God or Godless nears completion

Posted on 11/27/11 45 Comments

Things have been relatively quiet at randalrauser.com this past week, and for good reason. John Loftus and I have been working hard to finish the manuscript for our debate book God or Godless. And the way the work is progressing, we should be finished within the next 4 or 5 days. At that point I’ll have more time for blogging and commenting once again. I must say this has been a really great project to work on. It is immensely enjoyable to write these short, punchy and engaging debates. In each case the entire debate is only about 2000 words. (The entire book will be about 40,000 words; that’s approximately 180 pages.) That forces us to be sparing in our comments and to distill down every point to its basic essentials. Consequently, this book will be a great primer and conversation starter.

Now one remaining question: who wins?

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  • http://biblepat.blogspot.com star2

    Who wins?….It depends on who is reading the book. I don’t think anyone’s mind will be changed. But I might be wrong.

    If someone’s mind is changed from not believing there is a God to there is one then how will they know who the true and living God is, what He did for them, and how they might come into a personal relatonship with Him and to receive forgivness of sin and eternal life?

    Did you include a salvation chapter in the appendix in case there is such a person Randal?

    • pete

      I’m looking forward to reading it.

      It might be a fantastic vessel for the Holy Spirit to apply salvation to some.

      It may also serve to harden the hearts of others, in accord with God’s sovereign purposes.

      (Sorry Randal, I know the “hardening” part would be anathema to you, but I needed to throw some biblically conservative rhetoric in there for Star’s sake :) )

    • Walter

      These type of books do have the power to change minds–just not always in the direction that you wish. Rarely will a person read an argument and instantly flip-flop. But a seed can be planted.

      I am neither a Christian nor an atheist, but I am still looking forward to reading the kindle edition of this book.

  • Robert Gressis

    Randal, what do you think of the persuasive power of arguments? Your writing of this book suggests to me that you think giving arguments is important, but I’m starting to doubt their persuasive power.

    • randal

      Did an argument make you doubt their persuasive power? :)

      (E.g. (1) People usually don’t change their beliefs because of arguments. (2) If people don’t change their beliefs because of arguments then arguments aren’t that important. Therefore…)

      Of course it is important to have arguments or evidence for your beliefs even if the process of belief convesion is more complex than simply accepting the conclusion of an argument and then changing your life.

      • Robert Gressis

        Actually, it’s not clear to me that an argument did change my opinion of arguments. Rather, it has to do with experience teaching undergraduates, and with worries about how conclusions are reached.

        Undergraduates: a lot of time, I’ll give what looks to me like a pretty good argument for a particular conclusion (e.g., Don Marquis’s argument against abortion, Peter Singer’s argument for famine relief as an obligation, William Lane Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument, Galen Strawson’s “basic argument” for hard determinism), and not only are my students not convinced (which is fine — you should take your time), but not even in the least bit worried. Moreover, they usually don’t have a particularly good argument in response to these arguments. They just say they’re not convinced, end of story. I get the same feeling when it comes to public political debates. This isn’t to say that arguments never convince, but it seems like they take the back seat — like, many, many rows back — to sentiment.*

        *–Of course, if you want, you can put into argument form what I wrote above; but although it has a form that can be captured by an argument, it doesn’t follow that I was convinced by the argument-form of the above considerations. E.g., if I see a commercial for vegetarianism on TV, and they show me a suffering animal, I may be moved to become a vegetarian, and you can put what convinced me into the form of an argument, but it wasn’t those considerations put into the form of arguments that convinced me — it was seeing suffering animals.

        Worries about how conclusions are reached: this is a much mushier set of considerations, but it goes something like this. When you’re young, you come to have emotional attachments to a lot of positions (religious, philosophical, and political), mainly because you were raised to believe them, or you thought of them yourself, etc. Once you have those positions, then it’s pretty hard to argue you out of them (not impossible, of course). And it seems like a matter of random chance (this is an overstatement, but that’s how it SEEMS) which positions you end up with. Moreover, if you read in some topic — say, trope theory — and you read philosopher P1, who defends trope theory well, and you have no prior commitments on the issue, then you might find yourself convinced by P1, and so when you get to philosopher P2, who ably defends universals, you aren’t convinced, simply because you encountered P1 before you encountered P2; if you had encountered P2 before you encountered P1, then you wouldn’t have been impressed by P1. The worry here is that what positions you end up with may depend to a large degree on a bunch of arbitrary factors having nothing to do with those positions’ truth-values.

        • randal

          Very well put, especially this: “they usually don’t have a particularly good argument in response to these arguments. They just say they’re not convinced, end of story.”

          I try to present arguments which are of some logical force (that’d be nice) but which are also rhetorically winsome and emotive. I seem to have persuaded a few people of a few things in that way but, alas, not as many as I might like.

  • The Atheist Missionary

    Succinct and engaging writing is the key to capturing the attention of “Joe Cabernet” (you’re never going to capture the attention of “Joe Six-pack”). A decent example of how to accomplish this is Richard Carrier’s 83 page essay Why I am not a Christian (Philosophy Press, 2011) which is a simple yet devastating critique on the double standards used by Christians to accept the tenets of their reigion and the evidence they would require to support any other unusual claim (such as someone claiming to own a nuclear weapon or interstellar spacecraft).

    An even better example of the “simpleton’s philosophy of religion” genre is Peter Rollins’ 180 page Insurrection (Howard Books, 2011). My favorite passage thus far:

    In fundamentalism, we witness a type of psychotic relation to language in that there is an attempt to banish the hidden message from discourse. And yet this proves almost impossible. While everyone in a fundamentalist community may appear to really affirm the religious view of God both intellectually and in Church practice, there is a complex and hidden set of secret messages that tell people when to believe and not to. For instance, the claim “God will heal you if you have enough faith” really contains the following secret, disavowed message: “If it’s not too serious, pray for it, but if your illness is life-threatening, seek medical help.” (p. 60)

    • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

      Richard Carrier does, indeed, seem to possess some unholy powers of persuasion. I remember talking with a very bright young atheist, now writing his PhD in philosophy, who could not keep himself from citing Carrier. Time after time, I would demonstrate that Carrier’s facts were wrong, or his argument deeply fallacious. Being an honest young atheist, this young man would not deny my points. But a few days or weeks later, back he would be with more citations from Carrier. He obviously had been deeply impacted.

