I get a fair amount of e-mails from religious believers warning me that I am headed for Hell, but sometimes I actually get a polite e-mail. That was the case earlier this week.
The e-mail came about through a larger conversation on social media and in the comments of my most recent HuffPo article. So there is some context missing but I believe the Christian who sent it is well intentioned and willing to have a genuine conversation. In fact, we are having quite an interesting conversation through multiple e-mail exchanges. I am just going to share our first exchange to give you an idea of what this conversation looks like. I am addressing multiple points politely while still being critical. That isn’t always the way to go, but if someone is polite to me, I will respond in that same tone whenever possible.
Here is the e-mail:
We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly the invisible things of God, namely, His eternal power and deity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom 1:20). All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse.
Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.
Couldn’t word it more perfectly than this so I quoted ;)… “(C) While Christ Himself holds perhaps the highest honor as the supreme revelation of God, the bible’s special revelation is unique because it alone gives us the divine plan of salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).
Scripture tells us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead. Jesus Himself taught that one must hear His words, which today are found in God’s Word, and trust the One Who sent Him in order to receive eternal life and forgiveness of sins (John 5:24). Thus, while natural revelation was sufficient to leave all men without excuse for their sins, the special revelation of God’s Word gives the necessary gospel of eternal life for the salvation of men. Sinners cannot come to Christ unless they hear the special revelation of the Word of God. They cannot hear the Word of God unless we believers take it to them (Romans 10:14-17). God is not hiding from sinners, and neither should believers.”
Thanks for conversating with me on this! I don’t get the opportunity near enough 🙂
I tried to address many issues in a short amount of space… shortish amount of space, anyway. Here is my response:
Let me try to address some of your points and let you know my concerns. We know the universe exists. But I don’t see any evidence that suggests that it was created by a perfect deity. Our current understanding of Cosmology suggests that the universe was formed from the Big Bang some 13.7 Billion years ago. Long before any people. So I have a hard time believing that the universe was created for our benefit. This is particularly questionable give the size of the universe.
Second, the Bible is a pretty flawed series of books and it is hard for me to accept that an all-powerful deity had anything whatsoever to do with it. Surely a God could have produced a better book series. We don’t know who wrote the Old Testament or the Gospels. We do know that the New Testament has changed a great deal over time and we don’t have the originals. Morally, the Bible has issues to put it mildly.
I don’t need salvation and I object to any religion which creates a problem and then claims to have the only solution. It just seems like a con to me. I also object to vicarious redemption for wrong doing. If someone killed your child, do you think the Judge should put the killer in prison or accept the killer’s son’s sacrifice of prison time instead and allow the actual killer to go free? That doesn’t seem like justice to me. Plus, the evidence for a historical Jesus isn’t very good and it is doubtful that even if he did exist that he was crucified at all. The Biblical account talks about zombies walking the streets after the crucifixion. I have a hard time taking that seriously. Jesus turning into a zombie after three days just doesn’t seem realistic either.
As for eternal life, no thanks. I don’t really want to live forever. That’s a pretty long time and I get bored easily. Plus, how can I be happy knowing that so many people I care about are being tortured for all eternity. I don’t even like when our government tortures people for a few months and eternity is much longer. That’s a God I couldn’t follow let alone worship.
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover at least twice. I highly recommend doing so. Most religious believers don’t realize just how violent, immoral, and boring it is. So I heard the “special revelation” and I wasn’t convinced. But it does seem odd to me that an all-powerful deity needs the help of believers to communicate. God would know what evidence would convince me of his existence. He could present that evidence directly to me. And he should desire to convince me of his existence. So why am I not convinced? Either God isn’t all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, or he doesn’t exist.
Mark Twain once said that he “didn’t know if God existed or not, but that it would be better for his reputation id he didn’t.”
I understand that you probably haven’t heard these criticisms before, so I would like you to really think about them. Take some time to really examine why you believe what you believe. Even if you stick to your current opinion, self-examination is always a good thing. You seem like a really nice person and I would hate for you to waste your life believing in some ancient superstition instead of living your life. We don’t have an eternity. We only have what we have and it is best to use that time wisely and spend it loving our family and friends instead of imaginary deities.
- If Jesus Conquered Death, Where Is He Now? (skepticink.com)
- Religious/Secular Misconceptions (skepticink.com)
- School shootings caused by ‘Under God’ in pledge (examiner.com)
- Getting To The 24th Century (skepticink.com)
- ‘Scientific Method led me to Jesus Christ’ (skepticink.com)
- The Truth About Mark Driscoll’s Tweet (skepticink.com)