Bryan’s Story: From Missionary to Almost Atheist to Present Day

The opening shot of my book Evolution 2.0 is an argument between me and my brother about evolution. Bryan had been a missionary in China, but in four years he went from right-wing Christian seminary grad to almost atheist.

He was dragging me with him. I wasn’t enjoying it, but I knew I had to be intellectually honest.

I found myself retreating to what I know best, which is science. I said, “Bryan, look at the hand at the end of your arm. I’m an engineer, and your hand is a fine, fine piece of engineering. You don’t think your hand is an accumulation of random accidents, do you?”

Bryan was good and ready for that question, and he pushed back with a standard-issue Darwinian answer. His answer didn’t quite jive with my experience… but I admitted my intuitions could be wrong. So instead of arguing, I decided to dive down the rabbit hole. I resolved to get to the hard truth, and follow it wherever it carried me.

Our argument in the back of a Chinese bus led to a book that took six years to write, a technology prize, and a quest for life’s origin that now includes some of the world’s most renowned scientists at top universities. You can read the rest of that story in Evolution 2.0.

But… what about Bryan?

Recently we held a business seminar where we presented Evolution 2.0 and the technology prize as a case study. Everyone at the seminar was asking Bryan “OK, so what’s your story?”

Here is Bryan’s story…

~

Perry: Everybody at this conference has been coming and asking Bryan: “So you and Perry had all these debates and arguments and everything. So what’s up with you?” Bryan said to me, “Why don’t I take the microphone and talk about it.” I said, alright – let’s have you talk about that! So without further ado, Bryan, you’re up!

Bryan: Thank you. I did have at least ten people yesterday come up to me and say, “So, Bryan, how does your story end?” So I will get to that. You’ll indulge me in a few minutes of storytelling if that’s ok… 

I have a question for you, which is: How do you know when you’ve gotten a good education? One of my answers to that question goes back to the seminary I graduated from.

Perry knows I’m a guy that likes certainty and crispness and clarity and nice definitions. So when I went to The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley California in 1995, I was going to get my certainty in the world, and that’s what I did.

It’s an arch-conservative fundamentalist seminary where they do not admit women to the program. That’s how arch-conservative it is.

Their motto is: We train men as though their lives depended on it. And that’s the whole mindset. It’s a three or four year program. Guys would get up–and it was always guys—they would get up for their senior testimonies prior to graduation and they would, almost to a man, they would say–you go to seminary usually fresh out of college often fresh out of Bible college–you’re cocky, you’re young and you think you know everything–

And the guys would say I arrived at seminary thinking I knew the answers. Now I’m graduating and I realize I don’t even know what all the questions are yet.

So, Perry, you actually got a tiny bit of the narrative wrong yesterday. The seminary doesn’t give you a spreadsheet full of answers. The seminary gives you a mountain of questions, questions and more questions because– everybody learns Hebrew. Everybody learns Greek.

Everybody you know learns to parse your verbs and decline your nouns and so on and you’re doing stuff in Genesis and you’re dealing with all of these historical questions and interpretive questions and exegetical questions.

You’re picking apart the historicity of the Book of Genesis and you’re picking it apart–you’re dealing with questions of the archaeological evidence for or against the ten plagues in Egypt and stuff like that.

And you’re dealing with the Gospels and the Q theory and do we follow the Textus Receptus or the Alexandrian, and the apparent contradictions between the Gospel narratives and so on.

And Paul in the book of Romans in chapter 6 verse 5 and this use of the genitive and the thirteen possible meanings of this particular use of the genitive case and so on.

And that’s the education you’re getting so you get questions questions questions and you graduate with a mountain of them.

Perry: Google AdWords is simple by comparison!

Bryan: Yes, it is! And the thing about an arch fundamentalist seminary like that is: the answers you are allowed to come up with must fall neatly within some very well-defined boundaries.

So any answer you come up with is fine as long as the Bible is still inerrant, and Jesus is still Deity, and you still believe that all of its records are fundamentally historical grammatical and so on.

So that there was a real Jesus and there was a real apostle Paul and there was a real King David and a real king Solomon and a real Moses and a real Noah and a real Cain and Abel. And a real literal Adam and Eve who were created in six literal 24 hour days by the hand of God. And so on.

So, that was my background. And when I graduated in 1999 I had all of this exposure to all of these mountains and mountains and mountains of questions.

And that, in my view, is a good education.

So I got the opportunity to go to China. It just dropped in my lap. In January of 2000 I went and I took a teaching job at a luxury hotel in southwestern China. Beautiful mountain city in the foothills of the Himalayas.

And since I enjoy language I was going to throw myself into learning Chinese, and I did make great friends. This was totally unexpected, and it was a marvelous experience.

One of the things I was not prepared for was just how secular a culture China actually is.

Secular secular secular to the hilt. There’s something about living under Communism and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has a tendency to wipe all religious influence away from a culture. And this is a part of the world that had really never in any significant way been touched by Christianity.

And so I’m dealing with this very secular culture and in my time there–I had four and a half years–I had one mostly convert I guess. This despite the fact that I was there to be a missionary. I was supported by the church back home in Los Angeles.

My evangelistic efforts were not all that super effective, let’s be honest. But it was a marvelous experience and very eye opening. It was the very first time that I had ever just been out, completely out of my Christian bubble. And cultural reinforcement of my Christian beliefs on every level–I was finally out from under that. And I had free time that I hadn’t in quite some time.

Fast forward to Tuesday, September 4th, 2001 which is exactly one week before 9/11. I was one of the few people in town that had CNN because I worked for a hotel, so I had it in my dorm. I come home from an afternoon of teaching, and I turn on CNN, and they’re playing a replay of LARRY KING LIVE from the previous day and on LARRY KING LIVE are two people with very often opposite views of the world.

This particular day there is Sylvia Browne. If you’ve ever heard of her she’s the psychic who can contact your relatives and loved ones who have crossed over. Opposite her that day was James Randi the atheist skeptic former magician kind of–he had replicated a bunch of Houdini’s old stunts.

He was in the Guinness Book of World Records and he was a psychic and paranormal de-bunker.

It was him versus her on LARRY KING LIVE, and I was absolutely transfixed. He was challenging her. He was saying, “Miss Brown, if you can come to our center in Fort Lauderdale Florida and, following our protocols under proper observing conditions, demonstrate that you actually do have paranormal ability, then the James Randi Educational Foundation will pay you one million dollars.”

I saw this and I was blown away by this because I thought I had a pretty good education, but I had never been exposed to this particular way of testing truth claims because I had a seminary degree and I had graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a degree in history and Spanish which tend to kind of bypass engineering and the scientific method and so on.

In fact, two days after I graduated in 1994 with my degree in history and Spanish I started a job scooping popcorn for minimum wage. That was my career path.

Well anyway I’m watching this and I’m fascinated. As soon as the as soon as the episode is over I run to my computer and go look up Randi.org and discovered that every week he would blog on Fridays. He would talk about people who had come into the center who claimed to have paranormal abilities and he would give a narrative of how they tested them.

I was blown away by this because this was a great education. Like here’s how you test someone who claims that they can do dowsing. Here’s how you test the girl whose parents say that she can read completely blindfolded. Here’s how you test when a person says that you can draw a card and they can tell you what the next card is going to be in the deck.

Every week he would he would talk about these different tests and this was an amazing education.

And so I started following this and all of a sudden a bunch of questions started popping up that really started causing me some trouble. And mind you I am a missionary supported by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California, and I’m here in China to make disciples and do church planning. That’s what I’m here for.

But week after week I start I’m reading these blogs and I’m starting to ask questions that are deeply troubling me. Such as: I’ve always believed my entire life that if you need something you get on your knees you pray, you ask God for it, and then God answers you. And how do you know that God answers prayer? Well, you keep a journal.

I asked for this on such and such a date. And then two days later three weeks later I got this. Therefore, we know my prayers were answered.

And all of a sudden as I am and I’m reading Randi’s stuff then I start clicking on other hyperlinks and reading some other skeptics’ stuff. I start finding new methods to question whether maybe that’s not the most scientific approach to answering how whether you get your prayers answered or not.

And this really started bothering me. And September turned into October and October turned into November and the questions got deeper and more painful and scarier. And I suddenly by December I found myself in a serious crisis of faith.

Remember: I had a seminary education. I like the metaphor you used yesterday, Perry, it’s like you learn where all the bones are buried. When you have your bible in front of you, you know all of these places where there are serious interpretive problems, serious archaeological questions, serious textual questions serious ambiguities and philosophical contradictions and so you know all this stuff.

And here I am more or less alone. In China. As secular a place as you’ll ever find. And by December I was sick. And terrified. In fact the last week of December 2001. Something weird with my stomach. And it just stopped digesting food for a few days.

I would eat stuff and it would just sit there. I could not digest what I was wrestling with. And this was terrifying. Because as much as a person could leave everything and throw themselves into ministry and missions. This is that was exactly what I had done.

And suddenly for the first time in my life and question “is there anything out there” Hello. And I couldn’t digest food. And I’m cold because it’s winter and there’s no central heating where I live. It’s late at night and I’m curled up in a fetal position in my bed and it’s dark and it’s quiet and I’m like Hello Is there anyone out there. Is there anything out there.

Perry: That’s a Pink Floyd song.

Bryan: Well, so you can understand a little bit of existential hell–I’m 30 years old. Did I just throw away the last 30 years of my life for nothing. Thankfully a doctor had some nice herbal stuff that cleared up my stomach.

Right after first of the year 2002–and Perry will remember this–I thought about this and I’m like I need some help. And the last thing I’m going to do is e-mail the guys in the missions department for the seminarian and say, “I’m here, I’m an evangelist church planter in China, and I’m having serious doubts is all of this…”

Perry: Because that never happened to anybody else anyway.

Bryan: Right. But I’m saying, well, who? Is there anyone neutral?

Perry!

Who–and when I say neutral I mean, Perry’s clearly Christian, he’s committed to his Christianity. But I attended one of your coffeehouse theology meetings with you. Perry can deal with this. OK.

And Perry understands my upbringing. And we have our secure email connection and so on. So I think the first question I shot you is OK let’s start with this one, Perry, because I’m really struggling. Why do you believe the Bible?

Which is not the greatest question you could ask, but it’s a good starting place.

Perry and I went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, and Perry gave the best answers he could find. And it honestly wasn’t working for him. Because it just seemed that every answer and reply you gave me on historical questions or philosophical questions.

It was always as though–OK if you are committed to Christianity being true, then that answer will satisfy you. But if you’re starting with a blank slate. I don’t see anything that would lead me to that conclusion.

But Perry was a very very good sparring partner. I had no idea until 10 years later what my questions were actually doing to you, in terms of moving you to the edge. At one point you sent me a bunch of books you sent me some William Lane Craig and I think there was some Geisler in there as well. Big armful of books that wasn’t cheap.

Perry: [Laughs] No.

Bryan: Very helpful, but I’m watching as my whole belief system is just more or less eroding. By the end of 2002 I was like I just don’t believe this Christianity thing anymore. At all.

I came back for a visit stateside. I ended the relationship with the church in L.A. Turned around and went back to China where I spent an additional year and a half. Now I was just a guy in China teaching English at a hotel and was not a missionary church planter anymore. And I’m watching.

As my whole life and my whole world view is changing. Well, something started–I started to become aware of something that became a real issue and that was: I was angry. I was really angry about a lot of stuff. Angry that I had given up 30 years of my life for something that I decided was empty. Angry that all of those dogmatic preachers and all those dogmatic professors all those years had just been feeding me a bunch of bull.

So fast forward to 2004. Perry brought Tannah and came out. I was already planning on going home which was why you were doing that trip. “Oh, I got to get Tannah to China before Uncle Bryan moves home.”

Perry came out to visit, spent a few days. I’m not sure we spent the whole time arguing, like you said yesterday, but there was the conversation in the van on the way to Leaping Tiger Gorge which we all remember the falcons and the mutations in the eyes, eyesight and so on. And that was a good conversation. I don’t know if you remember that same evening.

Perry: Yeah, I do.

Bryan: We went to Richard’s family’s house, and they fed us this wonderful dinner, and somehow you and I ended up in this conversation I think about homosexuality. I was angry about the subject of homosexuality because–it wasn’t an issue I had struggled with myself, but one of my best friends all through college had. And had been fed the fundamentalist line about homosexuality.

And I just watched it torture him and torture him and torture him.

Somehow that subject came up, and I just lit into Perry. We’re sitting in these people’s living room, having been fed a meal, and here I am. Just going off at Perry.

Perry: Of course, they don’t understand what we’re talking about at all.

Bryan: No, they don’t. Not at all! One of the one of the other ironies about that particular evening is we watched we all watched the movie “The Truman Show” which is–it’s this funny little comedy that is one of the most disturbingly profound journeys into human epistemology that has shown up on film in the last 50 years. Seriously.

Perry: Next year we’ll have an epistemology seminar.

Bryan: We should!

Audience: What’s epistemology?

Bryan: Sorry I used the word epistemology. Epistemology is basically the study of the question of how do you know what you think you know? Or how do you come to believe the things that you come to believe? And so on. And what’s your basis for believing things. So ‘The Truman Show.’ That was actually my story.

It’s like, “holy crap is this whole thing just a giant construct? This just man-made construct?” So you told me, Perry, maybe a couple of years later, you told me “that night at Richard’s house I could tell something inside of you had died.” You said it was really really scary.

Perry: Yeah. He was turning into one of them. Namely the furious militant atheists. Whose happy plug fell out and are now furious at the world and spewing their venom on everybody. Oh no. It really scared me.

And I thought: Yeah, I know there’s all these questions, and we can argue about homosexuality and whatever else, but, man, Bryan just went over some dotted line. That really scared me. It all kind of jerked me back.

I almost felt like I was following him in a sense but then suddenly realized: I don’t want THAT. I’ve seen a whole bunch of that. There’s nothing healthy about it. I don’t know where this thing is going. But this is going to be an interesting ride.

Bryan: So, Perry, as a result of that day you launched on your evolution journey. I moved home to Lincoln after nine years away. And for the next five and a half years. I was on a journey of anger.

What I will say about your evolution journey was I’m really grateful for it because you know what you learned about the brilliance of cells? And how they how they engineer evolution and so forth? You’ve had lots of Christian people tell you that you gave them a rational reason to continue to embrace their faith. And not be at odds with science. Right?

I was thinking about this yesterday. What this new model this Evolution 2.0 model also does is, for the person who doesn’t have a religious commitment, it gives us the ability to accept evolution as true without feeling really stupid. When you raise honest questions like:

Seriously that tree is just the result of accident upon accident upon accident? Cuz I had decided that evolution has to be true–and then I would walk outside, and I would see these trees, and something deep deep down inside of me would be like Really, Bryan? Seriously? Just random mutation plus natural selection, rinse and repeat? Seriously?

And then I’d just shake my head and be like No no no no, this is SCIENCE people. This is SCIENCE. And always somewhere in there is like really Bryan? Seriously?

Perry: And everybody experiences that, and that’s why this topic is so volatile. Because that is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about on the secular side.

Bryan: So you supplied me with a way to accept evolution.  And not have to be beholden, for example, to the old traditional interpretation of the biblical narrative.

And that was very very helpful. And so there was never much of a debate about evolution. Not after that. I was very interested in what you were doing, although I was not crazy about your eagerness to just tie it intimately into Christianity so quickly.

But.

I spent several years very very angry until one day in 2010. We had hired Drew Bishof to come be our operations guy. He and Jessica and all of us became very good friends. I don’t know how many of you here know Drew Bishof, but Drew and Jessica were a couple, they were living in Austin Texas at the time and they had grown up in an arch fundamentalist community in California that was almost identical to ours except that it was worse in a lot of ways.

Perry: A little bit louder and a little bit worse.

Bryan: A little bit louder and a little bit worse. And their particular thing–there had been all this grotesque sexual repression and shaming and all that stuff that was part of their fundamentalism.

And they invited me, since Drew and I were working on a Facebook project at the time, Drew said, come down to Austin and spend New Year’s with Jessica and me. So I did. And we had a blast. And literally from the first night there we get to talking about some deep stuff, and we’re up until 3:00 a.m. talking and laughing and crying and sharing stories of life under fundamentalism, the pain of this and the pain of that, and how we’ve dealt with this issue, and how we’re working through that issue and so on.

The following Sunday they said, “You can sleep in if you want Bryan, or you can come to church with Jessica and me. It’s up to you.”

Do church. That’s cool. That’s great. I have no problem with that. So we go to their church service. And. I’m sitting there and their big worship center is this 21st century modern evangelical urban kind of Christianity.

They have the worship team, they have the pastor who gets up and talks.

I remember precious little about what the service was about except for this: That the worship team really irritated me.

It was all it was all the classical stuff that has irritated me for years about 21st century evangelical Christian worship. They have the PowerPoint up on the screen. They have the band playing some song that was written a year and a half ago.

And the PowerPoint is misspelled. And the song doesn’t make coherent grammatical sense. In the same sentence you’ll use “thee” and then “you” and then go back to using “thee” again.

And I’m like this is supposed to be transcendently supernatural and we can’t even get the PowerPoint right?

And it was it was all stuff that had just irritated me just to the nth degree about Christianity and modern Christian worship.

And then I look out of the corner of my eye and standing over here is Drew. And Drew has one hand in his pocket and one hand in the air. And he’s just kind of swaying very gently to the music. And I see that and I’m like you idiot. A room full of people having a made up experience with song lyrics that don’t even make sense. And this is supposed to be supernatural worship? I just hate this.

All of a sudden, a thought hits me that I had been reflecting on over the previous couple of years because I had been doing some self-help stuff that was very very good and very very valuable. And the thought was this–Perry quoted this yesterday, although you got one word wrong, I’m thinking to myself how much I hate this and have always hated this Christian modern worship stuff–and the thought was:

Hate is just another word for “Want, but cannot have.”

