CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth


View Image closer
not my flicr

J.P. Holding posted on Friday with an idea that I can't stand. it's a rejection of personal testimony as part evangelism: "Personal testimony is a damaging, destructive, and undesirable form of evangelism that ought to be abandoned." [1] Gee we've never had disagreements in the cadre before,except on little stuff like and politics and religion. J.P. goes on:
This is a hard thesis to swallow, I know. Every evangelistic program makes personal testimony the centerpiece of evangelism. “Jesus can change your life, like he did mine” is the theme of every evangelist from Billy Graham on down the line. But let’s face it, for all the respect Graham and others may have accrued, it is clear that their practices have in the long run produced a raft of shallow converts (who sometimes “walk the aisle” and “make a decision” multiple times in their lives) and a church that is slowly dying in the West, and may well disappear in the next 30 years. As the saying goes, it is not so much foolish to do something that does not work, but to do it again and again expecting different and better results. (Ibid)
I think the only valid reason to actually give your life to something as one must do for Christ is if it really changes your life and that demands a personal testimony. I do agree with one thing I seldom find anyone presenting such testimony in a very intelligent way. Many Christians who don't really have much more than some nice feelings try to make those feelings paramount, and turn the focus to feelings rather than use the fillings as a from of verification of some larger thesis. Actually I do not bring this up to attack J,P, I'm more concerned the atheists reaction to it.

There is nothing wrong with the idea that religion promises to provide us with ultimate tranformative experience (UTE) in resolving he human problematic.To that extent doing what it claims to do is a sign of truth content. Atheists will deny this but ask then how they know science is true? Their first answer will always be because it works. Often they will use the use of computers as evidence but this matter of science working. When it's science working = truth when it's religion it does not. That's their line. You see I'm more upset about the way the atheists use their cloak of objectivity to hide their own subjective problems and lambaste religion for being subjective. 

As a former evangelical Christian, I believe that William Lane Craig is dead wrong. Subjective feelings can fool you. Subjective feelings told the people of Jonestown to drink poisoned Kool-Aid. Subjective feelings told the people of Heaven’s Gate to commit suicide in their beds. Subjective feelings and subjective personal experiences are NOT reliable indicators of the truth, folks. Demand EVIDENCE. Always demand evidence for EVERY truth claim.(ibid)

How many times did you drink poison cool-aid in your church? atheism teaches you to fear feelings and to dream emotions. O they shutter at he thought of feelings and yet vent their spleens expressing feelings of hated for God and Christians. In many cases atheism itself is an emotional reaction of low self esteem [
2][3]. You do not have to fear feelings, subjective feelings will not lead to you drank poison if you know what you are doing and if you have a maturate balance of feelings and logic.It's when you never learn to control your feelings you fear them that you finally accept uncontrollable feelings and go off the deep end.

As an atheist i feared feelings,I refused to feel. I kept things bottled up and I told myself I was a Vulcan I was superior to others because i did not have emotions. when I got saved God showed me how to control my emotions and to learn to live with them, then you can understand how they help guide you, in conjunction with logic and reason.

Atheists will attempt to reduce the process to feelings as though it's the emotional effect of the feelings themselves rather than the larger psychological effect of having the experience, There are major psychological effects of having religious experience, they are dramatic and transformative, This is the UTE of which I spoke above, I said it was the resolution of the human problematic. Human problematic,  the problem at the heart of being human, In Christianity that is sin. "being lost," UTE is the effect of the healing process of salvation,Paul calls it:the "fruit of the Spirit," at least it's included.

First before going into the effects in terms of using the intuitive sense as an undertaking of reality, a lot of scientific research indicates the value of initiative sense.

 There's an article in N.Y. Times that illustrates scientific work depending upon and being  conformed by intuitive thinking. The article is a chapter form a book by Philip Lieberman, Eve Spoke, Human Language and Human Evolution.[4]  The book is based upon scholarly work.

Over the past thirty years my colleagues and I have studied monkeys, chimpanzees, infants, children, normal adults, dyslexic adults, elderly people, and patients suffering from Parkinson's disease and other types of brain damage. We have also examined the skulls of our fossil ancestors, comparing them with those of newborn infants and apes. The focus of these studies has been the puzzle surrounding human evolution. Why are we so different from other animals, although we are at the same time so similar?...In some deep, unconscious way we "know" that dogs, cats, chimpanzees, and other intelligent animals would be human if they could only talk. Intuitively we know that talking = thinking = being human. The studies discussed below show that this intuition is correct.
 This may upset young earth creationists, which I don't  mind doing, but it doesn't disrupt my Christian faith because I don't see evolution as a disruption. Nor does it disprove the existence of the soul because that depends upon answering the question "why is it we did evolve to talk and other animals did not? There are two points that refute Hutson's ideas: (1) not only does religious belief depend upon intuitive thinking of a kind (at certain points) but so does scinece as well. (2) this scientist thinks that the intuitive thinking is proved correct by the scinece. So intuitive thinking is not always wrong. Some studies backing this up have shown that the correct results of intuitive thinking, while not better than other forms of knowing, are not worse.[5]

 U.S. Navy reserach has yielded so much scientific data backing the notion that there is an intuitive sense that aids troops in battle that they started a program to teach troops how to be more intuitive.

 Research in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a "sixth sense" through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies.[6]
 Ivy Estabrook, program manager at the office of Naval Resarch, says, "There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions."[7]

 Published in Popular source Sarah Moore form Alberta School of Business and colleagues from Duke and Cornell have produced research that proves that the first choice one makes is often the right choice. [8] That certainly implies an intuitive choice. While Trisha Greenhalgh discusses research that shows that intution is a valuable aid in medical diagnosis and that it improves with critical thinking about the process. 

Intuition is not unscientific. It is a highly creative process, fundamental to hypothesis generation in science. The experienced practitioner should generate and follow clinical hunches as well as (not instead of applying the deductive principles of evidence-based medicine. The educational research literature suggests that we can improve our intuitive powers through systematic critical reflection about intuitive judgements--for example, through creative writing and dialogue with professional colleagues. It is time to revive and celebrate clinical storytelling as a method for professional education and development.[9]
 Not only is it not unscientific, not only can it assist in medical care, but it there's a large body of literature that shows it can be improved. How can it be improved (meaning the answers are right) if it's no good and it never works and it's just magical thinking?

