On April 23, Adam wrote:

Dave,

I will admit that no 'physical' evidence remains to prove the burning bush or the Reasurection exept the Bible. But if you wan't to look at history using only evidence that is still around to be seen by modern man, then you could rationaly say that Columbus didn't discover America, the Huns never invaded China, and Karl Marx didn't create Marxism. Why? Because the only true evidence we have for any of these is written proof. Written by people of that time who witnessed and recorded events taken place. Who's to say no one sailed to America before Columbus and just didn't care to tell anyone, or that the story about the Huns was made up, or that Joe Blow actually came up with Marxism, but Karl put his name on it(that's happened reapeatedly throughout history). If we must discount all evidence that cannot be observed by the eyes today, then we certainly have some holes to fill in our history. The Bible is a written account of things that happened in the lives of men who lived thousands of years ago. To kind of make my point. The Bible has been proven to be as acurate, if not more acurate, as any other written peice from it's time until the 16th or 17th century. The times of King David, of the Pharoh's, King Soloman, and the lineages of the people in the Bible. Have been cross referenced and proved to be accurate. Also, if you do want some 'physical' evidence, Noah's Ark has been found, you may not agree that the figure found on the mountain in Turkey is the Ark, but there is substantial proof to support it and the occurance of a world-wide flood. If nothing else, read the Bible for historacal input from the people who lived long ago. As far as the fact that there are billions of nonbelievers... Well that acctually is biblicly sound. For God gave us free-will, the will to choose whether or not to follow him. And about your comment on God not giving a rip about proving himself to people, that is true to a degree. God is more interested in people having FAITH that He does exist, and not having to PROVE that He exists. We both know that neither one of us will fold in our convictions, but it kind of fun to see what others think about what I believe. So if you have further comments, please send them on and I will do my best to defend my position. Sure, there are things I won't be able to answer, I'm no Bible expert or religious guru, but if I have problems I'll ask someone and see what we can come up with. I still must encourage you to read through the more interesting parts of the Old and New Testaments, even if you read it from the prospective of a fiction work. It's still pretty amazing that it survived unchanged for thousands of years. Have a good weekend and I look forward to talking to you in the future.

On April 23, Dave wrote:

First, I never said that there was no -physical- evidence for these events; I said that there was no evidence WHATSOEVER outside of the bible for these events. Now, how do we know that, say, Colombus did in fact sail across the Atlantic? We have written accounts, diaries, logs, etc. from many of the crew members who made the voyage, including Colombus himself. We have harbor logs. We have litterally hundreds of documents which describe this voyage and the events and conditions surrounding it. What evidence do we have that a supernatural voice spoke out of a burning bush? One document. One single document. Also, the logs which detail Colombus' voyage described a series of events which were perfectly consistent with the laws of nature, whereas Exodus described a supernatural event. Given that all historians must presume a strict natural regularity when deciding what is and is not actual history, and given that independent, corroborating evidence for an event makes it more likely to be accepted as actual history, what do you think?

Second, the Bible does contain some historical truth. Egypt really did have pharoahs, for instance, Pilate was an actual historical person, as was Herod, and so on. However, these bits of historical truth are far and few between, and by no means imply that the Bible as a whole must be true. For instance, let's say I found the following document in the library: "In January of 1993, Fred the Wonder Hamster created the universe and everything in it, including humans with all their memories. Six hours later, Bill Clinton became the forty-second President of the United States." This account contains an actual, verifiable historical fact. Does that mean that the account as a whole must be correct?

Third, I'm sorry that you bought into the myth that Noah's Ark was found. Many such claims of having found the ark have been made, and all of the seirous ones, without exception, have been debunked. You made reference to, I assume, Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but the bible does not say "Mount Ararat," it says "the mountains of Ararat." In other words, the mountains of a kingdom called Ararat. And nobody knows where Ararat was. So even if there ever was an ark, it's unlikely that it would ever be found, except by accident. Also, by your words, you seem to imply that the discovery of a wooden, faintly boat-shaped structure discovered on Mt. Ararat would serve you as substantial proof that Noah's Flood occured. This is a good illustration of the contrast between the skepticism necessary to science and the credulity characteristic of religion. Anyhow, to find out why the Noah story -cannot- have occured, check out these documents: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/frank_zindler/morris-zindler.html
http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/noahs_ark.html
http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/6flood.htm

And others.