And that is a truth.

I’d invite you to go reflect on that and reflect on it deeply. You cannot hate another person unless you have at some point expected something from them. Thought that they should behave a certain way. You wanted something from them. Loved them, needed something from them.

You cannot hate another human being up to and including someone you met 30 seconds ago, and you see them and you just feel this resentment. You cannot do that without some deep subconscious unconscious other than conscious part of you having wanted something first. Otherwise it is impossible to experience hatred.

And so if you are feeling hatred, then you know there’s something inside of you that you want. OK? And I realized in this moment. Sitting there with Drew doing his thing that this was true of me. And I’m like. Oh crap. And I started crying.

And I’m thinking I’m angry because I want something. What is it I want? I want this whole Christianity thing to be true. Or: I want this whole supernatural experience to actually be real. I want this, but I’m convinced it’s not. But I want it to be real.

And I started crying. And I start sobbing. And the worship band is still playing. And Drew is still there. And Jessica sees me, and she puts her arm around me. And I continued, and I’m thinking through this, and I suddenly realize: This is what all of those atheist people are so pissed about. There not pissed because it’s not true. They’re pissed because they wanted it to be true.

And I’m just crying and crying and the worship band continues playing and eventually they finish their song. The pastor gets up and he delivers his benediction and the service is over, and I’m still sitting there crying. Jessica has her arm around me, and eventually Drew comes around and he sits down, and they don’t know what’s going on.

They just know Bryan’s here sobbing. And it continues for five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes.

Eventually the pastor comes over, and he sits–is it OK if I pray over you Bryan? Between sobs I’m like fine fine yeah it’d be good.

And then it’s like… why are people who have come out of religion so angry about it? Because it’s as though you were told that daddy, who’s away at the moment is going to be home by Christmas time and when Daddy comes home at Christmas time we’re going to be together as a family and he’s got lots of gifts. He’s got gifts for you and gifts for you and gifts for you.

And daddy’s going to be home at Christmas and Christmas comes and Christmas goes and daddy doesn’t show up.

And you find out there never was a daddy in the first place.

And it was just a story and people people’s narratives of their lives are like this.

I believed daddy was coming home for Christmas with an armful of gifts. And there was no daddy in the first place. Who would not feel angry and betrayed if that was your narrative? And some of the most angry miserable people you will ever meet are people with daddy issues. Right? Male and female both. And I realize this was what I was so angry about.

All these years. I was so pissed. Not just because of the funny grammar on the slides and the arm waving and all that. I was pissed because really I wanted this to be real. And it wasn’t. It was just made up human stuff. But I wanted it to be real.

Somewhere 10 or 20 minutes after the service is over I’m finally done crying. And Drew said, are you good? So can we go home? And I say yeah we can go home.

And in the car on the way home… well so the elephant in the room here, and I got to ask: Are you a Christian now?

And I said, to be honest Drew, no. I don’t think my actual views about the historicity of Christianity have changed.

All I know is: What I was so angry about was I just wanted this to be true. And it turned out it wasn’t. As far as I could tell, and that’s why I was so pissed. And I know this I’m not angry anymore. There’s not a drop of anger left. Because I got it–what I really needed was just to acknowledge the child inside that wanted it to be true.

And if you just let the child say it, and experience it, and feel it, then even if it’s not true the child can be happy. Because the child can acknowledge what the child always wanted. And Drew says: It’s a little complex but ok, I can understand that.

And that literally was seven and a half years ago. That was one of the major turning points in my life. It was like the anger was gone because I knew what it was I had always wanted.

If we can fast forward fast forward to 2016.

Perry, your 30-day reboot. It was really, really super valuable. And I think I think he did a show of hands yesterday, all the people who’ve done 30 day reboot. So if you have not done 30 day reboot please do. Because we’re going to we’re going to offer it again some point in the next month or two or three.

It’s really really important that you understand why ancient literature is so valuable, and why it’s worth your time in 2017 and beyond to be spending your time every day in old and ancient writings.

OK so you talked yesterday about the libraries burning and people keeping this stuff in the clay jars to save it from the Marauders and so forth because it was valuable to them.

The great old works of literature are valuable because, of course they were meaningful to those people and kept them around and they’ve survived and all that, but another really important reason which I didn’t really understand until this year when I–like a whole bunch of us here–discovered Jordan Peterson, Professor at University of Toronto, who explains that the oldest and greatest works of literature are archetypal.

Jordan Peterson’s “Psychological Significance of the Genesis Stories” lecture series led Bryan to say to me, “Jordan’s videos gave me permission to no longer feel stupid for being fascinated with the Bible.”

In other words, they tell stories that reflect the deepest most relatable experiences we have and that reflect our internal hard wiring almost perfectly.

Why did Harry Potter sell so well and become this mega sensation? Was it because J.K. Rowling is just a really nifty storyteller?

She is a really nifty storyteller. But that’s not why Harry Potter just hit this massive international nerve. It’s because J.K. Rowling–what did she study at university–she studied Latin Greek and the classics. And immersed herself for years of her education in the oldest most enduring classical works of Western literature.

As the story goes, that one day on the train when she’s either heading from London or to London, and suddenly gets this inspiration where it’s as though this entire story just appears in her head. That came from her years and years of deep immersion in old classical literature.

The old stories of classical literature resonate with us because they reflect something deep inside our soul. We all I think know the story of Cain and Abel, it’s chapter four in Genesis probably, and I understood this just within the last month or two for the very first time.

Why do we all resonate with the story of Cain and Abel? I mean it’s this tiny little snippet of text. But you go around and you just mentioned Cain and Abel to any person on the street and they’ll recognize it and they’ll remember it.

The atheist version of Cain and Abel, which if you listen to Sam Harris’s podcast, he’ll give you that. (I have great respect for Sam Harris but I think he’s completely bankrupt on this particular point.)

The atheist version of Cain and Abel goes like this:

“Two brothers believe in a magical fairy in the sky. And brother one believes in his version of the magical fairy in the sky and brother two believes in his version of the magical fairy in the sky. And their ideas conflict. And because my magical fairy in the sky doesn’t match your magical fairy in the sky therefore I’m going to kill you. And that ladies and gentlemen is what happens every time you let people believe in magical fairies in the sky.”

  1. That’s the Atheist Narrative of things and it is so drained of life and meaning and vitality and in my view it’s ugly. It’s just an ugly ugly thing.

Why does the story of Cain and Abel resonate with us?

Because it says:

“I am making a sacrifice, I am giving up something of value, because I want to please someone important to me. I have a sibling, the sibling is giving up something of value to him, and he wants to please someone who is important to him. The authority figure, for whatever reason unknown to you or me, decides that he likes your sacrifice, and mine is not acceptable. We don’t know why. I don’t know all the reasons it’s just you’re accepted by the beloved authority figure, I’m not and that’s enough to make me hate you enough to kill you.”

OK now that’s not a beautiful narrative. In a sense, it’s not anymore beautiful than the Atheist Narrative. But it’s a narrative with meaning that we can all relate with.

Have we all experienced deep jealousy over someone who has accepted and we weren’t? We all have. And so you tell a kid the story of Cain and Abel once and they’ll remember it for their lifetime, right?

And all kinds of stories that make their way through our culture are that way. I can’t tell you how many different people of different cultures have asked me: Bryan do you know the story of the boy who cried wolf? I’ve had people in Chinese come up to me and ask:

Have you ever heard this story? There was a boy who was a shepherd… So, we all recognized the narrative of the boy that cried wolf and I don’t know where the very first boy that cried wolf story ever originated.

Was it in the Middle East? Was it Far East Asia? I have no idea. But everywhere I’ve been people know this story because they read, they respond to it.

Everywhere I’ve been people know the story of the emperor who had no clothes. Which as far as I know is was just the Hans Christian Andersen story from the 1800’s.

But I’ve had Chinese people tell me “Bryan do you know the story of the emperor who had no clothes?” Because this is a narrative that just catches on everywhere you go.

Why do people love the stories of Jesus so much?

I have several answers to that but I’ll give you one of them that I think is really important. How many how many of you have spent time reading the Tao Te Ching which is Laozi’s… Well Taoism basically. It’s an ancient piece of Chinese literature very very well known in the Far East. I can, if I want, read the Tao in Chinese.

I’ve given it the old college try, I don’t know how many times, and it just doesn’t do much for me. Because it’s just selection after selection after selection of these incredibly profound sounding but utterly non-concrete bits about life and existence.

I’ll give you something concrete. Pull open the Gospel of Luke and you’ll get concrete concrete concrete. Real living breathing concrete narratives. They are so full of grit and life and reality.

Jesus arose before dawn and went up the hillside to pray. Afterwards he came down and he and the disciples got in the boat and went across the lake to Gennaseret. This is so concrete, right? It’s living breathing people and they had names. And if you want to get on a plane you can fly to the Holy Land, and you can you visit these exact sites. I mean it’s just so real.

And I think the late film critic Roger Ebert said years ago, he said the most specifically local stories you’ll ever find actually end up being stories that have the most universal relevance.

So a story about a Jewish man and his followers in first century Palestine actually resonates more universally with people than an Asian story that is nowhere near as specific as that.

Let me just highlight three things from the gospels that have spoken to me in the last year.

Story number one: Jesus is invited by some religious leaders to go eat dinner at the home of one of the religious leaders. He goes in, he sits down, he’s eating with them and somewhere in the middle of the meal in comes a woman.

Everybody in the room knows this woman. She’s got the reputation. She comes in, she goes to Jesus feet, and she starts crying. She’s crying and she’s crying on his feet and she’s wiping off her tears with her hair.

And the men in the room are saying, “Jesus, do you know who this person is that you’re just letting touch you like this?!” And Jesus says, “Let me ask you a question. Let’s say a guy has two people who owe him money one owes him $5000. The other guy owes him $50,000. He forgives the $5000 guy; he forgives the $50,000 guy. Which one of these guys do you think might be a little more grateful?”

The guy says: Well, probably the $50,000 guy.

He says, thank you, that’s the good answer. He says, for the record, Mr. Pharisee religious leader, when a guy comes to your home, normal protocol around here is you wash his feet. I noticed you didn’t bother washing my feet when I came in. But this lady has not stopped washing my feet with her tears. The person who has been forgiven little loves little; the person who’s been forgiven much loves much.

I don’t care whether you believe–this is now Bryan talking–I don’t care whether you believe there was a historical Jesus or Jesus was a complete myth, you cannot read that story and not be moved to the core by it. And recognize that this is a beautiful piece of spiritual religious and moral thought. You cannot, if you have a soul inside your body.

You cannot read the story of the Prodigal Son and not be moved almost to tears by it. Young man, goes to his dad. Basically says–forgive the French—F*** you, I wish you were dead. Give me all my inheritance money–I’m gone. He leaves. He squanders it. He has no money. He’s broke. He’s feeding pigs.

He decides: hey you know what, even the even the slaves that worked for my dad have it better than I do. I’m going to go back to dad, and he says make me a slave. And when he comes back Dad doesn’t want his son to be a slave.

He celebrates–he wants to kill the fatted calf and invite his son willingly back into the family.

Perry, if I’m not mistaken one of the more profound moments of your life in the last 10 years riveted on the story of the prodigal son. With you seeing yourself in the narrative for the very first time.

No matter what you think of Jesus and whether he was really historical or not, you cannot read the story of the prodigal son and not be moved by it.

Third story. I spent time in the Gospel of Luke this year. And had the bizarre experience that when we got to the end of chapter 23 — Jesus has now been delivered up and he’s been crucified and he’s dead and he’s buried. After, I don’t know how many years away from Christianity, I’m reading the story of Jesus.

Who is this very complex contradictory irascible Jewish guy who seems to have not very modern views on slavery and so on and so forth. And I’m reading this story and at the end of the chapter I’m broken hearted. This is bizarre. The hero of this story is dead and I’m crushed.

Fortunately, there is one more chapter, and it has a very happy ending. But I but I realized after reading about the crucifixion of Jesus for the very first time–I had the bizarre thought where I’m realizing I think I might actually love this guy. Now I ‘get’ it. Like all those people all those years that I thought were so corny “I just LOVE Jesus!!!”

And suddenly here I am I as a couple of months ago I guess–I just finished the narrative where he’s being crucified–and for one of the very first times in my life–I’m heartbroken.

And I’m like, OK maybe the “I Love Jesus” people aren’t so crazy after all.

Do I believe the Bible is the inspired inerrant word of God? I don’t think so. I think that’s a no. Do I believe there was a historical Jesus? I don’t think there’s much question about that. Do I believe he’s the Jewish Messiah? I don’t know.

Do I believe that immersing yourself in these old stories and learning more about yourself is immensely valuable? Yes absolutely.

Do I have answers–is there supernatural cause behind the big bang and the origin of life and so on? I don’t know, and I think it’s wonderfully liberating to not know the answer for me at this stage in my particular life.

But that is my story and I think there’s nothing more valuable than just diving in and reading the literature of old and looking at your soul and being challenged. And knowing there are some really hard questions out there that we don’t know answers to yet.

~

RELATED: Bryan and I debate miracles

124 Responses

  1. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jon Peters,

    I did not see the exchange between you and Perry until this morning. I will let Perry defend the documentary he recommended however he pleases, of course, but I would like to comment on the critiques you linked. The one by Hector Avalos was particularly thorough and scholarly.

    You may be surprised that I agree that the Exodus did not happen “around 1450 BCE” (as allegedly claimed in the documentary) and that “archaeological evidence for many crucial personages and events is lacking at that time in both Egypt and in Palestine” (section on the basic thesis in the Avalos article), provided that by “is lacking” Avalos really means has not been found and acknowledged by leading experts. If the Exodus actually happened a thousand years earlier, as Gerald E. Aardsma claims, one should not expect well-dated evidence to indicate that it did happen at the much later time expected by the producers of the documentary. In other words, I suspect that the criticism you found of claims about evidence that the Exodus happened “around 1450 BCE” is quite valid.

    This is hardly the end of the story, however. Problems with claims regarding the “around 1450 BCE” date do not justify a conclusion that the Exodus never happened. You should not be fooled by critics who jump to this conclusion. Consider, for example, what Neil Carter said in his Patheos article that you linked:

    “The violent conquest of Canaan never actually happened. We know this for certain. We’ve gone to the places [where] that was supposed to have happened and we dug our way down to the bottom. Didn’t happen.

    “The wandering in the wilderness for forty years? Also never happened. That story was made up. We canvassed that entire region a hundred times now and not so much as a coin or a piece of pottery or anything at all that would signify they were ever there.”

    Those claims might be credible if a search for evidence really was exhaustive. Was Carter’s search exhaustive? Not finding a coin dropped along the way in the desert would certainly prove nothing, but what about pottery shards? Carter or his experts evidently overlooked an article by E. D. Oren and Y. Yekutieli, “North Sinai During the MB I Period—Pastoral Nomadism and Sedentary Settlement,” Eretz-Israel 21 (1990), which reports a discovery of pottery shards “typical of Upper and Middle Egypt sites of the 4th and 6th dynasties and of the beginning of the First Intermediate Period” (p. 11). In his book on the Exodus, Aardsma quotes (on p. 52) the following summary of this discovery by Ram Gophna in “The Intermediate Bronze Age,” The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, Amnon Ben-Tor, ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 127:

    “… Egyptian pottery has been identified among the finds of the North Sinai survey conducted by Ben Gurion University in the seventies (led by E. D. Oren). The Egyptian shards were found together with pottery typical of the Intermediate Bronze Age in Israel at 45 campsites of the period discovered during the survey.”

    On the main page of his website, you can see some sample photos of shards found by Aardsma himself in 2000 while he was investigating his idea about the true location of Mt. Sinai.
    http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/

    If it later comes to light that Aardsma’s ideas about biblical chronology and his analysis of supporting evidence are all wet, would it be safe to conclude that the Exodus never happened? I don’t think so. This would be no more logical than concluding that the Exodus never happened because David Rohl’s ideas are wrong. Chronology is important, and beware the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy! I recommend trusting the Bible instead of experts relying on modern studies of necessarily incomplete, currently available physical evidence and assumptions that may or may not be correct.

    • Jon Peters says:

      Hi Tom –

      I want you and other theists to keep claiming that Adam/Eve are historical (we have DNA proof now – nope), that the Exodus and genocides of Joshua really occurred (scores of professional archeologists and Biblical scholars have looked and found nothing. Must have been a stealth group – I suggest you contact the US Army and tell them they can now match the stealth fighters of the USAF), that there was a global flood and the fossil record does not represent macroevolution in spades, the sun standing still in Joshua and going backwards in Hab. are historical events (where’s the evidence for that and it must be there), that people at one time lived to over 500 years, that most or all languages did not evolve but suddenly appeared at the base of a tower, etc. I leave you on this topic of the supposed Exodus with a quote from Mark Twain:

      “You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?”
      ― Mark Twain

      Having been in the evangelical bubble for years I really do understand why many conservative Abrahamic religious people feel the need to defend these mythologies at any intellectual cost and why you probably don’t see how desperate and crazy you sound. The reason why I encourage you to keep to your guns at any cost is the next generation IS seeing it, and that’s the hope I have for the future.

      On a side note, I did not respond to your other post to me because despite repeated attempts I was unable to find it on the site. It was long and I don’t have a lot of time but just let me say if I recall correctly you have a very deep and extensive world view built on among other things reincarnation and a mosaic and merging of various religious and spiritual views. A nice custom made belief system that is so tortuous that it can’t be tested or falsified. Here in liberal Portland where I live we call that Woo (New Age, antivaxxers, homeopathy lovers, etc.). As Carrier has written, one can come up with an infinite number of possibilities regarding origins that can be constructed so they supposedly fit the observations of our world. It doesn’t make them true. It’s not about finding evidence for a view; it’s about disproving. My favorite? We and everything were all created 10 minutes ago by a super race that placed into us past memories and the world with apparent age. Try and prove me wrong. Sagan’s dragon in the garage. I barely have time defending evolution and exposing creationism let alone taking on all the Woo. But I’m sure your beliefs are a comfort to you.

