Ten Questions for Christians (See comments below for latest answers)

Note 1: In Addressing a Response to Question 5 (truthseekingatheist.wordpress.com) and Responding to a Christian Response, Herald Newman responded to some of my answers. When I get time I will respond to his responses.

Note 2: We have addressed all ten of Herald Newman’s questions in the comments below. In my next post we will consider some of Newman’s responses to the answers we have provided to his questions.

H/T Silence of Mind (https://silenceofmind.wordpress.com/)

I will try spend the next several days “answering” the questions in the comments below. Since I am not God, I will have to reference the Bible to get the best answers. If the Bible does not have an answer, I may have to admit I don’t know the answer.

As King Solomon observed…

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
New American Standard Bible
12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom about everything that has been done under heaven. It is a sorry task with which God has given the sons of mankind to be troubled. 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is futility and striving after wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know insanity and foolishness; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief; and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

The Truth Seeking Atheist

Christians and their apologists seem to have a proclivity for asking these “10 questions for atheists”, in the hope of either getting answer or exposing some hypothetical problem of our worldview. I thought it might be interesting to ask my own set of 10 questions that I have about Christianity. If you, as a non-believer, have your own questions, feel free to add them to the comments section.

So, without further ado, here they are:

  1. How do you reconcile the obvious and extreme suffering of sentient life on this planet with your belief that God is perfectly loving, moral, and all powerful? In other words, shouldn’t a loving, moral, and all powerful God act in ways that shield us from suffering, and if not why not?
  2. Do you believe that God owes any duties to humanity, such as a duty to protect us, or at least credibly warn us of…

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16 thoughts on “Ten Questions for Christians (See comments below for latest answers)

Add yours

  1. Question 8. If Christianity was a false religion, how would the world be different today compared to if Christianity was true? In other words, is there anything that would falsify your belief that Christianity is true, and if so, what is that? Is it realistic that this could exist or happen?

    Here Herald Newman seeks to make use of an old argument, that Christians believe in Jesus just because they want to believe in Jesus. Are there Christians like that? Yes, but that is not how the Bible says faith in God — in Jesus Christ — is supposed to work.

    How does the Bible define faith? Here are some of the results of a quick Internet search.
    https://www.bibles.net/what-is-christian-faith/
    https://carm.org/about-philosophy/is-reason-the-basis-of-faith-or-faith-the-basis-of-reason/?highlight=faith
    https://www.compellingtruth.org/definition-of-faith.html
    https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-faith.html
    https://www.biblestudy.org/beginner/definition-of-christian-terms/faith.html
    https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-meaning-of-faith-700722
    https://www.equip.org/bible_answers/what-is-the-biblical-definition-of-faith/
    https://www.christianity.com/jesus/following-jesus/repentance-faith-and-salvation/what-does-faith-mean.html

    This article, https://carm.org/about-philosophy/is-reason-the-basis-of-faith-or-faith-the-basis-of-reason/?highlight=faith, does an outstanding job of examining the relationship between logic, science, and faith.

    Hebrew 11 contains the verses that most cite, especially Hebrews 11:1. I find this translation easiest to understand.

    Hebrews 11:1 New American Standard Bible

    11 Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.

    Consider the problem of knowing the truth but still fearing the consequences if we act upon what we know to be true. If we don’t have enough confidence in what we know to be true, we will not act upon that truth. Thus, we require “faith” in our knowledge of the truth, and our faith grows — we are provided evidence — when we exercise that faith.

    Unless we believe that a chair will hold us up, there is no point in sitting in a chair. After we have sit in a chair, we begin to take it for granted that the chair will hold us up.

    Upon what is it that Christians rest their faith? The Rock that is Jesus Christ. How can we logically believe in Jesus Christ? There is a stepwise process.
    1. We can satisfy ourselves that God exists.
    2. We can examine and test the Bible. We can satisfy ourselves that the Bible is historically reliable.
    3. We can verify that Jesus existed. We can learn from the Bible what He said.
    4. We can satisfy ourselves that what the Bible teaches, that what Jesus taught, works in practice.

    Why should we go to the trouble of testing the Bible? After the Ascencion of Jesus back into Heaven, the early Christian church spread in spite of severe persecution. Why? Early Christians believed the witness of disciples of Jesus, especially His apostles. These disciples left us the New Testament. Slowly, especially with the invention of the printing press, Jesus’ teachings changed Western Civilization for the better. In particular, the Bible teaches us that we are all the children of God, that He loves all of us, and He commands us to treat each other impartially. So it is that Jesus’ message and example changed the character of those who adopted Him as their Savior. In fact, unless we study the Bible carefully, the history of Western Civilization makes very little sense.