We have rational warrant for belief. The basic goal religion promises to give it delivers: UTE. That is in the form of self actualization,So these studies just alluded to show that intuitive sense is not wild and crazy is not always wrong, Then we see that religious experiences produces self actualization which is the goal promised in dealing with he problematic of being human, Thus beloief is warranted,It works (ie does what it claims to do) that is a good indication that its true, We can trjust our imtuative sense of God's reality.

self Actualization

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs is as follows:
a theory in psychology that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, which he subsequently extended to include his observations of man’s innate curiosity. His theory contended that as humans meet ‘basic needs’, they seek to satisfy successively ‘higher needs’ that occupy a set hierarchy. Maslow studied exemplary people such as Albert EinsteinJane AddamsEleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.”

The studies show that people who have religious experience (what Mslow called "peak experience") other call "mystical," score much higher on self actualization tests than do atheists. 

Maslow was concerned with showing healthy psychology. He noted that Freud,Jung, and all the major thinkers in the field of psychology focused on what makes people abnormal, they wanted to know what makes people healthy. His notion of self actualization is the idea, the epitome of healthy psychology. In his research Maslow discovered that religious people tended to be more self actualized than those who do not have religious experiences and he wrote a book about it: Religious Values and Peak Experience (the entire text of the book is on line).

the rest of this section is from an older paper I used MLA style notation which embeds the source in the text with parenthetical inserts,

studies have validated Maslow:

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 22, No. 3, 92-108 (1982)
DOI: 10.1177/0022167882223011

Scale Development and Theory Testing

Eugene W. MathesDepartment of Psychology, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois 61455.
The research reported here involved the creation of a measure of the tendency to have peak experiences called the Peak Scale, and the testing of several hypotheses drawn from Maslow's theory of peak experiences. It was found that although individuals who report having peak experiences are also likely to report having experiences involving intense happiness, they are even more prone to report having cognitive experiences of a transcendent and mystical nature. This suggests that although the peak experience involves positive affect, it is primarily a transcendent and mystical cognitive event. Individuals who report having peak experiences are more likely to report living in terms of Being-values, such as truth, beauty, and justice, than individuals who report not having peak experiences. Finally, self-actualizing individuals are more likely to report having peak experiences than lessself-actualizing individuals, though the relationship is not a very strong one. In general, these results are consistent with Maslow's theorizing.
Many other studies have done as well.

Dr. Michale Nielson,Ph.D. Psychology and religion.


"What makes someone psychologically healthy? This was the question that guided Maslow's work. He saw too much emphasis in psychology on negative behavior and thought, and wanted to supplant it with a psychology of mental health. To this end, he developed a hierarchy of needs, ranging from lower level physiological needs, through love and belonging, to self- actualization. Self-actualized people are those who have reached their potential for self-development. Maslow claimed that mystics are more likely to be self-actualized than are other people. Mystics also are more likely to have had "peak experiences," experiences in which the person feels a sense of ecstasy and oneness with the universe. Although his hierarchy of needs sounds appealing, researchers have had difficulty finding support for his theory." Gagenback


In terms of psychological correlates, well-being and happiness has been associated with mystical experiences,(Mathes, Zevon, Roter, Joerger, 1982; Hay & Morisy, 1978; Greeley, 1975; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987) as well as self-actualization (Hood, 1977; Alexander, 1992). Regarding the latter, the developer of self-actualization believed that even one spontaneous peak or transcendental experience could promote self-actualization. Correlational research has supported this relationship. In a recent statistical meta-analysis of causal designs with Transcendental Meditation (TM) controlling for length of treatment and strength of study design, it was found that: TM enhances self-actualization on standard inventories significantly more than recent clinically devised relaxation/meditation procedures not explicitly directed toward transcendence [mystical experience] (p. 1; Alexander, 1992)

But let us turn to quotations by Maslow himself, becuase it's very instructive. Maslow was an atheist but the had Buddhist leanings and he did not hate religious people. He respected religious people, especially mystics. He said:

My feeling is that if it were never to happen again, the power of the experience could permanently affect the attitude toward life. A single glimpse of heaven is enough to confirm its existence even if it is never experienced again. It is my strong suspicion that even one such experience might be able to prevent suicide, for instance, and perhaps many varieties of slow self-destruction, e.g., alcoholism, drug-addiction, addiction to violence, etc. I would guess also, on theoretical grounds, that peak-experiences might very well abort "existential meaninglessness," states of valuelessness, etc., at least occasionally. (These deductions from the nature of intense peak-experiences are given some support by general experience with LSD and psilocybin. Of course these preliminary reports also await confirmation.

This then is one kind of peak-knowledge of whose validity and usefulness there can be no doubt, any more than there could be with discovering for the first time that the color "red" exists and is wonderful. Joy exists, can be experienced and feels very good indeed, and one can always hope that it will be experienced again.

and again:

Now that may be taken as a frank admission of a naturalistic psychological origin, except that it invovles a universal symbology which is not explicable through merely naturalistic means. How is it that all humans come to hold these same archetypical symbols? (For more on archetypes see Jesus Chrsit and Mythology page II) The "prematives" viewed and understood a sense of transformation which gave them an integration into the universe. This is crucial for human development. They sensed a power in the numenous, that is the origin of religion."

"In Appendix I and elsewhere in this essay, I have spoken of unitive perception, i.e., fusion of the B-realm with the D-realm, fusion of the eternal with the temporal, the sacred with the profane, etc. Someone has called this "the measureless gap between the poetic perception of reality and prosaic, unreal commonsense." Anyone who cannot perceive the sacred, the eternal, the symbolic, is simply blind to an aspect of reality, as I think I have amply demonstrated elsewhere (54), and in Appendix I, fromPeak Experience

Anyone who cannot perceive the sacred and the eternal is blind... does that sound like the adult Maslow is ready to join in with your friend in mocking and ridiculing religious thought?