      Any input on why anyone would hold up the Bible as something to follow after studying that it’s main character is an immoral being that loves killing innocent children and sometimes even torturing them? Ever see anyone drown? Ever look into the eyes of a 2 year old as you sewed up a chin laceration and see utter terror? I have; many times. I think you made the comment in the post I could not find that drowning is not a bad way to go – as if you’ve experienced it and come back from the dead to tell us about it? Keep it up guys!!! The younger generation is watching. And taking notes.

      • Jon,

        You’ve understated the problem. Malaria has killed FAR more people than God in the Old Testament. Not to mention cancer, heart attacks, etc. So if you want to be angry, there’s plenty to be angry about. You might want to expand on that too.

        • Jon Peters says:

          I would encourage you to think through with your world view. In your world view, who created the world? Even if you say with mythology that we live in a fallen world, who allows the death and destruction to continue? Who knew when He supposedly created the world what it’s future was going to be but still allowed it to proceed as we see it? Who ultimately is responsible for all the Malaria deaths – mostly children? And did He not design or allow the human reproductive system to exist as it is? How many fertilizations never implant? How many that implant never make it to birth? How many children born never make it to age 10 before modern medicine? This death rate is 75% or higher from fertilization. Look at 300,000 years of Homo sapiens and figure out how many fertilizations die; I thought Christians were against abortion? The Flood narrative showing God the great abortionist pales in comparison.

          BTW this is one of the reason why TE fails.

          And the whole irrational idea of all this death (what did the animals do to deserve this??) and suffering due to two naked people in a garden eating some forbidden fruit – that God placed in the MIDDLE of the garden so they could not avoid it – is justified on future generations? So, if your great, great, grandfather burned down a church with 1,000 people in it YOU would be responsible? Do you guys ever listen to yourselves?

          Popular FB meme:

          God’s To Do List

          1. Make man
          2. Give them free will
          3. Slaughter 99.9% of them for using it
          4. Randomly favor one group
          5. Never speak or write a single word
          6. Legalize slavery and ban shrimp
          7. Kill myself for a weekend
          8. Hide

          The issue you just brought up has been most eloquently expressed IMO by Harris in a debate with WLC. Have you seen it? Got a few minutes? Less than 7 minutes

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=D6DCbpufpYY

          • And that’s not all. God is even meaner to Israel than he ever was to the Canaanites:

            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hosea+8-14&version=ERV

          • Jon I really do think you are WAY understating the magnitude of the “problem of evil” / “theodicy” problem. Your list here is child’s play compared to the actual everyday problems of pain and death that transpire in one single hour on planet earth.

            (Problems which the scripture writers, I should add, do not flinch from in the slightest.)

            I think you need to deal with the real problems first… then these will be quite a bit easier.

            • Jon Peters says:

              Of course, many of my Ex-Christian friends list the theodicy “problem” as a reason for their deconversion. Not a problem for evolution and naturalism; it’s exactly what we would predict nature would demonstrate). However, for me it was science and later studying the bible that led me out of my Christian beliefs. I note no one on this thread has put up any defense outside the DCT for the God of the Bible being an immoral child killer that I can recall. Anyone? That was the original thread from my posts many weeks ago.

              I’ll bite – how do you handle the theological “problem of evil”? Hopefully not by invoking the mythological Fall.

            • Jim Lea says:

              SUBJECT: Example of Spirit World Causing Favorable Mutations
              Perry, Two months ago I decided to buy Michael Denton’s book “Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis,” when your book “accidentally” popped up on the Amazon website. I was intrigued when I saw your book and a summary of its content, so I bought both books. Your book was so enlightening and easy to read that I read the whole book once like a textbook, underlining key passages, and then I read it again, typing 21 pages of notes from the book so I could find key passages in it using Word’s search function. I have yet to read a page in Denton’s book.

              Since your book emphasizes the need for a designer to make evolution work, I thought I’d share an idea with you that supports your theories about how a designer makes evolution work. It comes from a source you probably never consult—hypnotherapy—but the results back up your ideas. Let me briefly explain. Dr. Michael Newton, a well-known and well-respected hypnotherapist and counseling psychologist, regressed over 7,000 clients over 30 years to their life between lives in the spirit world. One of his clients called Kala revealed under hypnosis that while between lives in the spirit world he was in a creation design training class on a planet named Jaspear. Kala explained that a group of souls from the spirit world went to Jaspear to deal with a runaway vegetation problem caused by a voracious vine-like bush that was threatening the food supply of the small land animals. Kala explained that they needed an animal that will eat the vines to control the spreading of this bush, but the planet didn’t have one.

              They decided to take an existing small four-footed animal and alter its DNA genetic codes. They decided to mutate the existing species and make it much larger in one generation—described as about 50 years, which seemed to Kala like a day—so it will eat the offending bush. They named the new animal the Rinucula. Since it reproduced slowly, they had to take several of the small animals and program the desired genetic characteristics into all of them. The new animal had a large curving nose, big lips, huge jaws, a massive forehead, and was about the size of a horse. Kala told Dr. Newton that this solved the problem. (See “Destiny of Souls” by Dr. Newton, pp. 340-343.)

              Dr. Newton also stated: “I am certain there is intelligent thought behind the formation of all animate and inanimate objects. This observation comes from souls [under hypnosis] who [say they] use their light energy for conceiving, designing, and then manipulating the molecules and cell structure of living matter, which possess the physical properties they want in finished form” (pp. 339-340).

              In your book you mention the Cambrian explosion (pp. 134, 328) occurring around 540 million years ago. You stated on your website under “Intelligent Evolution Quick Guide”: “X. All known examples of evolution (genetic programs, social progress) have an ability to evolve that is designed in. Therefore life on earth, the Fossil Record, the Cambrian Explosion, and Punctuated Equilibrium are a result of:

              “(1) The ability to make evolutionary change is designed in (i.e., not random mutation, but pre-programmed variations); and/or

              “(2) Multiple incidents of special creation.” So both you and I believe the Creator intervened to some degree in the evolutionary process and caused this explosion to occur via special creations. In light of what Dr. Newton finds from his clients under hypnosis, your idea makes total sense and is likely to be exactly what occurred.

              Perry, while I know you are a Christian and probably don’t believe in reincarnation or hypnotherapy and have never studied it, I believe you are an honest and open-minded individual. That’s why I decided to share this remarkable story with you since my source actually confirms what you theorize in your insightful book can occur. While the example was on another planet, I’m convinced that the spirit world uses the same principles of creation on both earth and other worlds. While you may dismiss my information due to your Christians belief system, at least you now know that a different belief system [reincarnation] supports the idea in your book that DNA is designed and can be manipulated. I’m convinced the spirit world designed the genome, and they can and do manipulate it to create the life forms they desire. –Jim Lea

              • Jim,

                Sorry for the late response. I’m really glad you liked the book. Write an Amazon review and tell others – every little bit helps, believe me.

                I’m not really sure what to think about the account you relate here. I certainly do know that people can emerge from hypnosis, trances, and spiritual experiences with remarkable insights, and one of the things that is rarely acknowledged by hard core science guys is the fact that most scientific theories began as hypotheses that were intuitions.

                Also: artists often talk about how inspirations come to them “from somewhere.” The Greeks believed in the Muse. Where do melodies and musical ideas come from? JK Rowling received the entire Harry Potter story as a 2-3 hour download while she was stalled on a train in the UK. It took a lot of work to edit it and hammer it into final form, but the general plot and characters came all at once. Where does that come from???

                I get ideas in the shower all the time. Where do they originate? I’m not sure they come from the inside of my own head.

                I don’t have much difficulty entertaining the idea that evolving cells may get their “ideas” from the outside the same way we do. Maybe there’s an external database out there somewhere. Maybe 100 years from now, someone will have proven it.

                • Jim Lea says:

                  SUBJECT: Inspirations Come from Somewhere. Perry, I agree with you that inspirations come from somewhere. Obviously, some come from inside our head, but I believe others do not. Perhaps evolving cells, as you said, get their ideas from some external database, which could be the God consciousness, or maybe God just programs the cells or pre-programs them. In one of my metaphysics books author Barry Eaton writes: New inventions and ideas are developed in the spirit world. “Once scientists in the afterlife come up with a new concept, arrangements are made for the appropriate people on earth to be given this information via dreams or by seeding ideas that can suddenly pop into the mind” (Afterlife—Uncovering the Secrets of Life after Death, pp. 215, 240, 256). When discussing schools in heaven, James Van Praagh in his book Growing Up in Heaven said that “Scientists have laboratories in which to do their research in the spirit world. Many a new invention and scientific concept began its life in these spiritual schools and was passed into the earthly realm via telepathy” (pp. 51-52). Obviously, there is no way to prove or confirm this until we cross over, but the idea is intriguing in that it makes sense that the spirit world is working with us earthlings to improve our lives. —Jim Lea

  2. Jon Peters says:

    On another note, besides errors, corruptions, and just false claims to history and reality, many Christians will say when understood properly and not taken out of context, there are no contradictions in the Bible (if it’s divinely inspired how could they be there?). Here’s a fast paced short presentation that challenges that. For your consideration. Quoting the bible as evidence for a view does not make sense to a non believer considering that the bible is so corrupted and full of errors that we are more than justified in dismissing it as a reliable source for much of anything.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB3g6mXLEKk

  3. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Thanks for another detailed response with answers to my questions. As is often the case, new answers raise new questions.

    From the point of view of an atheist, there is no God, supernatural beings, or afterlife either. If they are right about this, they will never be able to taunt us after death by saying, “I told you so!” From our point of view, all of those are real, whether we recognize their reality or not. If we are right about this, we do have hope of learning much more about those spiritual realities after death. I hope we do get to see each other in the kind of existence described in Rev. 21:1-7, 9-27, 22:1-17 and that neither one of us will end up in the kind of existence described in Rev. 21:8.

    You wrote about unconditional love. Let’s think about this. Imagine that you have this kind of love for someone, but she refuses to have anything to do with you, moves off somewhere, and finally ends up in desperate need of your love, but you are not even aware of her whereabouts, let alone her plight, so you do nothing to show your love. Is your love for her still unconditional? Is unconditional love even possible in this scenario? My own answer is yes to both questions. It is just that this love was rejected by the beloved through no fault of the lover. Rejected love, like any other gift offered but rejected, is necessarily and inevitably of no benefit to the beloved.

    You said that you “find the Christian message to be a message that only certain lucky people get chosen by the Father and then hopefully get accepted into the kingdom upon belief in Jesus, while all others who reject Christianity or don’t know about it get tortured in a hell run by a fallen angel named Satan.” I must admit that this seems like a far cry from unconditional love, but is it an accurate summary of what the Bible says? Your summary look to me like a gross distortion of what our message ought to be.

    According to the Bible, one’s eternal destiny has nothing to do with luck or good fortune. If anyone disagrees, I request a proof text. As I understand the message, the Father has chosen anyone and everyone who is in Christ (Rom. 6:23; 1Cor. 26-31; Eph. 1:11-14), and the invitation to life through faith in him is open to all (John 3:16; Rev. 22:17).

    Naturally, you may wonder, “But what about infants and others who have never had an opportunity to hear this good news? Must they be condemned along with everyone who boldly dares to reject God’s gracious offer of salvation?” Good question. The verses I just cited clearly refer to people able and mature enough to make a thoughtful and deliberate decision. Where are the verses that clearly cover people not in this category? We can only speculate, but it could be that we can’t find such verses simply because the obvious ones actually apply in every case, because God gives sufficient light to everyone somehow so that absolutely everyone is “without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20).

    I have never heard a Christian teach that infants have to go straight to hell because they never made a decision to trust Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Have you? Abraham asked, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It was a rhetorical question asked thousands of years ago, but I believe modern Christians agree with Father Abraham that the right answer is that this Judge will do right. We may not know what his judgment is in any specific case, but we trust that he will do what is right, even in what may seem to be hard cases. We are certainly in no position to reject God or the Bible because we dare guess that this Judge callously judges unjustly. After all, he loves us (John 3:16) and wants everyone to be saved (2Peter 3:9).

    Some of us may be bothered by an inability to find a verse that clearly gives hope to infants and to adults in a land where the gospel is not heard, but if so, we should be encouraged by the balancing inability to find a verse that clearly damns such people.

    I can think of Ezek. 3:16-21 and 33:1-9, but these Old Testament passages may report a particular commission to Ezekiel alone, not a general principle, and they may not refer to anyone’s eternal destiny in any case.

    In the New Testament, we see the touching plea from a rich man in hell, a man who begged for a miraculous outreach to his five brothers, worried that they might suffer the same fate if they were not personally warned (Luke 16:27-31). However, the context makes it clear that those brothers already had all the witness they needed in Moses and the prophets. Did the beggar Lazarus really have any advantage over those brothers that landed him on the cool side of the great gulf or chasm (16:26)? We see no complaint from the rich man that he had been sent to hell unjustly, so I think it is safe to assume that he had enjoyed the same biblical testimony as everyone else. I conclude that not even this passage clearly refers to people with no biblical witness at all.

    So who ends up in hell, according to the Bible? There may be questionable cases that we must leave in God’s trustworthy hands, but it seems clear that some people do dare to choose this horrible destiny. It is not that God hates them. They just refuse, for whatever reason, to accept their only hope of salvation (John 3:18; Acts 4:12).

    Moving on, I think you imagine a contrast between your philosophy and Christianity, with “an amazing consistency and overlap among [explanations in books from several unique areas concerning] God’s purpose for life, the afterlife, and how God’s plan works” on one hand, contrasting with “a wide range of churches and denominations differing from each other on many key points” on the other hand. It may be hard for you to recognize this, but if you would look again honestly, I think you could detect at least as wide a range of different ideas about key points among people who reject the Bible and believe in reincarnation, not to mention an amazing consistency and overlap among Bible-believing Christians regarding God’s purpose for life, the afterlife, and how God’s plan works. Consider, for example, some of the popular creeds.

    Thanks for answering my question about abortion, but now I have a question about your idea that some people willingly decide to be reincarnated on earth, leaving their “eternal home in heaven” because they have “specific needs for spiritual growth” that may require experiences involving “cruelty, wars, injustice, etc.” Why would anyone safe in heaven need anything enough to justify such a decision? Imagine that you came face to face with someone suffering terribly through no fault of his own. Do you suppose you might be able to comfort this person by telling him that he had once been at home in heaven, safe and sound, but then he and “other soul group members” had actually decided to be reincarnated and go through all of this, because he needed to grow spiritually? If the tables were turned, would you feel comforted?

    You said, “Atheists and agnostics will say they don’t believe in a God because the world is a cruel, horrible place to be and either it is that way because there is no God or because this God doesn’t care, is powerless to change it, or some form of these arguments.” I am not one of them, but I suspect that your speculation about God based on your trusted experts is not a significant game changer for them.

    You want to get God out of the picture by shifting the blame to people who are intent on growing spiritually, but atheists may well point out that God, even in your view, is ultimately responsible for the whole system and arrangement, one that involves endless cycles of horrible things with no end in sight. At least Christians believe that the conflict between good and evil will eventually end with the good side victorious and death finally vanquished forever. They could still wonder why God, who is supposed to be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, would allow either arrangement, let alone plan “training centers on various planets.” (What other planets besides earth?) I still don’t understand why anyone would consider your “answer” more palatable that the biblical answer.

    I think Bahnsen showed that the problem of evil is really no problem at all for believers who accept his fourth premise, but it is a problem for atheists who recognize the reality and relevance of evil. To be consistent with their ideology, they should not recognize any objective good or evil, just convenience or inconvenience from the temporary perspective of some individual or group of individuals. Stuff just happens, according to them, and in the grand scheme of things, nothing really matters—lo que será, será—right?

    We agree on your claims that “there is a purpose to this cruel world the way it is” and that “God allows and uses this world” for some (perhaps undisclosed) purpose. Will our beliefs about these concepts convince atheists that God really exists after all? Frankly, I doubt it. I think an approach that might be more promising is to help them realize that their philosophy is nonsensical, though ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who gets credit for every conversion to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 7:51; 1Cor. 2:13, 12:3; Titus 3:5; 1Peter 1:12; 1John 5:6-12). I think that many of them like to consider themselves intellectually superior to those of us who believe, and I suppose that in many cases this is true (Matt. 18:1-4; 1Cor. 1:26).

    We also agree that we have no good reason to question who wrote the books you trust for reliable guidance concerning the nature of God and the afterlife, but it certainly does not follow from this that they must be superior to the Bible in this regard. Was any book you listed written before 1950? If practically all of them were written in my lifetime, what does this say about God and his desire to communicate the truth about these matters to earthlings? Never mind other planets. The Bible has been translated into many languages, making its message widely accessible, both in printed form and as broadcast verbally through radio and television. What about the sources for your philosophy?

    I have not addressed every point in your last comment, but maybe this much is plenty for now. It is past my bedtime. Good night.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs):
      Tom Godfrey (response to your 1/31/19 reply), I believe we will meet in the afterlife for sure. Let me mark that on my calendar. I agree with most of what you write on unconditional love. The souls who reject God, refuse to go into the light, and become ghosts are always welcome to change their mind, and my sources claim they eventually do because God has unconditional love for us. Is it possible for a soul to eternally reject God? I have no way of knowing.

