WHY DO I BELIEVE IN JESUS? — PART 1

I suppose some would get frustrated, and I suppose to a small degree I do. Nonetheless, Jesus told us to spread the gospel. So I hope He is pleased that I can do so within the context of a debate.

Debate with whom? Tony, and Tony believes that my post, OFF ON A TANGENT OF MY OWN, did not fairly and squarely address his argument.

I know that you are trying to condense in order to make your point but you left out this in my comments and it necessarily completes my thought:

“Like your doubting namesake, is it necessary for you to rationally theorize and seek such rational scientific evidence of Jesus’ divinity? Does such literalist materialism really get you any closer to comprehending what cannot be rationally comprehended, or would the rationalist St. Thomas have been more blessed if he could have believed with his heart rather than his head? (continued here)

Here of late I have been reading Ameritopia by Mark R. Levin. Levin devotes a chapter to John Locke, and he includes this quote from AN ESSAY CONCERNING HUMANE UNDERSTANDING.

6. Knowledge of our Capacity a Cure of Scepticism and Idleness.

When we know our own strength, we shall the better know what to undertake with hopes of success; and when we have well surveyed the POWERS of our own minds, and made some estimate what we may expect from them, we shall not be inclined either to sit still, and not set our thoughts on work at all, in despair of knowing anything; nor on the other side, question everything, and disclaim all knowledge, because some things are not to be understood. It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. It is well he knows that it is long enough to reach the bottom, at such places as are necessary to direct his voyage, and caution him against running upon shoals that may ruin him. Our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct. If we can find out those measures, whereby a rational creature, put in that state in which man is in this world, may and ought to govern his opinions, and actions depending thereon, we need not to be troubled that some other things escape our knowledge.

7. Occasion of this Essay.

This was that which gave the first rise to this Essay concerning the understanding. For I thought that the first step towards satisfying several inquiries the mind of man was very apt to run into, was, to take a survey of our own understandings, examine our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. Till that was done I suspected we began at the wrong end, and in vain sought for satisfaction in a quiet and sure possession of truths that most concerned us, whilst we let loose our thoughts into the vast ocean of Being; as if all that boundless extent were the natural and undoubted possession of our understandings, wherein there was nothing exempt from its decisions, or that escaped its comprehension. Thus men, extending their inquiries beyond their capacities, and letting their thoughts wander into those depths where they can find no sure footing, it is no wonder that they raise questions and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and to confirm them at last in perfect scepticism. Whereas, were the capacities of our understandings well considered, the extent of our knowledge once discovered, and the horizon found which sets the bounds between the enlightened and dark parts of things; between what is and what is not comprehensible by us, men would perhaps with less scruple acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one, and employ their thoughts and discourse with more advantage and satisfaction in the other.

(from here)

What Locke points out must seem obvious. Nonetheless, history has shown that men have the capacity to persist in the most dunderheaded beliefs. What is worse, we will use force to impose our beliefs upon others. Therefore, Locke argues that we should begin our inquiries only after we have acquired an understanding of our limitations.

Once I was a doubting Thomas, and I still have my doubts. A perfect faith I do not have. I cannot understand God. I cannot positively prove He exists. I am also too much like that ancient apostle.

John 20:24-29 Good News Translation (GNT)

Jesus and Thomas

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came.25So the other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord!Thomas said to them,
Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said,
Peace be with you.27 Then he said to Thomas,
Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!

28 Thomas answered him,
My Lord and my God!

29 Jesus said to him,
Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!

Because Jesus has not appeared to me, I have to believe with my heart. Yet as I grew old enough to be called a young man, I wanted to believe with my head. I wanted absolute proof. So it took me several decades to reacquire the faith I had as a child. Fortunately, God gave me the time. With sufficient effort and experience, I have satisfied myself that God does exist, and I now trust in His love and promise of salvation more than I doubt.

What happened? To be continued.

6 thoughts on “WHY DO I BELIEVE IN JESUS? — PART 1

  1. PARTNERING WITH EAGLES – Thanks for the link.

    BTW – One of the reasons John Adams may have felt motivated to write what he wrote is that Paine was and remained a friend of Thomas Jefferson. After the publication of the Age of Reason, that relationship did not help Thomas Jefferson. Nevertheless, he remained loyal to Paine.

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  2. Having read (long ago) your “about” pg, I would like to have you peruse this posting: http://talonspoint.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/franklin-schooled-paine-in-the-age-of-reason/
    I so much enjoy your defense of our Creator, that if it were possible to persuade you to change your format to “Citizen Ben” with Franklin as the background, I would endeavor to do so.
    Ben might not have been saved, yet he still attempted to dissuade Paine from his subsequent publication of “The Age of Reason”.

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  3. I know that you will find this hard to believe, but I find nothing to demure in this post. Perhaps some new theological debate will be sparked by your continuation. We are not a family where such intellectual agreement can normally last for long as we tend to be an argumentive bunch.

    However, the underlying purpose for sticking my nose into this line of posts to begin with wasn’t really to have a theological debate, but instead to demonstrate, wonderfully exemplified by the debate we have been having here, the minefield of difficulties that one must navigate in asserting a theological moral basis for rational government, particularly in a pluralistic democracy and particularly if the theological basis asserted is Chistianity.