The Greely study spcificially disproves the notion this guy sets forth that religious people are losers and unsuceesful and trying to pretend about a "sky daddy" becuase they can't make it in life:

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

Long term effects of religious experience have been demonstrated by such major studies as Noble and Wuthnow:

Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

Short-Term Effects (usually people who did not previously know of these experiences)

*Experience temporarily disorienting, alarming, disruptive
*Likely changes in self and the world,
*space and time, emotional attitudes, cognitive styles, personalities, doubt sanity and reluctance to communicate, feel ordinary language is inadequate

*Some individuals report psychic capacities and visionary experience destabilizing relationships with family and friends Withdrawal, isolation, confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, panic, restlessness, grandiose religious delusions

Links to Maslow's Needs, Mental Health, and Peak Experiences When introducing entheogens to people, I find it's helpful to link them to other ideas people are familiar with. Here are three useful quotations. 1) Maslow - Beyond Self Actualization is Self Transcendence ``I should say that I consider Humanistic, Third Force Psychology to be transitional, a preparation for a still `higher' Fourth Psychology, transhuman, centered in the cosmos rather than in human needs and interest, going beyond humanness, identity, selfactualization and the like.'' 

Abraham Maslow (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, Second edition, -- pages iii-iv.

2) States of consciousness and mystical experiences
The ego has problems:
the ego is a problem.

``Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' -- page 665

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

3) Therapeutic effects of peak experiences

``It is assumed that if, as is often said, one traumatic event can shape a life, one therapeutic event can reshape it. Psychedelic therapy has an analogue in Abraham Maslow's idea of the peak experience. The drug taker feels somehow allied to or merged with a higher power; he becomes convinced the self is part of a much larger pattern, and the sense of cleansing, release, and joy makes old woes seem trivial.'' -- page 132

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper by Jayne Gackenback, (1992)

"These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)." 

(4) Greater happiness

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

Argyle, M., and Hills, P. (2000). Religious experiences and their relations with happiness and personality. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 157-172.

Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

< face="Arial Narrow">

Recent Empirical Studies Prove Religious Believers have less depression, mental illness lower Divorce rate, ect.

J. Gartner, D.B. Allen, The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., Natiional Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3090


"The Reviews identified 10 areas of clinical staus in whihc research has demonstrated benefits of religious commitment: (1) Depression, (2) Suicide, (3) Delinquency, (4) Mortality, (5) Alchohol use (6) Drug use, (7) Well-being, (8) Divorce and martital satisfaction, (9) Physical Health Status, and (10) Mental health outcome studies....The authors underscored the need for additional longitudinal studies featuring health outcomes. Although there were few, such studies tended to show mental health benefit. Similarly, in the case of teh few longevity or mortality outcome studies, the benefit was in favor of those who attended least 70% of the time, increased religious commitment was associated with improved coping and protection from problems."

[The authors conducted a literature search of over 2000 publications to glean the current state of empirical study data in areas of Spirituality and health]
70% of the time believers are more likely than non believers (or at least experiences are more likely than non experiencers) to have these effects of self actualization

[1] J.P. Holding, "Restoring Apologetics to Evangelism," Cadre Comments, (April 28, 2017) blog URL:

(accessed 4/30/17)

[2] Joseph Hinman, "Rejection of Christianity and Low Self Esteem," Atheiustwatch (October 25, 2010) URL
(accessed 4/30/17)

[3] Ibid. part 2

[4] Philip Lieberman, "The Mice Talked at Midnight," except from Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution, New York: W.W. Norton, published in New York Times, on line  accessed 10/2/13
[5]AJ Giannini, ME Barringer, MC Giannini, RH Loiselle. Lack of relationship between handedness and intuitive and intellectual (rationalistic) modes of information processing. Journal of General Psychology. 111:31-37 1984.
[6] Office of naval research Basic Research Challenge: Enhancing intuitive deicsion making.

Solicitation Number: 12-SN-0007
Agency: Department of the Navy
Office: Office of Naval Research
Location: ONR 
 accessed 10/2/13.
[7] Ivy Estabrook, uoted in Channing Joseph, "U.S. Program to Study How Troops Use Intuition," New York Times, Wednesday (Oct 2, 2013) story filed March 27, 2012, 5:09 pm on line
 accessed 10/2/13.
[8]Leon Watson ."why we are right to trust out gut intincts:Scientists discover First Decision is the Right One." Mail online updated 30 (August 2011) accessed 10/2/13
[9]Trisha Greenhalgh, "Intution and Evidence--Uneasy Bedfellows?" BJGP:British Journal of General Practice. 52, (478) May (2002) 395-400. On line article  accessed 10/2/13

A few years ago, Mo Collins and Bob Newhart teamed up to create a very funny skit about a woman who visits a psychiatrist due to her fear of being buried alive in a box. Bob Newhart, obviously comfortable with playing the part of a psychiatrist after playing the same role for many years on the Bob Newhart show, gives Mo Collins some advice that she does not expect.

Obviously, Newhart plays an awful psychiatrist in this clip, and it is fortunate that psychiatrists and psychologists generally exhibit more knowledge, skill and care than Newhart's psychiatrist in the skit. People afflicted with any number of a wide array of emotional and mental wellness issues will almost certainly not respond well to a directive to "stop it" as the best method for treating a person with deep-seated psychiatric concerns.

While it is possible to make light of psychiatric issues, the issues themselves are quite real and require the care of a knowledgeable and caring psychiatrist or psychologist. In fact, in my present primary job I work with a lot of people who suffer from various emotional wellness and mental health issues. I have worked directly or indirectly with people who suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD and borderline personality disorder. Caring for these issues is incredibly difficult even with the help of trained psychiatrists and psychologists. And these are the issues that are actually harder for trained professionals to handle than conditions that are the result of dysfunction in the brain such as seizures.

Have you ever observed a seizure? The first time you see a grand mal (aka tonic clonic) seizure, it can totally freak you out. Several of the people that I support have seizure disorders, and I have grown accustomed to seizures and recognize them as simply a part of life for many people. While the majority of the American population has never observed a seizure, seizures remain among the most common neurological disorders. Around 65 million people around the world are afflicted with a seizure disorder. One may ask, if seizures are so common, shouldn't those that study the brain would know everything about them? Despite expectations, the answer is that doctors still no very little about seizures. According to WebMD,

Although epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders involving the nervous system, experts often cannot explain exactly how or why the disease develops and how or why the abnormal electrical activity in the brain occurs. Epilepsy does not always follow a predictable course. It can develop at any age and may get worse over time or get better.
The simple fact is that while doctors know that seizures are primarily caused by an interruption of electrical activity in the brain, and while they know some of the past events in a person's life that may lead to seizures, no one is really sure what causes any particular individual to develop a seizure condition or what can be done to fix the brain so that the person is "cured" of having seizures. The most common and least perilous treatment that doctors can undertake is to prescribe medications that reduce the incidents or moderate the severity of seizures. The only other somewhat common seizure treatment is for doctors to remove portions of the brain that are experiencing seizures if the seizure disorder significantly impacts a person's life or may have become so severe as to threaten the individuals' health. Naturally, given the risks associated with surgery to the brain (especially the corresponding risks of the consequences that may follow from removing part of the person's brain), doctors are extremely reluctant to use surgery in response to seizures other than in extreme situations.