      I wrote that I found the Christian message to be a message that only certain lucky people get chosen by the Father and then hopefully get accepted into the kingdom upon belief in Jesus, while all others who reject Christianity or don’t know about it get tortured in a hell. You at least said that you “admit that this seems like a far cry from unconditional love.” Tom, at least you can see what I am saying makes some sense to a lot of people, even if you believe otherwise. My purpose in posting on this blog is to at least show that the reincarnation philosophy has some valid points that make sense and offer an alternative worldview. In spite of the valid points of my argument, you still feel my summary is a gross distortion of the Bible message. You claim the “Father has chosen anyone and everyone who is in Christ … and the invitation to life through faith in him is open to all….” This may be your sincere Christian belief, but some of my Christian friends believe you are called before the foundation of the earth, so if you aren’t called then, too bad. Other Christians believe only members of their true church are saved, so at least acknowledge that I have a valid point about certain lucky people getting chosen for heaven—at least according to certain Christians (though not you).

      You somewhat agree with me about infants, children, and others who’ve never heard about Jesus apparently being condemned. You say, “Must they be condemned along with everyone who boldly dares to reject God’s gracious offer of salvation? Good question.” Again, at least you see my point. It is not at all illogical or whacky to ask if any of these people don’t believe in Jesus & get saved, won’t they be condemned? It’s an obvious and fair question. Children and teen-agers are killed all the time without accepting Jesus as Savior, and most of the world’s population hasn’t really heard and had a chance to practice Christianity. This too is an obvious and fair question to pose to a Christian. You answer, “The verses I just cited clearly refer to people able and mature enough to make a thoughtful and deliberate decision. Where are the verses that clearly cover people not in this category? We can only speculate….” You see, again I have a fair point because the Bible doesn’t cover the subject except to say you must receive Jesus to be saved, while my reincarnation philosophy does cover it in that it teaches we all—not a favored few—come down to earth for training and return to the spirit world—our eternal home—afterward. Perhaps God or Constantine omitted the Christian answer from the Bible or perhaps some Christians just assume an answer, but hopefully you can see why someone like me might challenge that omission.

      You mentioned “the touching plea from a rich man in hell, a man who begged for a miraculous outreach to his five brothers, worried that they might suffer the same fate if they were not personally warned (Luke 16:27-31),” and you claim “the context makes it clear that those brothers already had all the witness they needed in Moses and the prophets.” While Luke’s context is clear, that doesn’t make his alleged message of hell truthful—assuming Luke actually wrote those words and they weren’t edited into the text dozens or hundreds of years later. You wrote: “We see no complaint from the rich man that he had been sent to hell unjustly, so I think it is safe to assume that he had enjoyed the same biblical testimony as everyone else.”
      Just because Luke doesn’t record any complaints from the rich man (if he existed) doesn’t mean he had no complaints. You can certainly assume he had no complaints, but I find it totally illogical to believe that someone roasting in hell would have no complaints. Give me a break Tom! Of course, I don’t believe a God of unconditional love would put or keep anyone in hell, regardless of which scripture you quote, and my sources back up that statement. Second, Moses and the prophets didn’t tell anyone how to avoid hell.

      In my previous post, I explained that my philosophy is based on books from several unique areas: NDEs, psychics, hypnotherapists, and after-death communications. While these disciplines are separate from each other, I was stunned to find an amazing consistency and overlap among their explanations of God’s purpose for life, the afterlife, and how God’s plan works. I do not agree with you that I “could detect at least as wide a range of different ideas about key points among people who reject the Bible and believe in reincarnation.” My original statement stands as written. But having been a Christian for many years and majoring in theology, I am totally convinced that a wide range of churches and denominations differ from each other on many key points. Tom, they do. Some churches keep the 7th-day Sabbath, others don’t; some believe in a Trinity, others don’t; some believe you must be called before the foundation of the earth was laid to be saved (John MacArthur’s church Grace Community Church), others don’t & they believe you can be called now to salvation; some believe tithing is required, others don’t; some prohibit all divorce & remarriage, others don’t; some believe in divine healing and teach you shouldn’t visit doctors or take any medicine, others don’t; some babble in tongues in their church service, others don’t; Mormons, JWs, and Catholics believe they are the true church and others aren’t. If you deny this isn’t a wide range of diverse, contradictory opinions, I can’t reach you with logic.

      You asked me why would anyone safe in heaven would need anything enough to justify reincarnating? Tom, each soul is different, just like each human, and what one person sees as dangerous, another sees as adventurous and thrilling. Why do men risk and lose their lives to climb Mt. Everest? Why do men trek across the ice to the South Pole? They were much safer where they lived!

      According to Dr. Michael Newton in “Destiny of Souls,” because God gives humans free will, “in the spirit world we are not forced to reincarnate…” (p. 7). He comments that instead of incarnating on Earth, “a soul might ask to go to a physical planet other than Earth for a while” (p. 8). Part of the reason souls incarnate is due to karmic debt. Dr. Newton explains that “souls voluntarily select less than perfect bodies and difficult lives to address karmic debts or to work on different aspects of a lesson they have had trouble with in the past. Most souls accept the bodies offered to them in the selection room, but a soul can reject what is offered and even delay reincarnating” (p. 8). Souls reincarnate to expand their consciousness. Remaining in a place of light and love, such as exists in heaven, offers souls less opportunity to grow and expand their consciousness. Dr. Newton adds: “A major incentive for many souls to reincarnate is the pleasures of physical expression in biological form” (p. 296).

      Robert Schwartz explained: “Without darkness, without contrast to light, we cannot fully appreciate the light we see. Without contrast to love, we cannot know, fully and profoundly, who we really are. And so we script lives in which we forget our true identities, hopeful that challenges will awaken us to ourselves, certain that from the remembering will come a greater self-knowing” (Your Soul’s Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born, p. 309). See also Robert Schwartz online at: http://www.yoursoulsplan.com.

      Tom, you asked: “Do you suppose you might be able to comfort this person by telling him that he had once been at home in heaven, safe and sound, but then he and ‘other soul group members’ had actually decided to be reincarnated and go through all of this [the problems on Earth], because he needed to grow spiritually?” I would answer that in most cases telling a person who is suffering major problems on earth that it is somehow God’s will that he suffer or that God isn’t going to intervene isn’t what he wants to hear. It doesn’t matter if you tell him that God promotes Christianity or if you tell him God sends souls to earth to reincarnate. However, Tom, if a person begins to understand the true purpose for which he or she planned a life on earth and understands the value of that life, then that person would take some comfort in knowing that. This is expressed throughout my source books. That is the main subject of Robert Schwartz’s fine books. See “Your Soul’s Plan” referred to in the paragraph above.

      Tom, you suspect that my view about God and reincarnation based on my sources is not a significant game changer for them. That is correct. Atheists have a strong faith and are determined not to be influenced by the slightest bit of logic offered by Christians or reincarnationists. When I left my church, I was able to help deprogram several dozen individuals, but the only type of people I could reach were those who were searching for something and were open-minded. I’m sure you’d agree that even a perfect, logical argument can’t reach a close minded individual.

      As a faithful Christian determined to defend the faith, you wonder why God, who is supposed to be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, would allow reincarnation, let alone plan “training centers on various planets.” You still don’t understand why anyone would consider my “answer” more palatable than the biblical answer. Assuming you are open-minded, and I will not judge your condition, I believe an open-minded person who took the time to read and study my philosophy and well-written sources would find my answers more palatable than Christianity. You reject my philosophy based on mainly hearsay, ignorance of my philosophy, false assumptions, your present dogmatic beliefs, and a feeling that what I say doesn’t make total sense to you. I base my rejection of Christianity on years of studying and writing about the Bible as a Christian and getting a degree in theology. If you’d spend, say, a few months of concentrated study reading many of my sources, you might actually be surprised at how logical my philosophy is—as long as you retained an open mind. If a non-Christian came up to you and asked about Jesus and the Bible, you’d certainly talk to him, but in the end you’d want him to start reading and studying the Bible and attending church, so telling you that you must do the same with my philosophy shouldn’t be shocking or unreasonable.

      You state that “We agree on your claims that ‘there is a purpose to this cruel world the way it is’ and that ‘God allows and uses this world’ for some … purpose. Will our beliefs about these concepts convince atheists that God really exists after all? Frankly, I doubt it.” I can agree with those statements. You thought an approach that might be more promising is to help them realize that their philosophy is nonsensical.” While I agree that an atheist ignores so much evidence of a great Designer and Creator of the universe, I believe an atheist’s mind cannot be changed unless he is willing to open his mind and be willing to consider other philosophies. However, when he dies and returns to the spirit world, he will know for certain that there is a real loving God and a wonderful afterlife. Of course, if the atheist refuses to go into the light using his free will, he can remain on earth and feel sorry for himself.

      You stated: “We also agree that we have no good reason to question who wrote the books you trust for reliable guidance concerning the nature of God and the afterlife, but it certainly does not follow from this that they must be superior to the Bible in this regard.” My source books do not have the same reliability problem the Bible has in that my sources aren’t based on questionable manuscripts and gospels from 2,000 years ago. However, that reliability doesn’t guarantee that the messages in the books are true. The fact that the Bible has been translated into many languages and has many believers doesn’t make the Bible’s message somehow accurate and inspired either. But with my sources, I know they are real people writing real books, whereas with the Protestant and Catholic bibles, you can’t be sure the manuscripts were written by the stated authors, nor can you know how much editing by outside sources occurred that could have totally changed the meaning.

      Peace to You My Friend Jan. 31, 2019

  4. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jon Peters,

    Thanks for your January 26 (“Hi Tom”) message at 10:15 am. I assume that you saw both of my previous two messages addressed to you (dated January 24 at 10:32 am and January 25 at 1:57). In any case, your next-to-last paragraph (“On a side note, …”) implies that you may have me confused with Jim Lea, since this paragraph appears to be a response to his January 19 message at 1:04 pm addressed to you. Your January 26 message at 1:28 pm was addressed to no one in particular, but I assume that it was meant to be a response to Perry Marshall’s comment at 12:07 pm the same afternoon, the one where he mentioned cancer, malaria, and heart attacks.

    Any nonsensical idea can be believed if only problems with it can be ignored, dismissed, or overlooked. This can happen regardless of one’s ideology, yours and mine included. Both of us have been brave enough to expose our ideas here to critical scrutiny by someone with a radically different perspective, risking discovery of nonsense in our thinking due to problems overlooked or swept under the rug, so to speak. People with child-like faith might simply hold their ideas dogmatically, trusting experts and their recommended groupthink without question. For example, let’s review in some detail how we have handled the Exodus issue so far.

    You got us going on this topic by saying (January 14 at 9:14 pm), “We know there was no flood, no ark, (through geology, etc.) no Exodus from history and science (Google the path they took – it takes 8 days to walk nonstop!! Millions or tens of thousands wandered around a small area for 40 years and never left a trace??),” and I countered this by saying that you could be wrong (January 19 at 8:46 am). I went on to tell you about great evidence in the form of pottery shards discarded along the route, and I explained why experts might easily overlook this evidence.

    You evidently did not believe me, or maybe you did not read my whole comment carefully. You responded by saying (January 21 at 4:18 pm), “No, Jewish and American archaeologists gave up looking for evidence for the Exodus long ago. 40 years of wandering along a course by millions or tens of thousands that can be walked in 8 days has left no evidence that should be there. There was no Exodus, no Hebrew slaves in Egypt.”

    Perry Marshall joined the discussion of this issue (January 22 at 4:22 pm) by recommending a documentary on evidence for the Exodus. You responded with a critique of it the next day at 2:37 pm, assuring us that “The evidence is STILL missing for the Exodus. And if it happened, the evidence must be there. Tons of it.” You included two links with critical reviews of the documentary. Four minutes later, you elaborated on the same point by saying, “No, really, the Exodus never happened. Of course it didn’t. Carter and Loftus have graduate degrees from seminaries. Think, think, think.” This time you added two more links, one of which was to a Patheos article by Neil Carter with the following two paragraphs summarizing his conclusions:

    “The wandering in the wilderness for forty years? Also never happened. That story was made up. We canvassed that entire region a hundred times now and not so much as a coin or a piece of pottery or anything at all that would signify they were ever there.

    “The dramatic exodus of millions of Hebrews from Egyptian captivity? We know for a fact that never happened. It’s not even a debate anymore, not among scholars, historians, or archaeologists. The story was undeniably made up. That means that the Passover never happened. Nothing even remotely like it.”

    Not convinced by your experts or by repetitions of your claims, I responded with more detailed references to the discovery of allegedly relevant pottery finds and some of Gerald Aardsma’s own words in my reply (January 25 at 1:57 pm). Was this enough to convince you to stop claiming that no trace of the Exodus has been found? That same evening at 5:09, you wrote, “If one is going to posit a historical event of the magnitude of the Exodus then the predicted evidence must be there and it is not. Nearly all the apologist readings I’ve done consistently discusses reasons why there is no evidence in the desert. That’s not evidence; that’s highly functioning excuses and rationalizations.” Maybe at this point, you had not yet seen my latest reply.

    However, the next day (at 10:15 am) you doubled down again, saying, “I want you and other theists to keep claiming that … the Exodus and genocides of Joshua really occurred (scores of professional archeologists and Biblical scholars have looked and found nothing. Must have been a stealth group – I suggest you contact the US Army and tell them they can now match the stealth fighters of the USAF), …” Well, what would it take to change your mind? If the honest answer is nothing, we may be looking at a case of child-like faith here, and you may not be one of those who “choose to follow the facts wherever they lead, whatever the cost” after all (January 25 at 5:09 pm).

    We have also discussed transitional fossils. I will not review this issue with the same level of detail, but if you do this exercise yourself, I think you will find essentially the same pattern of ignoring the facts whenever they lead in what may seem to you to be the wrong direction. I explained why the fossil evidence should be an embarrassment to evolutionists, while you simply ignored my analysis. What could be easier? Are you ready to cross fossils off of your list of problems for creationists? If not, why not?

    As for Perry, he evidently lost interest in his documentary about the Exodus. At least, I have not seen any comment from him with a robust defense of it. He just invited you to watch it, right? Have I missed something else? Like you, I believe that David Rohl’s Exodus theory is wrong.

    You may be proud of your scholarly, intellectual approach to a topic like the Exodus, but from my perspective, you seem to be all too eager to embrace the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy. If you know of no evidence that supports the account of the Exodus in the Bible, you conclude that there must not be any, right? If someone points you to evidence you overlooked, no problem! Just ignore it, right? What could be easier? Okay, but this looks like nonsense to me.

    I watched the Sam Harris video you posted on the topic of morality. He evidently cannot think of any moral justification for what the Bible says God has done and that one can easily judge to be horrible. Is it logical to conclude that no moral justification exists, since he doesn’t know of any? Christians ought to accept Bahnsen’s fourth premise, that God has a morally sufficient (but possibly undisclosed) reason for the evil which exists, so the “problem of evil” is solved for us, even considering the cancer, malaria, and heart attacks that Perry finds so troubling, but I don’t think this option is not open to Harris, who evidently prefers to believe that God does not exist.

    The video goes into very graphic detail about death and evil horrors on a massive scale, but how should they be described from an atheist perspective? I think atheists deprive themselves of any rational basis for recognizing objective good or evil or what Bahnsen calls “a divine, transcendent sense of ethics.” They are left with just convenience or inconvenience from the temporary perspective of some individual or group of individuals, or maybe what you called “[manmade] morality through secular humanism.” Stuff just happens, according to them, and in the grand scheme of things, nothing really matters—lo que será, será—right? How is this a superior morality?

    Harris includes an argument that God is unjust or immoral because he “created the cultural isolation of the Hindus. He engineered the circumstance of their death in ignorance of revelation, and then he created the penalty for this ignorance, which is an eternity of conscious torment in fire” (1:05 – 2:10). He specifically based his ideas about this on his reading of Mark 9, Matthew 13, and Revelation 14. I looked at those chapters and did not see anything at all there about creating isolation, engineering circumstances of death, or even creating a penalty. Do you? If so, please help me focus on the relevant verses. I have written more about this issue in a comment I submitted for Jim Lea, but it is still in moderation. If you are interested in it, please watch for it.

    The vignette you posted earlier from the “God on Trial” movie begins at about 1:10:24 in the longer video, but I think it should have begun at 1:10:10, where it is announced that the verdict will be based on the judgment of three men, the accusation being that “God has broken his covenant with the Jewish people.” It would have been nice if the vignette had also included the final verdict of the three judges. Early in the case brought by the featured actor, he concluded that the Israelites were “in Egypt to start with” because God had sent a famine. Was this the only relevant detail needed to explain why those folks were in Egypt at the time of the Exodus?

    According to the Bible, they did enter Egypt to escape a famine at Joseph’s invitation, but they were not immediately enslaved. When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, only five years of famine remained (Gen. 45:6-7), and at about this time, Jacob was 130 years old (Gen. 47:9). Jacob died in Egypt 17 years later (Gen. 47:28). Was it really God’s fault that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt (Ex. 1:6-10)? I can only speculate, but it seems to me that they had plenty of time to return home whenever they pleased, before the death of a kindly Pharaoh, but instead, perhaps finding themselves quite comfortable outside of the promised land to which God had called Jacob and his family (Gen. 32:9; 46:2-4), they simply tarried until it was too late to return without powerful, divine intervention.

    You also posted a link to a “Quiz Show” video that features a rapid series of questions and answers designed to leave the impression that the Bible is full of contradictions. How many of them have any real substance? People who watch the video have no time to subject any of them to critical scrutiny unless it is paused, so I suppose the big idea is to impress people who are not inclined to take the time. Here’s an article about this tactic.
    http://www.astorehouseofknowledge.info/w/Elephant_hurling

    Slide over to 8:40 in the video to find one of the issues I picked for critical scrutiny. Acts 1:18 and Matt. 27:5 are the references given for the presumably contradictory answers to a question about the death of Judas. Christians have read those verses for centuries and imagined that they can easily be complementary, not necessarily contradictory. Is this pair included in the series anyway because the poster did not know of any reasonable resolution and concluded that there must not be any? Is the fallacy in this line of reasoning getting any easier for you to recognize? If you picked one of those items to be the most problematic of all, feel free to call it to my attention. I understand that it would be silly to review each one in detail.

