• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
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Reason, Intellect, Religion, & Belief

I feel the need to clarify a few things. In general — but in this post especially — when I say belief, I refer specifically to the belief that God exists as described in the Bible. When I say believer or saint, I refer specifically to those who have believed and known God, and henceforth accepted the provision of the Gospel: Jesus Christ. Unless in the pre-stated context of Roman Catholicism, when I say the church, I refer to the body of believers and saints spread across the world.

The biblical definition of a believer is one whose spirit has been regenerated by God. Does this mean that any person who utters with their mouth "I believe" is regenerated thusly? Certainly not. Although the church is the body of believers, not every person who attends church believes. In fact, the Bible grimly suggests the opposite, and such is borne out by the testimonies of former Christians everywhere. The difference between being a member of the church and simply attending church is precisely this matter of regeneration. Again, belief refers to something that actually happens to the subject in the spiritual realm. Anything less than this is a mere puffing up of the religious mind.

I prefer these words to the generic Christian or Christianity because they tend to provoke less emotional activity and confusion. I further believe that denominations are error, and please take caution not to interpret that statement as an expression of smugness: I'm not saying that all denominations are false and that I myself am privy to some special revelation besides that which God is freely willing to give to whomever He pleases. Rather, I mean that the existence of denominations is itself an error of division within the body of believers. In the interest of promoting unity, I will tend not to categorize believers as Baptists or Calvinists or Methodists or what have you.

That being said, I would like to make it clear that belief cannot be effected by reason, intellect or religion. The reason simply stated is that only God can regenerate a dead spirit. Only God can enable our belief (John 6:65). We will expound on these points in much greater detail in weeks to come, as they tie directly to the tripartite model of consciousness we'll discuss later this week.

In my short life, I've spent a decent amount of time engaged in various arguments for God and/or things supernatural. Inevitably in our discussions of (a)theism, the matters of evidence or proof arise. Atheists and skeptics want to know how to test for God's existence before they're willing to believe that God or any related claims are true. Such people state that without evidence, they refuse to believe in God or their own spirit — but if the premises are true — neither God nor their spirit needs their permission to exist. 

Here's the catch: belief is purported to be a spiritual phenomenon that flows from God to the believer. This means that no amount of anything we initiate can effect belief. Because it is their nature to "permit" their beliefs with evidence beforehand — which is an exercise of one's own intellect and reason — atheists and skeptics naturally assume belief is also best apprehended via one's own intellect and reason. Woe to us believers who also mistakenly believe thusly!

Speaking on these distinctions, Watchman Nee explains,

God does not explain Himself via man's reasoning; never does man come to know God through rationalization. No matter how clever man's mind is nor how much it understands about God, his knowledge of God remains veiled. All he can do is rationalize what is behind the veil, because he has not penetrated the reality hidden from view. Since he has not yet "seen," man can "understand," but he can never "know." If there is no revelation, personal revelation, Christianity is worth nothing. Everyone who believes in God must have His revelation in his spirit, or else what he believes is not God but mere human wisdom, ideals  or words. Such a faith cannot endure the test.
Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man V.II

To think of it in Boolean terms, let A represent all the intellect and reason a person can summon, and let B represent God's regeneration of that person's spirit. The Bible tells us in plain language that A cannot effect B. Literally — if these premises are true — then nothing a person can initiate can ever restore themselves or another to a right relationship with God. No amount of science or evidence or philosophy or argumentation can suffice, and every fruitless intellectual discussion with an atheist belabors this point. In the same vein, every religion is revealed to be mere vainglory: no amount of dogma or sacraments or confessions or services can regenerate a spirit that is dead unto God.

Nee continues along these lines,

People shall never enter the kingdom of God through our encouragement, persuasion, argument, inducement, excitement, or attraction; entrance can be gained only by new birth, by nothing less than the resurrection of the spirit.
-Ibid.

We might be tempted to say, "That's not so, after all, I came to believe because of such-and-such evidence or so-and-so's argument." If that's the case, our spirits may not have ever been regenerated at all. If you fancy yourself a believer, do you feel an emptiness despite that fact? Religiosity and biblical knowledge mean nothing; they become but mere Christian drapery without their proper spiritual foundation.

