be ignoring me?

        2 – If this is a “relationship”, why does it seem COMPLETELY and TOTALLY one sided?

        3 – If Jesus is real, why am I surrounded by hundreds of Christians who show no sign that they are guided by the creator of the universe – they just seem like regular people, living out their normal daily lives? There does not seem to be any evidence of the supernatural guiding them in their daily lives.

        4 – And finally, if Jesus is going to return “soon”, what the heck does the word “soon” mean?

        As I made rational conclusions while pondering those questions, the faith I once had gradually evaporated. I was honest with myself.

        Nope…I have concluded, based on the complete lack of evidence, that there was no rational bases for the faith I once had. But feel free to continue to believe as you do, just know that the next time you tell a former Christian that they really were never a true Christian, expect them to let you know just what they think of your arrogance.
        You sir, are a typical Christian…no thanks.

        “We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact. We beg at the doors of your churches for just one little fact. We pass our hats along your pews and under your pulpits and implore you for just one fact. We know all about your moldy wonders and your stale miracles. We want a this-year’s-fact. We ask only one. Give us one fact for charity. Your miracles are too ancient. The witnesses have been dead for nearly two thousand years.”
        ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

        r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

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      2. Bob, I apologize if I misread your points—as you mentioned, this is a lack of face-to-face conversation. I am perceiving you as extremely critical in our conversation, while I am simply trying to understand your point of view in order to address it properly. If you’re reading my side of our conversation as critical, then this tells me you are offended. Here’s the thing: If you are an atheist, why does it matter to you what I believe? Why does my faith in God, and the noted message of what it looks like to have faith in God, offend you if you no longer believe? If you are so adamant about disbelief, why fend for unbelief? Why does this argument matter to you if it contends a point you no longer live for or are concerned with? I would imagine someone who thinks nothing of faith and cares nothing for the idea of the Jesus, the Bible, God, or faith—would simply steer away from what they care nothing about. This tells me you are either in denial about your unbelief, meaning—you say you disbelieve when you would rather believe—or you are out to make people feel bad for believing, which to ME, is “arrogant.” My words from this article would be an invitation for you to see what it does mean to have faith, but instead, my words seem to threaten you. Why would my words impact you this way if you did not care about your unbelief? To me, as a believer, this speaks louder than words.

        You can continue to berate my responses with logic, but that would clearly indicate how much you missed the first major point of my article, which is this: If you live ONLY off of logic/reasoning, and miss the added dimension of faith, life itself crumbles to the weight of meaninglessness/purposelessness. So to understand this, we acknowledge the truth is that there IS a purpose for lives. If you’re living life through the spectacles of logic, Bob, it’s clear to me why my points did not resonate with you, which would indicate why the rest of this article didn’t sit well with you. You have notably read this article with criticism, resistance, and denial; none of which will aid you in understanding my message. If this is how you will continue to respond and to read, my points will not only fail to sit with you, they will fail to have meaning for you as a reader altogether. I fail to think anything spiritual that you read with those eyes will help you sit with any point of any writer. Pointless criticism is just another form of certitude; no less negative or misguided than of the pride of man which Gustave Le Bon spoke of over a century ago. Perhaps you also missed my point in “A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity,” where I specifically mention the role humility plays in the Christian faith. One cannot see the glory of God without the humility to realize their ability to see His glory was given to them by His grace. If you will not see my words as an invitation, Bob, and you only see them as offense, then your reaction denotes you are not trying to understand my point; rather, you are looking for ways to repudiate faith. If this is why you are writing me, then our conversation will end here. I will respond if you are looking for someone to help you understand faith or if you are looking for answers to questions you have out of curiosity, but I will not continue if you are only going to censure every point I make. I hope you will take notice of where you are coming from so you can reposition yourself and return with an open mind.

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      3. Lance, after I read your response I felt kind of bad about my response – but I had time to sleep on it. I do feel somewhat uneasy over my attitude and reaction to your post and responses. Part of me wishes the conversation could be more cordial, but your dishonesty and/or inability to even recognize what you are defending is very frustrating to me.
        Many Christians are surprised when a non believer is offended at the confident proclamation that the non believer is going to spend eternity in hell. Christians have absolutely “0” evidence that the biblical hell even exists, yet they will proclaim it’s existence with confidence and not have the slightest ability to understand why people like me will object. I hate to judge the mental stability of another person – but that is just crazy!
        That is why there is and always will be conflict in dialogue between believers and non believers – believers do not have the mental or emotional capacity to recognize and admit that their religious beliefs are just that – beliefs. Ministers, for a thousand years have stood before congregations and acted as if they KNOW what they are talking about, when in fact, they only BELIEVE what they are talking about.

