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Thread: Need advice from Christians well-versed in both philosophy and theology!

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    tWebber
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    Need advice from Christians well-versed in both philosophy and theology!

    Now, I am sure this probably isn't the correct thread, so feel free to move it to the proper spot.

    Basically, I am in a sort of existential crisis. I see myself as a soft agnostic, so I am skeptical of almost everything. To me, there are two very simple reasons that this is a rational stance: expert disagreement and the sheer complexity of existence. I want to know the ultimate truth of reality, but I don't see how anyone could possibly ever know such a thing.

    The main reason this is so pressing is because of the Christian hell threatening me (not to mention "hells" of other religions).

    Christianity says that if you don't "believe," you perish. How on earth can someone magically choose to believe? Sure, I can go to church, talk with believers, pray, and "live the life," but rather than this bringing about evidence of something real, how is this not merely facilitating psychological manipulated belief? I could do the same with any other religion and end up with some sort of belief in it as well. It'd be due to processes such as wish fulfillment and confirmation bias.

    No external "evidence" or type of natural theology should convince anyone of God's existence. These areas are hotly debated by elite philosophers on both sides, and no positive ground is ever made. The world is religiously ambiguous and God is essentially "hidden," per major Christian philosophers.

    This leaves us to rely on supernatural occurrences from God. I can safely say that only a supernatural occurrence will convince me of anything. Yet how can I somehow get God to grant me this? Pascal seemed to believe that if a person wasn't moral, God would hide himself from that person. I can't possibly be moral without the Holy Spirit's help (per scripture), and the Holy Spirit won't come until belief is had. There is no way to win!

    In the end, I wonder if belief will always elude me. Death is scary when of the knowledge that hell might await.

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    tWebber Darth Executor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaney777 View Post
    Christianity says that if you don't "believe," you perish. How on earth can someone magically choose to believe? Sure, I can go to church, talk with believers, pray, and "live the life," but rather than this bringing about evidence of something real, how is this not merely facilitating psychological manipulated belief? I could do the same with any other religion and end up with some sort of belief in it as well. It'd be due to processes such as wish fulfillment and confirmation bias.
    If you can't reliably believe any other way then what other choice do you have?

    No external "evidence" or type of natural theology should convince anyone of God's existence. These areas are hotly debated by elite philosophers on both sides, and no positive ground is ever made. The world is religiously ambiguous and God is essentially "hidden," per major Christian philosophers.
    As a member of the cognitive elite I'm not swayed by this type of argument, but I can see how lesser thinkers might. I've never followed a philosophical discussion on a topic of interest where I felt I would be outmatched by one of the participants. I guess things are different for people who would be.

    This leaves us to rely on supernatural occurrences from God. I can safely say that only a supernatural occurrence will convince me of anything. Yet how can I somehow get God to grant me this? Pascal seemed to believe that if a person wasn't moral, God would hide himself from that person. I can't possibly be moral without the Holy Spirit's help (per scripture), and the Holy Spirit won't come until belief is had. There is no way to win!
    Looking for supernatural occurrences sounds like a waste of time to me. Pascal is wrong, Paul was definitely not moral when God sought him out personally. But contra popular belief supernatural occurrences aren't that common. Even in the Bible they seem to have short periods of high activity followed by little to nothing. I know some exorcists like to keep a skeptic along in their investigations. Maybe seek one out? Not sure how good of an idea that is, personally I'm just fine with not running into any "supernatural occurrences" right now but if you're desperate it seems like the best bet to me.

    In the end, I wonder if belief will always elude me. Death is scary when of the knowledge that hell might await.
    I'll admit your situation is a bit strange. You don't believe, but you're afraid of hell? Seems to be there's quite a bit of disharmony between your thoughts and your senses. Maybe start with sorting that one out? I've known people who believe religion cannot exist when severed from a community. I don't believe that's universally applicable (it's not to me) but it does sound like it could be an issue for you, if your intellectual output is spent on non-theistic pursuits while your spiritual sense is strong enough that being severed from others is causing you distress. Consider joining in a community of believers (like in your first paragraph) where you can interact with people outside of intellectual debates about philosophy and theology and see if that changes things for you.
    "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

    There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

  3. Amen Obsidian amen'd this post.
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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    So are you saying you want to believe but can't?