      My own on-line debate experience with Richard reminded me that some dogs won’t drop a bone, even when someone gives their tail a good yank.

      • randal

        I’m hoping to get back into reviewing The End of Christianity this week and first up is Richard Carrier’s essay. He strikes me as extraordinarily old school in his hyper-rationalistic approach, kind of like reading an atheistic John Warwick Montgomery.

      • Mika’il

        David, you are one of the biggest blowhards I have ever encountered on the internet. You just love boasting about your claims of debunking various atheist and agnostic writers, yet reality says otherwise. When are going to debate Bart Ehrman, since you think so highly of yourself? And then of course, you refused to answer simple questions I had for you over on John Loftus’s blog. I wonder why.

        • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

          Mikail: Biggest blowhards on the Internet? Well, there’s some stiff competition for that title, so I guess I should be proud to be numbered among the competition.

          There are a lot of people on John’s blog whose posts I don’t read, and there’s usually a reason for that. It might not be fair to clutter up Randall’s blog with whatever challenges you have in mind. But if you think there are some serious outstanding issues I’ve yet to respond to, and assuming you’ll kindly follow the ordnary guidelines, feel free to post your questions or challenges under one of my several critiques of John on my own blog. I seldom overlook posts there, and always appreciate a good challenge, if you can provide one.

          • Mika’il

            David, I may email you, because I don’t want to give you the impression that people care about your blog, by adding to the number of visitors to it. I’ve read enough of your bad arguments on John’s blog and I already visit enough fundy Christian blogs like yours already. I specifically asked you to explain Jesus’ failed apocalyptic prophecies several times and you never answered me.

            • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

              I think I see why I ignored you earlier. Given the tone of your comments, please do NOT post on my blog OR e-mail me. I simply don’t enjoy talking with people who take that tone, nor do I think you are likely to profit from receiving reasonable answers to your questions.

              There are plenty of Christians who will gladly play that game with you: I suggest you cast your thunderbolts in their direction.

              • Mika’il

                You see, Dave, I tried to play nice with you originally, but your condescending attitude and words drove me to have to play rough. I asked you, at least once in a respectful manner to answer my question, which you refused to do and only talked down to me and presented yourself as a know-it-all, which you are doing here. I think I may have asked you more than once in a respectful manner. You see, unlike the majority of Christian dudes, I’m not a passive girly man who is just going to let blowhards like you walk all over me.

                Hey man, if you can’t handle the fact that you got intellectually curb-stomped, that’s your problem, and not mine.

                As they say, “don’t hate the playa….”

                • http://www.retheology.net Jared

                  Hey Mika,

                  Try to keep it above board. Not to get in the middle of whatever history you two have, but I don’t think there’s much of anything to profit by being pejorative. You’re not going to gain any credit or favor from most of the regular participants here without being charitable.

                  Just a thought …

                  • randal

                    Agreed. The reference to “passive girly man” made me think of the old Hans and Franz skits on Saturday Night Live, but the rest of the comments were, er, a bit over the top.

                  • pete

                    Mika’il

                    Many of Jesus’ eschatalogical prophecies have been fulfilled:

                    1) The fall, rape and cannabalization of Jerusalem under Titus (A.D. 70 and Masada A.D. 135)

                    2) If you read back into Jesus’ teachings about “stewards beating their srvants” (cf. Luke 12:41-48) – cf. 11th and 12th century mideival Roman church)

                    3) In Jesus’ 7 letters to the Church of Asia minor, Ephesus suffered an earthquake and was shifted 3km down the road, and Smyrna and Philadelphia (the non-rebuked churches) were the last hold-outs against the Muslim caliphate.

                    4) In the last days, the love of many will grow cold………. read the newspaper.

                    5) Jesus talked about going on “a long journey”. Just because he hasn’t come back when you may expect, does not mean that he wont come back.

                    Perhaps you would like to tell me how Jesus’ eschatalogical prophecies have been debunked. I would love to address that issue.

                    • Mika’il

                      Pete, I will be happy to respond to your post later tonight after work tonight. In the meantime, I’m disappointed that you would resort to Hal Lindsey theology (newspaper theology).

                    • Mika’il

                      Pete, I’m back. I will respond to your post which said the following:
                      Many of Jesus’ eschatalogical prophecies have been fulfilled:

                      “1) The fall, rape and cannabalization of Jerusalem under Titus (A.D. 70 and Masada A.D. 135)

                      2) If you read back into Jesus’ teachings about “stewards beating their srvants” (cf. Luke 12:41-48) – cf. 11th and 12th century mideival Roman church)

                      3) In Jesus’ 7 letters to the Church of Asia minor, Ephesus suffered an earthquake and was shifted 3km down the road, and Smyrna and Philadelphia (the non-rebuked churches) were the last hold-outs against the Muslim caliphate.

                      4) In the last days, the love of many will grow cold………. read the newspaper.

                      5) Jesus talked about going on “a long journey”. Just because he hasn’t come back when you may expect, does not mean that he wont come back.

                      Perhaps you would like to tell me how Jesus’ eschatalogical prophecies have been debunked. I would love to address that issue.”

                      OK, well, I’ll start with point #3, that’s an interesting one! I’ve never heard that before, and I’ve listened to and read tons of Christian apologetics. It sounds like wishful thinking on your part. Do you also believe that the destruction of Damascus, prophesied in Isaiah 17, also happened?