        I agree that I am critical…and yes, I was offended. That is the reason for my initial response – I was offended that once again, a Christian was attempting to tell other Christians (that is who your blog is directed to, correct?) that people who admit that they once believed (former Christians) were never TRUE believers to begin with – why – because of what the bible says.

        “Anyone who, in discussion relies upon authority, uses not his understanding, but his memory.”
        ~Leonardo Da Vinci, 1500

        And this is why I protest – Christians like you use the words in a 2,000 year old book to judge the motivations of atheists like me. You actually believe that your Holy book will help you understand the mind of a complete stranger, and you have the gall to admit that, even pridefully.

        Then, complicating the dialogue, you deny that you were saying that us former believers were never true believers, yet with almost every paragraph you wrote, you question my sincerity and motivation when I was a “believer”.

        In the proverbial nut-shell, I think it is high-time that former believers publicly object to the absurdities proclaimed by Christians. It is time that we expose people like you who pretend to KNOW, when in fact, you merely BELIEVE. You talk as if you KNOW, but you only BELIEVE. You consistently pass off as KNOWLEDGE, what is only BELIEF – that is dishonesty.

        “Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.”
        ~ Bruce Calvert

        While I appreciate you taking the time to respond, your latest response is full of generalizations and blanket accusations but it doesn’t actually address a single one of my counter points. I took the time to quote you, point-by-point, and to offer my critique of your statements or claims. Your response ignores every point I made. Unfortunately, this is typical Christianity in action.

        “What is faith? To me, it is nothing more then holding the opinion that an idea is true with a certainty that exceeds available evidence, and too often, ignores contrary evidence.”
        ~ unknown

        Oh well…

        bob
        r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

        “A limiting belief allows no challenge. In the mind where it has taken root, it functions as a given. It becomes as unassailable as the force of gravity or the life sustaining effects of breathing oxygen. Inside the bounds set by such a belief (and there may be many), the rules of evidence and logic apply. But the limiting belief itself is not subject to these rules. It is exempt. Any evidence or reasoning that appears to contradict the limiting belief must be explained within the confines set by the belief itself. This can lead to some extraordinary mental contortionism, but it is what a limiting belief demands.
        As cognitive science is discovering, beliefs have a life of their own. A belief can come in as an invited guest, tentative and hypothetical, and end up taking over, dictating which values, open questions and behavioral options get to linger and which must go. This is because any belief has a vast web of corollaries and implications. Once embraced, it essentially reconfigures a piece of the mind, usually in a small peripheral way, but sometimes in a radical transformation that feels like being born again. A belief can do all of this independent of whether it is good or bad, healthy or destructive, true or false.”
        ~ Valerie Tarico, Ph.D.

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      4. Bob, your most recent message comes across as more honest and less critical, and I feel I can respond to that. I will do so with the same honesty you were willing to share with me.

        You claim I am being dishonest, or that I am unable to recognize what I am defending, so let me make what I am saying crystal clear to wrap up any ambiguities. First off, you claim that I do not know and that I only believe what I am saying about unbelief. For one, that is not dishonesty. Dishonesty is knowing something and saying otherwise. Do you KNOW that you will be alive tomorrow, or do you BELIEVE you will be? Are you dishonest if you claim to know you will be alive tomorrow if you have not yet reached tomorrow in order to prove it? Is it faith you put into believing you will be alive tomorrow? In a more practical example, you BELIEVE you have a brain, but you could not KNOW because you have never seen it or touched it, etc. But you would claim to “know” you have a brain. Secondly, you have accused me of something for which I never claimed: I never claimed to know that of which I have said about unbelievers never having been believers. I know from my current experience as a believer compared to my past experience as an atheist just how strong faith is—and to me, Jesus is more real than anything else in this life. That IS evidence of His existence to me; in my spirit if not in my physical life. For that reason alone, I believe that to be an unbeliever and claim to have been a believer before is falsely testifying to a previous faith. I BELIEVE that, I am not claiming to KNOW it. Frankly, that is between you and God; not you, God, and my beliefs.

