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Answers to a Non-Christian Reader: What Do I Believe? Why? — 12 Comments

  1. I’m the non-Christian reader this post is referring to.

    Thank you, Michelle, for such detailed answers! I wasn’t expecting this, and I’m (pleasantly) surprised. You wrote more than I can respond to in one comment, so I’ll just say that this post is really touching. I figured you could only scratch the surface with your answers here — faith is extremely complex. Strobel sounds intriguing. I’m not really looking for evidence of God, because I think evidence of the divine is not really productive. An atheist and a religious person will look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. I don’t think either is “right” or wrong”, but instead each has their own truth. I suppose I was looking for the Christian perspective, and you delivered!

    I actually have a Bible on hand. I’ll give the Gospel of John a try!

    If I could give you a book recommendation: My Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs. It’s about a completely secular person who attempts to live by every rule in the Bible for 1 year. The author also did a 20 minute Ted Talk on it, if you’d prefer a synopsis to a full book.

  2. Thank you, Jacob! It is encouraging to me that we can have this discussion even as we look at the world from a different set of lenses. It’s a healthy thing to be able to have a respectful conversation and try to understand one another. The book recommendation sounds intriguing! I will look it up.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I have some questions for you, too. As you said in your comment, I do not mean it disrespectfully at all, but simply ask to understand where you are coming from.

    When you say that everyone has their own truth, what do you mean? I have heard similar statements before, and it confuses me. Do you mean to say that everyone has their own *belief* (which may be correct or incorrect) or do you believe that more than one thing could be true? I don’t quite understand how it could be true that God exists, while at the same time he doesn’t… or how it could be true that God created us, as a historic event, but at the same time, he did not. Is that what you mean, or am I misunderstanding something? It would seem to me that only one of those statements could be true, and while we may earnestly believe one way or the other, someone’s going to be wrong. Could you elaborate on that?

    Thanks so much for the discussion!

  3. When I say that “each has their own truth” I mean that everyone has (even slightly) different *perceptions* of divinity. We look at the same things and come to different conclusions about whether it is true or not. I’ll use the Abrahamic religions, atheists, and myself as an example:

    Christians believe in the Bible, God, and that Jesus was the Messiah who died to save our sins.

    Jews believe in the Old Testament (the Torah), and that Jesus existed but wasn’t the Messiah. They believe that the Messiah has yet to come.

    Muslims believe in the Quran and that Jesus wasn’t the final prophet, Mohammed was.

    Atheists don’t believe in religious texts. They don’t believe in God at all. They definitely don’t believe in Jesus.

    I don’t believe in God, but I think it’s possible transcendent forces exist. I think it’s possible Jesus existed as a good, ordinary person (not the Son of God), or that Jesus is a conflation of multiple good people.

    So we all agree: religious texts, God, Jesus, the Messiah. But we *perceive* them differently. To me it’s about perception.

    I’m not sure if I answered your question. It’s difficult to explain when I don’t believe in any particular Creation story (or lack thereof), and you do. Let me know if you need clarification!

    • Okay, I think I see what you mean. So, what I hear you say is that you don’t believe that everyone literally has the “truth” – but rather, everyone has their own perception of what they *believe* to be true? And as someone who believes that there is no God, you believe that Christians (as well as any belief system that believes in the existence of God) are wrong – not morally wrong – but simply that they are incorrect? Am I hearing you right?

      And you know, that’s okay- I’m not offended that you think I’m wrong. We can’t both be right! :) Disagreeing is not disrespectful. Knowing the truth is important, and seeking it out is a worthy endeavor!

      If you are tired of this discussion (I know you and Hannah have been having discussions too), then we can let it go. But, if you are up for some more conversation, I have a few other things I’d love to ask…

      What has led you to the belief that there is no God?
      Do you think it possible you could be wrong?
      If you were wrong, would you want to know?

      Thanks again for discussing!

      • To be clear, I don’t think you’re entirely wrong for believing in God. I just think the Abrahamic God assumes too much about a transcendent force.

        I’d be happy to answer your questions :)

        1) What has led you to the belief that there is no God?