                      Regarding point #3, first of all, I’m not sure the historical Jesus said everything that are attributed to him in the canonical gospels, but even if he did predict the fall of Jerusalem, he wasn’t the only one who predicted this, so this does’t make him unique or God. The problem with your statement is that Jesus predicted more than the fall of Jerusalem to happen in the generation of his first followers. He predicted end of the world and final judgement. He does this in all three synoptic gospels. For now we can just focus on Matthew. Look at Matthew 24:29-31. It is obvious that these are included in the “all these things” that will happen in “this generation.” Evangelical/fundamentalist Christian apologist Gary DeMar did a study of how “this generation” is used in the canonical gospels, and each time it is used to address the specific people that Jesus is talking to, so the garbage standard Christian apologetic answer that “this generation” is referring to a future generation simply will not work. DeMar realizes this and this is why he is a preterist. Preterism is an implausible explanation for Jesus’ failed apocalyptic prophecies, but that is another discussion for another day. It would be bad enough for you if you were a preterist like DeMar, but you sound like a futurist, so you’re in world of hurt.

                      Also, please read Jesus statement in Matthew16:27-28, which is in all three of the synoptic gospels. Jesus clearly says that some standing there would witness the son of man coming in his kingdom. From these words and the context, it is beyond clear that Jesus is talking about the final judgement and the new heavens and the new earth. Some people try to say this was fulfilled in the transfiguration, but this is so wrong it’s not even funny, and even many Christians realize this and again, that is why they are preterists. As I said earlier unless I’m wrong, you don’t sound like a preterist, so you’re in big trouble.

                      These are just two verses. Explicit and implicit predictions of Jesus second coming and end of the world in the first century are all over the New Testament. We see them in many of Paul’s writings, along with 1 John, Revelation and other books of the New Testament. This is one of the main reasons why I’m no longer a Christian, but it’s not the only one.

                      Let’s face it, Pete. Christians want to believe their lives of asceticism will be rewarded by their best buddy in the sky someday while the rest of the heathen who are partying it up down here and getting laid by hot babes are going to burn in hell for having such a fun time down here, But it’s not reality. I guess I can’t blame you for having the fantasy that your imaginary friend Jesus will fly down to the earth from the sky and rescue you. Life is tough, but it’s time to put away such childish thinking.

                      Sorry, Pete, but after you die, you will probably face the same destination as the guy who, to borrow a term from that spiritual band ACDC, regularly gives the dog a bone at the back of a strip club. So, you might as well have some fun in this life and quit repressing yourself.

                      #4, People have been saying this line for years. This is that Hal Lindsey hype/newspaper theology that I was talking about. If you think this is supposed to be a convincing argument, you’re sadly mistaken.

                      #5 Are you talking about the parables of Jesus? What’s your point? If you want to focus on the parables of Jesus, the people are still alive when the master comes back, so your explanation fails here as well.

                  • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

                    Jared: Thanks for the thought. I don’t remember this guy; there are a lot of people who talk that way on Debunking Christianity. I got a bit of whiplash, recently, going from the grittier ghettos of Amazon, DC, and Pharyngula to a secularist web site where contributors think about the questions, treat heretics with respect, and attack the issues, not the person. So I can understand when people get a bit of culture shock, visiting a new microbiome on the Internet.

                • chris

                  Mika ‘il said:

                  ” Look at Matthew 24:29-31. It is obvious that these are included in the “all these things” that will happen in “this generation.” Evangelical/fundamentalist Christian apologist Gary DeMar did a study of how “this generation” is used in the canonical gospels, and each time it is used to address the specific people that Jesus is talking to, so the garbage standard Christian apologetic answer that “this generation” is referring to a future generation simply will not work. ”

                  The internal evidence of the scripture in question contradicts your assumption.

                  In the preceding verses Jesus said:

                  ” 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

                  15When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

                  16Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

                  17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

                  18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. ”

                  Do you really think that Jesus expected that every nation and all the world would hear the Gospel preached by the generation that He was addressing?

                  And in regards to verse 15, maybe you could explain verse 15-18. Jesus is talking about an event that would happen inside the Holy of Hollies. This was before CNN and internet. Only one person was allowed into the Holy of Holies. So how is it that the people Jesus was addressing would “SEE” what He is talking about? I mean obviously word of mouth was how news traveled back then, hence verse 14, so why didn’t Jesus say “…when you ‘hear’ about the desolation…. ” That would have made much more sense. But that’s not who He intended the message for. He was speaking prophetically about a generation that would be able to SEE what was happening. He couldn’t have been talking about people standing in the temple court seeing this happen, because in verses 16-18 He addresses people in Judea who are in the field SEEING this and on their rooftops SEEING this… This event could not happen until people all over Judea were able to see what is happening in the temple. That was not even possible then, but it is now thanks to satellite TV and internet. And now that we have that technology that’s exactly why the nation of Israel has be re-established and that’s why all the tools and priestly garments have already been made and are ready for service in the temple once it’s rebuilt. If you don’t believe now, hopefully you’ll still be alive when the rebuilding of the tempe starts so that you can reconsider.

                  Maybe you could comment on vs 22:

                  “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

                  How is it that in first century Palestine there could have been activity that was so severe that was bad enough in which “no flesh be saved” if those times were;t stopped? This again is an indication that it was a future prophecy that can now be fulfilled because of the advent of nuclear and biological weapons. But maybe you have a different explanation?

                  • Mika’il

                    Chris , you said:
                    “The internal evidence of the scripture in question contradicts your assumption.

                    In the preceding verses Jesus said:

                    ” 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

                    15When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

                    16Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

                    17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

                    18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. ”

                    Do you really think that Jesus expected that every nation and all the world would hear the Gospel preached by the generation that He was addressing?

                    And in regards to verse 15, maybe you could explain verse 15-18. Jesus is talking about an event that would happen inside the Holy of Hollies. This was before CNN and internet. Only one person was allowed into the Holy of Holies. So how is it that the people Jesus was addressing would “SEE” what He is talking about? I mean obviously word of mouth was how news traveled back then, hence verse 14, so why didn’t Jesus say “…when you ‘hear’ about the desolation…. ” That would have made much more sense. But that’s not who He intended the message for. He was speaking prophetically about a generation that would be able to SEE what was happening. He couldn’t have been talking about people standing in the temple court seeing this happen, because in verses 16-18 He addresses people in Judea who are in the field SEEING this and on their rooftops SEEING this… This event could not happen until people all over Judea were able to see what is happening in the temple. That was not even possible then, but it is now thanks to satellite TV and internet. And now that we have that technology that’s exactly why the nation of Israel has be re-established and that’s why all the tools and priestly garments have already been made and are ready for service in the temple once it’s rebuilt. If you don’t believe now, hopefully you’ll still be alive when the rebuilding of the tempe starts so that you can reconsider.