        The Christian argument has never been founded on what a believer knows, but on what they BELIEVE, hence FAITH. That is why Christianity is considered a “walk of faith,” not a “walk of knowledge.” This was never about knowledge, Bob, for knowledge does not bring salvation—only faith does. This is the difference between your accusations of my dishonesty and my belief that unbelievers who claim to have been believers were never believers to begin with—I believe that in order to have been a believer in your past, you would still be believing. That is my belief, yes. Is that offensive? If so, perhaps the main reason why my belief offends you is because you are still feeling the hurt of letting go of your faith, and the disappointment in believing Jesus never responded when you wish He had. Perhaps you’re upset because you still want it to be possible to have Jesus, but your pain and hurt in having given up on Him sheds guilt/shame on you, and instead of facing the guilt with repentance, you are shaming the idea of belief with unbelief, putting it to rest with resistance, frustration, anger, and repudiation. Let me tell you, Bob—your unbelief does not make what you disbelieve to be more true or right than my belief in what I believe in makes what I believe to be more true or right. I believe we are currently in the middle of as much of a cordial argument as can be, given our differences.
        See, I recognize your response does not come from a lack of concern, but rather, it comes from the offense in finding a current believer whose belief system seemingly dismisses your past (that is what it APPEARS to do, although that is not what I am doing), which is blemished with hurt and disappointment because you let go of faith at a time when you believed the God you studied abandoned you. I don’t believe for a second He ever abandoned you, but I am not the one unbelieving in God; I am not the one in your relationship here—again, this is between you and God. If my words offended you, then perhaps rather than blame my beliefs, you could introspect and come to recognize that where you are in your un-faith is an uncomfortable place to be, and that perhaps you wish there was another way. The only reason my words could have offended you, Bob, is if you want my words to be untrue. But the problem isn’t whether or not my beliefs are true or correct compared with yours, the problem is in your resistance to the thought that your spiritual past is discredited despite the spiritual pain/hurt you experienced. Naturally, being discredited would feel bad. To imagine all that time and effort gone to waste is dreadful; who would want to face that? That is understandable, and I feel for you—because I understand this could be where you are, and I don’t believe it is the end, despite how you might.
        This article was not written to offend, but to inspire and challenge. Perhaps your interpretation of this led to the offensive side of “challenge” because of your ambivalent past with God. I don’t believe this has to be the end of your story with God and Jesus. I am sorry you interpreted my words as offensive, Bob, I will say that. I am sorry because I can see now the pain behind your words. You are angry and bitter and critical because you aren’t okay with your past, and that is very understandable. I would be, too. Thankfully, you don’t have to stay in this place if you don’t want to—you can still turn back to God, if you so feel called to do by Him who gives us the choice by grace. I highly suggest you do whatever it is you would consider to be synonymous with prayer, and see what you hear/feel/receive now. And I would say to give it time. I can almost hear you say, “Isn’t 25 years long enough?!” and again, I feel for you. But I believe God will respond, and I hope you will be patient and willing enough to pursue His response until you receive it. Bob, thank you for your comment, I genuinely mean that. I wish I could say more to meet you where you are, but I am unsure you are ready to receive more than what I have said. I do hope and pray this message finds you more well than my previous two.

        Like

  2. You – “You claim I am being dishonest…Dishonesty is knowing something and saying otherwise.”

    Good point. I misused the word. I initially said – “…but your dishonesty and/or inability to even recognize what you are defending is very frustrating to me.” – allowing that you were perhaps not being dishonest, but were just not able to recognize…

    Now, lets examine the reason why I responded to your post in the first place – I responded because I felt that you were saying (in not so many words) that if anyone is a Christian, a “true” believer in Jesus, that they will always be a “true” believer in Jesus. And if anyone claims to be a former Christian, or a former believer in Jesus – from your perspective, based on your beliefs, that they were never a “true” Christian, never a “true” believer in Jesus.

    You responded to my interpretation of your comments: “Who am I to tell someone what they did or didn’t/do or don’t believe? … I am not telling any one unbeliever, “You were never a believer!”

    For the sake of clarity I’ll offer my perceived translation:

    “Who am I to tell someone what they did or didn’t/do or don’t believe?…” – translation – It is not my place to inform or accuse anyone of the validity of their current or former beliefs.

    “I am not telling any one unbeliever, “You were never a believer!…” – translation – I am not saying, in any way, to any unbeliever or former believer, that they were never a “true” believer.

    I think that my translation is a perfectly reasonable translation of what you said. Even though I got the distinct impression from your original blog post, that you indeed were saying, (not in those exact words) that, based on what you read in the bible, if a person “truly” believed in Jesus they will always “truly” believe in Jesus – and – if they claim to be a former believer in Jesus, they never “truly” believed in Jesus.