Many atheists and skeptics claim they will believe in God if they can just see the evidence. Yet, in so doing, they draft the entire contract on their own terms by beginning with the assumption that the epistemological device they're most comfortable with is the right one for this particular job. And this with no less than their own Creator! Do children set terms for their parents? I cannot but express the very hopelessness and foolishness of that assumption: hopeless, because only God can enable belief, and that by nothing less than a spiritual act; foolish, because Satan and his minions are often more than willing to jump through hoops in order to gain converts. This is why Jesus often rebuked those who demanded miraculous signs: they're a cheap form of flattery easily employable by any supernatural agent who's gained a foothold. We must rely on faith to interpret all supernatural experiences. As such, those who hanker thusly put themselves at risk of being deceived. They may end up believing in the supernatural — but this does not make them believers or saints — hence belief in the supernatural remains as useless as anything else that's not God's regeneration.

Again, belief cannot be effected by our reason, intellect, science, religion, evidence or rational abilities. Then, does this make belief ultimately an irrational matter of whim? Does this mean that these things are mutually exclusive with belief? Most certainly not, and we will expound on this later. The point for now is that our powers of reason and intellect are the faculties we use to understand and explain belief, not to effect it. If it is true that belief cannot be effected by our reason, intellect, science, religion, evidence or rational abilities, the onus is on the skeptic to either humbly ask God to help them accept this limitation, or risk perishing in their stubbornness.

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19 Responses

  1. Amen, cl. Great, great post. One of the better that I’ve read anywhere, and what a powerful closing. God bless.
    You’re right, belief is not effected by the intellect or argumentation. As you’d guess, I’d argue that regeneration precedes faith. However, though the intellect does not effect belief, it is a necessary component of faith. Generally, true faith is thought to have the correct notitia, true knowledge, as one part of the classic components of true faith: notitia, assensus, & fiducia. Just a distinction not a disagreement that I think you’re anticipating here: “Does this mean that these things are mutually exclusive with belief?”
    “Rather, I mean that the existence of denominations is itself an error of division within the body of believers.”
    Brought about by sin, no doubt…
    “Although the church is the body of believers, not every person who attends church believes.”
    A useful concept, though not an exact parallel to what you’re saying here, is the invisible and visible church.

  2. Another excellent post!
    You could sum up much of this by saying we are justified by faith and not by works. Anything we do is a “work”. Including reason and logical processing.

  3. Calvinism in a nutshell. God saves who he will, you’ve got no say in the matter.

  4. MS,
    I’m glad you were able to walk away with something useful. Thanks for the good words.
    Ned,
    Ephesians 2:8 certainly works nicely as a one-line treatment of this post. Yet, the typical exegesis of that verse focuses on “good deeds.” Because of that, many people simply hear something like, “Okay, faith saves us, not good works.” Which we believe is true, of course, but because many people interpret the verse solely in the context of good deeds, many might miss the larger point: it’s not just that good deeds can’t effect the regeneration of a dead spirit; it’s that nothing which flows from us can. People can easily understand the insufficiency of good works; the problem is, many of these same people don’t realize the insufficiency of all which emanates from man’s flesh.
    Thanks for the good words.
    Dominic,

    God saves who he will, you’ve got no say in the matter.

    Hmmm…. that’s definitely not the message I intended to communicate here, nor do I believe that position is consistent with Scripture. In fact, every single conversion requires active participation on behalf of the subject.
    Of curiosity, how do you get from the insufficiency of reason, intellect and religion to “having no say in the matter?”

  5. Hmmm…. that’s definitely not the message I intended to communicate here, nor do I believe that position is consistent with Scripture. In fact, every single conversion requires active participation on behalf of the subject.

    Book of Acts, Chapter 9. The conversion of Saul.

    Of curiosity, how do you get from the insufficiency of reason, intellect and religion to “having no say in the matter?”

    Well, you said:

    If you fancy yourself a believer, do you feel an emptiness despite that fact? Religiosity and biblical knowledge mean nothing; they become but mere Christian drapery without their proper spiritual foundation.

    So there are people who choose to believe but still don’t get belief as you put it. Thus, even opening yourself up to the possibility, having faith, as it were, still isn’t enough.

  6. Specifically, note v.6: “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
    Human beings can either obey or violate commands. Do you mean to imply that God completely usurped Paul’s willpower and body, such that he was physically forced to obey this command?