                    Maybe you could comment on vs 22:

                    “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

                    How is it that in first century Palestine there could have been activity that was so severe that was bad enough in which “no flesh be saved” if those times were;t stopped? This again is an indication that it was a future prophecy that can now be fulfilled because of the advent of nuclear and biological weapons. But maybe you have a different explanation?”

                    Chris, I will be happy to answer your questions. Regarding verse 14, actually many non-Christian and Christian greek scholars argue that the word used for “world” in greek meant only the Roman empire, so it’s very possible that in this one verse, Jesus had a somewhat realistic expectation. However, if we take your view, this is just one more confirmation that Jesus was wrong, because obviously his message was not spread all over the world. You, of course, are arguing from the pre-supposition that the Bible and Jesus can never be wrong, because the Bible is the word of God and Jesus is God, so he can’t be wrong. Therefore, any evidence to the contrary, you will reject, but hey, don’t let the facts get in the way, eh?

                    As for your commentary regarding verse 15-18, you are engaging in pure eisegesis from the Hal Lindsey, Left-behind, pre-tribulational rapture view of Bible prophecy, which even many Christian have exposed as b.s. In a desperate attempt to maintain biblical inerrancy and the infallibility of the Jesus of the gospels, you are reading all kinds of crap that isn’t there. Jesus (if he really did say what was attributed to him here), in the tradition of jewish prophets, was predicting the destruction and defilement of the temple and Jerusalem, and this did happen in 70AD, and it was well known, wasn’t it? Surely, you’re not saying your lord and savior was wrong, or are you? And again, remember that even if Jesus actually did make this prediction, he was not the only person who made this prediction about the temple and Jerusalem being destroyed and defiled. No, they didn’t have CNN back then, but tons of people in that region witnessed and knew about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. By putting this text into the future, you are doing horrible violence to it and only making yourself look foolish. So, Jesus may have been right about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but the whole final judgement/end of the world thing he was wrong on. You are the one who is saying that Jesus did not mean what he said. Why are you not taking Jesus at his word? Give the guy a break! You can try all the word games you want, but it’s beyond obvious that “this generation” means the people that Jesus is talking to. Just look at how “this generation” is used in the new testament. The context also makes this clear. The idea that “this generation” could possibly refer to a future generation has been debunked so many times, even by your fellow evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, that I wonder if I should even waste my time on it.

                    As for verse 22, what’s your point, this is part of Jesus’s prediction of the of how the apocalypse would play out, and to Jesus’ credit (if he actually said these things), he was right about the tremendous amount of suffering that occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but in addition to the end of the temple, he predicted the end of the world, on which he was wrong.

                    Chris, you have identified the problem. You realize that the whole olivet discourse could not have happened in the generation of Jesus’ followers, but the problem is that Jesus made a prediction that it WOULD happen the generation of Jesus’ followers. Because you don’t want to give up biblical inerrancy and acknowledge that Jesus just might have been wrong, you are resorting to desperate eisegesis ridiculous explanations to rescue the bible from its error. The jig is up, my friend. As I told your fellow Christian Pete, it might be nice to have a fantasy that your imaginary friend will fly down to the earth from the sky one day to reward you because you kept yourself “pure” but it just isn’t reality.

                    • chris

                      YOU said:

                      “Chris, I will be happy to answer your questions. Regarding verse 14, actually many non-Christian and Christian greek scholars argue that the word used for “world” in greek meant only the Roman empire, so it’s very possible that in this one verse, Jesus had a somewhat realistic expectation. ”

                      - Ok but that does not address when he said “ALL NATIONS” – I guess that too only meant 1 nation – Rome? It seems to me that Jesus made it clear by repeating himself 2 different ways so that there would be no misunderstandings, but alas….

                      ***
                      YOU said:

                      “you are engaging in pure eisegesis”

                      - Actually I am taking the text for what is says: “When you SEE” Thats what the text says. It says that people in the field will SEE and on their housetops will SEE. You are the one engaging in eisegesis. I am taking Jesus’ words literally and so far the event He described has not happened and at the time He spoke of it, it COULD NOT happen.

                      ***
                      YOU said:

                      “Jesus (if he really did say what was attributed to him here), in the tradition of jewish prophets, was predicting the destruction and defilement of the temple and Jerusalem, and this did happen in 70AD, and it was well known, wasn’t it?”

                      -Actually, if you’ll go back to verse 3 you’ll see that Jesus was asked to address 3 different things, and the defilement of Jerusalem did NOT happen. I suggest you look into the four different levels of Rabbinic understanding of Scripture and prophecy, particularly that of midrash. It’s understood that more often that not, prophecy is a pattern of things instead of a one time event. The scriptures are full of these models, patterns and examples. There are many things that happen several times in scripture and each occurrence is leading to a culmination of the final event.

                      3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

                      ***
                      YOU said:
                      “And again, remember that even if Jesus actually did make this prediction, he was not the only person who made this prediction about the temple and Jerusalem being destroyed and defiled. No, they didn’t have CNN back then, but tons of people in that region witnessed and knew about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.”

                      -And again I respectfully submit to you that the temple was NOT defiled as Jesus had suggested. He was pretty clear in vs 15:”When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)”

                      Jesus even made an additional point when he said LET THE READER UNDERSTAND.

                      Daniel 8, 9 and 11 explain this. Ill be happy to further detail it if you like but first you should look into what led to the Maccabean revolt and then you’ll understand, I think.

                      And the destruction of Jerusalem in and of itself was a separate prophecy in another discourse and interestingly enough, the Christians who had the scriptures in AD 70 took heed to Jesus’s warning about the city being surrounded (not found in Matthew’s discourse) and evacuated the city. If you are not familiar with the events surrounding the escape of almost all the Christians as God gave them time to depart when they obeyed as Jesus warned in Luke, it’s a fascinating study. Here are a few details:

                      ***
                      YOU say:
                      “The idea that “this generation” could possibly refer to a future generation has been debunked so many times, even by your fellow evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, that I wonder if I should even waste my time on it. ”

                      -That’s a fallacious appeal to authority that does nothing for you.

