Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So I may have done something stupid this weekend.

Who wants to hear about it!!!

I don't remember where the blog post is, and I'm too lazy to go look it up, but I had posted a while ago about struggling with how to be friends with a Christian, and what it means. Well, I hung out with one of the Christians I referenced in that post, and somehow, we got into a theological discussion. For two hours. I still don't know how we got on that topic, after so fervently avoiding it (well, fervent on my part. She was no doubt hopeful, as it may plant seeds or something).

The highlights:

1) We talked about abortion, and her pro-life position seemed to come down to the idea of authority. The embryo/fetus was innocent in the sense of it hadn't broken any of society's laws, and so didn't deserve to die. But it wasn't innocent in the eyes of God, thanks to original sin. But it was also a soul from the moment of conception, which is why even birth control was wrong in her eyes, because it could possibly interfere with that. I pointed out that, from what I understand, birth control actually prevents the death of less fertilized eggs than a regular cycle, because a lot of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant. Whereas birth control suppresses ovulation, and thus leads to no fertilized eggs being created. She said that would still be wrong, because birth control wasn't a natural function, and thus it wasn't up to God. Which sounded like her argument wasn't really about the sanctity of life, but about refusing to follow the will of God.

2) We talked about the nature of free will. Always a doozy. We got to this point after I pointed out that if the souls of all those fertilized eggs were in heaven, I had a hard time seeing how free will was such a gift and all, given that only a fraction of fertilized eggs were ever even able to make the choice, period.

2b) To which lead me to ask her why God couldn't simply create people that He'd know would freely choose Him, and not create anyone who would choose Hell. She said that would violate free will, because the people would only exist so long as they choose God. But I pointed out that God isn't forcing them to choose Him -- He's merely only creating those people who would freely choose Him. Why create people that you know aren't going to choose you, and thus condemn them to an eternity of suffering? She had to think on that one and may or may not come back to me with an answer.

2c) We also discussed the idea of how free will also meant that you'd have to want to choose to sin -- and thus have to be created with the ability to be attracted to sin in the first place. Ergo, created less than perfect, as since God is not attracted to sin and does not want to sin, that is part of what makes Him perfect.

3) We talked about Jesus and God and the Trinity. I pointed out that for such a core Christian doctrine, it certainly required a lot of interpretation of the texts and someone reading the Synoptic Gospels with no knowledge of Christianity whatsoever would have a hard time walking away with the idea that there was a Trinity. And that Jesus was God.

4) We talked about the penal substitution atonement theory. Always a fun topic, and always one that sends us in circles. To me, the theory violates the very nature of justice. You do not have a just character if you create people who are imperfect to begin with, and thus incapable of living up to a perfect standard, and then get angry and punish them for it. That's not justice. To her, it wasn't an issue because God took on the punishment Himself, and so the issue was now whether or not you accepted the sacrifice of Jesus. That still doesn't explain the original problem -- that there's a punishment in place for people created to be incapable of following the standards. Plus, her argument seemed to be that it would've only been unjust if Jesus *hadn't* taken the punishment, because then we would be held accountable to standards we couldn't live up to, and that was not just. Ergo, if we all had to pay our own way out this, then God wouldn't be a just God. Except I've also seen her argue that we all deserve Hell, and because God was just, He couldn't just gloss over that. That, and I pointed out to her except the Bible says that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God, which again comes down to God wrathful towards imperfect people who were created that way.

5) The best topic of all -- she mentioned her church and how they discussed those who reject God. I asked her, smiling in a non-passive aggressive way, if that included me. She got a little flustered, and did say that she still prayed for me. I don't know what came over me, but I then pointed out to her that there's a discrepancy between praying that I become a Christian, and saying that she accepts me as I am. Because if I become a Christian, everything about me changes. She disagreed. And we didn't go into more detail than that. She did look like she was uncomfortable with the discussion, and to indulge my ego for a moment, I'm thinking the discomfort was because I'm right and she can't acknowledge it. Converting to Christianity is life-changing. You go from being dead to sin to alive in Christ. You go from the old man to the new man. It's a radical change, and it's meant to influence all areas of your life. A lot of what I believe -- a lot of my core beliefs -- are either sins or heresies. You change those core beliefs, you change me. To say that that I won't in fact be changed all that much makes it sound like Jesus is merely a piece of one's life, rather than one's whole life.