This is not too surprising because, in all sincerity, despite years of study and a great deal of funding of research, scientists know very little about the brain or its working. As the New York Times points out in an article appropriately entitled "Learning How Little We Know About the Brain":
Yet the growing body of data — maps, atlases and so-called connectomes that show linkages between cells and regions of the brain — represents a paradox of progress, with the advances also highlighting great gaps in understanding. So many large and small questions remain unanswered. How is information encoded and transferred from cell to cell or from network to network of cells? Science found a genetic code but there is no brain-wide neural code; no electrical or chemical alphabet exists that can be recombined to say “red” or “fear” or “wink” or “run.” And no one knows whether information is encoded differently in various parts of the brain.
This lack of understanding of the workings of the brain contributes to the fact that we simply don't know all that much about psychology. As the website Data Science & Psychology (a website maintained by Ravi Iyer, holder of "a PhD in Psychology from the University of Southern California and remains an active researcher, having published 20+ articles in leading peer-reviewed psychology journals over the past few years, most of which concern the empirical study of moral and political attitudes") points out:
The conclusions I reach on this blog are, like all social science research, uncertain, as no research on human psychology can really be conclusive, given the nature of the subject. The best we can do is to provide evidence toward any conclusion, and if enough evidence accumulates, then the chances of our conclusion being right are greater.
Now, if professionals cannot fully explain seizures (which is largely a physical condition - something is wrong with the mechanics of the brain), how much more difficult is it for them to explain psychological issues which are not primarily caused by physical problems in the brain? I can't tell you how many times I have heard from professionals words to the effect of "we simply don't know very much about the causes of these kinds of things." Please understand, I am not writing this to slam any psychiatrists or psychologists; they are largely good people who are working hard at coming to some type of understanding of how people think. The simple fact is that psychiatry is one of the least certain of all of the sciences because they simply have not been able to crack the details of how the brain works or how we really think.

Thus, I was more than a little surprised when someone recently made a comment on Cadre Comments and referred me to an article on Psychology Today by Psychologist Todd P. Kashdan, Ph.D. entitled "Why does religion persist? A look at bizarre ideas, hypocrisy and God's obsession with sex" as proof that Christianity is no more than a social construct. Specifically, the individual stated:
The overwhelming evidence suggests an explanation for why christianity [and all religions for that matter] persists is not that its narrative is true per se but that it is an epiphenomenal by-product of our need to make sense of the genetic and evolutionary drivers for human behaviour in the absence of modern scientific knowledge and understanding two thousand years ago that we now are so thankfully privy to.
Given how little we understand about how the brain and thinking work, I found it more than a little odd that someone would consider an article about how we think as constituting some type of incontrovertible truth that Christianity (and, in fact, all religion) is nothing more than an "epiphenomenal by-product". The author of the note did use the article to bolster his claim, but several reasons lead me to conclude that the supporting article is of doubtful value.

First, the article itself reflects little more than a prejudiced work of an atheist psychologist-- one who writes more like the silly New Atheists than like a person who has the temperament to think sufficiently carefully about the issues to become a Ph.D. One would expect that a Ph.D. would be a little careful with his claims, but not so with Dr. Kashsdan. Consider the first paragraph of the article where Dr. Kashdan states that his article is part of an on-going debate about religion in the pages of Psychology Today:
There has been debate as to the future of religion. I, for one, believe that religion is going to last for quite a long period of time. Despite scientific facts, philosophical arguments against the idea of an omnipotent and omniscient creator, undeniable evidence for Darwin's evolution theory, and ridicule, religion remains the norm.
Nothing like an unbiased article, eh? Oh, but the author isn't finished. Consider the second paragraph:
As a psychologist, the most interesting questions have nothing to do about whether or not God exists. An idea that cannot be proved or disproved and thus is trite, contrived, and appallingly boring.
Well, at least Dr. Kashdan and I share one viewpoint: an idea that cannot be proved or disproved is trite, contrived and appallingly boring. That's why I won't bother quoting from any of the rest of his article -- I carry a deep aversion to being bored. (Besides, it doesn't take a great psychoanalyst to recognize from the remainder of the article that Kashdan's real objection to Christianity is his own obsession with sex and how he thinks that religion represses it. Sad, really.)

Despite the obvious negative bias and lack of provability of his assertions, there are two other problems with the view that Christianity (and religion generally) is simply an epiphenomenal by-product. The first is that Dr. Kashdan's viewpoint certainly does not represent the views of all psychologists - and I would expect it doesn't even represent the views of a majority of the psychologists (admittedly, that is merely conjecture, but wild-eyed atheism doesn't attract as many converts as soft-spoken atheism). In fact, there are Christian psychologists - people who have the same degree as Dr. Kashdan -- who not only disagree with his prejudiced views, but who believe that psychology works best when Christian principles are part of the resolution. Thus, I don't believe that one atheist (who is obviously ill-informed about Christian thought) who hold an anti-religion bias writing an article (even if it is published in Psychology Today) provides insurmountable proof that Christianity (and religion generally) is somehow a by-product of brain processes.

Additionally, let's suppose for the sake of argument that the person who published the comment is correct and that religion is an epiphenomenal by-product, i.e., it is something that we would believe as a by-product of brain functioning or some type of evolutionary hang-on. Here's the question: does that mean that it is untrue?

There is an old saying which Joseph Heller used in Catch-22, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you." Psychological states may make us more likely to believe something. They may incline us to believe or disbelieve a certain state of affairs as being true or right. But unlike many other religions, Christianity is not a religion that relies upon states of mind. Christianity is a religion that claims to be true based upon facts. It asks people to look at its claims and judge the truth of Christianity based on the evidence.

Some people will look at the evidence and reject it -- I think that they are wrong, but that's what the debate is about. Others will look at the evidence and agree that it is true. And while it is possible that one party may be more inclined to accept the evidence and the other party more inclined to reject the evidence based upon epiphenomenal influence, the question isn't whether one person's thinking is correct and the other person's thinking is deficient -- in fact, they are both equally influenced by their brain states, but that influence is not controlling for either party. The question is whether Christianity is true, and that is a question that can be answered independently of our brain states.