                      There are several reasonable explanations including:

                      A. the verb ??????? is an ingressive aorist. The same verb is found in all three Synoptics and is translated “takes place” (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). As an ingressive aorist it emphasizes the beginning of the action with the meaning “begin to take place.” All those things would begin in that generation and find their ultimate completion at the Second Advent. This fits with the idea of not being deceived by the events mentioned in Matthew 24:4-8. The Lord specifically referred to these as “the beginning of birth pangs” (v. 8).

                      B. There are two ways of confirming the simple series of events which Jesus says will happen in quick succession: tribulation, heavenly signs, second coming. Firstly, in verse 14 we read of “the end”: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to the nations; and then the end shall come.” Now observe verse 15: “When you therefore see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…” The little Greek word translated “therefore” connects the abomination of desolation with the end referred to in verse 14. 2 This confirms what we have already seen: that the abomination of desolation is a feature of the end of the age. Its appearance triggers the awful time of trouble which precedes Jesus’ arrival. The abomination of desolation signals the approaching end of the age – the return of Jesus.

                      So there are 2 very plausible explanations. I personally lean towards B.

                      32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
                      33So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

                      34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

                      So when Jesus says “THIS GENERATION” He is referring to the generation that sees the things He warns about in vs 15-31 and so far there haws NOT been a generation that has SEEN the DESOLATION SPOKEN OF BY DANILE . The desolation spoken of by Daniel has not yet taken place and therefore there the generation that SEES that happen has not passed. Once that is SEEN, that is the generation who will witness the end.

                  • Mika’il

                    Chris, for some reason it’s not letting me respond to your last post, so I’m going to respond here. This will probably be my last post here on this topic, because it’s becoming obvious that you are committed to inerrancy despite what the facts say. Also, my time is limited.

                    Are you saying that the temple wasn’t destroyed and defiled in 70AD? Do you need a history lesson? This is the one thing I’m saying Jesus might have been right about. Why aren’t you letting me give him credit where credit is due? Where in the Bible does it talk about the temple being destroyed, than being rebuilt, then being destroyed again in the end times? This is total eisegesis and/or you are appealing to Hal Lindsey” “late great planet earth” instead of the Bible. This is typical of the pre-millenial dispensational school of Bible prophecy. Let me guess. I bet you believe that Daniel also prophesies a seven year peace treaty between the nation of Israel and the AntiChrist, right?

                    I’ll keep this short and simple, since my time is limited. My statement about what “this generation” means is not an appeal to authority. If you look up every instance in the gospels where the term “this generation” is used, it is obvious that it is referring to the people that Jesus is directly speaking to. Anyone can see this. For example, just look at Matthew 23:36. How could Jesus (if he really said these things) be possibly speaking about people over 1900 years in the future in 23:36? For emphasis, I’m just pointing that greek scholars know this along with many of your fellow evangelical/fundamentalist Christian apologists. The fact of the matter is that we’re at a deadlock about what “this generation” means. We both agree that Jesus is predicting the end of the world/final judgement. I’m saying that Jesus is wrong because it is very clear that he predicted the final judgement to take place in his own generation and that did not happen. You, like a typical Christian apologist, have the presupposition that Jesus and/or the Bible is inerrant and can’t possibly be wrong, so you are coming up with all kinds of explanations out of your butt to explain this away, but it won’t work. Trust me, I used to be a fundy Christian like you who adhered to dispensationalism and had these same kind of explanations that you are trying to sell. I don’t understand why you’re not a preterist. Preterism, while it’s extremely implausible, is the only hope that your religion may be true. These people believe that Jesus came back in 70AD. I think this is ridiculous, but they understand that either Jesus came back in 70AD or he was wrong.

                    Last but not least, I’ll say this. For the sake of argument, let’s say the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD was not what Jesus was referring to in 70AD. Actually, you MIGHT be right about this in a way, because as we agree, Jesus is not only predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, but the final apocalypse. But back to my point, it really doesn’t matter to me, because Jesus said this apocalypse would happen in the generation of the people he was directly speaking to. For the reasons I’ve talked about here, your attempts to explain away this generation aren’t very convincing at all, despite your attempt at an in-depth grammar explanation. But I guess you need to do whatever you need to do to convince yourself that your invisible friend will fly out of the sky and rescue you someday. Keep telling yourself this lie. Meanwhile, reality, including the fact that the time limit has expired, and generations have passed with no second coming, proves you wrong.

                    I’m probably done here. Feel free to have the last word because I probably won’t be able to respond due to work-related responsibilities.

                    YOU said:

                    “Chris, I will be happy to answer your questions. Regarding verse 14, actually many non-Christian and Christian greek scholars argue that the word used for “world” in greek meant only the Roman empire, so it’s very possible that in this one verse, Jesus had a somewhat realistic expectation. ”

                    - Ok but that does not address when he said “ALL NATIONS” – I guess that too only meant 1 nation – Rome? It seems to me that Jesus made it clear by repeating himself 2 different ways so that there would be no misunderstandings, but alas….

                    ***
                    YOU said:

                    “you are engaging in pure eisegesis”

                    - Actually I am taking the text for what is says: “When you SEE” Thats what the text says. It says that people in the field will SEE and on their housetops will SEE. You are the one engaging in eisegesis. I am taking Jesus’ words literally and so far the event He described has not happened and at the time He spoke of it, it COULD NOT happen.

                    ***
                    YOU said:

                    “Jesus (if he really did say what was attributed to him here), in the tradition of jewish prophets, was predicting the destruction and defilement of the temple and Jerusalem, and this did happen in 70AD, and it was well known, wasn’t it?”

