Arguments, Bands, and Circularity

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

Phew! What a week it’s been. Things have been pretty busy. After finishing up exams, I packed up all my stuff in preparation to move to a new place, and then came home for a few days. While at home on the weekend, I went to my cousin Bethany’s graduation, watched Crash Paper Plane (a band made up of several of my friends) compete in a battle of the bands, and headed out of town for a bit to visit my friend Melissa. Then on Monday, my dad and I drove back up and we moved all my stuff from my old place to my new place for the summer. So it’s been a busy time since then, unpacking and arranging everything. Of course, on top of that, I didn’t have the password to access the wireless connection, so I had no Internet for a couple days. I ended up travelling to school so I could check my email and such. But now that’s all settled, and so am I. For the most part, anyway. There are still a few things I need to do before the term begins, but I’ve got a list prepared, at least. Whether or not I actually do the things on the list is a different issue, but hopefully I’ll be productive enough to do some of them, anyway.

But on top of all these things I had to do, I also decided it was time to do another important thing. On the car ride up to the graduation ceremony, I let my parents know that I was no longer a Christian. I did it as tactfully as I could, but of course it sparked a long conversation. They were disappointed, of course, but I had at least prepared them for it a while back by letting them know I was having doubts. On the whole I think it went fairly well – as well as this sort of thing can go, anyway – but it wasn’t as concluding as I thought it would be. I don’t think that my parents were quite ready to accept the change, and so my dad tried various efforts to “convince” me. I had expected it to some extent, but it didn’t end quite how I wanted it to. My mom left me with “homework” – she wants me to read through the Gospel of John chapter by chapter and converse back and forth with her over email about what I think about it. To be honest, I don’t know why I agreed to that – I really don’t want to do it for several reasons. For one thing, John is about the worst choice, since most historians and New Testament scholars agree that it is the least historical of the four. Second, I fear that I’m going to end up hurting my mom at some point. I want to be honest with her, but I’m afraid that if I come at it too forcefully it will cause her some pain. The outcome I really want in all of these is just for them to accept it and respect it – even if they don’t agree with it – and move on. I just want equilibrium, really. But that might take a while, and it will certainly take longer if my mom and I are going to go back and forth talking about John for some time.

I love my mother very much, but it was especially hard to tell her this since she is really not an intellectual. I don’t mean that in any sort of derogatory way, but that’s just the fact of the matter. She believes because that is most comfortable for her, and I don’t have any problem with that, except that it makes it hard to explain why that is not enough for me. During most of the car ride, it was my dad and me talking back and forth. That was about as frustrating as the first time that I talked about this with them. My dad spent most of the time asserting things like, “But life is meaningless and purposeless without God,” without actually backing up what he said. Not wanting to do the same, I tried to present arguments about how that wasn’t the case. Such as, “Well, there are many people who seem to find meaning and purpose without God or religion, and we have no basis to measure whether a Christian has more meaning or purpose than they do.” As it turns out, trying to actually come up with a coherent argument is much more difficult to do than simply asserting things without proof, so I had a hard time and it caused me some frustration. The other thing is that he kept getting caught up in circular reasoning. He would say that “The Bible is the only truth in this world,” and I would ask him how he knew that to be true. He would then say that it is proven by the experiences of Christians all over the world who had changed lives. I would point out that people of other faiths have very similar experiences, so “experiences” aren’t a good indicator of truth. Then he would admit that was the case and say, “Well that’s why we have the Bible.” And so the vicious cycle would continue. I think we made it through about two or three cycles of that, even though I was trying to point out its circularity the whole time.

What really shocked me the most was something he said before that, however. He mentioned that the Bible was true, and I asked him how he knew that, and he said, “Because it says so!” I pointed out that just because someone says they’re telling the truth, that doesn’t mean they are. I honestly was shocked that he would say that, though. Having an affinity for apologetics, I’ve come across plenty of atheists ridiculing the argument that the Bible says it’s true, therefore it’s true. I simply assumed that Christians didn’t actually say that sort of thing, since it was so obviously circular. I figured they were simply setting up a straw man to laugh at. But apparently I was wrong about that. My father actually said it, to my utter shock and horror. To his credit, though, after I drew the analogy of someone saying they are telling the truth, he did agree that it was circular. Phew! I thought the universe was going to implode there for a second!