While I work on some baseline projects for Tekton, I'm going to repost a 2010 series that I originally posted on the Ticker blog back in 2010.  Looking at it has only become more relevant today.

I have a series of commentaries to offer on the process of modern evangelism and its relation (or rather, in practice, lack thereof) to apologetics. We’ll begin with a thesis that I want to not only rock the boat with, but perhaps sink it as well:

Personal testimony is a damaging, destructive, and undesirable form of evangelism that ought to be abandoned.

This is a hard thesis to swallow, I know. Every evangelistic program makes personal testimony the centerpiece of evangelism. “Jesus can change your life, like he did mine” is the theme of every evangelist from Billy Graham on down the line. But let’s face it, for all the respect Graham and others may have accrued, it is clear that their practices have in the long run produced a raft of shallow converts (who sometimes “walk the aisle” and “make a decision” multiple times in their lives) and a church that is slowly dying in the West, and may well disappear in the next 30 years. As the saying goes, it is not so much foolish to do something that does not work, but to do it again and again expecting different and better results.

Here I’d like to start by explaining why personal testimony has been, and always will be, such a regrettable and ultimately useless (in the long run) evangelistic practice. I’ll present five reasons why personal testimony needs to be abandoned as a practice in evangelism. Then I’ll move to describing what I think needs to be put in its place.

Background to start: Some years back I wrote an article for the Christian Research Journal titled “When Apologetics Was Evangelism” which you can read at . I’ll be referring to it frequently in these next few essays; in part what I say here is an update to, and continuation of, what I wrote there, after some years of reflection. I’ll still allow that personal testimony can have a certain limited use -- inasmuch as it is a form of evidence, albeit of the weakest, most questionable sort – but I’ll further develop in later essays some points about how I think evangelism should be conducted (obviously – no secret here – with a far more apologetic slant). For today, though, here is one of five reasons why personal testimony should be generally banished from our evangelistic arsenal.

Reason One: It has enabled the illogical, absurd argument that Christianity’s truth claims can be gauged by the behavior of confessed Christians.

We’ve seen it time and time again from all the doubting sources - one of the most recent ones is William Lobdell, author of Losing My Religion.

Here’s how it goes, simply put: Benny Hinn or Jim Bakker or my Christian Aunt Fannie did this or that or other nasty thing, and how can we believe in a religion where the people do that? It’s an absurd argument, for it is patent that just because Bakker ripped off millions, or Aunt Fannie kicked her cat, has no bearing on whether Jesus rose from the dead in first century Palestine. It may tell us how sincerely such Christians believe in and adhere to their system, or apply it to their lives, but it has zero effect on determining the factual basis for that belief.

And of course, no atheist seems to gauge the truth of their belief based on the actions of Stalin; contrarily, they may raise the specter of Bakker or Aunt Fannie, but if they do, why aren’t St. Francis or William Wilberforce or my nice Aunt Susie an argument for Christianity? Are they going to convert if we count the noses and find more good than bad? Then switch back if "bad" gains numbers, and back again when "good" is more numerous, and on and on? Somehow, I don’t think so.

We can go on about the obvious illogic of the argument for a while – it also runs into the matter of some who try to use the likes of Jim Jones as disconfirming evidence! -- but the main point here, today, is that this sort of argument has been enabled by the use of personal testimony as an evangelistic tool. When, “Jesus changed my life” becomes one’s argument for someone to convert, “well, he obviously didn’t change so and so very well” becomes a legitimate counter. It isn’t sound as a response, for the reasons noted above. And obviously, I am not saying people would not make this sort of absurd argument anyway, even without personal testimony playing such an important role: These critics don’t need our help to make illogical arguments and do quite well on their own with them. But the point carries a lot more force when it is assumed that changing of life and behavior is the basis for conversion – and the primary basis at that, as is presented in modern evangelism.

If I am right here, it may be justly asked why it is that some people have had their lives changed as a result of becoming Christians. There’s an answer for that, and it has little to do with whether personal testimony is a valid means of evangelism: It is inevitable that giving someone a purpose for living – as inevitably, even a watered-down form of Christianity can do – will give them new direction, new purpose, and a new lease on life. With that of course will come something that can be made into what we call a personal testimony. But this doesn’t really give personal testimony a leg up as a tool for evangelism, because what people are “converting” to in these situations is more like an emotional experience and a guarantee of a changed life than a contractual or covenantal commitment to Christ as Lord.

I venture to say that some such people may not even have crossed the line into salvation; but such would be beyond what can be rightly judged, in general, and it is safest to say what is in evidence, in the very least, which is that we get from these conversions mostly shallow converts with no epistemic basis for their life in Christ.

And that, in turn, shall be the focus of my second reason for abandoning the practice of personal testimony, which will be posted next time.

One of the most well-known events in Scriptures is Jesus' exchange with Pontius Pilate at his trial as described in John 18. In verse 38 of that chapter, Pilate asks the question that may be the most ironic in the history of the world, "What is truth?"

A less known but equally intriguing saying of Jesus from an apologetics viewpoint can be found in Jesus' response to an earlier question in the same trial. It is a question that is not often quoted, but on those rare occasions when it is quoted, Jesus' response is often overlooked as not particularly important or relevant to today's world. However, it is my experience (as well as the experience of many people who have truly spent time studying the Scriptures) that little, if any, of what Jesus said in the Bible lacks significance across time.

To best understand the response, it's important to see the response in context. The situation is this: Jesus has been arrested following His betrayal by Judas Iscariot. He has appeared before the Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest, and is being brought by the Jews to stand trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate, for his part, appears to be rather shrewd, and discerns that the Jews are bringing Jesus to him with some unspoken, ulterior motive. Pilate asks, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" (John 18:29) Pilate wants to know what charges justify Jesus' appearance before Pilate, but it is reasonable to conclude that he really wants to know why the Jews are bringing Jesus before him instead of handling the situation on their own. The Jews answer in rather vague language, "If this man were not an evildoer we would not have delivered him to you." (John 18:30) Not much in the way of specifics are stated in their response - just an assurance that Jesus is evil and his appearance before Pilate was appropriate. Pilate tries to dismiss their efforts to involve him and responds, "Take him yourself and judge him according to your law." (John 18:31a)  The Jews, however, argued that Jesus deserved death for what he had done and he could not be killed without the Pilate's consent. More specifically, they want Jesus crucified under Roman law as an example to the people of the cost of standing up to the Pharisees.