                    -Actually, if you’ll go back to verse 3 you’ll see that Jesus was asked to address 3 different things, and the defilement of Jerusalem did NOT happen. I suggest you look into the four different levels of Rabbinic understanding of Scripture and prophecy, particularly that of midrash. It’s understood that more often that not, prophecy is a pattern of things instead of a one time event. The scriptures are full of these models, patterns and examples. There are many things that happen several times in scripture and each occurrence is leading to a culmination of the final event.

                    3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

                    ***
                    YOU said:
                    “And again, remember that even if Jesus actually did make this prediction, he was not the only person who made this prediction about the temple and Jerusalem being destroyed and defiled. No, they didn’t have CNN back then, but tons of people in that region witnessed and knew about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.”

                    -And again I respectfully submit to you that the temple was NOT defiled as Jesus had suggested. He was pretty clear in vs 15:”When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)”

                    Jesus even made an additional point when he said LET THE READER UNDERSTAND.

                    Daniel 8, 9 and 11 explain this. Ill be happy to further detail it if you like but first you should look into what led to the Maccabean revolt and then you’ll understand, I think.

                    And the destruction of Jerusalem in and of itself was a separate prophecy in another discourse and interestingly enough, the Christians who had the scriptures in AD 70 took heed to Jesus’s warning about the city being surrounded (not found in Matthew’s discourse) and evacuated the city. If you are not familiar with the events surrounding the escape of almost all the Christians as God gave them time to depart when they obeyed as Jesus warned in Luke, it’s a fascinating study. Here are a few details:

                    ***
                    YOU say:
                    “The idea that “this generation” could possibly refer to a future generation has been debunked so many times, even by your fellow evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, that I wonder if I should even waste my time on it. ”

                    -That’s a fallacious appeal to authority that does nothing for you.

                    There are several reasonable explanations including:

                    A. the verb ??????? is an ingressive aorist. The same verb is found in all three Synoptics and is translated “takes place” (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). As an ingressive aorist it emphasizes the beginning of the action with the meaning “begin to take place.” All those things would begin in that generation and find their ultimate completion at the Second Advent. This fits with the idea of not being deceived by the events mentioned in Matthew 24:4-8. The Lord specifically referred to these as “the beginning of birth pangs” (v. 8).

                    B. There are two ways of confirming the simple series of events which Jesus says will happen in quick succession: tribulation, heavenly signs, second coming. Firstly, in verse 14 we read of “the end”: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to the nations; and then the end shall come.” Now observe verse 15: “When you therefore see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…” The little Greek word translated “therefore” connects the abomination of desolation with the end referred to in verse 14. 2 This confirms what we have already seen: that the abomination of desolation is a feature of the end of the age. Its appearance triggers the awful time of trouble which precedes Jesus’ arrival. The abomination of desolation signals the approaching end of the age – the return of Jesus.

                    So there are 2 very plausible explanations. I personally lean towards B.

                    32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
                    33So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

                    34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

                    So when Jesus says “THIS GENERATION” He is referring to the generation that sees the things He warns about in vs 15-31 and so far there haws NOT been a generation that has SEEN the DESOLATION SPOKEN OF BY DANILE . The desolation spoken of by Daniel has not yet taken place and therefore there the generation that SEES that happen has not passed. Once that is SEEN, that is the generation who will witness the end.

                    • chris

                      Mika’il

                      You said:

                      “Are you saying that the temple wasn’t destroyed and defiled in 70AD? Do you need a history lesson?”
                      .
                      -Actually I said quite the opposite and I even mentioned the Christians taking heed to the prophecy in Luke and fleeing before the destruction. Did you read my post? It doesnt appear so…

                      You said

                      ” If you look up every instance in the gospels where the term “this generation…” “…For example, just look at Matthew 23:36.”

                      - I am really glad you brought this up! Thank you!

                      In Matthew 23:26 When Jesus said “this generation” He used the words taut? genea. The greek word taut? is used 122 times in the NT and is almost always translated as “this” and there are of course different uses depending on the placement and gender of the subject etc. It almost always refers to the subject immediately before or after the word. It is not a vague word. It’s like holding a pencil in your hand and saying “this pencil” (taut? pencil) it means the one in your hand and not any other.

                      But the interesting thing is that in the discourse we are discussing in Matthew 24 of the end of the world, this is NOT the word Jesus uses!

                      He uses the word houtos. This word is not the same as taut? and does not mean the same thing. If Jesus had wanted to make it clear that the generation that He was referring to in the end times discourse was the ones standing in front of Him, He would have used the word taut? but He did not use that word. I wonder why….? I believe that He said what He meant and meant what He said and that if He meant the generation that he was addressing, then he would have used the word aut? !!

                      This word in this context is NOT used to speak of the subject just mentioned and immediately preceding or following. Are you getting that? This word is also often translated as this, but also as “these”. But in this case it is NOT used to refer to the subject immediately preceding or following.

                      Now the word genea that we translate as generations is also used in the plural for generations. So the proper translation for taut? genea could very well be” THESE GENERATIONS”

                      The New Testament DOES use the word that Jesus used – genea -to describe “generations”

                      One of the problems here is your “exegesis” is that you are developing a doctrine based on a translation, rather than the much more complex original language. This is a very poor idea.

                      YOU said:

                      ” I don’t understand why you’re not a preterist. Preterism, while it’s extremely implausible, is the only hope that your religion may be true. These people believe that Jesus came back in 70AD. I think this is ridiculous, but they understand that either Jesus came back in 70AD or he was wrong. ”

                      I don’t hold hold to that belief for many reasons including but not limited to the fact that the early church fathers were not preterists. The early church fathers taught the same interpretation that you keep bashing me and “Hal Lindsey” for during the first 300 years of Christianity. Maybe you should go back and read what historical Christianity taught before the merge of christianity and roman paganism known as the cult of the roman catholic church. Study the history and “origen” of amillennialism while you are at it and maybe it will all start to make sense.

                      Here is a collection of quotes from early church fathers, just in case you really do want to know what the people who were disciples of the original 12 and who lived in the 300 years after Christ really thought and taught.

                      http://www.biblestudying.net/preterism5.html

                      Just for an additional study, here is a quick bit of examples of how Jesus used the word taut? in the book of Matthew to indicate the very subject he just mentioned or is about to mention:

                      Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this5026 rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
                      Mat 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching , and said , By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this5026 authority?
                      Mat 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this5026 generation.
                      Mat 26:31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this5026 night: for it is written , I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad .

                      Its very clear in each of these uses that there is no alternative to the subject being addressed. Why didn’t Jesus use this word when speaking about the end times “generation” ? He used it when speaking of other “generations” but why not the end times? I think we have the answer to that question but you just refuse to accept it.

                      Now please be clear that I am not saying that every time that the word houtos is used that it never means the people being addressed, because I am not saying that. But what I am saying is that if Jesus had wanted to make it clear that He was speaking specifically and ONLY to the people whom were hearing His voice, He has a word that He could use, and had used in the past, but He chose NOT to use it when talking about the end times generation.

                      And by the way, thank you for making me take the time to do this to help demonstrate to myself the validity of the position that I hold and that it fits nicely with the beliefs held in the first 300 years of Christianity.

                  • Mika'il

                    Well, Chris, I guess I couldn’t help but responding. Wow, you are quite the spin doctor and you will go to any length to spin away, even if it means giving me a greek lesson!

                    First of all, I couldn’t help by be amused by your comment that to really understand doctrine, I need to understand Greek. So, much for the bible being the word of Gawwwd, that can be understood by anyone if they are led by the holy spirit, eh? Ha! I guess the holy spirit really can’t do the job you claim he can, because one really needs to know greek. How are you any different than a muslim who claims that one can’t understand the koran unless they read it in arabic?

                    Do you need an English lesson? Are you not aware that these is the plural of this? Your attempted rebuttal has proven me right even more! Massive fail for you, even though you try to sound all sophisticated. From the verses you listed, I see no indication that these could mean something WAY in the future.

                    Look, I have no problem admitting that I’m no greek scholar, but the people who translated the NASB and other Bibles are, and I’ve never seen a footnote saying it could mean these, but even if it did, it doesn’t make any difference. I’ve also read the commentary of tons of greeks scholars on this verse, from hard core-conservative Christians to liberal Christians, agnostics, and atheists, and NONE of them have said it should read these generations. Why is that? If you are a greek scholar, why don’t you submit this view and the implications you think it has to a scholarly journal for peer review?

                    But even without the greek lesson, and again, I think it makes a difference, one can plainly see that your view makes no sense. How could a the generation that saw the destruction of jerusalem in 70AD still be alive today to witness the second coming of Christ? Now, you strangely say that the destruction of Jerusalem wasn’t prophesied in Matthew 24 or it was only partially prophesied. Am I understanding you right? Please tell me in the Bible where it says the the temple will be destroyed, than it will be rebuilt and destroyed/defiled right before the end of the world?

                    Anyway, as I said, you have to do whatever you have to do to maintain your fantasy that your imaginary friend will fly down from the sky to rescue you. However, reality proves you wrong. Keep waiting for Jesus, but you’re waiting in vain.

                    Due to time constraints, I don’t know if I will be able to respond to your next post attempting to refute this one. If I don’t, you may be tempted to think I can’t answer you, but reality says otherwise. I just think it’s becoming a waste of time showing reality to someone as deluded in fantasy as you.

        • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

          As for Ehrman, of course I’d be delighted to debate him, any time I’m invited.

      • Ed Babinski

        Hi David Marshall, There’s precious few people with active minds who are not “dogs with bones.” People practically breathe their beliefs on one another throughout the day, spreading their mental microbes, sometimes just with a glance, a vocal inflection, a curse, or a shurg of the shoulrders. Most people are as full of advice as they are of themselves, Christian or not. But how could we avoid having individual opinions, individual experiences, individual knowledge? We are all limited in that respect.

        Furthermore, the brain is a relatively conservative organ of cognition. It doesn’t appear to want to rearrange all the mental furniture to suit whomever else’s ideas stroll past its door. It might rearrange an individual chair, or make room for this or that new idea on the table, but once one’s mental house is set up with a “world view,” the mind then reacts to rival world views in the same way as it does to microbial invaders, it treats them as a threat. God knows why He would set us up with those kinds of brains, or with all the conflicting information on the planet concerning different religions and different experiences, and with short lives and narrow ranges of each individual’s knowledge and experiences, but that’s God for you, what a kidder.

        • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

          Hi, Ed. You do get around.

          Myself, I like the variety. To hear some atheists talk, if God were a farmer, he’d only grow Russett Burbank potatoes.

          But as the philosopher said, stubborn is as stubborn does.

          • http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=50 Ed Babinski

            Hi Dave, There is something to be said for variety, but there’s also conflict and confusion in the realm of deeply held beliefs, not just variety. There’s also conflict and confusion at the highest levels of biblical studies. So I honestly don’t expect God to expect everyone to believe the same things nor blame those who wind up with more questions than answers.

  • Grady

    Will there be anything worth reading that we can’t find on your guys blogs for free?

    And it sounds like it is going to be pretty superficial.

    But at least Loftus will expand his readership.

    Hope it was worth it Randall.

    • Walter

      Do you subscribe to the notion that Christians should be shielded from skeptical arguments? Your faith must not be very strong if it will only survive in a cocoon of like-minded believers.

      Besides, Randal might actually sway some atheists into becoming believers. Would that not make it “worth it” in your opinion?

      • Grady

        No. But, Loftus is an admitted liar, and I don’t believe in expanding his base.

        No. You don’t need to collaborate with Deceivers to promote the Truth.

        Now a question for you Walter. Are you hoping some atheists are “swayed” into becoming believers?

        • Walter

          Now a question for you Walter. Are you hoping some atheists are “swayed” into becoming believers?

          I am not sure that I care much one way or the other. You see, I don’t believe that people will end up in an eternal hell for believing the wrong things. I would be lying if I did not admit that my skeptical side is likely to resonate very closely with John’s arguments against Christian theism in particular. But I’ll likely agree with Randal on some things as well.

        • http://www.retheology.net Jared

          No. You don’t need to collaborate with Deceivers to promote the Truth.

          Granted, no one is saying God needs us to “collaborate with deceivers” – but I don’t think that’s your point.