At any rate, I am simply glad that the ordeal is over. I was dreading the thought of having to bring it up, and I chickened out several times before saying anything. It’s not that I feared they would get angry and throw me out of the moving vehicle, but I simply dread disappointing my parents. Their opinion of me is important to me, and to even imagine that they are disappointed with me gives me plenty of anguish. It’s not something I like to think about. Those thoughts were honestly the worst part of losing my faith. Thankfully, however, I have loving parents who I know will never stop loving me or caring for me based on anything that I do. That’s certainly appreciated, and it reassures me to know that. But all in all, I’m simply glad that I’ve told them. So now all I have left to do is talk about John and why we have no reason to believe that he was “inspired” by anything other than earlier traditions about Jesus. That might be a lot easier to do if I had a Ph.D. in New Testament studies, but at least I can rely on other scholars for information. It’s sure nice when all your work is done for you, isn’t it?

18 responses to “Arguments, Bands, and Circularity”

feeno

Blah, blah, blah, Melissa? Hmmm?

I know it was no easy thing to tell your parents about your skepticism, That’s probably where the “Phew” comes from? We all want our parents to be proud of us. Hell, I’m 45 years old and still call my parents to tell them how I played in my last softball game.

Your Mom sounds a lot like my mom. Her advice is actually very wise. I know it will be hard for you to read the book of John with out your prejudices but try if you can. (BTW I have prejudices too. I didn’t mean to imply that negatively.) John 20:31 says “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Go mom.

I feel for your parents right now, Be patient with them as they try to grasp it all. When I was “out in the world” my mom would send me books out the wazoo from C.S. Lewis and other fundies. It’s kinda funny, I never read much of them, and threw them all away. Now I wish I had all those old books. Such is life?

John didn’t write his Gospel for historical purposes. So just enjoy the read. You’ll have to let me know what you thought when you’ve finished.

Thanks for your blog, I’m actually waiting to be approved over at DC.
I responded on Harry’s article after you and ismellarat.

Later Holmes, feeno

P.S. Yo Cori-Beth, W’sup girl.

Cori-Beth

This is how I know the Bible is Truth, not because it says so and that settles it, because, that is circular thinking. It all comes down to faith!

I think that your dad way of thinking is God said it and that settles it! However, my thinking, and I think you think the same way is “so what? It doesn’t mean it’s true! Is it really God speaking? Or not speaking?”

I think the bottom line is why do you believe what you believe? And where does faith come from? Why do you believe what God it telling you? Or why don’t you? Or is it God after all?

Trust your mom in what she is asking you to read and keep an open mind and not a cynical one. I’m saying this out of love to you as your cousin and I’m sure your mom asked you to read John out of love as well. Really read the words with your heart, not just your mind. Whether you continue to be a non-Christian after, well that’s not anyone’s choice but yours! Thank you, again, for being you and for questioning your life values! It’s very courageous of you and I admire you for it!

Well, after that intense post, I have to got back to setting up another online shop. CafePress will now only be giving Shop Owners 10% of the commissions they make in the Marketplace. I can’t pay rent with that, so I’m off to Zazzle.com! In case you want to take a look, it’s Maiden Voyage Creations It’s slowly getting there.

Also, hey feeno!

Corinne

PS I think I’ll read John along with you, Jeff! (-;

Jeff

Hey feeno,

Perhaps you’re right. I am not trying to imply that I’m resentful of my parents’ reactions. I am very thankful that I have parents who wouldn’t even consider throwing me out of the house or whatever – no matter what I say or do. What I’ve written here is sort of a rant, just venting the frustration that I had with the situation. I think I’m a bit more settled about it now 🙂

But as for reading John, I still don’t like it. I suppose it’s mostly because my mom seems to think that the Bible has some magical powers that will cause those reading it to…whatever. Change people? It just seems a little silly to me. The Bible is a book – it’s a bunch of pages, bound together, with words written on them. It doesn’t have the power to do anything. I know she’s not claiming that, but that’s what it sounds like anyway, and I resent that. I’ve read the Gospel of John many times before, and I know what it says. I know its themes, its history, and now I’ve even done a course in school that looked at it in greater detail (it was a course about Jesus and his life). Is there really anything that is suddenly going to change my mind about anything? Unlikely.