    The foundational premises of our religion are mainly metaphysical and lie mostly outside the purchase of rational epistemology. For example, in a continuing series, you assert the Ten Commandments as the moral basis for our laws. This defies logic. Although, to a member of one of the Axial Religions, breaking any of the Ten Commandments would be considered a moral breach, only half of the Commandments are illegal (murder, theft, etc.) and those things are illegal under every government in the world, regardless of that country’s theological history. Although it may be immoral for a Christian not to honors the Lord’s Day or that Christian’s parents, it is not illegal. On the other hand, if our theology and particularly the Ten Commandments really were the moral basis for our laws and our government, then such things would and should be illegal. However, Tom, I doubt either you or I want these personal moral obligations of our religion imposed on others by the coercive force of law.

    Finally, the primary Commandment given to us by the namesake of our religion is to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Certainly, it might be nice if this moral imperative of compassion and love that underlies all other Christian moral imperitives really was foremost in influencing the hearts and minds of our law makers, law arbitrators and law enforcers, but practically speaking I doubt that it is (nor, practically speaking, am I sure that our system would work well if they all did). Mainly, they see their job as to keep the peace of our society.

    If you really want to see the moral mission statement for our government, look to the Preamble of the Constitution. It’s a rational statement, not a theological one, and purposely so.

    I am not saying that the evolution of the dominant theology and mythology of a culture does not have a dramatic effect on the formulation and daily practices of a government and its laws. If you have read Huntington then you can see that it certainly does. What I am saying is that the effect of that culture’s religion and broader mythology is often through so many often multifarious indirect iterations that it is impossible to track, or most importantly, to deterministically and formulaicly direct. In other words, even if one could divine a set of moral rules from the Bible that were somehow essentially Christian and impose that formula into government and law, it would not work to make either the law or the government more moral, but instead, more likely would end up corrupting both, and our religion in the process.

    For a better understanding of how our government and our economy has been dramatically and indirectly effected by the evolution of religion, I would advise reading, or reading about, Max Weber and in particular Weber’s theory on how the concepts of “a calling,” “justification by faith” and more generally, “the protestant work ethic”, that came out of the Reformation, by essentially making all types of honest work (including business and banking) morally honorable and socially admirable, provided the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution and the rise of secularism in business, science and government. Here is a link to more information if you are interested:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism

    Webber’s well accepted theories show how dramatic moral developements wrought by the evolution of Christianity also dramatically changed the course of the Western World, however, it also demonstrates that one could not have formulated and directed theses changes or predicted the consequences.

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    1. Tony – Between being busy and then sick with a cold, I was not certain how I want to handle this comment. I finally decided I would just continue the series and respond to this comment with a comment.

      I think what you state in this passage is untrue.

      The foundational premises of our religion are mainly metaphysical and lie mostly outside the purchase of rational epistemology. For example, in a continuing series, you assert the Ten Commandments as the moral basis for our laws. This defies logic. Although, to a member of one of the Axial Religions, breaking any of the Ten Commandments would be considered a moral breach, only half of the Commandments are illegal (murder, theft, etc.) and those things are illegal under every government in the world, regardless of that country’s theological history.

      Christianity is based upon Jesus, a real man who lived and died. A real man who by rising from the dead proved He is God.

      With respect to the Ten Commandments, you have neglected to look into the past. You have assumed that what is now has always been.

      At the time the Ten Commandments came to be, they were part of the Mosaic Law codified in the Old Testament. To some extent, what the Mosaic Code accomplished, the Code of Hammurabi had accomplished (at an earlier date). Nonetheless, the Mosaic Code did a much better job. In particular, the Mosaic Code recognized that all men have rights, that God loves us all.

      When a man is a slave, he is the property of his owner. When a society is sufficiently brutal, government does not protect the rights of slaves. In fact, what rights there are are established by a caste system. Because Christians emphatically rejected the right of any man enslave another, most modern societies in our era at least make a show of protecting the rights of all citizens equally.

      In fact, there are three forms of government: republican (note the small “r”), monarchial, and despotic. Because the people enforce the law in a republic (whatever those laws might be), the republican form requires a virtuous people. Because the monarch enforces and accepts the constraints of the law in a monarchy, the monarchial form requires a virtuous monarch. Because despotism is rule without law, despotism requires that virtue absent itself. Unfortunately, despotism is not an usual form of government, particularly if one looks into the past.

      Anyway, I think you have things upside down. What I support is LIMITED GOVERNMENT. Therefore, by definition I don’t support imposing my religious beliefs upon others. What I support is a government that merely protects our God-given rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. What the Big Government notions advocated by Liberals REQUIRES is the imposition of Liberal religious beliefs upon everyone else in the society. Simply calling what one believes a secular belief does not change that fact. It just means you have made an idol out of the government itself.

      What Weber’s work with respect to the Protestant work ethic has to do with this discussion is something you may wish to explain. Is the Protestant work ethic important? Yes. Should we want a Socially Liberal government that is for all practical purposes designed to undermine the Protestant work ethic? I don’t think so, but that is the practical effect of what the current regime is about.

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