Although the text does not specifically say everything that Pilate and the Jews said in their exchange, it is apparent that either Pilate already knew that Jesus was called the King of the Jews or the Jews accused Jesus of being the King, because Pilate went in and asked Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" If Jesus were leading a rebellion, that might constitute grounds for crucifying him under Roman law. Thus, it appears clear that Pilate is asking Jesus the question because he is trying to get him to say something to justify crucifixion.

What Jesus says next is actually quite significant even though it can be (and has been) treated superficially. According to John 18:33-34:

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered, “ Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?"
Most commentaries interpret this verse as Jesus calling out Pilate for being a puppet of the Jews. In other words, they suggest that a good restatement of what Jesus is saying here would be: "You wouldn't be asking me that question if the Jews had not put you up to it." This is a perfectly legitimate interpretation of Jesus' words, and if that is how people understand/interpret it, I won't tell them that they're definitively wrong. But, at the same time, I don't think that that interpretation is the only way to understand Jesus' words, and it may be a rather shallow understanding of what Jesus meant. Just as many Bible verses have more than one layer of meaning, so too can Jesus' words in verse 34 be read as having a deeper application.

Instead of simply accusing Pilate of being a mouthpiece for self-righteous Jews who were seeking to gain political cover for his execution and have Jesus crucified as an example, perhaps Jesus was also asking a question of Pilate about the importance of the question to him personally. When Jesus asks Pilate if he is asking this of his own accord, perhaps a better interpretation of his words might be, "Are you asking because you want to know for yourself, or are you asking because you are seeking justification to hurt me?" In other words, Jesus was asking Pilate to confront his own heart. "Are you wanting to know if I am the King of the Jews because you want to know the truth about me, or are you asking on behalf of those who hate me?"

In this age of Internet evangelism, there are lots of people who spend time on discussion boards and who write or comment on blogs who are asking the question that has been asked since Jesus first asked the question of his disciples: Who is this Jesus? ("Who do you say that I am?) Is Jesus really God incarnate (God with us) or is he just a religious myth or fraud? As I have pointed out repeatedly, the problem is that many times those asking the questions in the toxic environment of the Internet are not serious when asking questions. They don't really care if he is the divine redeemer sent by God to redeem mankind from sin. Their motivation for asking questions about the Bible isn't to discern the truth, but to seek to dismiss him and to find fault with his body (which is his church, i.e., Christians).

Pilate, for his part, wasn't asking Jesus if he was the King of the Jews in order to find the truth of the claim. He was asking Jesus if he was the King of the Jews to establish a basis to do what the Jews were asking him to do - crucify him. Jesus, who had the ability to see into men's hearts (Luke 9:47), knew why Pilate was asking the question, and he was definitely not interested in the truth. In fact, when Jesus later tells Pilate that he has come to testify to the truth, Pilate responds with the aforementioned infamous question: "What is truth?" How can he be interested in truth when he doesn't know what truth is?

After years of engaging in discussions of the truth of Christ on-line (I have been engaging in Internet apologetics on-and-off for 17 years), it has become apparent to me that many (not all) unbelievers arguing against Christianity are very similar to Pilate. They ask questions - lots and lots of questions - but they ask not to learn the truth, but to attack Him or those who believe in Him. I expect that if they had ears to hear and asked honestly and openly, Jesus might give them the answers they seek and they might be open to actually hearing the truth. But alas, that is not what they do since that is nowhere near their heart.

The truth is Jesus is the truth. The truth is Jesus is the King. Search your heart and ask yourself, am I really asking these questions to seek the truth or to crucify Christ?

No Alternate Versions

 photo sacred-tree_zps54533af1.jpg
The tree of life from the creation story in Gilgamesh.

There are no alternate version's of the Jesus story. There are minor differences in different telling's but there are no other versions. For at least 200 years after the original events the very same major outline is kept as it was written in stone. Myth always proliferates but when everyone knows a story is true they don't dare change it. The fact that there's only one basic Jesus story tells us that it's probably a true story.


1) Mythology tends to proliforate:multiple story versions are common

2) When historical facts are known to a wide audience, people tend not to deny the basic facts of an event.

...a) eye witnesses keep it stairght

...b) People who try to invent new aspects of the event are confronted with the fact that most everyone knows better.

...c) people know the story for a fact and just dont' bother to change it.

3) Story proliforations would probably influence further tellings, thus creating many more documents with different versions of the same story.

4) If a myth proliforates we would tend to find more versions of the same story, when there is only one version we can accept a degree of certainty that the story did not proliforate.
5) We do not find a proliforation of versions of the Jesus story in any sources we know of.
6) The most logical way to account for this single Jesus story is through p2, that everyone knew it was the case, there were too many eye witnesses to spread new versions.
...a) It is illogical to assume that everyone just liked it so they didn't add to it.

...b) There was no canonization process in place in the early period, and the single unified verison existed from the earliest trace of the story.

7)Therefore, we can assume that it is probably the case that the masses were familiar with the story of Jesus because the story reflects events known by all to be factual.

The main thing that myths do is change. Given enough time, a myth will transmography until the names of the heroes are different, how they died is forgotten and retold so many times, there came to be multiple versions of their death. Myths change over time, but history does not. People remember a basic event they know its real, they don't forget it. Herclues has two deaths, in one he's poisaned, in another shot with an arrow. There are about 14 versions of the Tamuz myth. But there is only one way for the guys at the Alamo to die, there is only one death for Arthur, and there is only one way that Jesus Christ is ver portrayed as dying, that's by the cross. Why? Because that's how he really died. No one could deny it, so no one ever propossed another method.

I have made the argument, on message boards, that there are no alternate versions of the basic Gospel story. The point being, there are many versions of most myths. The fact that with tons of "other Gospels" not a one of them before the fourth century gives an alternate account of Jesus life, death, burial and resurrection is a good indication that everyone knew the basic facts, they were public knowledge because they were history; these things happened before the community of Jerusalem, the whole community was a witness and no one could deny it.Now skeptics have responded that certain alternate Gospels deny the resurrection. They name the Apochraphon of James. This is not true. As will be seen from what I quote below James does mention the resurrection. Some of the latter Gnostics denied the theology of the Virginal conception, but they still allude to the story. They denied that Jesus' death was real, but they do not deny that it happened, only that he was not a flesh and blood being and so could not die. What they accept is that the illusion of a flesh and blood man lived on the earth and was taken for a real person why all who saw him.