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    tWebber TheWall's Avatar
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    Sir I might be able to give you some help. Recommend some stuff.

  6. Amen Shaney777 amen'd this post.
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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Executor View Post
    If you can't reliably believe any other way then what other choice do you have?



    As a member of the cognitive elite I'm not swayed by this type of argument, but I can see how lesser thinkers might. I've never followed a philosophical discussion on a topic of interest where I felt I would be outmatched by one of the participants. I guess things are different for people who would be.



    Looking for supernatural occurrences sounds like a waste of time to me. Pascal is wrong, Paul was definitely not moral when God sought him out personally. But contra popular belief supernatural occurrences aren't that common. Even in the Bible they seem to have short periods of high activity followed by little to nothing. I know some exorcists like to keep a skeptic along in their investigations. Maybe seek one out? Not sure how good of an idea that is, personally I'm just fine with not running into any "supernatural occurrences" right now but if you're desperate it seems like the best bet to me.



    I'll admit your situation is a bit strange. You don't believe, but you're afraid of hell? Seems to be there's quite a bit of disharmony between your thoughts and your senses. Maybe start with sorting that one out? I've known people who believe religion cannot exist when severed from a community. I don't believe that's universally applicable (it's not to me) but it does sound like it could be an issue for you, if your intellectual output is spent on non-theistic pursuits while your spiritual sense is strong enough that being severed from others is causing you distress. Consider joining in a community of believers (like in your first paragraph) where you can interact with people outside of intellectual debates about philosophy and theology and see if that changes things for you.
    I'm not sure how we believe in anything really. What I'd prefer is if experts agreed! I wouldn't see a problem believing something that has a consensus. But when you get into things like God's existence, you enter an area where philosophers have debated each other since the beginning, and it seems no progress has been made. There is no knock-out argument that will convince all rational people.

    You say you've never felt outmatched in a debate? Hmm. I put a lot of trust in authority and prestige, along with written articles, intellectual honesty, and the person's track record. Surely you think there must be at least one person who is more educated or experienced than you on a given topic? Some devote their whole lives to studying a tiny niche of knowledge, so they'd have the upper-hand if you were more general in nature. I think?

    Ahhh, I have a love for hauntings and the paranormal! I have considered going to a lot of locations and seeing if anything weird happens. Good advice! Exorcists... I attribute that to severe mental illness, but maybe it'd be good to go to a notoriously haunted place at like 3:00 a.m.? I want to get away from a strictly materialistic worldview here. It's probably the same worldview that most scientists hold.

    I am afraid of hell, but I also believe it might not be real. It's sort of a "maybe" that is real, or "it's possible." It's enough to worry me, but I don't fully believe in it. I grew up in a Christian home, and I have bad OCD, so these exposures probably made me obsessed with avoiding the traditional fiery picture of hell.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    So are you saying you want to believe but can't?
    That's pretty accurate. Or rather, I want to know if and how I can find out the true worldview.

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    tWebber Darth Executor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaney777 View Post
    I'm not sure how we believe in anything really. What I'd prefer is if experts agreed! I wouldn't see a problem believing something that has a consensus. But when you get into things like God's existence, you enter an area where philosophers have debated each other since the beginning, and it seems no progress has been made. There is no knock-out argument that will convince all rational people.

    You say you've never felt outmatched in a debate? Hmm. I put a lot of trust in authority and prestige, along with written articles, intellectual honesty, and the person's track record. Surely you think there must be at least one person who is more educated or experienced than you on a given topic? Some devote their whole lives to studying a tiny niche of knowledge, so they'd have the upper-hand if you were more general in nature. I think?
    I'm sure there are topics on which I don't know anything, but that's probably because i have no interest in those topics. When it comes to important issues like this one, I am pretty secure in the idea that I am top tier and not at the mercy of others.

    Ahhh, I have a love for hauntings and the paranormal! I have considered going to a lot of locations and seeing if anything weird happens. Good advice! Exorcists... I attribute that to severe mental illness, but maybe it'd be good to go to a notoriously haunted place at like 3:00 a.m.? I want to get away from a strictly materialistic worldview here. It's probably the same worldview that most scientists hold.
    I've heard credible (well, as credible as these things can be) accounts of demonic possession from otherwise normal down to earth people. I've never heard of a real haunting except from loons. So I don't think going to haunted places will produce the desired result (except creep you out). It's the only reason why I suggested exorcism.