  7. Yes

  8. Sorry cl, but I must lean toward Dominic here…
    We have no power to save ourselves, and our decisions have no influence on God’s decision to save us (Paul had no desire to be saved, yet God saved him).
    I must take up part of Dominic’s statement, though:
    “God saves who he will, you’ve got no say in the matter.”
    You have no say, that does not mean you have no hope. If you cry out to God for mercy, He will grant it (“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom 10:13). You have God’s promise on that.

  9. I’m saying the Bible teaches that, although nothing from ourselves can save ourselves, and the entire thing can only happen by the power of God, we still have a say in the matter: we have to accept what God has enabled. God doesn’t just clobber non-believers over the head one day and turn them into believers against their free will, which is what you seem to be arguing.
    Ned,

    Sorry cl, but I must lean toward Dominic here… We have no power to save ourselves,

    I am not saying that we have power to save ourselves; I’m saying we have a say in the matter, and your last paragraph seems to concur with that idea. If Romans 10:13 is true, we do in fact have a say in the matter. God enables, we accept.

    Paul had no desire to be saved, yet God saved him

    I would certainly agree that Paul didn’t call upon the name of the Lord, but Paul was a believer whose heart was clearly set on pleasing God before his conversion – however misguided he was. He had no desire to become a Christian, but he clearly possessed a desire to know the one true God, wouldn’t you say? He had a say in the matter; he chose to believe and to serve God before he became a Christian, however misguided he was, and he also chose to comply with the commands God gave him.
    Dominic is arguing that God literally superseded Paul’s free will and use of his body, and forced Paul to go into the city and be baptized. Do you agree with that?

  10. “Paul was a believer whose heart was clearly set on pleasing God”
    That is an interesting question. I’m not so certain. How would you interpret Romans 3:11 in this light?
    “forced Paul to go into the city and be baptized” I wouldn’t go so far. I would have to disagree with Dominic, if he is making that strong a point.
    But to play Devil’s advocate, after conversion, it was no longer Paul who lived but Christ. So, it was not Paul who obeyed, but Christ… ;)

  11. Paul was a believer whose heart was clearly set on pleasing God (cl)
    That is an interesting question. I’m not so certain. (Ned)

    Philippians 3:

    “..beware of the false circumcision… If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the assembly; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.”

    In the specific context of debating whether salvation is effected by grace or observance of the law, does not Paul in Philippians 3 describe himself as having more reason to put stock in observance of the law, than grace? If yes, what do you think he was alluding to, that he imagined his observance of the law was sufficient for attaining?

    How would you interpret Romans 3:11 in this light?

    In Romans 3 Paul argues that “..all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.” Verse 11 is actually a citation of Psalm 14, the context of which is essentially the same: that at some point we’ve all missed the mark. I don’t see that either verse precludes one from natural religious zeal such as that which comes from the flesh.
    Do you?

    “forced Paul to go into the city and be baptized” I wouldn’t go so far. I would have to disagree with Dominic, if he is making that strong a point.

    Dominic gave a direct reply of “yes” when I asked, “Do you mean to imply that God completely usurped Paul’s willpower and body, such that he was physically forced to obey this command?”
    Does that change your position at all?

    ..after conversion, it was no longer Paul who lived but Christ. So, it was not Paul who obeyed, but Christ…

    This assumes the actual conversion occurred when Paul met the Lord on the road, yet Paul’s baptism and subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is recorded as happening after Ananias prayed and the scales fell from his eyes, three days after Paul had already arrived at the house of Judas. In fact, this is more strong evidence against Dominic’s argument: if conversion didn’t occur on the road, Paul’s actions were Paul’s – not the Lord’s within him.
    Would you say that sufficiently answers the “devil’s advocate” objection?

  12. Well said.
    I think my main point was actually a nitpick on “Paul was a believer … before his conversion”. I don’t think anyone can be a believer before conversion. As Paul would say, all his “righteousness” in observance of the law was dung.
    In effect, his prior zeal was zeal in the service of Satan. Without orthodoxy (right thinking), it is impossible to have right doing (orthopraxy). Saul’s misconception of God/Jesus led him to murdering Christians. And lesser sins than murder can be driven by wrong motives or understanding (look at
    the zeal expressed by JW’s or Mormons).
    Re. Dominic, I would like to hear him clarify…
    Re. “Paul’s baptism and subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is recorded as happening after Ananias prayed”
    This is most insightful! I had not considered that before. I think you are right.