That is a fundamental mistake of Dohrtey (the champion of the "Christ-myth" theory), he thinks all the action originally was set in a heavily realm, that is not the case. The Gnostics generally accepted that the illusion of a man was seen on earth and seemed to be living among men. So they just spiritualized the history of Jesus.Below I will quote from several "other Gospels" to show that they affirm the deity of Christ, the resurrection, that they include references to many of the stories and periscopes in the canonical Gospels, and that they assume the general outline of the story that we call "fact."

Of course this in and of itself is not "proof" of the Jesus story, but taken together with the other evidence, it makes a compelling case.

Myths have Multiple Versions

Myths Encyclopedia: Myths and Legends of the world.

"Hinduism and Mythology," accessed 10/23/15
"Most myths occur in several different versions, and many characters have multiple roles, identities, and histories. This seeming confusion reflects the richness of a mythology that has expanded and taken on new meanings over the centuries."

Read more: Or:

Examples and documentation of Multiple versions of myth Mithra

Mithra comes from Persia and is part of Zoroastrian myth, but this cult was transplanted to Rome near the end of the pre-Chrsitian era. Actually the figure of Mithra is very ancient. He began in the Hindu pantheon and is mentioned in the Vedas. He latter spread to Persia where he took the guise of a sheep protecting deity. But his guise as a shepard was rather minor. He is associated with the Sun as well. Yet most of our evidence about his cult (which apparently didn't exist in the Hindu or Persian forms) comes from Post-Pauline times. Mitrha changed over time from Hindu patheon to persian sun god, to mystery cult savior.

(Marvin W. Meyer, ed. The Ancient Mysteries :a Sourcebook. San Francisco: Harper, 1987,, p. 201).


The Greek god Dionysos is said to be the god of wine, actually he began as a fertility god in Phrygian and in Macedonia, Thrace, and other outlying regions. The origin of the cult is probably in Asia. (Charles Seltman, The Twelve Olympians, New York: Thomas Y. Corwell Company, 1960.)
In some stories Dionysos is torn apart by the Titans. IN other stories it is Hera's orders that he be torn apart. (Edith Hamilton, Mythology, Mentor edition, original copywriter 1940, pp. 61-62).
Tamuz Easter: Myth, Hallucination or History by Edwin M. Yamauchi Leadership u. Updated 22 March 1997 (prof. of History at Miami University, Oxford Ohio)

"In the case of the Mesopotamian Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi), his alleged resurrection by the goddess Inanna-Ishtar had been assumed even though the end of both the Sumerian and the Akkadian texts of the myth of "The Descent of Inanna (Ishtar)" had not been preserved. Professor S. N. Kramer in 1960 published a new poem, "The Death of Dumuzi," that proves conclusively that instead of rescuing Dumuzi from the Underworld, Inanna sent him there as her substitute (cf. my article, "Tammuz and the Bible," Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXXIV [1965], 283-90). A line in a fragmentary and obscure text is the only positive evidence that after being sent to the Underworld Dumuzi may have had his sister take his place for half the year "(cf. S. N. Kramer, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 183 [1966], 31). "Tammuz was identified by later writers with the Phoenician Adonis, the beautiful youth beloved of Aphrodite. According to Jerome, Hadrian desecrated the cave in Bethlehem associated with Jesus' birth by consecrating it with a shrine of Tammuz-Adonis. Although his cult spread from Byblos to the GrecoRoman world, the worship of Adonis was never important and was restricted to women. P. Lambrechts has shown that there is no trace of a resurrection in the early texts or pictorial representations of Adonis; the four texts that speak of his resurrection are quite late, dating from the second to the fourth centuries A.D". ("La 'resurrection' d'Adonis," in Melanges Isidore Levy, 1955, pp. 207-40).
The "Great" Cybele
"Cybele, also known as the Great Mother, was worshiped through much of the Hellenistic world. She undoubtedly began as a goddess of nature. Her early worship included orgiastic ceremonies in which her frenzied male worshipers were led to castrate themselves, following which they became "Galli" or eunuch-priests of the goddess. Cybele eventually came to be viewed as the Mother of all gods and the mistress of all life." (Ronald Nash,"Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?" The Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994, p.8)

In some versions of the myth, Attis's return to life took the form of his being changed into an evergreen tree.(Ibid)

The cult changes over time and the story changes:Lambrechts has also shown that Attis, the consort of Cybele, does not appear as a "resurrected" god until after A.D. 1 50. ( "Les Fetes 'phrygiennes' de Cybele et d' Attis," Bulletin de l'lnstitut Historique Belge de Rome, XXVII 11952], 141-70).


The Cult (Osiris) moved to Rome where it was at first rejected, but finally was allowed into the city between 37 and 41. Only after the next two centuries did it become a rival of Christianity. Its eventual popularity came from its elaborate ritual and hope of immortality, although this was a latter development which post dates Christian origins and does not include Osiris. During the Osiris phase the immortality aspects were very minimal. 3) Early phase of cult no savior, in period of clash with Christianity, no Osiris! Thus, during the early part of the cult they had no great savior figure and no salvation aspects to speak of, and in the phase where they competed with Christianity (two or more centuries after the Gospels) they had no dying or rising savior figure. (Ronald Nash, "Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?" the Christian Research Journal, Winter 19994, p 8)

Global phenomena

It seems to be a universal law of mthology that myths transmutate over time. Here is a report about mythology of the Northwestern United States and it's native people. It states that they have multiple versions of the same myths.


by Ruth Ludwin, University of Washington Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences 12/29/99 DRAFT

"Incomplete as the preserved oral history of Cascadia is, many stories are repeated in multiple versions, with some "mixing and matching" of story elements, and some of the stories are geographically wide-spread."

Here are (not all) basic points of agreement between all Jesus sources from before the fourth century.

All The most basic details about these mythological figures changes and froms mutltiple myths. Who they were, what they stood for, their function, how they lived, how they died, even their country of origin all change. A god like Mirthra begins as an unimportant figure in Indian pantheon and winds up the sun God, the God of shepards in Persian and then something else in Rome. All of these mythical figures change over time, but not Jesus. There is basically one Jesus story and it's always the same.