    What about Newman’s challenge? Is there anything that would falsify my belief that Christianity is true? I have already been through this process. When I was seventeen I read The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. Because I had not studied the Bible, what Paine said may sense to me. Therefore, I became an agnostic. Fortunately, I read the Bible in my early 50’s, and I began to study it. I began to believe the Bible because it made sense. I believe the Bible’s claim that it is the Word of God because it is obvious that men without divine inspiration could not and would not have written it.

    Do I have my doubts? My faith is not perfect. Even the faith of the apostles in the presence of our Lord was weak. Yet because they put their faith into practice, the faith of the apostles’ faith grew as I pray my is growing.

    “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” – C.S. Lewis

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  2. Question 7. If you believe that I have free will, imagine an exact clone of me except without free will. Please tell me what differences I would notice between myself and this clone? If you do not believe I have free will, and I will not be saved (in my present state), why would God allow beings to exist who will ultimately be sent to hell? If you believe I will be saved, why does belief in Jesus as your savior even matter?

    Does Herald Newman have free will? That is something he should be more concerned about than I.

    Much of what I wrote in my answer to question 6 (https://citizentom.com/2022/04/18/ten-questions-for-christians/#comment-102507) applies to question 7. The main difference between questions 6 and 7 is that the way question 7 is written suggests that Newman’s preferred alternative to free will is determinism.

    Do human beings have free will or are our choices deterministic? That is something that has been examined by better minds than mine, and I believe that the debate remains ongoing. All I can say is that we each get to make choices, and it can become very complicated when we try to explain why some people make the choices that they make. Even if our choices are deterministic, we have yet to come up with a reliable system for predicting people’s choices.

    When is it easiest to explain the choices that people make? I think that occurs when we remove love as a motivation.

    Christians believe God gives us two great commands. The first is to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is to love our neighbor as we love our self. When He took our place and died for our sins, Jesus, the Son of God, demonstrated the nature of the type of love God wants us to have for Him and each other.

    Do we naturally love God and each other? No. We know that we are supposed to love God and each other, but most of us find loving another human as much as we love our self a scary threat to our egos, and most of us find loving God even more than we love our self horrifying. That probably explains what Jesus said in John 6:44 (See https://citizentom.com/2022/04/18/ten-questions-for-christians/#comment-102507).

    When would we notice a difference between Herald Newman and exact clone of him, except without free will? I expect that we would only see an obvious difference if the Father draws Newman to accept Jesus as his Savior. Then Newman would understand and see the need for agape love, and that is why belief in Jesus matters.

    Why does God insist that we love Him with all heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as we love our self? Can you imagine living with a prideful, self-centered human being for all eternity? If you were God, an infinite Being capable of creating something from nothing, why would you want some finite, arrogant creature constantly making demands of you? Why would you allow that same finite, arrogant creature to constant abuse those creatures who do strive to love and obey you?

    Why would God allow beings to exist who will ultimately be sent to hell? God has His reasons, but we don’t really understand what He is doing. See https://citizentom.com/2022/04/18/ten-questions-for-christians/#comment-102507.

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  3. Tom,

    You stated: “So, what do Christians believe about free will? Since we don’t understand what exactly God is doing, there is no universal consensus
    . ‘
    I choose to agree with C.W. Lewies beliefs about free will

    • C.S. Lewis on Suffering and What It Means to Have Free Will in a Universe of Fixed Laws “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” By Maria Popova

    https://www.themarginalian.org/2014/07/25/c-s-lewis-problem-of-pain-free-will/#:~:text=C.S.%20Lewis%20on%20Suffering%20and%20What%20It%20Means,you%20have%20excluded%20life%20itself.%E2%80%9D%20By%20Maria%20Popova

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 6. If you believe God values our free will, why is it that God was so willing to violate the free will of certain humans in the stories of your holy book, but apparently does not do the same today? In other words, why did Paul, Thomas, or any of the apostles, get so much better evidence that Jesus was the Christ than anybody today?

    This is a poorly written question. What is being asked? We can only guesss.

    Let’s look at the assumptions.
    A. Christians believe that God values our free will.
    B. The Bible says that God violates our free will.
    C. Paul, Thomas, and the other apostles got better evidence of the Christ than we do today, and that has something to do with free will?

    What exactly is the question? Why doesn’t God treat everyone the same? Perhaps.

    Well, if what I think is the question is the question the correct answer is that I don’t know the answer, and God is not obligated to tell us anything He doesn’t want to tell us.

    Romans 9 deals with the issue. Here are the key verses.

    Romans 9:10-18 New American Standard Bible

    10 And not only that, but there was also Rebekah, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? Far from it! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I show compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on the person who wants it nor the one who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I raised you up, in order to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

    If we all received the justice we deserve, none of us would be saved. As it is for reasons I cannot explain, God chooses to save some of us.