        Your wording here is interesting. It implies I once believed in God, and was led not to. Or perhaps, that I turned to scientific evidence for my disbelief. Have you considered that you’ve led your children *to believe* in God? (Not a bad thing, just something to consider).

        I was raised secular: Wasn’t told what to believe or disbelieve. By default, I’ve never believed in God. (I acknowledge a secular upbringing could lead to belief in God; this is purely my experience).

        2) Do you think it possible you could be wrong?

        I’m not just open to being wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m wrong. I’m satisfied with this uncertainty.

        3) If you were wrong, would you want to know?

        Nope! That would spoil the mystery. :-)
        ——————————————————–
        Would you want to know if you were wrong?

        • That is interesting. Actually, I didn’t assume any of those things in my question. I had no preconceived idea about why you don’t believe in God, and it’s curious that you somehow read into that. I did make one wrong assumption, and that was that you had done some sort of study that led you to your beliefs. I admit it surprises me that you did not, and I appreciate your honesty.

          You are correct that I teach my children what I believe to be true about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I also teach them the reasons I believe those things. I also teach them to think for themselves and not just take my word for it, but to ask those hard questions and seek out the answers. They need to seek the truth and decide for themselves, and it is ultimately between them and God whether they believe it not. But, I would consider it very unloving, if I know how their souls can be saved, to not tell them. If they were blindfolded and headed for a cliff, and I didn’t tell them, I’d have to be a monster. Eternal consequences are even more dire than falling off a cliff… although I recognize that you don’t believe that.

          Honestly, it’s not just my children. I don’t want anyone to fall off a cliff, and I don’t want anyone to go to hell. That’s why I’m talking to you about this, Jacob. I don’t know you, but I do care about your soul. I’d be cruel to not warn you about a cliff, and I’d be cruel not to talk to you about knowledge that could save your soul. And yes – again I realize you don’t believe that, but I do.

          To answer your question, I would absolutely want to know if I was wrong. I want to know the truth. I admit I can’t wrap my head around why anyone wouldn’t want the truth. That’s quite a risk to take for all of eternity.

          Are you still okay with talking about this? It doesn’t bother me, and I’m willing to keep talking as long as you are. :)

  4. Sorry for the late reply! I’m still okay with talking about this. :)

    I didn’t mean to suggest it’s wrong to teach your children about God, Jesus, etc. It makes perfect sense why you do/would. I have no doubt you’re doing right by your family, for loving reasons. I’ve never assumed your children have blind faith; quite the contrary. It was the “led to” wording that made me wonder if you had preconceived notions — I only pointed it out to you to see if the wording was unintentional or unconscious. It appears to be the former.

    I appreciate the sentiment that you’re concerned for my soul, even as I don’t believe in heaven.

    Regarding your view of heaven: then wouldn’t Jesus be in hell or the Jewish afterlife? He was a Jew, after all. (Unless you mean the belief in God, not the belief in Christianity specifically). For that reason, I believe if heaven exists, the only prerequisite is being a good person. Faith notwithstanding. If a God exists who puts faith before all other qualities, that’s not a God I want to follow. I think there are many more important things to a person than faith. Am I’m missing something?

    If I could ask you 2 more questions…. Do you think every believer who repents is worthy of heaven? Why/Why not?

    Why isn’t Jesus in the Jewish afterlife? Is it possible for him to be in both the Jewish afterlife and heaven?

    Thanks for your time!

    • I’m glad to answer your questions.

      Regarding your view of heaven: then wouldn’t Jesus be in hell or the Jewish afterlife? He was a Jew, after all.

      No, Jesus is not in Hell. The Bible says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” (Without going off on a rabbit trail, there are three different types of death that are being referred to here. One is physical death, which we all must experience. Another is spiritual death, losing relationship with God, which is what we experience unless we turn back to him. The third is eternal death, which is eternal separation from God in Hell.) So that said, Jesus was not a sinner. He had no need to pay the wages of sin – death.

      For that reason, I believe if heaven exists, the only prerequisite is being a good person.