    Now I come to the meme you posted (January 26 at 1:28 pm) with an eight-point to-do list, which looks to me like a fine example of a straw man argument. This is the tactic that involves distorting an opponent’s argument so that it is weak enough to ridicule or to refute easily, tempting the unsuspecting debate audience to conclude that the distortion is a fair representation of the original argument.

    1. “Make man.” This leaves the impression that when God started work, the heavens and the earth were already in place, complete with plants, animals, and perhaps even subhuman hominins, but the universe was incomplete without mankind capable of using human language, so this was God’s first job. Of course, this is a gross distortion of what is taught in the Bible. See its first verse. Man is not created until Day 6.

    2. and 3. These items suggest that God unjustly killed people for using what God had given them. I think the exact percentage of people who die is closer to 100% (Heb. 9:27), but why quibble? The real reason for trouble was that people used their free to make bad choices. Think of traffic laws. Drivers are given an ability to control the speed of their cars at will, but would it be fair to say that we get speeding tickets for using this freedom that we are given? Or would this be a distortion of the truth?

    4. What is the basis for “random” in this to-do item? As for the “favor” part, along with the blessing for the “one group” selected by God for an important mission came a responsibility to be a blessing to others (Gen. 12:3; Is. 52:7-9; Acts 10:34; Rev. 5:9).

    5. What? See Gen. 1:3 and 3:9; Ex. 31:18 for some counterexamples.

    6. This implies that God’s laws are mainly concerned with just two areas of concern. When most of us think about the Law of Moses, we think of the Ten Commandments. Which one has anything to say about legalizing slavery or banning shrimp? Our Lord boiled the Law down to just two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:34-40). Do you find anything about this to-do item there? Only 200 years ago, I think the part about legalizing slavery would have puzzled most people in the world, because most people considered slavery properly legal. This would have been especially true back when the Law was given, and several commandments, for example Lev. 25:39-43, Deut. 5:14-15 and 23:15-16, place restrictions on slavery.

    7. God did not kill himself, even for a weekend. God is immortal (1Tim. 6:15-16), but God the Son did die for our sins (Rom. 4:25) at the hands of wicked men by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:22-23).

    8. God may be invisible to our eyes (John 1:18), but he is hardly hiding from anyone who wants to find him (Acts 17:27; Rom. 1:20-23). Even a child can have a personal relationship with God (Matt. 11:25-30).

    I suspect that you could think better and be more reasonable than these examples from your recent comments might suggest. If you catch me using a logical fallacy as I address your issues, please call the matter to my attention. I am far from perfect in this regard.

    At some point, I hope you will find some time to imagine what you might say to your final Judge, just in case the Bible is right after all about what happens after we die. Would you resort to straw men and logical fallacies as you do in these online discussions? I recommend being as honest with yourself now as you would be to God on such an occasion.

  5. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    You continue to impress me with your detailed responses. Thanks for the one you submitted on January 31. Peace to you too. Since you called me your friend, I suppose we are officially friends now. Great!

    Can you reach me with logic? We may never know until you have “reached me” in the sense of convincing me, at which point we could consider how you did it. In the meantime, let’s be on the lookout for problems with each other’s logic. This is a great advantage of a discussion involving people with radically different perspectives. Logical problems may be easy to ignore or overlook while one sticks to familiar groupthink. In this kind of discussion, problems might be noticed and pointed out by someone looking at them from a different angle. We should appreciate valid correction and not feel offended or assume that the correction was meant as an unfriendly attack.

    You gave me a fourth list of differences among churches that claim the Bible as a holy book. (See your comments dated December 28 and January 9 and 22 for your previous lists.) This time, you added, “If you deny this isn’t a wide range of diverse, contradictory opinions, I can’t reach you with logic.” Well, I certainly do not deny that your lists are accurate. Did anything I wrote suggest that I do? I think you may have speculated that I do, only to dodge the issue of comparable differences in the teachings of those who reject the Bible as the word of God and believe in reincarnation. I am no expert on what they teach, so I offer you no list of specific differences. Instead, I am relying on you to consider those differences honestly, since you claim to have read or heard a lot of what they have to say.

    By the same token, I rely on you to develop a creed as enduring and impressive as the Nicene Creed to illustrate what you consider to be comparatively stunning unanimity or consistency of thought among those same writers and teachers with regard to God’s purpose for life, the afterlife, and how God’s plan works.

    Please do not misunderstand my purpose for requesting these comparisons. I am certainly not advancing an argumentum ad populum reason to convert to Christianity. I understand that even the vast majority of people can be wrong about something. You probably do too. Such lists and comparisons can prove nothing about the truth claims of any religion or philosophy. My purpose is just to bring some closure to a side discussion that started with questions I asked you on December 27: “You recommended a number of books, but do any of them compare favorably with the Bible in your opinion, so much so that you prefer to trust what their modern authors teach more than the Bible? What makes you so sure that they have not been fooled?”

    The next day, you responded, “I believe every source I listed in my last post compares favorably with your view of the Bible. I have noticed an amazing consistency between the various sources from NDEs, hypnotherapy, and psychics, as well as after-death communications. I find, however, that the Bible has caused major disagreements for centuries, and Christian denominations can’t even agree on its correct meaning.”

    It is possible, of course, that we have both been fooled, and atheists may feel sure about this, but I hope you will reconsider your answer instead of just repeating it. Is it logical to conclude that your philosophy is more likely than Christianity to be true in view of comparisons between the Bible and the books that have impressed you? We are not talking about logical proofs here, right? Personally, my preference for Christianity is not based on any such comparison, and if even if you could convince me that those comparisons are tilted in favor of your philosophy, I am not sure I would see this as a persuasive or rational reason for switching.

    At this point, I think we both remain convinced that the other side has been fooled while our own side has not. We may already have made some progress, but let’s solidify it and build on it. For example, I have acknowledged that we have little or no reason to question who the authors of your books are, while some, if not all, of the biblical authors are either patently unidentified or have a reasonably debatable claimed identity. So what? If we know for sure who wrote a book, does it follow that whatever is written in the book must be true? Conversely, if the author is unknown or cannot be definitely identified, must we conclude that the writing cannot be trusted to convey truth?

    When we evaluate the Bible in a scholarly manner, I think it is important to take into consideration credibility afforded to other works of similar antiquity.
    https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence
    https://www.josh.org/wp-content/uploads/Bibliographical-Test-Update-08.13.14.pdf
    There are holy books of well-known religions that agree with you about reincarnation, right? I thought a Hindu or Buddhist holy book might cover this doctrine, but these articles evidently do not support the idea.
    https://www.thoughtco.com/reincarnation-in-buddhism-449994
    http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/does-the-rig-veda-mention-reincarnation-or-not-part-1/
    Anyway, if you know that such a holy book exists, how would it compare with the Bible in terms of plentiful ancient manuscripts dated relatively close to the time of writing?

    Besides the number and quality of manuscript witnesses to the original text, consider also the credibility of their content. Can you point me to a website like this one, except that it features stories of lives changed for the good after coming to believe what you believe?
    https://unshackled.org/
    While comparing the Bible with other holy books or your modern books, I really ought to mention prophecy. What do you have that compares favorably?
    https://www.ligonier.org/blog/fulfilled-prophecy-demonstrates-divine-inspiration-scripture/

    You said, “…some of my Christian friends believe you are called before the foundation of the earth, so if you aren’t called then, too bad.” Those friends must have in mind Eph. 1:3-10. I don’t see this as inconsistent with my belief at all. Who is called, and who is not called? I think the biblical answer is given in Rev. 22:17. Eph. 1:4 is not about people “called before the foundation of the earth.” Instead, it says, “… [God] chose us in him before the creation of the world …” There must be a distinction between being called and being chosen. Those of us who are chosen are the ones who are spiritually in Jesus Christ. In him, we have redemption through his blood (Eph. 1:7). This distinction is clarified in the parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1-14), which ends with the teaching that many are called (KJV) or invited (NIV), but relatively “few are chosen.”

    Atheists may like to smear Christianity with claims that God is going to send lots of people to hell through no fault of their own, even though they cannot testify to an actual case of this in the history of the world. They are guessing how God will judge people, but their guesses are nothing more than pessimistic, derogatory speculation. I believe the Christian position is that God is good and utterly holy, righteous, and merciful, the best Judge one could ever hope to have, but hell is real and the real destiny of anyone who shows up at the “wedding banquet” wearing his own “righteousness” (Matt. 22:11-14) instead of the true righteousness freely offered through faith in Jesus Christ.

    You went on to say, “Other Christians believe only members of their true church are saved, so at least acknowledge that I have a valid point about certain lucky people getting chosen for heaven—at least according to certain Christians (though not you).” You would have a valid point, all right, if any of those other Christians are right, but are they? What is the biblical basis for this belief? When do they suppose “their true church” gained its first true member?

    Fortunately, at least in my book, what fallible mortals believe about the final judgment is irrelevant. This is entirely up to God, and it’s a good thing it works this way. We have plenty of warnings about hell in the Word of God that ought to be taken seriously, all right, but it is not up to us to presume to know how God will judge in any specific case. We certainly should not reject Christianity because of horrific guesses made by people who really do not know what they are talking about.

    I agree that it is “not at all illogical or whacky to ask if any of these people [(infants, children, and other who’ve never heard about Jesus)] don’t believe in Jesus & get saved, won’t be condemned,” so I accept it as “an obvious and fair question,” all right. Let’s consider together what a reasonable answer to this question ought to be from a Christian perspective, one not biased toward atheism.

    Part of your question seems to me to have a fairly obvious answer. Anyone who does not “get saved” remains lost and will necessarily be condemned (John 3:18-19)—no exceptions. The rest of the question is not so easy to answer. We can be reasonably certain that some people never hear the gospel in this life, but can we be just as certain that God sends them straight to hell, when they die, without ever having had any opportunity to see any of the light mentioned in John 3:19?

    Atheists may speculate and answer, “Yes, we can be, and this proves that God is a monster,” but what is the biblical response? You studied theology. What answer do you have? My answer is that God is good and just, and when we finally know for sure how God handles cases like these, we will be satisfied that he did the right thing. This position may remind you of Bahnsen’s fourth premise. I believe it is entirely consistent with biblical teaching. Can you prove me wrong?

    Your philosophy does cover this question, all right, since it includes the idea that no one needs to be saved, but this does not reassure me that people who believe this have not been fooled. I understand that the other side of this coin is that my case for the goodness of God will not necessarily reassure everyone that I have not been fooled. I think it comes down to a personal decision about what seems reasonable. From my perspective, it is rather “illogical or whacky” to presume to sit in judgment on God with regard to his treatment of people in the category of interest, while having absolutely no definite knowledge of the truth of the charges.

    On the rich man described in Luke 16, yes, he must have had complaints, all right (16:24), but if he thought he had been sent unjustly to the wrong side of the gulf or chasm, it is not mentioned in our text. This was my point, not that he was roasting in hell without any complaint at all. The story we have is certainly not an exhaustive account of his time in court or what the man was thinking, so the lack of mention proves nothing about what he thought. By the same token, we have no proof that he was sent there unjustly either.

    Your second point (“Moses and the prophets didn’t tell anyone how to avoid hell”) is more interesting. The text in Luke suggests to me that your statement must be wrong, even though it superficially seems to be correct. How did Abraham get to be on the cooler side, even though the Old Testament has no clear warning about even the need to avoid the flaming side of that great gulf, let alone how to do this? The answer to this may be a great mystery, but do we really need to know in our day? 1Peter 3:18-20 may suggest a possible answer for anyone who is curious.

    I am going to have to close this comment now, but I wanted to mention that I did spend some time visiting the website you linked with the teachings of Robert Schwartz.

    Best regards.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs): Tom Godfrey (response to your 2/4/19 reply), just think how lucky you are. You’ve probably never met anyone espousing the reincarnation doctrine from my point of view (I don’t believe or study the Buddhist or Hindu version), though a lot of people have a superficial belief in reincarnation based on a few of my sources. Now you can tell your Christian friends that you found a real friend who just happens to believe in reincarnation. That should definitely increase your status. And to top it off, I understand Christian theology. I didn’t go onto Perry Marshall’s site to convert anybody or even to argue against Christianity. My purpose was just to present my philosophy as an alternate worldview to Marshall and show people it makes some sense and has some logic behind it. Actually Marshall’s book “Evolution 2.0” fits my philosophy perfectly. I had even come to his conclusion several years ago that God uses evolution but he must have been the original Designer and he must have intervened in the process later as the Designer & Creator to push the process along millions of years ago.

      You state that I gave you “a fourth list of differences among churches that claim the Bible as a holy book. (See your comments dated December 28 and January 9 and 22 for your previous lists.) Well, I certainly do not deny that your lists are accurate. Did anything I wrote suggest that I do?” Tom, in your previous post you indicated there was “an amazing consistency and overlap among Bible-believing Christians regarding God’s purpose for life, the afterlife, and how God’s plan works.” I included my list of Christian disagreements again because I don’t believe there is an amazing overlap of agreement among Christians, but I believe there are major disagreements on major doctrines.

      Tom, you wrote: “You recommended a number of books, but do any of them compare favorably with the Bible in your opinion, so much so that you prefer to trust what their modern authors teach more than the Bible?” Here’s how I evaluate it. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very reliable and a 1 as very unreliable, I rate the Bible’s inspiration & accuracy as a “1” because I don’t trust the canonization of the manuscripts, I believe the 2,000-year old manuscripts were heavily edited, I don’t believe they are accurate, and I don’t believe the immature, anger-filled, jealous God of the OT represents the true God. I’d rate my sources as maybe 8 or 9. I obviously can’t prove each medical doctor described a person’s NDE, for instance, totally accurately, nor can I prove the recipient of the NDE, for instance, told the doctor all the facts in perfect order and accuracy. But here’s the difference. I am not relying on one doctor reporting one NDE or the writings of one psychic reporting one channeling of one dead person. I note remarkable consistency between all the various independent books, articles, and YouTube interviews on the subject of reincarnation, the nature of God, and the afterlife. Christians rely on two Bibles (Protestant & Catholic) as their main source. I rely on many diverse sources, all pretty much independent from each other.

      “What makes you so sure that they have not been fooled?” I have read my sources for over 35 years, looking for discrepancies and comparing sources to each other. I was an editor and later an auditor for almost 50 years, so I am used to examining documents for logic and error. Second, as I just said, I have many sources that are independent from each other, my sources are not from one organization or one “ism,” and the sources all seem to complement each other and are consistent among each other. The books on NDEs are consistent with what the psychics say and both are consistent with the results of hypnotherapy. It’s unlikely that I have all the minor details down correctly because I can’t interview God and the beings in the spirit world, but I feel I have an accurate general understanding of God’s plan and the afterlife.

      You ask: “If we know for sure who wrote a book, does it follow that whatever is written in the book must be true?” No, of course not. “Conversely, if the author is unknown or cannot be definitely identified, must we conclude that the writing cannot be trusted to convey truth?” No, it may be trustworthy, but I am not contesting just the author but the authenticity of the whole text of the Bible, especially the NT text. It is not transparent who decided which manuscripts to include in the Bible and whether the manuscripts reflected the views of the apostles 200 to 300 years earlier. It is also unprovable whether God inspired what men assembled into the NT, but based on the major flaws I see in scripture coupled with the OT God’s immoral character, I don’t believe the Bible can be inspired.

      As I have said, I don’t read any religion’s holy books on reincarnation. I would have zero trust in ancient Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim holy books for the same reason as the Bible. They can’t be authenticated and there is no proof they are holy or inspired. My sources do not come from any organized religion or group but from many independent, current sources.

      You wondered if I can point to a website that features stories of lives changed for the good after coming to believe what I believe. I base most of my philosophy on the books I have read & studied. Almost every single book describing other people’s NDEs I’ve read has dozens or hundreds of stories of people who went through NDEs and had major changes in their lives. Some changes were more dramatic than others. Yesterday I started reading “Dying to Wake Up: A Doctor’s Voyage into the Afterlife and the Wisdom He Brought Back” by Rajiv Parti, M.D. Dr. Parti was a wealthy world-renowned cardiac anesthesiologist from India and was chief of anesthesiology at Bakersfield Heart Hospital for more than a decade. Before his NDE, he said his sole goal in life was to accumulate wealth, and he was very successful at it. After his NDE he gave away his mansion, quit his career, opened a wellness clinic, and completely turned around his relationship with his family, which was terrible. I haven’t toured the websites of all the psychics, NDE writers, etc. to see how many stories of changed lives are featured, but I’d assume some are there.

      Psychic James Van Praagh’s books have hundreds of stories of lives he’s helped through his mediumship. Some are tear-jerking, heart-rending stories. Once a dead friend of a client came through in a reading and urged him [the client] to kick his drug problem lest he die. James helped the client face reality, and the client turned his life around. Other readings by James helped parents or spouses deal with the grief caused by their loved one’s death. I love reading these books because there are so many inspiring messages that turn people’s lives around.

      Concerning prophecy, the biblical record is spotty. Hypnotherapist Michael Newton refused to do future life regression because he declared our free will makes the future impossible to know with any real certainty. I know of 2 psychics who published articles or books about the future. I disagree with their decision. I try to live in the present and am not going to go check out every prophetic utterance, especially since I believe firmly we all have free will in all our actions. I believe that is the reason prophecies have failed.

      In my last response I said some of my Christian friends believe you are “called” before the foundation of the earth, so if you aren’t called then, too bad. I misquoted them and should have used the term “chosen” from Eph. 1:3-10. I agree with you about that. Concerning hell, like you I believe “God is good and utterly holy, righteous, and merciful, the best judge one could ever hope to have,” but I don’t believe he has a hell nor do I believe he would send any soul there. Will every soul throughout eternity end up agreeing with God and his ways? I have no way to know.