But we’ll see. I know that I just need to give my parents some time, give them a chance to accept it and figure it out in their own heads. I suppose I’m used to my new life now, but it’s still new to them. So hopefully it will die down once I give it some time 🙂

And hey Corinne,

I know whole line about faith. My dad mentioned that a few times as well! But people have faith in a lot of different things, and they can’t all be right. The Muslims have faith that the Qu’ran is the word of Allah, and yet we don’t all go running over to Islam. But at any rate, according to several verses in the Bible, even the faith to believe is given to us by God. So apparently God has either taken my faith away, or else he didn’t give me enough in the first place and it ran out!

I do intend to read the rest of John like I agreed to, and I always try to read these things with an open mind. But I also view them with a critical eye, and attempt as best I can to evaluate the truth-claims they present. That’s really the only reasonable way to approach this, in my opinion. So we’ll see – I’ll likely blog about what I’ve read at least once or twice, so I’ll try to keep my readers updated 🙂

Hmm, well sounds like CafePress is getting greedy! Good luck with your new store – I like your header image! Have a good one 🙂

Jeff

Cori-Beth

Yeah, your blog entry got me thinking as well about the scripture verse in Hebrews that says that faith is evidence of things not seen. But if we’re not even seeing the unseen, how can we have faith? Just a thought. It’s really making me think and pray as a Christian why I believe what I believe, how I believe, and what I believe. Thank you for the challenge! It’s eye opening for me!

I’m having fun with the new store! The header painting is a Monet painting entitled “The Storm”, but it doesn’t look like much of a storm to me…

Well, gotta go. Corinne

Cori-Beth

I guess what I meant was, if we are having trouble even seeing the evidence of things of God that are supposedly right before us, how is it that we can have faith in something that is not seen? A challenging question for myself anyway. It’s got me thinking again…. ouch, brain hurt!

Corinne

feeno

Cori-Beth

Since I’ve been semi “computer literate” about 5or6 months now,and talking with Atheists’, especially your cousin, I too have quite a bit to think about.

My idea of an Atheist was a bitter God hater, out to take prayer and God out of our schools and legalize abortion and help pass “communist laws”. Then I have to go and meet nice genuine people, a lot like myself. You know handsome, funny, talented folks. O.K. funny and talented. Well maybe just funny, and even that is questionable. Anyways they have families, friends and seem quite content with there atheism. And a lot of them like your cousin Jeff have valid and sincere arguments against a faith in God. That should certainly have some rational Christians examine where they are with their faith. So you are not alone.

But since this whole computer thing has started, I can only say my faith in God has only gotten stronger. I still have many questions that may never be answered, like why someone like your cousin who was seeking the Lord’s direction in his life, can somehow become a non believer?

When God created us in his “image” I believe part of that image is that we can communicate with him. He gave us a brain to think and I also believe he gave everyone a knowledge of an everlasting life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says……”He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;….

I guess every time a question or doubt arises, I can’t get away from the fact that my mind instantly runs to God for help, guidance and answers. I’ve always sensed, even when I wasn’t living a Christian life that God was there some how trying to communicate with me.

The Faith thing can be a tough issue, and it does usually end with a head ache. We Christians are required to have some faith. Heb. 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those that earnestly seek him.” having said that, my faith in God is not a blind faith. He’s proven himself to me, time and time again.

Personally, I think if your questioning God, or have tough questions that’s a good thing and will only help you grow closer to him?

I’m sure no expert on the subject, I can only speak for myself. But if you ever have any questions about anything please e-mail me.
feeno@fuse.net

Late, feeno

Cori-Beth

Amen on your faith not being a blind one, Feeno! Mine either! I still remember years ago when I was teaching Sunday School, I lesson that I taught on that very subject, that faith should be trusting and not blind!