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary"

3) Same principle players, Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdeline.

4) That Jesus was knows as a miracles worker.

5) he claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.

6) he was crucified under Pilate.

7) Around the time of the Passover.

8) at noon.

9) rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.

10) several woman with MM discovered the empty tomb.

11) That this was in Jerusalem.

There were hundreds of sources, different books and Gospels and Acts, that never made it into the New Testament. The Jesus story is re-told countrless times from early days (around AD50 first written) to the fourth century, before there was ever a major alternatiion in any of these basic details. Even after that time, no one ever disagreed with these points listed avove.

The most flagrant exception might seem to be the Gnostics who claimed that Jesus was not flesh and blood but illusory so he didn't really die on the cross. Yet, the didn't deny that there was an event where he seemed to die on the cross. Even when their ideology contradicted the history they still could not deny the seeming facts. they just re-interpreted the facts. 

I have always contended that the primary reason to believe in Christianity is because its true. I have said in prior blogposts that if Christianity were false, we should abandon it. Why? Because Christians, who are followers of the one who identified himself as "the way, and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), should be dedicated to the truth above everything else.

Frank Turek, proud purveyor of Cross-Examined, has posted a video entitled "One Question You Should Always Ask an Unbeliever." It is pretty insightful, and the question that should always be asked really does get to the heart of the earnestness of the unbelievers in their views.


If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? It's a pretty straightforward question. The straightforward answer should be either yes or no. In a sane world, I would expect almost anyone answering the question in an equally straightforward manner would answer yes, but Turek points out that some of the people to whom he asks this question actually answer no. In other words, they are not interested in the truth at all and are honest enough to admit it. (That's pretty ironic if you think about it.)  I expect that if you run into a person like that, Turek's analysis is correct - they are really after what they think makes them happy and not about truth. The approach to take with such a person isn't to contend for the facts of the Christian faith but rather to challenge whether they are truly happy or whether personal happiness should be the end for which we should live our lives.

Having said that, while I love Frank's question when meeting people face-to-face or in a personal way, I don't see the question as being particularly helpful in most Internet discussions about Christianity because I don't think most unbelievers will answer the question no. Instead, I believe that they will respond in one of three ways: answer yes, answer no with a lengthy explanation or dodge the question altogether.

The Dodgers

Some will say something to the effect of, "Christianity isn't true, so it's a nonsense question." This is the exact type of answer I expect from people who cannot think sequentially. The question asks them to put aside their preconceptions and consider what their response would be if it were the case that Christianity is true. What if God really does exist, and God really sent his Son to die for our sins (as millions of Christians already recognize as true)? Would you really be willing to follow the truth?

It is a fair question for both sides. Paul already answered it from the Christian side. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul basically answers the question, "If Christianity is not true, should you stop being a Christian?" He answered:

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
In a nutshell, if Jesus did not really rise from the dead, i.e., if Christianity is not true, then we are wrong and we shouldn't follow it. Not only that, Christians should be pitied for following a falsehood. It is a straightforward response that Christians are happy to give because they truly believe (with evidence even if some don't know it) that they have truth on their side. So, if an unbeliever won't even respond to the question with a definitive yes or no, it demonstrates that they are not truly willing to consider truth or they are so uncertain of the truth that they must deflect. If they have any willingness to actually dialog rather than just engaging in a soliloquy against Christianity, you should challenge them on this. Don't let them be a dodger.

Those who deny with an explanation

Another expected tact would be for the unbeliever to say something like, "I wouldn't believe it because...." The explanations will vary. Perhaps it will be, "...because Christianity has resulted in so much evil in the world." Or maybe, "...because Christians are all hypocrites." Given time, I can think of dozens of other explanations/excuses to avoid the effect of answering no.

Again, I think that the unbeliever who says no is, at least, being honest in acknowledging that the truth doesn't matter to her. The explanations accompanying these types of responses are not honest because they are irrelevant to the question. Even if Christianity has resulted in more evil in the world or Christians are hypocrites, if Christianity is true then these are no more than excuses. It is ultimately the case that the person is communicating that they simply are not interested in the truth when it comes to God.

It may be possible to work with the person who says no with some explanation or excuse. Most of the problems that people can point to are answerable in a Christian understanding of the world. Sin, man's fallen nature, separation from God and human imperfection all play into the reasons that Christians have been less than Christlike in our attitudes and actions. If Christianity is true, these things do not deflect from Christianity, but rather are completely consistent with a Christian world view.

Those who say yes.

Ah, here are the most promising least they might be promising. If the person is truly willing to follow God if Christianity is true, that is the rare unbeliever. If they admit it, you have common ground on which to speak with them. After all, both parties are now agreeing that the basis for the discussion should be the truth or falsity of both the Gospel and their own understanding of the world, and that should create fertile ground for discussion...provided, of course, that the person is not lying.

Lying is the biggest problem that I experience in these discussions, and it is a problem that exists primarily on the Internet among people who engage in religious forums.(You see a lot of it in forums on politics, too, but that is not my focus here.) Outside of the Internet, in a one-on-one conversation with another person, it is easy to read by their attitude and demeanor whether their "yes" is really a yes or whether they are just mouthing something that they don't really believe. And in most cases, when you interact personally with another person (rather than using the handles and pseudonyms of the Internet), they are more likely to be truthful about how they really feel.

On the Internet -- and especially on religious discussion boards or in comments to blogs like this -- too often people are not there to engage in a real conversation. They are there to attack your point of view. They are there to win a debate. They will lie to you about what they think to keep you in the game. That person's "yes" to the question is no more than a way of saying, "I really don't care what you have to say, I am here to pound you with my opinion which I will dress up as fact and pretending to be interested in the truth will keep you involved longer." They may even believe the lie themselves -- but their willingness to follow the truth only extends to the truth that they have falsely convinced themselves is the truth. The sad thing is these are the people who need the truth the most yet they are the hardest to reach of any of the groups.

I really do like Frank's question. In a different forum than the Internet, I will use it. But I don't expect it to be of much use over the Internet. There are just plain too many trolls strolling along the digital highway for conversations of this sort to be productive.

Use of Content

The contents of this blog may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from the Christian CADRE provided that the copyright information is included. We would appreciate notification of the use of our content. Please e-mail us at