      In my last response I wrote: “Other Christians believe only members of their true church are saved, so at least acknowledge that I have a valid point about certain lucky people getting chosen for heaven—at least according to certain Christians (though not you).” You claimed I “would have a valid point, all right, if any of those other Christians are right, but are they?” Wait, Tom, those are 2 separate issues. First, I do have a valid point. Second, are the other Christians right about being a true church? My answer is they are wrong. There is no true church.

      I agree with you that the Bible supports hell and has plenty of warnings about it. My sources, however, portray a God of unconditional love who doesn’t have or need a hell. Instead, upon return to heaven, we review our own life and with the help of our spirit guides, we decide what our failings are and develop a plan to begin to overcome them. The spirit world is one of encouragement, compassion and help, not one of condemnation and vengeance. You can fail in life after life on certain traits and still have all the time you wish to improve.

      You write that “Anyone who does not ‘get saved’ remains lost and will necessarily be condemned (John 3:18-19)—no exceptions. The rest of the question is not so easy to answer. We can be reasonably certain that some people never hear the gospel in this life, but can we be just as certain that God sends them straight to hell, when they die, without ever having had any opportunity to see any of the light mentioned in John 3:19?” Tom, some of my Christian friends say the answer is “yes” and others hedge their answers. My answer based on my reincarnation philosophy is this situation never comes up because there is no final judgment, lake of fire, or hell.

      You commented before: “Your philosophy does cover this question, all right, since it includes the idea that no one needs to be saved, but this does not reassure me that people who believe this have not been fooled.” There is no way I can prove I haven’t been fooled until I either end up dead or in the afterlife. You add: “I understand that the other side of this coin is that my case for the goodness of God will not necessarily reassure everyone that I have not been fooled. I think it comes down to a personal decision about what seems reasonable.” We can agree on that. I am totally sincere in my beliefs, and I think you definitely are totally sincere too. We both come from different backgrounds and experiences, so it is inevitable what will seem reasonable and logical to one might not seem that way to the other. From my point of view, whether you agree with me or not and whether you are Christian or not, you will one day be in heaven in good standing with God along with me.

      You wrote: “On the rich man described in Luke 16, yes, he must have had complaints, all right (16:24), but if he thought he had been sent unjustly to the wrong side of the gulf or chasm, it is not mentioned in our text. This was my point, not that he was roasting in hell without any complaint at all. The story we have is certainly not an exhaustive account of his time in court or what the man was thinking, so the lack of mention proves nothing about what he thought. By the same token, we have no proof that he was sent there unjustly either.” I also believe we have no proof he was sent to hell at all. In my reincarnation philosophy, a soul may be a greedy rich man in one life, but to learn the other side of the coin, he may choose to live in poverty in India in his or her next life. The soul may be a strong, charismatic woman in one life and a pitiful, sickly man in the next life to gain experience in both areas, so there is no need for a hell. Instead you have the law of karma. If you wrong someone in one life, you will experience an equivalent wrong in this or a next life and learn wisdom from the experience. So why would you need a hell? God is merciful and wants us to grow and change, not get consumed by fire. We are all God’s children, and he loves us all.

      You stated: “Your second point (‘Moses and the prophets didn’t tell anyone how to avoid hell’) is more interesting. The text in Luke suggests to me that your statement must be wrong, even though it superficially seems to be correct.” All I can say, Tom, is I don’t remember anywhere in the OT where Moses and the prophets gave Israelites a formula for avoiding hell. Yes, there was the Mosaic law with its over 600 do’s and don’ts and the Big 10, but where did Moses or Isaiah, for instance, say you go to hell if you don’t tithe, or if you break the land Sabbath, or if you don’t circumcise your son, or if you commit adultery? I know of no such advice. Besides, what kind of cruel God would drop a poor, ignorant, uneducated Israelite into an ever-burning fire for torment? Maybe a serial killer would or a sadist or a Nazi, but not a God of love.

      I’m glad to hear you spent some time visiting the Robert Schwartz website with his research on pre-birth planning. In the book I recently read titled “Your Soul’s Plan,” he discusses why individual souls during pre-birth planning in the spirit world chose a life of physical illness, being handicapped, being blind & gay all at once, being deaf, drug addiction, alcoholism, death of a loved one, or a horrible accident. Each chapter covers a different individual and explains why that person made that free-will choice before reincarnating, how the choice affected family members and friends, and what the individuals all hoped to learn from each case. This book is one of several what offer a remarkable insight into how lives are -preplanned and why. It’s been a good learning experience for me trying to present my philosophy in a clear, logical, understandable way. I hope my ideas are more fun and exciting to read than your jousts with atheists on this website.

      Peace to You,
      Jim

  6. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Please excuse this comment out of turn. I expect to be rather busy in the next week or two, so while the Robert Schwartz material is still fresh on my mind, I wanted to write down my comments on it and make them ready for your reply as time allows.

    I watched the YouTube video interview with Rob Olson (length: 57:53) on the book, Your Soul’s Gift to You. It was a bit frustrating for me, because Schwartz positioned himself as an authority whose word should not be doubted. As you might imagine, I am not ready to award him this much reverence, but in this interview, Olson obviously accepted the role without a problem. This may explain why he asked Schwartz questions appropriate for trusting disciples rather than questions that I would have asked as a skeptic.

    I even briefly investigated the interviewer (https://www.afterlifetv.com/about/) and saw that Olson was once skeptical too, earlier in his career. He has reached a point now where he is not just a believer but actually claims to know that his conclusions are correct. I am in no position to prove scientifically that he has been fooled, but I have a working hypothesis that he has been fooled by real spiritual beings who are enemies of God. These beings could be intimately familiar with many people who have lived in the past or are still alive today.

    If the Bible is truly the Word of God, who wants everyone to be saved (2Peter 3:9), and we should turn in faith to Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 4:8-12), then somehow convincing people that none of this is true does seem to be something that enemies of God would make a priority. To hide their true nature and agenda, I think they would need to appear to be angels of light and righteousness (2Cor. 2-6,13-15).

    Instead of analyzing that YouTube interview with Schwartz, I would rather raise questions that came to mind as I read a March 1, 2018, interview for Conscious Life Journal.
    https://www.yoursoulsplan.com/index.php/about-robert/an-interview-with-robert

    Schwartz is considered an expert on “pre-birth planning of many common life challenges,” and this doctrine is a key aspect of your own theodicy. Did you originally receive it from Schwartz? If not from him, from whom? Is this a relatively modern doctrine, or is it also taught in one of the ancient holy books? Please be specific.

    Schwartz explained that he “started to think outside the box” of biblical guidance (Lev. 19:31) and decided that it would be okay to follow an example set long ago by King Saul (1Sam. 28). What assurance do you have that the “spirit guides” or “highly evolved nonphysical beings” he consulted were on the good side, with God, the Creator of the universe? The oldest trick in the book is to question the Word of God (Gen. 3:1). We should not keep falling for it, but I suppose that many still do. This may be a case in point. I think it makes more sense to question the word of those who contradict what God has said (Rom 3:4; 1John 4:1).

    King Saul turned to a medium after complaining that God was not answering his inquiries about his military prospects (1Sam. 28:4-7, 15). God had already told him through Samuel, while they were both alive, all that he really needed to know about this (1Sam. 13:13-14). The king’s plan to find out what he should do with regard to the Philistine threat through further disobedience to God did not result in an answer to his question, unless the story we have leaves it out. All he got was a clear, expanded repetition of what Samuel had already told him earlier (1Sam. 18:16-19). The king certainly did not feel healed because of assurance that he had planned his troubles before he was born.

    Schwartz says that we “plan our lives” with “highly evolved nonphysical beings … before we come into body” and “then [they] guide us through our lives after we’re here.” What do you suppose he means by “highly evolved”? Evolution implies a process. Is there any process that does not have a beginning? When did this process begin for those guides? Were they humans facing many reincarnations? When their “evolution” began, were they just as clueless as a newly-created human being, one that you suppose is about to be incarnated for the very first time? Did God serve as a spirit guide before anyone else had an opportunity to evolve highly enough to serve in this capacity? If you have answers to these questions, how do you know they are correct?

    Schwartz said that the experience of seeing “the deeper purpose of [his] greatest challenges” was “very healing” (unlike what King Saul experienced, according to the biblical account). From what illness or injury do you suppose he was healed?

    Schwartz gave five interesting but mysterious answers to a question about why we plan life challenges.

    The first reason (“to release and balance karma”) is hard for me to understand in spite of the explanation given, because the meaning of karma is far from clear (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma#Definition_and_meanings). It seems to me that the number of reincarnations allegedly experienced ought to reflect how effective it is to plan life challenges—the more reincarnations, the less effective.

    The second, third, and fifth reasons (“healing,” “service to others,” and “healing or correcting false beliefs or false feelings”) are mysterious for a different reason. Schwartz tells us, “The nonphysical realm that we come from is the realm of great [unconditional] love and light and peace and joy,” so why, in this wonderful realm, would there be any illness or injury that needs to be healed? What “service” could others possibly need in such a realm? What false beliefs or feelings could possibly exist in such a heavenly realm, where a soul supposedly “knows itself to be infinitely worthy and infinitely powerful”?

    Schwartz evidently teaches that those false beliefs or feelings are picked up only during an incarnation, so shouldn’t this be a good reason to choose to stay at home in the safe and glorious realm? He thinks, “… what’s happening on the Earth plane is that people are having their hearts broken open in order to become more loving beings, to remember their true nature.” Does it not follow that people should stay home, according to this philosophy, where there is no need to become more loving and their true nature is lived out eternally and therefore never forgotten?

    The fourth reason (“contrast”) makes no sense to me. If a person has always been perfectly happy and healthy, would it make sense to want to be unhappy or seriously ill, always looking forward to (yet another?) death, just to experience contrast and better appreciate an original state, one that a person on earth may not even imagine could be real? Would you eat disgusting food just to help you understand how delicious food can be by contrast? Does any of this make sense to you?

    By the way, the idea that we are actually “infinitely worthy and infinitely powerful” makes it hard for me to see a difference from God, so I am reminded of a primordial temptation to be “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Who gave Schwartz this idea?

    When the interviewer asks about things that are specifically set during pre-birth planning, Schwartz assures us that our parents and possibly a congenital illness or handicap are indeed set, but he continues, “Most of the planning is flexible. It’s not just the case that there’s a Plan A. There’s also a Plan B, C, D, E, F, G, and on and on.” If true, this would be amazing. Does Schwartz even realize how complicated such “planning” would have to be? Is this really more like winging it than actual planning?

    If something goes wrong because someone else chooses not to cooperate, can’t there be an unplanned life challenge that we suffer through no fault of our own, in spite of careful pre-birth planning? In any case, I think your theodicy ultimately fails to shift all of the responsibility for evil in the world to humans and their own plans, because it is God who set up and endorsed this arrangement in the first place, right?

    Our life is not lived in isolation. Not to mention weather and other events beyond human control, our experiences depend crucially on the actions and decisions of many other people whose life span may overlap ours, while their experiences also depend on others the same way, with chains of life span overlaps stretching all of the way back to Creation.

    I am reminded of my great-grandmother who was born in Ireland. Before her family came to the New World, her parents considered letting a childless couple adopt her. I have wondered what the world would be like if she had stayed behind in Ireland. I suppose my grandfather might never have been born, or if he had, he would have had radically different ancestry—not really the same person at all. My mother, ditto. Her children, ditto. Our children and grandchildren, ditto. And so on. Real flexibility is complicated for sure.

    None of this complexity could be a problem for God, who is omniscient, but how could any lesser being possibly have a total grasp of it? Schwartz said, “Spirit shows [a medium] something that looks like an incredibly vast and elaborate flowchart, a series of decision points. If you do A, then X happens. If you do B, then Y happens. The flowchart is so enormous it’s beyond human comprehension, but it’s not beyond the soul’s comprehension.” I suspect someone is being fooled. Is our soul really like God in its ability to manage this level of complexity?

    I have heard that there are basically two kinds of religion, one that calls for works to be saved or to enjoy future bliss, and biblical Christianity, where we are saved not by our own works of righteousness but rather by a righteousness that is freely offered to us who believe (Rom. 3:21-26; Titus 3:5). Do or done? Your philosophy may be like those religions in the former category, at least for someone “courageous” enough to be incarnated, but I suppose it could be in a third category where no one really needs to be saved, and everyone has an attractive option to avoid the “vale of tears” entirely.

    Okay, I realize that I have covered a lot of territory here, and it would be unreasonable to expect you to answer every question in detail, but I hope that they give you at least some appreciation for my skepticism. I hope you are willing to reconsider your philosophy from a more critical or skeptical perspective.

    Best regards.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs): Tom Godfrey (response to your 2/9/19 reply), I’m glad you went to Robert Schwartz’s website and heard one or two of his interviews. He’s an excellent and articulate speaker, a good writer, and knows his material. I’m sorry you were frustrated with his interview because you thought “he positioned himself as an authority,” but he actually is an authority on pre-birth planning and has written a 300-page book (“Your Soul’s Plan”) and a 500-page book (“Your Soul’s Gift”) on the subject after many years of research. He has also conducted many life-between-life regressions where he discovers a client’s pre-birth plan.

      Tom, I can sense that no matter which single expert or authority on reincarnation you read or listen to, you will be unconvinced concerning the credibility of my philosophy. Christian churches have the same problem with unconverted individuals believing Christianity. Let’s suppose an agnostic walked into your church by accident, set down, and viewed a communion service. He’d no doubt say it was boring (it is), he wouldn’t accept your pastor as an authority, and he’d have a thousand excuses as to why the short sermon was unconvincing and irrelevant to him. You, as a long-time Christian, understand communion, the Lord’s Supper, reconciliation, justification, grace, Jesus’ resurrection, etc., but the poor agnostic thinks this is just foolishness and doesn’t relate to his life. You’d try to help the agnostic by urging him to start attending church every Sunday, attending Bible Study, reading the Bible, and praying daily. And maybe, just maybe, after a few months of this he’d begin to find some sense in your religion.

      The same is true when you first read or hear about my philosophy. You go to one website and hear one discussion without a background in the subject, and you are still skeptical—of course. Before I became convinced about my reincarnation philosophy, I read and studied several dozen books on NDEs, reincarnation, after death communication, and psychic communication with the spirit world. I began to see remarkable consistency on key ideas between the different books from different authors. You, on the other hand, listened to Schwartz one time as a fervent believer in Christianity and therefore you had a lot of skepticism from the start. Starting with this background, I’d be surprised if you found much of anything about Schwartz you liked based on the fact that you don’t have a background in my reincarnation philosophy. When I started reading about NDEs and reincarnation, I had already found many issues, inconsistencies, and contradictions with Christianity, so I was open to considering another philosophy and new ideas, and I did a lot of reading of different sources in this area.

      You wrote that you thought Olson, who interviewed Schwartz, has been fooled by real spiritual beings who are enemies of God [I assume you mean Satan & his demons]. You wrote that these beings could be intimately familiar with many people who have lived in the past or are still alive today. This theory is a far-fetched, illogical, and unsupported idea from my perspective, but, yes, you can claim Satan and his demons fooled Olson, and I can claim Satan and demons are just myth. My saying so or you saying the opposite doesn’t prove anything at all. The same mythical Satan could just as well deceive Christians as he could people of other beliefs.

      Tom, if I had to objectively determine if this mythical Satan had deceived Christians, I’d say he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams because Christians are hopelessly divided on who gets saved, which church is the true one, the correct sabbath day, tithing, divorce & remarriage, healing, church authority, speaking in tongues, prophecy, the trinity, ad nauseam. I’d be much more worried that Satan had deceived 2 billion Christians worldwide than he had fooled a few like me who believe in reincarnation.

      You asked if I received the pre-birth planning idea from Robert Schwartz. I had many sources. Szhwartz has 2 excellent books on the subject. Dr. Michael Newton, psychic medium James Van Praagh, medium Sylvia Browne, and many individuals who went through NDEs discuss this idea in detail. You ask: “Is this a relatively modern doctrine, or is it also taught in one of the ancient holy books? Please be specific.” I don’t consider it a doctrine but rather what really happens before a soul incarnates again. I don’t read ancient holy books, and from what little I’ve read about Hinduism and Buddhism, the incarnating soul according to them goes back into a new body within a short period after death such as in a few days, so I’d assume there is no lengthy examination of one’s previous life in the spirit world and no lengthy pre-birth planning based on free will in these 2 major religions.

      Actually, pre-birth planning makes total sense in my philosophy. One has to see the big picture: A soul is trying to expand its consciousness, cultivate and learn to express godly virtues, and grow in wisdom. That’s why souls reincarnate. When a soul returns from earth or another planet after a life of training, it examines its previous life in a life review and it discusses its previous life with its spirit guides and members of its soul group. Why? To determine if the soul was successful and met its goals of advancement. It is totally logical that if you are trying to grow and evolve spiritually in each incarnation, you would have a plan. How would you measure progress without a plan? Why else would you review your previous lives and incarnate if it were just a waste of time? Successful businesses always have a plan. Someone who designs or creates starts with a plan. If God’s plan is to build up a soul’s wisdom and spirituality by experience over many lives—my premise—it makes total sense that a planner and designer like God would have a training program tailor made for each soul and help souls plan each life for maximum benefit.

      You wrote that Schwartz explained that he “started to think outside the box” of biblical guidance (Lev. 19:31) and decided that it would be okay to follow an example set long ago by King Saul (1 Sam. 28). What assurance do you have that the “spirit guides” or “highly evolved nonphysical beings” he consulted were on the good side, with God…? Tom, I have to evaluate the product—the results. What messages and guidance are the spirit guides giving? Is their guidance logical? Is it loving? Is it making lives better and helping people learn to forgive and grow spiritually? In that context I concluded that the advice and the guidance reported to be from one’s spirit guides are invaluable and full of wisdom.