Absolutely seeking God will only get us closer to Him, no doubt! I’ve had Him personally speak to me time and time again as well as prove Himself to me. He is amazing! I’ve even been healed of asthma…instantly! In fact I didn’t even know I couldn’t breath when I was breathing, that’s how cool it was when it happened! That’s just one physical thing that’s happened to me. There are so many spiritual and wonderful things that have also happened. Too many to list! And I with out a shadow of a doubt, I know that I was God!

I think we over think faith at times and don’t have faith in the faith itself and the giver of it, and push it out of existence. Did that make sense? There are so many things and “gods” that we potentially can have faith in, no wonder it’s confusing to people! It’s whom or what we chose to have faith in that determines our destiny. You can have faith in that…if you choose!

Cori-Beth (-:

Cori-Beth

I know it’s hard when you don’t get what you are seeking! Especially when we are looking for a straight forward answer. Answers don’t always come that way!

Well, that’s my two, three, or four cents worth. I will speak no more on the subject, at least try not to, as your older and wiser??? cousin!

Corinne

Jeff

Well it seems you two are having a good discussion without me, so let me just say that I am glad that you both have found faith that provides you with happiness and satisfaction in your life. And feeno, I’m glad to hear that – even though your beliefs still remain the same – you’ve figured out that not all atheists are angry, bitter people that shake their fists at the sky 🙂

Ultimately, my philosophy is that as long as you are living a good life as a moral person (and I have no reason to think either of you aren’t!), then you are free to find beliefs that satisfy you. I mean, I have a strong commitment to truth, and I think it’s important that everyone have the same, but I also understand that we see Truth only vaguely and with no real clarity. Two competent, intelligent people can reasonably come to different conclusions. So, since I see Truth in the same unclear way as everyone else, I can’t be the judge of what is “right” and “wrong” in an objective sense.

I wish you all the best, and continued happiness in this life, and perhaps the next as well 🙂

feeno

Jeff

I was watching ESPN yesterday and some Canadian dude from your college was playing poker on T.V.. Do you know who or what I’m talking about?

Not that it’s any of my business, but who is Melissa from Dunville? She sounds like a little hottie.

It’s late, I just got home from destroying a few softballs. We won 17-5, and last week we won 17-7. I’ll give you an update every now and then.

My daughter has finals this week and next. Then she is off for the summer. She will spend most of her summer working down at school. But she is only 90 minutes away, and will come home on some weekends and when we go on vacation. (Texas)

Yeah I guess me and Cori-Beth got a little carried away with ourselves. And if she is reading this, thanks for your encouraging and uplifting testimony.

As always I’ll be checking in regularly. Late, feeno

Jeff

Hmm, guy from UW playing poker on TV? Nope, haven’t heard anything about that. I’ve heard of a few people that basically paid their tuition by playing online poker, though…I’ve briefly considered it lol.

And well, Melissa’s just a good friend of mine. Not sure that I really want to say much more, as I don’t want to put up information on the Internet about her that she wouldn’t want up…

Anyway, sounds like your team is pretty awesome at softball! Those are big wins! Congrats…now just keep that up for the rest of the season 🙂

feeno

Last night we won in our last at bat, on a walk off grand slam homerun, 21-17. I played just o.k., but the stud on our team hit 3 homeruns including the last one which won us the game. We are 3-0 with 11 regular season games to go. A mid season tournament and the city-wide tournament at the end of the year. That’s what were really playing for, a shot at the city title. I don’t know if we can win it, but we should have a nice run at it?

My Pastor got a couple copies of his book in the mail last week. He said he’ll have copies available in a week or two. You will get a copy right after that.

Also, unfortunately he is having some serious heart problems. As a matter of fact he asked me to preach for him either this week or next. If you want to hear me, you can go to our church website and click on my sermon. Let me know if your interested and I’ll get you the info.

Have you been reading the book of John like a good son?

Talk to you soon cuz, feeno

Jeff

Hey, not bad! Sounds like you guys are well one your way to the finals – maybe it’s a little early to tell at this point, but hey, 3-0 is certainly on the right track!

Alright, well I’ll email you with my mailing info. Thanks! As far as hearing you preach, I dunno that I actually have the time to sit and listen to a whole sermon online, but hey, maybe I can check it out, at least a little bit of it. So yeah, send the info on over 🙂

And yes, yes I have been reading John. It’s about the same as the last time I read it…but I have noticed a couple interesting details I had missed on earlier reads. Did you know that John never actually gives a full list of the disciples? I thought that was strange.