    I also had only one potentially supernatural encounter myself, though I have no idea what I'd classify it as. When I was a kid I saw and heard a black hand scratch the decorative class on my bedroom door. When I worked up the courage to open the door there was nothing there. The house was fairly small and I'd have heard someone open the front door and leave (all the windows were barred). The glass on the door heavily distorts everything so it was impossible to see most things through it but a normal person hand appears skin colored through it, not pitch black. It's possible it was a hallucination (auditory hallucinations aren't uncommon, especially when you're in a state between sleep and awake), but I've never had a similar visual hallucination since. If it wasn't a hallucination I have no idea what else it would be.
    "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

    There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Executor View Post
    I'm sure there are topics on which I don't know anything, but that's probably because i have no interest in those topics. When it comes to important issues like this one, I am pretty secure in the idea that I am top tier and not at the mercy of others.



    I've heard credible (well, as credible as these things can be) accounts of demonic possession from otherwise normal down to earth people. I've never heard of a real haunting except from loons. So I don't think going to haunted places will produce the desired result (except creep you out). It's the only reason why I suggested exorcism.

    I also had only one potentially supernatural encounter myself, though I have no idea what I'd classify it as. When I was a kid I saw and heard a black hand scratch the decorative class on my bedroom door. When I worked up the courage to open the door there was nothing there. The house was fairly small and I'd have heard someone open the front door and leave (all the windows were barred). The glass on the door heavily distorts everything so it was impossible to see most things through it but a normal person hand appears skin colored through it, not pitch black. It's possible it was a hallucination (auditory hallucinations aren't uncommon, especially when you're in a state between sleep and awake), but I've never had a similar visual hallucination since. If it wasn't a hallucination I have no idea what else it would be.
    Do you know what noticeable aspects might differentiate a severely mental person from one that is possessed? It's something I haven't researched at all. I did listen to what is supposedly audio from a lady who was possessed. It was definitely unsettling.

    And your story is terrifying! :o Super creepy. Actually, I think I have already had some sort of demon or evil spirit encounter. One of my close friends was on the phone with me, and she was explaining these dreams from her childhood. It was some grotesque, thin, sunken-eyed creature that lived under her bed, and it would come out and scare her in the dreams (not sure of all the details). But the second she told me that it lived under her bed, something jerked the bottom of my hanging pea-coat under my bed slightly. I think I felt instant chills and saw no rational explanation for it.

  11. Amen Obsidian amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Teallaura's Avatar
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    I'm going to try from a different tack. Do you believe the Jesus Christ existed (lived and died)? Here there is little debate - even most atheist historians accept the existence of Christ.

    Do you believe He meant what He said? Here too, little argument.

    Do you believe He was rational? Once again, this isn't debated seriously by scholars based on His words as recorded.

    Do you believe He was a liar? This is a point of contention but doesn't stand scrutiny well.

    So, if you do believe He existed, was rational, meant what He said and wasn't a liar, then how do you substantiate your doubt in His promise that if you believe in Him - that means believing His promises, not His existence - you will be saved?

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    Professor Cerebrum123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaney777 View Post
    Do you know what noticeable aspects might differentiate a severely mental person from one that is possessed? It's something I haven't researched at all. I did listen to what is supposedly audio from a lady who was possessed. It was definitely unsettling.

    And your story is terrifying! :o Super creepy. Actually, I think I have already had some sort of demon or evil spirit encounter. One of my close friends was on the phone with me, and she was explaining these dreams from her childhood. It was some grotesque, thin, sunken-eyed creature that lived under her bed, and it would come out and scare her in the dreams (not sure of all the details). But the second she told me that it lived under her bed, something jerked the bottom of my hanging pea-coat under my bed slightly. I think I felt instant chills and saw no rational explanation for it.
    I know you want to see something supernatural, but I wouldn't go that route. Then again I can still vividly remember the terror of my own encounter with such evil forces. I was far from the only one to have such encounters at my old house, but I'm the only one who saw it directly rather than hearing it.

    Perhaps something like Craig Keener's Miracles would be a better place to start.

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