  13. Ned,

    Re. Dominic, I would like to hear him clarify…

    Yeah, me too!

    I think my main point was actually a nitpick on “Paul was a believer … before his conversion”.

    That’s not a “nit-pick” in my book, Ned. Rather, it shows you value precise language, and though atheists will often criticize us for that, it’s a virtue, not a vice. You were correct to “nit-pick” that, because that one instance of “believer” is actually used contrary to the definitions given in the OP. Paul wasn’t a believer before conversion; he was religious. Still, that can get confusing, because he did “believe in God” before his conversion.
    Either way, the whole point is that God didn’t physically force Paul to go to Judas’ house and get baptized. Like you, I’d like for Dominic to come back and either justify his claim, or retract it.

  14. Without all this additional speculation on how Paul was thinking about things, just go back to the bible itself. Acts 9:15.
    “But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”
    God chose Paul’s path. Paul did not. It was a forced conversion.
    More broadly, look at all the defenses given as far as why God doesn’t similarly ‘force’ himself upon all of us (that is, reveal himself in an unambiguous manner). They can all be summarized in that doing so would take away our free will, so God leaves us alone and expects faith. But here in Acts, you have a crystal clear example of just that very thing happening.

  15. Dominic,

    It was a forced conversion.

    So then, do you mean to imply [again] that God completely usurped Paul’s willpower and body, such that he was physically forced to obey this command?

  16. (to be clear: I am a supralapsarian, I’m not entirely sure where cl falls)
    I’m curious Dominic, are you saying God is unjust to save Paul? Or that He is unjust in not saving others?
    In other words, so what if it is a forced conversion? And so what if God chooses not to reveal Himself in an unambiguous manner?

  17. @cl

    So then, do you mean to imply [again] that God completely usurped Paul’s willpower and body, such that he was physically forced to obey this command?

    Unambiguously.
    @ned

    I’m curious Dominic, are you saying God is unjust to save Paul? Or that He is unjust in not saving others?
    In other words, so what if it is a forced conversion? And so what if God chooses not to reveal Himself in an unambiguous manner?

    Whether or not I feel its just is irrelevant. I’m not judging God. The “so what” parts however, are there to show how there is a contradiction in what the bible says and what cl (and others) argue in their apologetics.

  18. Dominic,
    Well, then you’ll never be able to believe in the God I believe in. The God I believe in respects man’s freedom and does not participate in forced conversions.
    Of curiosity, why is it okay for you to just assert whatever you feel like in this regard? This is just like your claim that my precognitive experience was a memory. Even though every dictionary describes memory as recollection of a past event. I’m not averse to bold claims though, Dominic. Thing is, if you want to make bold claims, there’s actual work you need to do to support them.

    ..there is a contradiction in what the bible says and what cl (and others) argue in their apologetics.

    Totally false. There is a contradiction between WHAT YOU SAY the Bible says, and what I argue in my exegesis. You’ll never be able to apprehend the truth if you just make it say what you want it to say. Read Acts 9 again, if you haven’t already.
    If God physically forced Paul to go to Judas’, why was there need for the people with him to “[lead] him by the hand into Damascus?”
    OTOH, if you can support your claim that God physically usurped Paul’s body and forced him to go to Judas’ house, I might have to change my position.
    Ned,

    ..so what if it is a forced conversion?

    I’m still unclear on your position: do you believe that God completely usurped Paul’s willpower and body, such that he was physically forced to obey this command? Yes? Or no?

  19. Hello all,
    I would be intrigued to hear Dominic’s objection to Calvinism (which I infer from his shortness @3). He seems to have a clear grasp of our inability and God’s authority…
    Re. “who cares”, Dominic also shows remarkable understanding of justice (we cannot judge God).
    I must disagree in the use of “physically forced”.
    Perhaps I should shed some light on what I understand “will” to mean.
    You can think about it in terms of there being two wills: our will, and God’s will.
    Our will is “free” only in regard to the direction of our sin. That is, it is never “free” to do “good” (aka God’s will, they are interchangeable to me).
    After repentance, we become capable of doing good. In effect, when we conform our thinking to God’s thinking, and have received Biblical counsel, our will is God’s will.

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