Anyway, thanks as always for dropping by. Have a good one!

Jeff

feeno

Because we had a couple of rain-outs, last night we played a double header. The first game we won 15-13. The 2nd game we played we won 14-4. we are now 5 and 0. I hit the ball well last night. Good thing too, our 2 big studs had “off” nights, so a couple of us old dudes had to all play well to win, and we did. We started game one at 6:45 and didn’t finish the 2nd game until after 10:00. That might have not been to big a deal, but we had to wait about an hour or so before we played the 2nd game, and I was already kinda sore before we even played that last game. And today I really feel tired and beat. The biggest difference between me and most of the guys I play with, is that they could probably play 5 or 6 nights a week. I actually need a week off between games?

Mon. A.M. I mailed off a package to you. I really think you will enjoy it. You should get it in another day or two? Depending on how them Canadians handle their business, ‘eh?

But I would truly love your opinion on this book. My view would of course be a little slanted? Although I don’t like to read much, especially fiction. In the 7th grade Sr. Christine made me read “A Wrinkle In Time” I think that was the last book of fiction I’ve actually read. I don’t remember what that book was about, but I do remember that I was glad I read it? (whew, that was 33 years ago.)

Sat. A.M. me and my wife went and ate at the “Cracker Barrel” it sounds like a hang out for red necks but it’s actually a great place to eat. Especially breakfast. Maybe you guys North of the boarder have them too? But anyways they have a little store inside the place where they sell nostalgic items and Americana type stuff, and right out front when you walk in I saw a DVD set of season one of the “Odd Couple”. I wanted to send you an episode, but a whole season would have been over kill? It’s one of those shows that if you seen one of them, then you’ve seen ’em all. Like Gilligan’s Island. Certainly you know who Gilligan is? Well if not don’t waste your time on him, check out Mary Ann and Ginger. Grrr. As a matter of fact, I’m gonna say goodbye and google them.

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Nice job! 5 and 0, that’s impressive. Keep it up! Does your team have a name?

Alright, I’ll let you know what I think of the book. I don’t read a whole lot of fiction anymore either, but I don’t mind it on occasion. I still haven’t received it yet but it’s only been a couple days. I’m sure I’ll get it soon.

I don’t know if we have Cracker Barrel up here. I’ve heard the name, but I think it’s actually a brand of cheese that I’m thinking of, lol. I’m just looking at the website now, and it doesn’t look like there are any in Canada. Oh well! But of course I’ve heard of Gilligan! I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full episode of the show (it was on before my time of course), but I’ve seen some of the re-runs…You old people sure had strange TV shows back then 😛 Haha just kidding of course…they’re still just as strange today 🙂

feeno

Did you see the one when Gilligan found something on the island that gave them hope of actually getting off the island. And then he did something really stupid and he blew there chances at getting off the island. And everybody was mad at him. Yeah, I saw that one too.

Later, feeno

Andrew

Its ironic that you bother to hurt your parents over something you don’t even think exists.

My experience was different…my parents were activists, essentially communists, and were diehard atheists.

When I told them I had accepted Christ, they could NOT handle it.

What started me doubting was visit to the old country before the liberation, my first as I was born in the USA, and seeing what an officially atheistic government was like.

One thing led to another.

Jeff

Hi Andrew,

I don’t think it’s ironic at all. I don’t believe God exists, but they do, and I think that my parents of all people deserve to know the truth about what I believe. I don’t want to lie to those that I love, even though I don’t want to hurt them either.

At any rate, it’s interesting to hear about your experiences. I don’t support an atheistic government – I support a secular government. Big difference. I think that any government that enforces a certain set of beliefs has the potential for grave injustices. Just think of the time in history when the church controlled much of Europe. When people were not free to believe what they wished, the people were not free, period. Certainly we must keep people from acting on beliefs that hurt others – neo-Nazis and KKK members, for instance. But a secular government that does not endorse any specific set of religious beliefs (or anti-religious beliefs) is much preferable for all citizens.

At any rate, thanks for dropping by. Have a good one!

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