      I’d agree with you there. I guess we’d disagree about what it takes to be a good person. How good is good enough to be considered good? If you’re better than 50% of the population, are you good? Is it 20%? 80%? If you do more good than bad, are you good? What does it take to be “good?”

      If you want my answer to those questions, I believe God sets the standards for what is “good.” I believe we all fall short of that standard, and no one meets that “prerequisite” that you talk about.

      Do you think every believer who repents is worthy of heaven? Why/Why not?

      No, I don’t believe any believer, or anyone else, is “worthy” of heaven, including myself. Only one person has ever been worthy of heaven, and that is Jesus. The only reason I will get to enter into God’s presence forever is because he paid the price (those “wages of sin” that I owe) for me, when he died on the cross and rose again. Romans 6:23 continues,
      “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

      You see there – our salvation is a gift. It’s not something we earn for being good. It’s free. It’s for everyone who wants it. But as with any gift, we can choose to accept the gift or reject it.

      • Your answers make a lot of sense! So if no one meets the prerequisite, do you think God sees certain commands as more important than others? (e.g. not wearing clothing of mixed fibres vs. acting on being gay vs. murder).

        I suppose why I don’t see faith as a prerequisite but you do, is because I believe the Bible was completely man-made. I don’t believe the Bible is a dictation of God’s word, just human’s assumptions of God’s beliefs.

        So I see my problem was the wording with my last question. Your answer is insightful. I was aware of those verses, although I didn’t know exactly how they went until now. To reword my question: Do you think everyone who accepts God’s (and Jesus’) gift of salvation will be allowed into Heaven? (I know it is solely up to God so you can’t tell me for sure, but if you were to give me your best guess…)

        I’ve read here that God speaks to you sometimes (perhaps I’m interpreting you wrong). But can I ask you, sincerely, what is it like to have God speak to you? What does He sound like? Do you feel any special “aura” or some such when He speaks to you? I really don’t mean this in a condescending way, I don’t think it’s impossible simply because I haven’t experienced it.

        • Hello Jacob, it seems like you have a lot of questions, and I am feeling sorry that I can not devote the time to answering them as completely as I would like. I would just like to reiterate that recommendation in the original post to check out gotquestions.org. They have a fantastic search engine where you can find answers to thousands of questions about the Christian faith. Of course, I haven’t read every single question that they answer, but from everything I have read so far, they answer from a solid, Christian theology.

          Just to quickly answer…

          Do you think everyone who accepts God’s (and Jesus’) gift of salvation will be allowed into Heaven?

          The bible says that two things are necessary – faith and repentance. Faith is that act of trusting and receiving the gift of salvation that Jesus freely gives. Repentance is the act of demonstrating faith through turning away from our sins. Not that Christians will never sin again – but rather, that our hearts change as we desire to please God, and we begin seeing changes in our lives as we strive to be more like Jesus. To be clear – repentance doesn’t save us. Only Jesus does that. But repentance is the evidence that we have received that gift.

          And this: But can I ask you, sincerely, what is it like to have God speak to you?

          I’m sorry to have given a wrong picture in your mind. I have not heard an audible voice of God. One way that he speaks to me is through scripture, but I don’t think that is what you are asking. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” When we begin to follow Jesus and seek his will, we begin listening for him. Not so much with the ears, but with the heart. When I pray and ask God what his will is in my life, and I have a heart ready to do what he knows is best, he places convictions on my heart that I simply know are from him. As I (like a sheep following a trusted shepherd) listen and obey, his “voice” becomes easier to hear and understand. It is a difficult thing to explain to someone who doesn’t believe, but that is about the best I can do.

          If I could just challenge you to one thing – the Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I know you don’t believe, but you have acknowledged you could be wrong. Kind of like when I tell my children to try some sort of food that I’m sure they would love if they only tried it. But if they never give it a try, they will miss out. I’ve given you a lot of answers, and I’ve given you some resources that can help you understand more. But if you never taste for yourself, all these answers will be terribly deficient and you won’t see the truth – that the Lord is good. I hope you will try to “taste and see.”