    Now, in your most recent response, you say: “I believe that in order to have been a believer in your past, you would still be believing. That is my belief, yes.”

    So, if I put the previous response together with this latest response, we get:

    “I believe that in order to have been a believer in your past, you would still be believing. That is my belief, yes.” “Who am I to tell someone what they did or didn’t/do or don’t believe? … I am not telling any one unbeliever, “You were never a believer!”

    The only way I can possibly make sense out of these statements combined is this translation: “I honestly believe that you were never a true believer, but it’s not my place to tell you that, even though there are bible verses that tell me that you were never a true believer, like Philippians 1:6 and Corinthians 5:14, it’s is just not my place to say it…even though I am telling you that I believe you were never a “true” believer in Jesus.”

    I don’t know if you can see the absurdity of the entirety of this. Because of what you read in a 2,000 year old book, you believe (conclude?) that when I claim to have once believed in Jesus, that I actually didn’t believe in Jesus, but you can’t tell me that because it’s not your place to tell me that, even though your 2,000 year old book, that you believe is the word of God, informs you as such. But – for some reason you can tell me (now) that you BELIEVE I was never a believer, you just can’t tell me that I WAS never a believer.

    I honestly don’t know how you guys do it. This is like me saying, “I read the other day that all men named Lance hate black people, and I believe it – but it’s not my place to tell you, Lance, that you hate black people…I am just telling you that I BELIEVE what I read, that you hate black people…”

    YOU – “…perhaps the main reason why my belief offends you is because you are still feeling the hurt of letting go of your faith, and the disappointment in believing Jesus never responded when you wish He had. Perhaps you’re upset because you still want it to be possible to have Jesus, but your pain and hurt in having given up on Him sheds guilt/shame on you, and instead of facing the guilt with repentance, you are shaming the idea of belief with unbelief, putting it to rest with resistance, frustration, anger, and repudiation.”

    Lance, I often have a difficult time expressing myself, and it is at those times I prefer to let the words of another speak for me:

    “If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men…. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.”
    ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

    In other words – If when I die I come to find out that the Christian God is real and the bible is true, I will want nothing to do with that god. My moral standards will not permit me to worship such an evil being that would create a place of eternal punishment for those who simply find his existence unbelievable.

    I hope this puts to rest any notion that I may have some unresolved issues with the loss of my former faith.

    YOU – “I recognize your response does not come from a lack of concern, but rather, it comes from the offense in finding a current believer whose belief system seemingly dismisses your past (that is what it APPEARS to do, although that is not what I am doing)…”

    Yes, exactly! – and even though you say that is not what you are doing, I think based on my translations above of your statements, that IS what you were doing, you just DON’T RECOGNIZE that is what you were doing.

    YOU – “If my words offended you, then perhaps rather than blame my beliefs…”

    Your words DID offend me. You do realize that there are Christians who do not believe that YOU are a TRUE Christian, don’t you? I can guarantee you that there are believers who, based on their doctrine, there denominational interpretations of the very same 2,000 year old book that you read from, will tell you that your beliefs are incorrect and therefor, you are not and never have been a true believer in Jesus. That may or may not offend you, but it would offend a good many believers – for the simple reason that – someones BELIEFS dictate to them that the BELIEFS of others are / were invalid.

    YOU – “The only reason my words could have offended you, Bob, is if you want my words to be untrue.”

    NO! – WRONG! – NO! – it could be that your words ARE untrue. That could be the reason I was offended is because your words ARE untrue. Do you actually believe what you just said – that the ONLY reason what you said could offend is because I WANT it to not be true? Seriously? Can you not see the delusion you are under, making such bold claims as this?

    YOU – “…the problem is in your resistance to the thought that your spiritual past is discredited despite the spiritual pain/hurt you experienced. Naturally, being discredited would feel bad. To imagine all that time and effort gone to waste is dreadful; who would want to face that? That is understandable, and I feel for you…”

    HOLY CRAP!!! This is going nowhere very slowly.

    YOU – “You are angry and bitter and critical because you aren’t okay with your past, and that is very understandable. I would be, too.”

    Thank you Dr. Lance. But couldn’t it be that I simply take offence when some Christian, any Christian, uses the words in their 2,000 year old book (get it? you are using the words that have been translated from ancient texts, over and over again, written by long dead superstitious zealots) to inform me that when I claim that I once believed, I was actually, for 25 years, being fooled into believing that I…believed…thought I believed…or believed that I believed…???