    John 6:44 New American Standard Bible

    44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

    As I understand it, in the original Greek, the word “draws” has a stronger meaning.
    Consider another translation..

    John 6:44 Amplified Bible

    44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him [giving him the desire to come to Me]; and I will raise him up [from the dead] on the last day.

    So, what do Christians believe about free will? Since we don’t understand what exactly God is doing, there is no universal consensus. Consider De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will by Martin Luther (https://ccel.org/ccel/luther/bondage/bondage?highlight=the%20bondage%20of%20the%20will).. Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam debated the topic via books that they wrote.

    What is clear is salvation is a gift. Because of His mercy and grace, God chooses to save some of us, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 5. Why would a loving and all-powerful God chose to use humans to propagate the Christian message of salvation? If God is all loving and all powerful shouldn’t God be the one to bring this message rather than ignorant and fallible humans, considering that your religion look remarkably like every other religion out there?

    This is not a question; it is an argument that God should run His Creation the way Herald Newman would run it.

    The issue the “question” actually addresses is why God created us. Here are a couple of articles that address that issue.

    https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/why-did-god-make-mankind.html

    https://www.gotquestions.org/why-did-God-create-us.html

    The question contains a couple of incorrect, unsupported conclusions.

    Did God choose humans to propagate His message? Not exactly. Jesus — the God/Man who lived, died, and rose from dead — preached. Jesus did charge us with spreading His Gospel, documented in the Bible, which is the inspired Word of God. However, Jesus calls upon us to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. This quote from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+8%3A7-13&version=NASB makes it obvious that God is not just a passive observer.

    Hebrews 8:10-12 – New American Standard Bible
    10 For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel
    After those days, declares the Lord:
    I will put My laws into their minds,
    And write them on their hearts.
    And I will be their God,
    And they shall be My people.
    11 And they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen,
    And each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
    For they will all know Me,
    From the least to the greatest of them.
    12 For I will be merciful toward their wrongdoings,
    And their sins I will no longer remember.”

    Is Christianity remarkably like every other religion out there? Of course not. All the other religions are about what we have to do to be saved. Christianity is about accepting the gift of salvation.

    Ephesians 2:1-10 New American Standard Bible

    2 And you were dead in your offenses and sins, 2 in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

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  6. 4. How do you reconcile the fact that religious belief appears highly correlated to both geography and the religious traditions of your parents, with the idea that God is loving and would therefore want everyone to be saved, since all religious traditions cannot be true?

    This question contains an assumptions that are incorrect. Religious belief is not highly correlated with geography, and the religious traditions of the parents matter only if parents succeed in making them matter.

    Christian is a belief system. Belief systems spread when some people find the ideas contained within a belief system relatively attractive when compared to what they already believe. Consider some examples.

    Walking works well, but the idea of using horses to travel became quite popular, and the idea of the horseless carriage has gained even more popularity. Today many use the idea of jet planes to travel, and some are even trying to use rockets for space travel.

    Even though the governing authorities often opposed its spread, Christianity rapidly replaced Paganism.

    Islam, because the governing elites made Islam their system of governance, supplanted Christianity by warfare, enslaving and even martyring Christians. Similarly, in more recent times, Nazis, Communist and Socialists have used the power of government to impose their beliefs. In particular, Nazis, Communist and Socialists have used government-run, public education systems to spread their political ideologies, including their atheistic beliefs.

    So, why that question? How do you reconcile the fact that religious belief appears highly correlated to both geography and the religious traditions of your parents, with the idea that God is loving and would therefore want everyone to be saved, since all religious traditions cannot be true? Even though belief systems can spread rapidly, even when confronted by the lethal power of government, we only live about 80 years. So, even though Christianity is spreading relatively rapidly in Communist China, for example, within the span of a human lifetime that spread seems slow. Apparently, however, that spread is fast enough for God’s purposes.

    Consider what the question presumes. We can understand exactly what God is doing. But we cannot understand the thoughts of God.

    1 Corinthians 2:6-12 New American Standard Bible

    6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written:

    “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
    And which have not entered the human heart,
    All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

    10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among people knows the thoughts of a person except the spirit of the person that is in him? So also the thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.

    God shares with us what He will and no more. Thus, faith is required because our knowledge of God is imperfect.

    Does that make faith in God unreasonable? No. Our knowledge of everything is imperfect. When we go to the store, we don’t perfectly know if we will succeed in getting to the store or if the store will have what we want. We go because we have faith that we can get to the store, find what we need, and return home. Similarly, we put our faith in the knowledge in what the Spirit who is from God has shared with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Question 3: Is there anything that God could do that would change your mind about God being loving and good, or is there nothing you would make you reconsider?

