Why Believe? (Part 1)

16 Oct

I met my Canadian friend John FirefoxScreenSnapz072while playing online chess.  I have a number of games going — and I lose most of them — but it’s a great way to meet new people.  Occasionally, I get to share a bit of the Good News about Jesus with them.

This is not John’s picture to the right.  But he is a gentleman in his 80’s and comments regularly on my blog.  (You can read his comments if you wish — they are found at the end of several of my blog posts).

John argues against the Christian idea of God, what the Bible has to say about salvation, and, essentially, why we should be religious at all.

Recently John wrote: “In your first reply you stated that we are all sinners and therefore we need a Savior. This has been said so often by so many people nobody seems to question this any more. Is this not also along the line of selfishly trying to make our guilt to be carried by someone else? Shouldn’t we rather be thought that our actions (sins ??) are our own and take responsibility for them, regardless of possible punishments ? Wouldn’t you agree that humanity would be better off with this kind of thinking?”

How would you answer John?  (I’ll post my response in a few days).


Posted by on October 16, 2013 in online chess


Tags: , , , , , ,

9 responses to “Why Believe? (Part 1)

  1. Brian

    October 16, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Did Jesus said that we should share as you call it, the good news about Him? What exactly did Jesus preached and commanded us to preach? Please, if you care to reply, provide scriptures, because religious people have all kinds of opinions, and not one is based on what Jesus commanded us to do.

  2. Tore Bostrup

    October 17, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Hi Larry,

    I find that 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 points out why non-believers fail to grasp the joy of being a Christian and how much the indwelling of the Holy Spirit changes us:

    “3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

    Being in the presence of God (in Heaven) will be far from a boring, eternal happy – it is a glory that I suspect we cannot fathom, that will take us by storm and carry us forever. We can get a very minor hint of it as we pray, praise, or otherwise commune with Him, a simple joy here and now that at least I never experienced as a non-believer.

    The alternative is not very attractive. Luke 16:22-24 gives a brief glimpse:
    “22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”

    Considering that sin and God are mutually exclusive, there is no way that I could enter Heaven in my sinful state. Because I *have* sinned, my sins would have to be eradicated somehow. And Christ did that by His sacrifice on the Cross.

    That, of course, does not mean I don’t take responsibility for my actions! Quite the contrary! As a non-believer, I was accountable to people around me and those affected by my actions – which sometimes was nobody (at least not directly). Now as a Christian, I know that I am accountable not only to people around me, but also to God, who sees all and knows all. I can hide from men, but not from God. I am still responsible for my actions.

    Our salvation is needed in order for us to be in the presence of God. It is not a license to sin. It is not a removal of consequences of our actions.

    Matthew 12:36
    “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”

    Galatians 6:7-8
    “7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

    Deuteronomy 29:19-20:
    “19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven.”

  3. John

    October 17, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    The chess playing guy looks pretty good. Maybe in a few more years I too will look that good!

    Your short summary of what I argue against, is essentially correct in the first two parts, but does not do me justice in the last part. I don’t think I ever raised the argument against why we should be religious.

    One can be quite religious without the belief in a personal God. I do believe in a God, but have no idea if it is a HE, a SHE , an IT or whatever else. However, I am quite sure in my mind, that whatever God might be, it is NOT a God with human character attributes and with a likeness to human appearance.

    Quoting Bible quotations for my enlightenment makes the assumption that I still believe in the Easter bunny and that Santa Claus has his home at the north pole. I hope you are not disappointed that I outgrew this stage some years ago.


    • jacobgiven

      October 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm


      Great reply. I think that Augustine and Aquinas would agree with you too! Of course Christians don’t think that God fits the categories of our attributes! Rather, the religious language that we use is a loose analogy to direct us toward God, who is ineffable and unknowable in his essence. We can’t get at God as he is in himself. In fact, Christians understand this and so we use the best language that we can in the analogies that scripture has provided us. It’s really the best anyone can do.

      • John

        October 18, 2013 at 7:23 pm

        It is refreshing to come across someone who is not so hung up on literal interpretations of the Bible and who seems to have a better grasp of what religion is all about.
        I enjoy reading your blog “As Far as I can Tell”.
        Best regards,

  4. jacobgiven

    October 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks, glad you enjoy it!

  5. Kenny

    October 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I guess my reply would be that, yes, we should question it. If we don’t question what we believe, we’re just like everybody else. I have more respect for John than I do for many of my Christian friends, simply because he has taken the time to really think out what he believes and why. The idea that we are the only ones to bear the responsibility of our actions and thus, the penalty, seems pretty solid. Yes, I alone am responsible for my sin, and thus, I alone should be the one to carry the penalty. But my sins affect so much more than just myself.

    In anyone’s life, the actions they choose affect everyone around them. Actions lead to reactions, wounds made unintentionally lead to bitterness, relationships break, and things get very messy, very quickly. Promises of “heaven” and “redemption” seem fairly hollow in the face of reality.

    If we all took responsibility for the hurt we cause, intentionally or otherwise, humanity would be far better off. This idea touches on something very core in my own beliefs – that it’s not about how you screw up, or about how much you hurt someone, its about how you recover from that. And the Bible and Christianity has a lot to say on that point. More than I care to get into right now.

    Here’s my view on the statement “we are all sinners who need a Savior” that you take issue with. Have you ever had a friend sit with you through pain? A good friend doesn’t disappear when you’re having a hard time, they try to do what they can. Sometimes that means leaving a casserole dish at a friend’s house so they don’t have to eat nasty hospital food for the next few days while they’re getting chemo treatments. Sometimes it means lending a few hundred dollars to help a buddy meet his rent that month. Friends give what is in their power to give, and they don’t keep track of who owes what to who. I have a few friends like this, and I value them very highly.

    So how much can God give? I believe he made everything, so my guess is he can give quite a lot. And if I believe that very basic message that God wants to be my friend, then what is he offering to give me out of that friendship? Even if I don’t interpret the bible literally, but just through metaphor, I see a God who promises that yes, life will drag me through deserts, but he’ll be walking right through it with me. When life throws me into a furnace, he’ll be in there waiting to keep me from being completely consumed. When life gives me more than I can handle, God will be there to help me carry that burden. And I never asked God to give this – I like taking responsibility, and I hate shoving that off on someone else. But I know that friends love having the opportunity to help, and if they offer, then I don’t feel guilty about accepting their help.

    That’s a friend I want. I still feel responsible for my mistakes. But sometimes, I need a friend to help me handle that responsibility and walk through fixing the pain I’ve caused. Because the bottom line? I’m not strong enough to do that on my own. It’s a big world and I’m just one guy. But if God is in my corner, then maybe I have a shot at doing some good in the end. So when I say I need a Savior, this is what I mean. I can’t fix this mess on my own. But God is offering to help, and I’m not about to turn him down.

    • Jacob

      October 25, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Well said!

  6. John

    October 25, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Out of 367 subscribers to your blog pages I am grateful to have at least the moral support of two. I thank them for their very considerate contributions. Now it is time for you to voice your view by writing the promised part2 of “Why Believe”.
    I hope you can follow their lead by avoiding making references to Bible quotes and base your reply on common sense and not on theological arguments.



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