    YOU – “I highly suggest you do whatever it is you would consider to be synonymous with prayer, and see what you hear/feel/receive now. And I would say to give it time. I can almost hear you say, “Isn’t 25 years long enough?!” and again, I feel for you.”

    So, when I wept and prayed all those years ago, numerous times, feeling the anguish deep inside, not understanding why I was not getting any response from God, admitting to him exactly what I was experiencing and how I was feeling, being genuinely and sincerely contrite, open and honest, over and over again – and he never gave me any indication that he heard me. He never offered any form of actual communication that one would expect when they are in a RELATIONSHIP with someone …but you want me to give it another try…?
    Let me see, if he did not offer me any answer when I DID BELIEVE, for-yes, 25 years…you think now that I DON’T BELIEVE, he may give me a sign…?

    YOU – “But I believe God will respond, and I hope you will be patient and willing enough to pursue His response until you receive it.”

    Or as the Mormons say – until you feel the “burning in the bosom”? Please offer what kind of “response” I should expect? And how will I KNOW the “response” is from God and not from Satan, or simply an emotional reaction inside my brain? Please give me an idea of how long to be “patient” – since 25 years was not long enough, should I give him 30, 40 years? I am almost 60, do you think he may put me on the fast-track to faith since I may not have that long? And are there any other methods to use as I “pursue” his response? Is prayer, bible study, and church attendance enough? How about reading bible commentaries and other Christian literature? I mean, I did all that before as well, and yet, here I am.

    As I am sure you can clearly see Lance, I find your faith (and my former faith) to be based on myths and wishful thinking. You may not believe me when I say, but I once believed just like you, with regard to faith – that if a person was a “true” believer, they would always believe. That if a person ever stopped believing, they were never a “true” believer to begin with. Yes – I once held the very same belief as you hold now. I even remember very vividly telling my friend that “I could never stop believing in God”. I remember his exact words in response – “Never say never, but only that by the grace of God can you continue believing”.

    So, I stopped believing.
    Was it because I never “truly” believed?
    Was it because God withdrew his “grace”?
    Was it because there is nothing supernatural in believing, and I just came to the conclusion that belief in God is unreasonable?

    What is the most REASONABLE answer? REASONABLE…REASON…use your REASONING abilities. Solve this quandary the same way you would any other problem in life – what is most REASONABLE…?

    In a nut-shell Lance, you said something on your blog that I disagreed with and found a tad offensive, so I responded.
    You claimed that you never said it because it’s not your place to say it.
    Then you admit that you believe the thing that I found offensive and was commenting on, but you emphasize that wasn’t the purpose of your initial blog post.
    I wasn’t commenting on your entire blog post – I was commenting ONLY ON THE PART THAT I FOUND OFFENSIVE.

    …and here we are after several back-and-forths, you still seemingly unable to grasp the idea that some of us have legitimate reasons for finding some Christian beliefs and doctrines offensive.

    I give…

    bob

    r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

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    1. Bob, to be clear, when I wrote, “It’s not my place—,” what I was saying was this: “I am not the one to tell someone what they believe, it’s not my place. They need to do that for themselves—they don’t need me or anyone else to tell them their own beliefs.” This was not a contradiction to any previously stated comment. You are taking my words to extreme proportions and criticizing everything I say, which doesn’t make me feel like my words are being understood, only scrutinized. You seem adamant to prove I have something against you and/or other unbelievers, and that simply isn’t the case. Whether or not you believe that is up to you. I don’t have anything to prove to you and I am done trying. Where you decide to go with your faith is entirely up to you—if the way I express myself with regard to my faith/beliefs is not resonating with you (and clearly it isn’t), I would hope you would find your inspiration with someone else whom you resonate with more. Rather than nitpick through every word of mine, you could try to see my intention, which is and was to inspire, not to condemn. Nothing I wrote in this article was condemning, but informing. I meant to inform readers with my beliefs, because I write my blog based on my beliefs, just as anyone writes from what they believe—or what they believe they know/know they believe. Just as you believe there is no God, you do not know that there isn’t—no different than me not “knowing” there IS a God but still believing there is. Further, you are not one to tell anyone there is no God because you don’t “know” anymore than I do. That’s why we need faith to believe—but clearly, you seem to want nothing to do with it. I hope and pray one day you will.