          I’d point out that this is what God does though – For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)

          The whole Easter message is about God pulling goodness out of the evil work of a number of people.

          If God’s the one who does it, and he’s done it before, why can’t he use this book for the same end?

        • pete

          Grady:

          How would you witness to non-Christians?

          Would you create a forumn for people to express their viewpoints and doubts without fear of being attacked?

          Or would you be a jerk who attacks people for giving others an open voice?

          • Morrison

            John Loftus goes not give people an open voice.

            He censors, deletes, and…worse…changes posts.

            And attack is his specialty.

            Who ya kiddin, sport?

            • pete

              Don’t change the topic “sport”:

              I was talking about the “collaboration” comment, and whether one can open a venue for discussion with non-Christians without being labelled in the pejorative.

              I wasn’t backing Loftus, in case further clarification is required, since either you missed my point entirely, or are maliciously and deceptively trying to allign me with Loftus.

              What exactly are you trying to bring to the table when you deride people who openly engage and discuss with non-Christians?

              I perceive you brining much the same “Crusading” and “Conquistador” spirit that gives my faith (Chrisitanity) the historical black eye that my Saviour never deserved.

            • http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=50 Ed Babinski

              Hi Morrison, I have tried to get posts on J.P. Holding’s blogs and his youtube site, but I am banned, and not for my language.

              Holding used to criticize essays on the Secular Web and never linked to any of the essays he was criticizing.

              Holding has one of the strictest non-reciprocity policies, as well as “banning and deleting post” policies, on the web when it comes to his two new blogs and his youtube videos. The only way to engage with him is on Theology Web, if you consider cat calls from the peanut gallery and emoticons an “engagement.” It’s more like an instantaneous derailing of any possibly meaningful conversations.

              Though I wouldn’t mind seeing a debate book between Holding and Kyle Gerkin, the latter of whom apparently is a master in the art of calm discourse, and one of the very few folks whom Holding has not lost as a debate partner over the past decade.

              Only Gerkin and Matthew Green constitute debate partners on Holding’s “Scholarly Diplomacy Series.” And Green found Holding less than scholarly after that series, another debate partner lost. http://www.tektonics.org/sdseries.html

        • http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=50 Ed Babinski

          Hi Grady, John lied and admitted he lied? This is philosophy and theology, not politics. Even in politics, what if someone had some great ideas about how to make the economy grow, or how to solve various crises in the Middle East, would such ideas be any less valid if the person who had them lied about being the creator of an (anti-J.P. Holding) website? John admitted it, turned over the site to Holding in fact. Though I understand John’s desire at that time to set up a website in which he could let fly his own argumenative arrows in an anonymous fashion at various Christian apologists who at that time were also anonymous.

          For comparison, consider the case of the Christian blogger, Paul Manata, who refused to admit he was “the Discomfiter” for longer than Loftus refused to admit he was the creator of an (anti-Holding) website. Manata kept saying, “I know the Discomfiter,” talking about the latter in the third person, trying hard to convince people that he was not the Discomfiter. Then Manata (as the Discomfiter) and friends (posing as callers) also went on Christian talk radio, and the Discomfiter claimed he was a real person and not a Christian. Manata created a blog for the Discomfiter to try and mock Loftus into silence. How far the charade went included someone sending me insulting emails, impersonating the names and return addresses of people I knew. And Loftus was also impersonated by someone on the Discomfiter’s blog, putting words in Loftus’s mouth. Eventually some of the Christians who read the Discomfiter’s rants thought the impersonations were getting out of hand, and Manata fessed up.

          Another comparison, J.P. Holding apparently went on a major freethought forum site, utilizing some of his cartoon pics and inventing a persona to go with them and suggested all the atheists there read the writings of J. P. Holding. But someone outed him.

          And there are rivers of insults that flow freely between Christians on the web, like between Steve Hays of Triablogue and Dave Armstrong at Catholic Evidences, or between J. P. Holding and Steve Hays, or between J.P. Holding and James White. A river of insults. (In the past there were the 200,000 words exchanged in print between Thomas Moore and Wycliffe at the beginning of the Reformation. Some hot stuff there as well.) And today there’s over 600 debates online between atheists and theists. http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=50 Kinda makes Ingersoll’s many debates with ministers in the U.S. in the early 1900s seem like a small number in comparison.

  • Pingback: “God or Godless” Nears Completion | Debunking Christianity

  • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

    Thanks Ed.

    • Morrison

      John, why don’t you respond yourself? Is it because you know you have been caught lying a few too many times?

      Good move, though, having Ed cover for you.

      A little wimpy, though.

      • Ed Babinski

        Morrison, I knew JP before John did. JP is the biggest wimp of all, hiding behind emoticons and phrases that amount to grade school insults. And though he claims he isn’t an evolutionist he certainly has gone through his own personal evolutions over the past decade and a half including his change from belief in a hell of physical torture to his present belief in hell that does not involve physical torture; from young-earther to “I don’t know or care how old the earth is;” from believing that citing some OT prophecies are a good apologetic to admitting they are not; from believing like Geisler that the story of the raising of the many saints in Matthew must be supported to doubting that Evangelicals all need to fall in line concerning their views of such verses, allowing that some can view them as midrashic insertions into the story of Jesus’ death.

        JP’s also a wimp when it comes to his present belief that only 15% of humans will be damned. He’s now only 15% away from universalism, and gives total leeway to people who died young and to folks who never heard the one true Gospel preached convincingly to them. So I guess heaven will be filled to the brim with folks too young to understand the Gospel and adults who never heard it. Hallelujiah! There will also be folks who were raised to believe in Christ but who can’t recall “conversion” as a thing that they went through at any particular point in their lives since they were raised in a Christian home. So the smallest bunch of people in heaven will be those who recall when they definitely “converted,” like JP, who probably was converted after reading a Chick tract or Josh McDowell’s Carpenter book, and after that “conversion” it has taken him 10-15 years to evolve past the Chick/McDowell stage to a far more broad based Evangelicalism. I wish JP many happy personal evolutionary stages in future.