    This question is incoherent. By nature and definition, God is all good, all knowing and all powerful. Therefore, everything he does is good. Whether or not we change our mind about God based on his actions is our problem, not God’s.

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    1. @SOM

      Consider this question from the viewpoint of an Atheist. If by definition God is good — holy — then why must God by definition be holy? Why can’t God be evil and still be God? Why is the suggestion that God can be evil incoherent?

      I think this verse provides the answer.

      Mark 3:22-27
      New American Standard Bible
      22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” 23 And so He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

      God by definition is the Creator? Why would God harm what He creates? He would be destroying His own work, at war with Himself.

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  8. Question 3: Is there anything that God could do that would change your mind about God being loving and good, or is there nothing you would make you reconsider?

    We are our own worst enemy. When we refuse to obey God, we make ourselves enemies of God.

    Consider what God’s commandments do. When we obey God, and we ask for His wisdom and help, our obedience protects from our own worst instincts. When we disobey God, we suffer the consequences of our own bad behavior.

    So, what about that question? The trouble we have when we sin proves that God cares about us. If God allowed us to sin without suffering the consequences, that would prove He is not loving and good. As it is, when we sin, we have the opportunity to see and to learn the wisdom of obeying God. We have the opportunity to see that He cares enough to discipline us.

    Hebrews 12:4-11 New American Standard Bible
    A Father’s Discipline

    4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    Nor faint when you are punished by Him;
    6 For whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
    And He punishes every son whom He accepts.”

    7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 For the moment, all discipline seems not to be pleasant, but painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Allow me to take a crack a crack at questions 9 and 10.

    9. What would you say is the best evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator?

    Thousands of people witnessed Jesus’ miracles. He transferred his creative power to the Apostles who themselves, performed miracles which were witnessed by many. Also, the Catholic Church has kept records for over 2000 years of people who performed miracles down through the centuries. People canonized as saints have performed at least two witnessed and verified miracles. Christian Western Civilization with its modern science and medicine also attests to Jesus being Creator. No other civilization in history has unlocked the fires of Creation as has been accomplished by Christian Western Civilization.

    10. Why is it that Jesus, who you believe is Creator, appears to have said nothing in any of the gospels that could not have been said by anyone else at that time and place?

    This question is factually untrue. Jesus was executed because what he said and did was so novel. Also, Jesus spoke common sense. Common sense is common because it is discoverable by anyone at any time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @SOM

      Thanks for taking a crack at questions 9 and 10.

      It is curious that Atheists make assertions that don’t make sense. Question 9 is just a question, but question 10 suggests an answer to question 9. Jesus said nothing that anyone else could not have been said by anyone else at that time and place?

      The Bible promotes a philosophy, the belief that we are made in the image of God — that God loves us — that is totally at odds with what any man would dare to teach unless God Himself wanted that man to teach it. Even the Jews had an extremely difficult time accepting what the Old Testament says. That is why when Jesus dared to teach from the Old Testament and explain what the Old Testament says many of the religious leaders wanted Him dead. They did not want to believe the Old Testament; they wanted their traditions.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You hit it on the nail with ‘common sense’.

      Ironically, the proposed question indicates a fundamental ignorance of ancient Near East wisdom literature. Wisdom Motifs are throughout the Old Testament; but more importantly, in the books such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ben Sira, Job, etc. the Israelite wisdom literature reflects that of its Near East neighbors, which ‘wisdom’ is the discovery of the divine. Of course, this develops into the pagan Greek understanding of the Logos ‘reason/mind of God’ and then the Christian development that Christ is the spoken Logos of the Divine mind.

      The ancients, as understood in the Israelite traditions, discovered wisdom over many generations then the teachings of Jesus actually should resemble the wisdom and moral traditions of really any world culture that made in the image of God using their reason. Jesus’ own teachings with parables using the motifs like the ‘wise’ and ‘foolish’ virgins. So, it’s perfectly in line with what should be expected by the claims of Judaism and later Christianity with what has been revealed about–and by–God.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Citizen Tom. I would like to add that the atheist does not understand the nature of Adam and Eve’s original sin as being a matter of justice. When human beings commit acts of injustice it causes suffering. The injustice of Adam and Eve’s original sin brought suffering into the entire universe. Such was the grave nature of original sin. It was a doozy to be sure.

      For some reason the atheist mind cannot make heads or tails out of the Bible or see the what is obvious: injustice causes suffering.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @SOM

        We all have trouble confessing our sins. Why? Every sin is a sin against God because every sin is an act of disobedience towards God. So, to confess our sins we must humble ourselves before the Holy God and beg for mercy. Until we understand just how much God loves us, such humility is frightening. It is difficult to return a love we have so much trouble comprehending.

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