NW Ohio Skeptic said...

Great discussion. :)

The Jesus of the Bible indeed brings transformation and change. The Jesus of American Christianity? Fire insurance and a materialistic vending machine.

I am always amazed how some Christian friends continue to lower the standard for me to avoid saying "Bruce you are headed for hell." I am willing to say it. If the Bible is true I am going to fry. (and so are you)

Fortunately, I have my doubts about the truthfulness of the Bible.

Lorena said...

She said that would still be wrong, because birth control wasn't a natural function, and thus it wasn't up to God.

LOL! You should have asked her if she shaves her legs and her armpits. That's unnatural, because if god wanted women to be hairless, why did he give us hair?

As for the rest of the discussion, you sure gave her a run for her money. I wouldn't want to be a Christian fundy who has to discuss issues with you. You are quite bright and very good at debating. No wonder she was nervous!

I'm sure it wasn't funny for you, but I enjoyed reading the post.

Sarge said...

Hmmmmm ... sounds like you were "Leading Into Temptation" there, for just a bit, you wicked, evil non-theist, you!

Great post, I enjoyed it.

But, then, one of my rather dotty friends who is concerned and often irate with me for my "belief" is wont to say when he does acknowledge that it doesn't make sense to the "unsaved" (and has him actually getting glimpses not through the lenses of "faith"),

"Of COURSE it doesn't make sense, it's a 'MYSTERY'! If it made immediate sense to the layman it wouldn't be RELIGION"!

Grace said...

One, I don't think you did something stupid. It seems awesome to me that you finally had a honest discussion with your friend, and shared your whole heart.

As difficult as it may have been,
I think you will soon learn if this person is truly a good friend, or has merely been a closer acquaintance.

OneSmallStep said...

NW Ohio Skeptic,

**I am always amazed how some Christian friends continue to lower the standard for me to avoid saying "Bruce you are headed for hell."**

The part that fascinates me is that it's their own belief system that makes them uncomfortable. I normally don't like to make people feel awkward, but in this case, I was simply repeating her own belief system back to her. In retrospect, had I wanted to go deeper, and she had mentioned her discomfort, I could've asked her "But what does it say that your own worldview makes you feel this way?" Normally, discomfort on that level is a signal that something's wrong.

OneSmallStep said...


I could take it one step further -- the common refrain is from conception to natural death. Except if we're going with a "natural" death, then that means that no one should get organ transplants, cancer treatments, antibiotics, any sort of medical intervention to prolong one's life. Because all of those are through "unnatural" means.

OneSmallStep said...


**"Of COURSE it doesn't make sense, it's a 'MYSTERY'! If it made immediate sense to the layman it wouldn't be RELIGION"!**

Always an interesting contrast with the idea of God as Truth. Truth should make sense. If it's a mystery, how can you really know that it's true?

OneSmallStep said...


Thank you for your comment. It wasn't actually a difficult conversation. The potential stupidity will depend on what kind of doors this opens. Especially if the acceptance vs. praying for conversion topic comes up again.

Xander said...

Maybe you did her a favor by getting her to question her own ideologies. Faith needs to be tested. I like talking to you fine people, not to try and convert or prove that I am right. These discussions challenge me and make me examine my ideas and beliefs. If they cant stand up to the conversation, then I cant very well use them for support in my life.

You did a good thing. For her at least.

GentleSkeptic said...

Not at all stupid. Quite clear and thought-provoking, actually. Well done, I say.

ethinethin said...

Xander "You did a good thing. For her at least."

I can't help but think you'd change your tune if it ended up nudging her friend into complete disbelief.

Xander said...


I can see why you might think that.

The way I look at it, is that any challenge to a belief will either strength it or cause it to fail. If it fails, you have to go back and look at why you held the belief in the first place. In the church, many hold their religious belief strictly because someone told them and they were expected to agree with it. Those beliefs need to be challenged and examined by the person who holds them.

If this person lost their faith from the conversation with OSS, I would question what the basis for their faith was in the first place.

Grace said...

Amen, Xander.

I remember seriously questioning religious beliefs beginning when I was nine, or ten years old. My parents never discouraged this. As a young person, I became agnostic.

But, over time that questioning, and searching ultimately led back to faith, and to deep conviction, and trust in the love of God revealed in Christ.

societyvs said...

I always love your writings and this one is a good summation of many of the topics you have covered.