First, let me make my position clear on this. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that if the God of Christianity were to exist, by this time it would be the case that all (or almost all) human beings would believe in the gospel message (that God exists, and that he has a son whom he sent into the world to be the savior of mankind) before their physical death. (This is called the argument from nonbelief, by the way) This is the case because God has three properties. First, he is capable of making all people believe, being omniscient. There are innumerable ways by which he could have brought about universal belief in the gospel message.
Second, the Bible shows that he -wants- all people to believe. According to 1 Timothy 2:4, he "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." According to John 18:37, Jesus declared, "for this reason I was born . . . to testify to the truth." Also, God issued certain commands: He commanded all people to "believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ" (1 John 3:23). He commanded people to love him maximally (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30), even calling this his "greatest" commandment. He institated the Great Commission, whereby he commanded Jesus' disciples to preach the gospel message to "all nations" and to "all creation" (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16). From these commands, and their apparent forcefulness, it seems obvious that the God of the Bible desires all people everywhere to believe in the gospel message.

Third and finally, God is rational. This is not contested by any Christian. God's rationality implies that he would not abandon his highest principles and desires for no reason, for to do so would be irrational. Therefore, given that the God of the Bible desires universal belief in the gospel message, is capable of bringing such belief about, and is rational, we have every reason to think that if such a God existed, all or almost all people would believe in the gospel message before their physical death. The fact that far more than half the human race does not believe, therefore, gives us every reason to think that God does not exist.

You might object -- as, indeed, you have -- that God has a conflicting desire, something that he wants more than he wants to bring about universal belief in the gospel message, and that would conflict with such. But there is no reason to think that that is true. First, there is nothing in the bible to suggest a plausible candidate for such a desire. Second, the Bible states that there can be nothing regarding humanity of a weightier matter than their eternal destiny (Matthew 22:38, Mark 12:29), which would stronly suggest that belief in the gospel message, which is required for salvation, is not a matter to be overridden by other considerations. Ditto the forcefulness of the divine commands mentioned above. So there would seem to be no reason why more than half the world would not believe if the Christian god existed.

Now, you suggested that God wants all people to believe by faith, and is not as interested in having to prove himself. However, I have shown that not to be the case. The God of the Bible definitely wants all people to believe, and since he would not be irrational, he would want to follow up on that desire (since to abandon it for no reason would be irrational), and "prove" himself in some manner to humanity. Also, suggesting that God wants all people to believe by faith suggests that Christian apologetics is completely ineffacious, since faith in a religious context is belief in something without (or despite) evidence or reasons. So by defending your faith and presenting reasons for it, you would actually be undermining such a desire on God's part! So by the very fact that you sent me this email, you have falsified the notion that God wants everyone everywhere to believe by faith and faith alone.

You also suggested free will as a conflicting desire. That is usually the first defense offered against the argument from nonbelief, and the most easily destroyed. First, it is not necessarily the case that God causing everyone to believe in the gospel message would interfere with their free will. Why should causing true beliefs in people, say by showing them overwhelming evidence in support of them, interfere with their free will? In fact, since most people -want- to have true knowledge, causing all people to know that the gospel message is true would -comply- with their free will, not interfere with it! Second, even if causing belief did interfere with free will, scripture does not show that this is a great concern for God. Both testaments portray God as performing miracles, some of them quite spectacular, in order to cause certain beliefs in people. Also, there is no reason to think that God desires noninterference with free will above all. He is shown as slaughtering millions of people, including small children. This surely interfered with their free will (assuming they did not wish to die)! Third, even if causing belief did interfere with free will, and even if God -did- desire noninterference with free will, given the Christian doctrine of exclusivism, it seems that God would not desire noninterference with free will more strongly than he would want all people to be saved. He is, after all, all-loving, all-compassionate, etc., and the Bible does say that there is nothing more important regarding humanity than their eternal destiny. So you cannot invoke free will as an excuse for God not causing all people to believe in the gospel message.

Unchanged? Did you know that there exist no original documents of the New Testament? All we have are copies of copies of copies, we don't know how many times removed. The oldest manuscripts of the New Testament we do have contain conflicting passages. Between 10 and 20 percent of the New Testament manuscripts we have disagree, sometimes on points fundamental to Christianity. In some cases there are -thousands- of variant readings among the manuscripts of the same book of the bible, and we don't know which is closest to the original, since we have none. I'd hardly call it unchanged, therefore.

Also, you state that "we both know that neither one of us will fold in our convicitons." That strikes me as a wee bit presumptious thing to say. I am an atheist, and I am quite comfortable in my convictions, yes. But I have always been open to the possibility of being wrong, at least in principle, and I have always been open to the possibility of changing or abandoning my atheistic views completely if I ever deem it necessary. Can you honestly say that you are open to the same possibilities with regard to your theistic views?

Take care,
Dave

The debate ended at this point. :(

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