      You claim “The oldest trick in the book is to question the Word of God (Gen. 3:1). We should not keep falling for it, but I suppose that many still do.” When I question the Bible’s authenticity and inspiration, it is not a trick or magic at all. I rely on knowledge, facts, and logic. When I read about an OT god that has an anger management problem and horrible parenting skills; who murders his children in floods; and who curses the ground for Adam and multiplies a woman’s pain in child birth because Adam & Eve ate a piece of fruit, I think it is totally logical to ask if this is a loving God or not. If not, then I think it is reasonable to assume the Bible was definitely not inspired by a loving God.

      Schwartz says that we “plan our lives” with “highly evolved nonphysical beings … before we come into body” and then they guide us through our lives after we’re here. You asked: What do you suppose he means by “highly evolved”? You remark that “Evolution implies a process. Is there any process that does not have a beginning?” Highly evolved beings are spirit beings who have grown in wisdom and spirituality much more than most of the spirit beings in heaven. Perhaps they started reincarnating earlier and/or they advanced more rapidly than other souls. They evolved upward through a combination of reincarnating and learning in the spirit world. I’m unaware of a process without a beginning or a code without a designer.

      When did this process begin for those guides? There are numerous planets in the universe for souls to reincarnate on. As far as I have read, all souls created by God started out like our young children. They have to learn everything. I have found nothing written about when these first souls were first created. Were there souls created 8 billion years ago, 1 billion, 1 million, 350,000 years ago? Who knows? I believe one source said souls started reincarnating on earth 50,000 to 200,000 years ago. I can’t verify when ensoulment occurred, but some authors have said the human soul is what differentiates humans from all the other apes and mammals. You said “Schwartz said that the experience of seeing ‘the deeper purpose of [his] greatest challenges’ was ‘very healing.’ From what illness or injury do you suppose he was healed?” I viewed Olsen’s interview of Robert Schwartz on YouTube, and Schwartz said he’d been abused as a child. Understanding why it happened helped him understand it and forgive his parents. The Robert Schwartz interview link is: http://www.yoursoulsplan.com.

      You said Schwartz offered 5 answers as to why we plan life challenges. One was to release & balance karma. You seemed confused by this and concluded “the more reincarnations, the less effective.” That is an incorrect conclusion. First of all, assuming God is in charge, he wouldn’t be running an ineffective process for helping his subjects achieve spiritual growth. To assume he is doing this is, in my opinion, totally misguided. I believe what you sow is what you reap or what goes around comes around. If you wrong a person (e.g., you ruin his reputation), you will reap a similar treatment to balance out your knowledge, whether in this life or another life. Actually, in the spirit world, the more incarnations one has, the closer that soul is to ending the reincarnation cycle because that soul has grown in sufficient spiritual knowledge and wisdom.

      Schwartz tells us, “The nonphysical realm that we come from is the realm of great unconditional love, light, peace, and joy.” You ask: “Why, in this wonderful realm, would there be any illness or injury that needs to be healed?” From what I read, no soul is physically sick since souls are spirit, but a soul that has abused drugs on earth or seared its conscience by torturing and killing others is mentally ill and its character has been compromised and damaged. Souls are far from perfect. Take a Christian person who takes drugs, abuses women, ruins people’s careers, but who, at the last minute, accepts Jesus, is “saved” and ends up in heaven. That soul’s character is still full of jealousy, envy, lust, greed, uncontrolled anger, hatred, etc. That soul won’t be condemned but will have plenty of character flaws to work on in its next incarnation. Souls also learn in the heavenly realm. They don’t just sit around worshipping God and singing hymns for all eternity.

      You think, after hearing the Schwartz interview, that Schwartz thinks what’s happening on the Earth plane is that people are having their hearts opened in order to become more loving beings, to remember their true nature. You ask: “Does it not follow that people should stay home, according to this philosophy, where there is no need to become more loving and their true nature is lived out eternally and therefore never forgotten?” As I have written several times in my responses, a soul doesn’t have to incarnate, and a soul can choose an easier planet to incarnate on than the earth. But, as I keep saying, the soul has free will. It makes the choice to incarnate because it likes the challenge and it wants the growth that comes with it.

      Let me give an earthly example. You have a strong body and can be very athletic, but there’s a risk. You love football as do all your close friends, but playing football can give you concussions, shorten your lifespan, cause permanent paralysis, death, not to mention broken legs, ruined knees, knocked out teeth, etc. On the other hand, football is fun and exciting to many males. You make friends playing football, you learn leadership skills and teamwork, you develop your muscles, you learn to develop strategies, you may win a scholarship to a college, and you may impress the girls you are interested in. In spite of the well-known risks, men go out for football rather than sit around and avoid the risk and challenge. Based on this analogy, it’s easy for me to understand why souls don’t just sit around in heaven. Why would a talented immortal soul want to do nothing, accomplish nothing, accept no challenges, take no risks, learn nothing, and stop progressing in heaven? The answer is: a soul doesn’t think that way.

      You ask: “If a person has always been perfectly happy and healthy, would it make sense to want to be unhappy or seriously ill, always looking forward to (yet another?) death, just to experience contrast and better appreciate an original state…?” Tom, when you understand the whole plan of reincarnation in context, it makes perfect sense, but you lack an understanding of the majority of the details, so you don’t see the logic. Whole chapters in books are written on this theme. It’s hard to answer you in a sentence or two without you asking 50 more questions. First of all, persons on earth don’t want to be unhappy or seriously ill, but apparently their souls in the spirit world do prize that as a learning opportunity, and they choose that method of learning through their free will. Just because you and I don’t intend to climb Mt. Everest next year because we don’t want to kill ourselves doesn’t mean there aren’t other men who won’t choose to take up the challenge—and die trying. In heaven love and compassion are givens. You can’t really understand all aspects of love and compassion without experiencing the opposite of love and compassion, and you can’t fully appreciate it either. A soul may think war can be a good alternative to love or it may think slander can be a better alternative. A soul gets to try out these theories and see the karmic result on earth. Experience is a great teacher.

      You stated that Schwartz assures us that our parents and possibly a congenital illness or handicap are indeed set, but he continues, “Most of the planning is flexible. It’s not just the case that there’s a Plan A. There’s also a Plan B, C, D, E, F, G, and on and on. If true, this would be amazing.” Tom, the spirit world is amazing. A soul on earth may have a Plan A, but part of a soul’s training is involves learning resourcefulness. If Plan A can’t be carried out, the soul’s task is to make adjustments while still practicing love and being ethical. Even football teams have a main plan and many contingency plans. If plan A doesn’t work in the Super Bowl, for instance, the teams have alternative plans they hope will work. Apparently the LA Ram’s offensive plans all failed, and they lost to New England this year.

      If something goes wrong because someone else chooses not to cooperate, can’t there be an unplanned life challenge that we suffer through no fault of our own, in spite of careful pre-birth planning? Of course, there can be an unplanned life challenge. That’s part of the challenge you face on earth. That’s where the soul learns courage, resourcefulness, teamwork, empathy, and other character traits. No pre-birth plan will work perfectly because humans have and do use free will. That’s why you can’t reliably predict the future in many cases.

      You conclude: “In any case, I think your theodicy ultimately fails to shift all of the responsibility for evil in the world to humans and their own plans, because it is God who set up and endorsed this arrangement in the first place, right?” That’s an odd question, Tom. God in his wisdom authorized reincarnation and set up training grounds all over the universe for souls to practice learning and using their free will. He knows when humans exercise free will, they will create wars and disharmony as they learn, but he also knows that as they learn, they will improve and grow spiritually to where they will understand and use all aspects of love. The emphasis in metaphysical books I read is not about who is responsible for evil or who gets what percentage of the blame. The emphasis is on developing love and spiritual growth and learning to become more like our Creator.

      You quoted Schwartz as saying, “Spirit shows [a medium] something that looks like an incredibly vast and elaborate flowchart, a series of decision points. If you do A, then X happens. If you do B, then Y happens. The flowchart is so enormous it’s beyond human comprehension, but it’s not beyond the soul’s comprehension.” Then you declare: “I suspect someone is being fooled. Is our soul really like God in its ability to manage this level of complexity?” You have to remember, souls are spirits, and they have far greater mind power and ability in their soul minds than a human does on earth. However, no soul even comes close to the Source in wisdom and experience. Discussions of cause and effect are common in the spirit world. Souls learn through experience that if you do A, then X happens. This is simply paraphrasing the Bible when it says what you sow is what you reap. If you sow weed seeds, you get weeds, not wheat or barley. [The only exception is if you sow M&Ms in the ground, you don’t reap new chocolate M&Ms on a tree. Too bad!] If you abuse people, they hate you and will do their best to abuse you.

      Tom, you say there are basically two kinds of religions: (1) one that calls for works to be saved or to enjoy future bliss, and (2) biblical Christianity, where we are saved not by our own works of righteousness but rather by a righteousness that is freely offered to us who believe. My philosophy fits neither of these choices and does not involve salvation at all. My philosophy involves works to evolve and grow spiritually since your soul is already immortal and doesn’t need salvation. Christianity offers a get-out-of-jail-free pass to its adherents (i.e., just “believe” on Jesus to be saved), but it doesn’t mandate you grow spiritually and exhibit certain spiritual characteristics to be saved or to enter the spirit world. When you think about that critically, it is really odd that God would allow that approach. Could you play for the LA Rams if you just walked on the field and said, “I’m here. I’m a Ram fan and I believe in the Rams. Pay me $10 million. I want to play”—if you had never played football and had no muscular development and couldn’t even run? Of course not. Could you walk into a famous law office and demand employment as a lawyer when you had flunked out of high school and had never taken a law class? No, of course not. Yet Christians have somehow come to the wrong conclusion that they don’t need to grow spiritually and reach a much higher level of wisdom and cultivate godly virtues once they supposedly get saved. They seem to think their only goal in eternity is to be saved, arrive in haven, and just sit around in heaven and take no risks and stop learning. They will be in for a grand—but wonderful–surprise! Tom, I noticed you sent me another response on Feb. 19 before I could post this response. I’ll respond soon.

      Best regards to you, Jim

  7. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Thanks for your reply dated February 8 at 12:53 am, which I did not see until after I had posted my comments on the Robert Schwartz website the next day. My purpose is not to argue either, not even for the fun and excitement that arguments may afford to some. It is to share my ideas about topics of mutual interest here, to see how well they withstand criticism from people with a different perspective, and to see how well their contrary ideas withstand criticism offered from my own perspective. It could be a beneficial experience for all involved.

    In particular, I appreciate the opportunity to learn your ideas about reincarnation, plus your reasons for rejecting any form of Christianity, even one that evidently once appealed to you, perhaps because of your upbringing. The probing questions I have been asking you should suggest that I am genuinely interested. Some people who disagree with you may simply call you names or attack your character, but I reject such an ugly, fallacious approach.

    Have you already had discussions with others who have exactly the same questions for you that I have? Nothing new here? I am impressed by your patience and thoroughness, and I am delighted to read that you are “trying to present [your] philosophy in a clear, logical understandable way.” You do not seem to be put off by my brand of skepticism. If you are on the right track, it should be a piece of cake for you to find me logical or at least reasonable answers. We could both be wrong to some degree.

    You explained that you did not start posting here “to convert anybody or even to argue against Christianity,” but in your first post, addressed to Perry, you did deny basic Christian tenets by saying, “There is no devil, no hell, no resurrection, no rapture, no cruel God casting unrepentant victims who reject him into a lake of fire, and there is no final judgment before some new heavens and new earth arrive,” adding that your philosophy “makes much better sense than the Christian religion, which limits the saved to only its members and which can’t really explain why a God would allow such cruelty on Earth.” Consequently, our friendly discussion has covered your anti-Christian ideas too, not just positive claims about your philosophy.

    We have found some common ground. We both believe in God, whom you called in your December 28, 2018, comment, “the Source of All That Is (the Creator God) … an entity of unconditional love.” Can there be a Creator God without a creation? If not, can there be a creation without a beginning? If not, how do you know about this creation? What do your trusted sources say about God and his creation? When do they say the world was created? What was it like when the creation was finished, if it was finished, or, if not, when the world began its existence?

    More importantly, what do your sources have to say about Jesus Christ? If they acknowledge his existence in real history, what do they teach about his relationship to God and his mission on earth? I understand that you reject the Bible as a source of reliable information, so if you know anything about Jesus Christ at all, what sources do you trust for information about him?

    I also read Perry’s book, but it certainly does not fit my philosophy perfectly. If you want to know my thoughts on it, please read my review of it here:
    https://www.amazon.com/review/R1ORDKTTHCDO1U/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

    Your rating of the reliability of the Bible and your selected sources would be more credible if it could be objectively verified with respect to “the subject of reincarnation, the nature of God, and the afterlife.” What the Bible has to say about this subject is well known, but the consistency you have noticed among your sources may well be artificial. All you have to do is reject any source that seems inconsistent, right? Cross it off your list. What could be easier? Even if you find plenty of diverse sources that are consistent, is this any proof that that they are also truthful?

    Have you considered a possible scenario where your multiple human sources are honestly reporting their beliefs and experiences, but they have been uniformly deceived concerning the spiritual realm by spiritual beings who are enemies of God? Christians have been warned to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1John 4:1-6). Do the spirits who provide information to your sources pass the recommended test?

    You said, “The books on NDEs are consistent with what psychics say and both are consistent with the results of hypnotherapy,” but as we know, many NDE accounts have nothing to say about either reincarnation or pre-birth planning. Remember the book by Raymond Moody, who reported a number of NDE stories. Silence is no impediment to consistency, of course, but silence should not count as support for belief in the correctness of your philosophy, no matter how much sense it may make to you in theory. Do you have any good reason to believe that the witnesses you mentioned have not been deceived by spiritual enemies of God?

    You also said, “… based on the major flaws I see in scripture coupled with the OT God’s immoral character, I don’t believe the Bible can be inspired.”

    If you wanted me to see “major flaws” there too, you would have to pick one that withstands critical scrutiny. We could discuss it to see whether you have overlooked a reasonable explanation, disqualifying it as definite flaw, but we should understand that mysteries will remain even if no “major flaws” can be identified. Does any book answers every possible question?

    On your point about the allegedly “immoral character” of God, I believe you judge God based on insufficient information. Is your judgment just your way of saying that you reject Bahnsen’s fourth premise. If so, why do you reject it?

    Thanks for answering my question about testimonies to changed lives, but you left me wondering how many of those stories actually involve belief in reincarnation. I too have heard NDE stories that involve a dramatic and positive change in attitude, but none of them had anything to do with reincarnation.

    We agree that people have free will, but I don’t think it logically follows that God cannot reliably foretell future events. Since he is omniscient, our freewill choices are no surprise to him, and he can combine his knowledge of those choices to produce a prophecy that will reliably come true in spite of free will.

    You said, “The spirit world is one of encouragement, compassion and help, not one of condemnation and vengeance,” but you have been led to believe that there is only one spirit world instead of a heaven and a hell with entirely different spiritual climates, right? However, it is becoming clear that your idea of a single spiritual world differs remarkably from my idea of heaven.

    According to your philosophy, isn’t the single realm supposed to be filled with souls who need “encouragement, compassion and help” or who seek adventure by living in an alien world filled with evil to be suffered or inflicted as planned in advance? These adventures are supposed to result in spiritual enhancement, but, depending on the number of reincarnations required to get past a need to improve further, these souls may be doomed to nearly endless cycles of reincarnation, with little progress to show for their effort, right? Does this really convert the problem of evil from an argument against the power or goodness of God, assuming he exists, into a problem due entirely to human depravity? Who do you suppose instituted this arrangement? God or someone else?

    You asked me, “So why would you need a hell?” Then you said, “God is merciful and wants us to grow and change, not get consumed by fire. We are all God’s children, and he loves us all,” I agree with this much, except for the part about all of us being God’s children (Matt. 13:38; Luke 20:34-36; John 1:12, 8:44; Acts 13:10; Rom. 8:14-21; 1John 3:8). However, God also gives us an option to reject his love, to rebel against his rule, and to disbelieve what he has told us. Where should such ungrateful rebels live for eternity? In heaven, side by side with the saints, who are sinners too but saved by grace? I think hell is needed to be the eternal abode of those who want nothing to do with God or have decided to side with his enemies. It is their choice, not God’s.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs): Tom Godfrey (response to your 2/18/19 reply), I like your response: “My purpose … is to share my ideas about topics of mutual interest here, to see how well they withstand criticism from people with a different perspective, and to see how well their contrary ideas withstand criticism offered from my own perspective. It could be a beneficial experience for all involved.” I feel the same way myself. I appreciate your probing questions and comments, and I’m glad you are interested in the reincarnation/NDE subject. Your inquiries have helped me better organize my thoughts on the subject as I try to explain them, and I can see where some of my explanations are now better explained due to your questions. I’m glad we keep the discussion civil. As you stated, “Some people who disagree with you may simply call you names or attack your character, but I reject such an ugly, fallacious approach.” I agree. We both follow the golden rule as best we can, and that is good.

      Tom, it is interesting that Robert Schwartz and many of the other metaphysical authors I study claim that when you meet someone in life that has more than a passing effect on your life, it was meant to be and was probably pre-planned before birth. You may well fall into that category—based on what I said in previous posts.

      You inquired: “Have you already had discussions with others who have exactly the same questions for you that I have?” I have had a number of discussions about my philosophy with friends, 9 of whom somewhat agree with me. Unfortunately, none (except for 1) of them read or study the subject very much, so they are unable to talk intelligently about the subject in depth like I can. You and my friend Richard (a member of John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church) are the only ones who have really tried to ask probing questions, but you are much more thorough than Richard, and that has been invaluable. I did meet on the phone one person two weeks ago who loves the subject. He drove over to my home to meet me for the first time. He handed me a booklist of about 170 books he’d read on religion and reincarnation, and he said he’s taught Bible studies for many years before studying reincarnation. Of all things, I had just compiled a list of my books on the subject. I gave him an Excel spreadsheet showing that of my 175 books, we had 38 in common. What was amazing was that we had come to almost the identical conclusion on reincarnation and God’s purpose for humans. I could start a sentence, and he’d finish it, saying just what I was going to say.