      You briefly mentioned a conversation with a friend you had at the time of your belief, that He mentioned by the grace of God you would continue believing, and then you stopped believing. This leaves a very large gap—it makes me wonder why you stopped believing to begin with? You’ve never actually explained why your faith changed, just that it did. Something triggered unbelief, and I am not the one to tell you what it was. You asked some interesting questions following that brief story. I wonder how you perceive your own unbelief and why you felt unbelief made more sense to you. Was it because, as you’ve said, you didn’t feel like God responded to you? This is not an answer you owe ME. I am asking so you are able to consider it for yourself. Should you choose to share that answer with me here is up to you. If you don’t feel God responded, and if that IS why, I would refer you back to my previous messages where I suggest what I would do in your situation. Once more, I hope you will make the best choice.
      This said, I feel no need to respond to the majority of the rest of your comments because I feel this was just an essay correction; you wanted to tear everything I said apart and complain/vent. That’s fine, but I didn’t ask for that and I don’t owe you anymore explanations than I have previously offered. That you’ve taken offense to my wording, I apologize. I have made no contradictions here. My words have been clear, but ambiguity takes shape in the form of online conversation, where words are taken out of context and with a lack of vocal intonation. Your translations of what I have said have been distorted, but instead of ask for clarification, you’ve assumed and criticized. That is how I know you aren’t curious: You are only responding cynically, and frankly, it’s exhausting, Bob.
      Since my way of expressing the Christian faith—or, since my beliefs in general—are unappealing to you, I pray someone else’s inspires you differently. I pray you will seek God despite your doubts and come full circle in the loops of unbelief you’ve been on for 17 years. I do hope you do not leave your faith as is in this place of anger and bitterness, because there is so much more to be discovered through faith. Perhaps I am not the one to help you see this, and that is fine. I pray you find the right person God sends your way, and I hope you will listen with the intention of understanding and learning.
      Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and I’m sorry you didn’t take something more positive away from it, or from my responses to your comments. I do hope my above explanation cleared up the ambiguities of my previous messages. Bob, I do hope there no hard feelings, and that we understand we come from extremely opposing viewpoints/beliefs with equivalent adamancy about our own. If you have any further questions, I would be glad to answer them. If not, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week, and that you find what you are looking for.

      Like

      1. Lance, honestly, I have to give you credit – I have had many on-line dialogues with Christians, either by Christian forum, blog, or email, and almost without exception, even before I begin to display any frustration or loss of patience with my “opponent”, they usually begin to insult and berate me.

        You have maintained a very unusual degree of…what’s the word…long-suffering. You have yet to fall to my level of antagonism. For that I applaud you. I can tell that my words riled you just a bit, but not enough for you to break composure. That is a character trait that I wish I had.
        NOTE – my intention was not ever to pick a fight with you by using harsh words – I just have a tendency to, every now and then, become brutally honest – and as I hope you are aware, if we were sitting and talking over a cup of coffee, my responses would have been considerably more diplomatic…I hope.

        I am sorry for “nitpicking” your statements, but your statements are the only way I have to try to understand what your beliefs are.

        YOU – “You briefly mentioned a conversation with a friend you had at the time of your belief, that He mentioned by the grace of God you would continue believing, and then you stopped believing. This leaves a very large gap—it makes me wonder why you stopped believing to begin with? You’ve never actually explained why your faith changed, just that it did. Something triggered unbelief…”

        Lance, I would have no problem sharing it with you – I just haven’t because our fight was in another arena 🙂
        I am hesitant to share on your blog, just because it has nothing to do with your topic, so I feel kind of guilty rambling on about something unrelated to your post.
        About 10 years after I became a believer, I began to keep a rather haphazard journal, jotting down my thoughts. It is a very short journal, perhaps a 6-8 minute read in pdf format. It may give you an idea of the gradual “fall from grace” that I experienced. If you want, just send me an email and I will send it to you. Your blog is about you and your thoughts and I have taken up enough of your space.

        bob
        r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

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      2. Hello Bob, I have just sent you an e-mail with my response to your most recent comment. The subject line reads “Faith Story.” Please feel free to respond to me there and we may continue our conversation if desired. Thank you.

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  3. I really like your take on hell starting right here and continuing into eternity. The grace of YHWH through faith in his Son can rescue us from that hell, but it must begin here on earth (which is our testing ground).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m glad my description resonated with you. God’s grace is one of the two turns in the fork in the road, where we either have our eyes opened to the goodness of surrendering ourselves to His ways, or we live in blindness–a hell of its own–where life appears to be wretched, empty, and pointless; only a foreshadow of what’s to come for those who do not receive Jesus in their hearts. Praise Jesus for His grace in showing us the hope we can find in Him!

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