      You are correct that I am not put off by your brand of skepticism. I try to give you honest, satisfactory answers, and if I don’t know, I will tell you.

      You are correct that I didn’t start posting here “to convert anybody or even to argue against Christianity.” You state that in my first post, addressed to Perry, I did state that there is no devil, no hell, no resurrection, no rapture, no cruel God casting unrepentant victims who reject him into a lake of fire, and there is no final judgment before some new heavens and new earth arrive. In Perry’s book, he stated that he couldn’t explain why God would allow such cruelty on earth. By posting here I was trying to show him that the reincarnation philosophy had an answer to his question that I thought made sense and made much better sense than the Christian answer. I was not trying to debate him on Christianity or his Christian faith.

      By the way Tom, Perry ignored me totally and never responded. I sent him another message on a different topic, telling him that I enjoyed his book and found it a valuable source on evolution. I made no critical comments about his book. Still, after almost a month, he’s never even bothered to say Hi. Why do you think this is? How can I get an answer from him?

      Can there be a Creator God without a creation? you asked. Assuming God is eternal (which my mind can’t understand), it would seem as if he would have always have created something. Assuming there was a Big Bang or some other creation event, I believe the fine-tuned universe had to have come from God. We have a mathematical universe and the laws of physics work, and I cannot imagine them not coming from a great designer. What do my trusted sources say about God and his creation? My metaphysical sources define God as a creator but don’t get into the methods or timing.

      I found 3 superb movies by a Christian Spike Psarris. (See: https://www.creationastronomy.com/.) He does a great job of showing problems with the Big Bang theory. He is a young earth creationist I believe. His defense of creationism in Genesis 1 is subpar. He doesn’t attempt to justify it scientifically. Instead he pretty much just quotes the Bible and says that is what happened. As a reincarnationist I think he did a great job showing the holes in the Big Bang and cosmology. I bought Perry’s book because I am trying to learn more about evolution and the universe, and Perry’s book fits my theories since Perry and I are not a Young Earth Creationists. As far as I know, no believer in reincarnation has written any book on how evolution and design by the Creator fit together. I personally believe the Creator must have put the design into evolution and the human genome code.

      You asked: “What do your sources have to say about Jesus Christ? If they acknowledge his existence in real history, what do they teach about his relationship to God and his mission on earth?” In Seth Speaks by Medium Jane Roberts, Jane channels Seth who says Jesus was a very highly evolved spirit being who came to earth to help humanity. Some people who have an NDE claim to meet Jesus upon entering heaven, and others claim to see their spirit guides or loved ones. The sources I read talk basically about a loving God. You rarely if ever hear the name Jesus or Trinity or son of God. He is never referred to as a Savior.
      As you say, the consistency I have noticed among my sources may well be artificial, but I have a lot of sources and based on my analysis, there is enough consistency among them all to convince me I have the basic and correct facts. You’d say the same about Christianity. You know about the problems with the canon, the ancient manuscripts, the descriptions of a cruel OT God (e.g., the Flood, the elimination of Sodom, the massacre at Jericho). But you and other Christians have considered this and found enough consistency and credibility in the Bible to believe in Christianity and Jesus. You say, “All you have to do is reject any source that seems inconsistent, right? Cross it off your list.” Tom, I haven’t really found much if any inconsistency among my sources on major points.

      You ask, “Even if you find plenty of diverse sources that are consistent, is this any proof that they are also truthful?” “Proof” for any religion or belief is a strong word, but the fact that thousands of independent people of all walks of life have had NDEs and their experiences are similar on basic points is, I believe, strong evidence of its credibility. What’s even more amazing is that the NDE people did not describe heaven in the terms we are used to hearing. Had the Catholics met Mary and the popes, for instance, or had they been told God was pleased to hear their Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers, that would have perhaps been expected. That didn’t happen. But when atheists, agnostics, Christians, people attempting suicide, and people of other faiths all see basically the same thing and see their loved ones happy and healthy, that was not expected. Many Christians and Jews believe you are dead in a grave until a rapture or resurrection, and atheists don’t believe in an afterlife, yet all see the afterlife is real and their loved ones are already there. NDEers undergo a life review and see where they did well and where their lives went off course. There is no condemnation, no judgment, no hell mentioned—even though most Americans would have thought this would have been major topics of discussion. NDEers are told they can’t remain because they have other goals and missions yet to accomplish in life (a reference to our pre-birth plans), but Christians don’t know about or teach any such thing. The psychics and hypnotherapists hear the same things.

      You say Christians have been warned to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1John 4:1-6). Do the spirits who provide information to your sources pass the recommended test? Tom, I have read a lot of books by psychic mediums. I analyze very carefully their message and instructions. They say they are careful to avoid contact with evil spirits; they talk about a great, loving God; they provide story after story of humans they have helped to overcome grief, they tell how they have helped their clients get off drugs, avoid suicide, learn to forgive abusive parents and spouses, and they help many to know their deceased loved ones are happy, safe, and loved in heaven. In many readings, the deceased loved ones who wronged or abused people on earth beg the psychic’s client for forgiveness and say they now know how wrong they had been. The psychic urges the client to forgive and live a positive, giving life instead of harboring hatred or giving up on life. When you read hundreds of these stories and hear the types of messages I’ve just related to you, I believe what they are saying reflects love, and love is the key in the universe.

      Tom, it’s true most NDE books don’t discuss reincarnation, but a few do. But the books describe the same spiritual world in the same manner as the books by psychics or hypnotherapists. Obviously, every source doesn’t cover every topic. The same is true with Christianity. Not every Christian book discusses Jesus, the gospels, or Paul. Maybe one discusses Samson, another Daniel, another discusses the book of Revelation, and yet another discusses the sacraments. You ask: “Do you have any good reason to believe that the witnesses you mentioned have been deceived by spiritual enemies of God?” No. See the paragraph above.

      Concerning major flaws with the Bible: I believe the god discussed in the OT is a myth made up by the Israelites to justify their behavior and to support the power and authority of the priesthood. I believe the god described in the OT lacks parental skills, has anger management problems, is too quick to kill someone without counseling that person and working with them, and is too human and unloving to be believed as a God of love and wisdom. I believe this alleged god’s conduct with Adam & Eve (cursing Eve in childbirth and cursing the ground for Adam) shows lack of good parenting skills and an impatient god who reacts just like other evil humans. I believe his alleged killing of all the men, women, children, and animals during the Flood was mass murder, and his alleged command to Joshua to kill all inhabitants at Jericho was immoral and was mass murder. His alleged destruction of Sodom was murder. I believe this god’s obsession with circumcision throughout the Bible is perverted, and the way he treated Job was unbecoming of a loving God.

      Scientifically, Genesis 1 doesn’t fit the fossil, archaeological, or geological records, and it is contradicted by the tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric dating of all kinds. The sun did not stand still, nor did the sun go backward 10 degrees on Hezekiah’s sun dial. I compiled a list of over 50 major flaws and contradictions, but I really don’t want to get into a debate over a book with this many discrepancies.

      On another website, I just saw a debate over the mass murders at Jericho where the only inhabitants spared were, don’t laugh, the prostitute, her family, and her kin. If the other women, children, and animals were deemed worthy of death by this OT god, why was it acceptable to spare the family and kin of a woman who betrayed her people? One Christian quoted Dr. Heiser saying there were giants in the area and they were wicked and corrupt, so it was okay to obliterate them and all the other people around. I guess they were subhuman. Other Christians claimed in Gen. 6, the fallen angels had sex with the women and produced Nephilim, and since these creatures weren’t in the image of god (no proof given) and since they had a “sinister bloodline,” it was okay to massacre them and their families. Another said God had to cleanse these cultures by just destroying them. And round and round the debate went. I think it is all B.S. because the true God had nothing to do with this.

      I think God can foretell the general future, but because of free will, I think humans can alter specific details. Dr. Brian Weiss did a few future hypnotherapy sessions and found that if his client saw how his screwed up life was going to play out in future lives, the client could and would change it. For instance, if the client was abusing drugs, his future would show a reckoning down the road. When the client conquered his habit, another hypnotherapy session would show a different, brighter future. Dr. Weiss’ book, Same Soul, Many Bodies, illustrated how a person can influence his/her future life through what he terms progression therapy (as opposed to regression therapy). Having not interviewed God, I don’t think anyone can answer the question for sure as to what God can foresee.

      Tom, you say it is becoming clear that your idea of a single spiritual world differs remarkably from my idea of heaven. My heaven is a place of total love, peace, and enjoyment. Souls are encouraged, helped, taught, entertained, and counseled there. Souls perform research there to help us on earth. The souls aren’t doomed to endless cycles of reincarnation. Souls don’t have to reincarnate at all, or they can chose easier planets than earth to live on. You ask: “Does this really convert the problem of evil from an argument against the power or goodness of God, assuming he exists, into a problem due entirely to human depravity?” Tom, this is an odd question. My sources don’t mention or discuss any arguments against the power or goodness of God. God’s power or goodness is assumed, admired, and is not questioned. Those reincarnating know from their pre-birth planning and counseling sessions what types of challenges, barriers, and horrors they are signing up for in the next life, and they have the free will to veto any plans or lives they dislike. God is not viewed as being like some dictatorial office manager or CEO who takes advantage of his workers, abuses them, and puts them into dangerous situations to make a profit. There are no claims that I have read that God is discriminating against a soul, giving other souls the favored bodies, trying to screw a soul, etc. Every soul is treated with respect and love.

      Tom, you say “God also gives us an option to reject his love, to rebel against his rule, and to disbelieve what he has told us. Where should such ungrateful rebels live for eternity? In heaven, side by side with the saints, who are sinners too but saved by grace?” Souls—which are immortal and don’t need salvation—live many lives on earth because it takes many lives to learn to cultivate and express the godly virtues and expand your consciousness. Souls have to learn how to develop all aspects of love. They have to master envy, jealousy, lust, greed, lack of compassion, materialism, hatred, etc.

      No Christian masters all these character traits in just one life, and if a soul wants to grow spiritually in wisdom, it has to master these traits. You have free will to be a rebel and wreck your life. But there is a universal law of karma. If you mistreat your fellow human in one life, you will reap what you sow partially or completely in this or succeeding lives. Souls are like children. The try, they fail, they get up, try again, and get better. You don’t put your child into eternal hell fire for making a mistake. There is no condemnation or hell needed as souls improve over time. If a soul wants to avoid heaven, it can stay earthbound as a ghost, but God has no hell to torture any soul. There is no way to know if a soul can eternally reject God, but if there is such a soul, I am unaware of any hell fire for that soul. By the way, Tom, you did a great job reviewing Perry’s book “Evolution 2.0.” I agree with almost everything you said. I will comment on it next. —Jim

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: My Comments on Your Book Review of Evolution 2.0: Tom Godfrey I will say overall I was impressed with Perry’s book and took a lot of notes from it and typed them up. I really liked the idea that DNA and the genome is a linguistic code, and codes are designed and don’t originate from random copying errors. However, I thought you gave a thoughtful and very helpful review of the book. Marshall wrote: “I’ll prove that *both sides, the Creationists and the Darwinists, are right.” I agree with you he probably meant to say and should have said that each side is partly right and partly wrong. I checked out on Google a website on the Third Way of Evolution: https://evolutionnews.org/2014/05/a_group_of_darw/ . Good source.

      Tom, you said you believe what Genesis has to say about origins, interpret it to be a perspicuous, straightforward account of real history, and tentatively accept a biblical chronology proposed by Gerald E. Aardsma, who believes the date of Creation is 5176 B.C. We differ here because I don’t believe Genesis 1 is scientific and contradicts geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data. Since Marshall’s belief align more closely with mine, I have no idea why the only dating method he covers is related to the speed of light, which has nothing to do with the age of the earth or even the Solar System. He should have included the data I mentioned in the previous sentence.

      You wrote: “Since Marshall presents a new version of evolution, he should have little trouble convincing evolutionists to agree with him. Nevertheless, some reviewers here, writing from an evolutionist perspective, berate him for what they call a god-of-the-gaps argument. They did not read carefully enough. Besides accepting cutting-edge advances already proposed by leading biologists, the only concession Marshall seems to want evolutionists to consider is the possibility that information in DNA might be traced to God (or a supremely powerful being, if that makes you more comfortable (p. 260).” I agree.

      You write: “So according to Marshall, the Darwinists are right about practically everything, if they can accept the “Third Way” or Evolution 2.0 ideas, but they may or may not be wrong about the origin of information.” I think I agree, though Marshall doesn’t believe evolutionists can explain how life first started.

      You wrote: “This is no place for a detailed review of Marshall’s attempt to reinterpret Genesis to fit the evolutionist dogma related to origins, but I should point out one glaring discrepancy that he overlooked, and it is serious enough to ruin his whole approach. According to Genesis, God finished the creation after six days of work and pronounced it ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:31-2:4), only to curse it later (Genesis 3). Marshall failed to reconcile this with the idea that evolution has continued without interruption since the beginning. If God has been creating the heavens and the earth by using the process of evolution, he never took even one day off to rest, in theory.” You add: “Marshall adopted a form of the old day-age theory that calls for interpreting each day of Creation Week, even the seventh day, as a long period of time of unspecified length. Surprisingly, his ‘science interpretation’ of Gen. 1:31 is (p. 316) ‘God ceases from his creative work on the seventh day. […] We are living in the seventh day now.’ This looks to me like an invitation to cognitive dissonance, if you have to believe that evolution never stopped. Besides this, I think most of the days of creation must overlap, since plants, stars, fish, and animals are all supposed to be evolving to this day. If Marshall proposed an acceptable interpretation of Genesis 1, it is a mystery to me how the Sabbath commands in Exodus could have been enforced. Man’s work week is supposed to be modeled after those first seven days in the beginning.”

      Tom, this makes total sense. Once Marshall starts saying his inspired Bible isn’t accurate, and that 24-hours days don’t mean days—even though it has been understood this way for 3,000 years—he is in deep trouble. You are correct about the Sabbath day. If the days aren’t 24-hour periods, why have a 7th day Sabbath?

      You mention “His first line of evidence involved ‘whale feet’ visible in a *Durodon* skeleton that he had seen on display in a museum (pp. 13-15). It is the old ‘vestigial organs’ argument that he should have been able to debunk after a little research. Did he even try?” Tom, I don’t think so. He should have.

      I agree with your following point: “From my point of view, Marshall covered advances in modern biology that are real science and not a problem for creationists to accept to the extent that they hold up under expert scrutiny. They are all about nature and the laws of nature as currently observed, not about history and not an impediment to faith either.”

      I appreciate you showing me your critique. Perry Marshall put another critique of his book on his website. It was a “Review of Evolution 2.0 by Christian Research Society Quarterly 2017-summer by Royal Truman.” I searched Google for it because Perry’s website is so confusing I can’t find it there. I went to: Review Article— – The Creation Research Society https://creationresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/crsq-2017-summer-truman-2.pdf
      The review is exhaustive by a young earth creationist and it’s 12 pages in length. By the way, why does it take days for one of our posts to appear on Perry’s website? I post on another religious website, and you view your post the minute you click “submit.” I sent two posts to Perry, and he ignored them. Is that normal? Jim Lea

      • Jim,

        I generally approve your posts when I respond to them. Some sit in the queue for a long time, unfortunately.

        So – what does it mean when it says “God rested on the 7th day and the 7th day is now?”

        Does it mean evolution is no longer happening?

        No. What it means is that man is now in charge of the earth, not God. Why? Because:

        “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

        God breathed the breath of life into the man and he became a living being… and now man rules over the earth. This breath was not oxygen, it was spirit. Man and woman are now in charge of evolving the earth.

        With the breathing of this breath into man, God’s infusion of creative power into the earth is complete.

        We are all too aware of how good (or not good) a job man is doing with that. We are all aware of the destruction that is going on. God gives man freedom to do as he will.

        And now it is man’s job to listen to the spirit (as he freely chooses to listen) and continue forward progress.

        What is the fall? It’s not the introduction of physical death into the earth. Romans never says that death was physical and neither do the Jewish rabbis. Death was man abandoning his connection to God. Adam going AWOL on his prophetic assignment.

        And now with spiritual awareness, progress takes on a distinctively new meaning. It is one thing for strep germs to evolve through the arms race of increased capability and natural genetic engineering. It is quite another thing when we say “A truly evolved society will offer equal rights to all people and even provide affordable medical care to everyone regardless of economic status.” That kind of evolution has an ENTIRELY NEW DIMENSION that is utterly beyond the meritocracy arms race that every living thing has always been subject to.

        This new dimension of evolution was clearly foreshadowed in the Mosaic law (“love your neighbor as yourself), but the first time it was definitively announced and clarified was in the Sermon on the Mount. And what got us ‘here’ won’t get us ‘there’.

        Yes, I take the six days of work and the seventh day of rest very seriously.

        Do creationists who believe in six literal days and a seventh literal day of rest believe that on the 8th day God started creating again? Do they believe that God creates six days a week and takes Sundays off?

  8. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful replies dated February 25 at 12:59 am and 6:01 pm. Anyone who wants to engage in a discussion here needs to be patient, because it often does take days for a new comment to appear after it has been submitted, and even though I have checked the option to receive notification of follow-up comments via email, I have not been getting any for some time now. One needs to allow for a lag between publication and discovery, plus more time to prepare and post a response. Nevertheless, I appreciate what Perry has set up here and his promotion of friendly discussions like ours.

    In my experience, it is not normal for Perry to ignore a polite comment like the ones you submitted and addressed to him. I suspect that he is using an executive assistant to moderate these discussions these days, so he probably just happens to be very busy right now. He might not have even seen your comments yet. I recommend cutting him some slack. I don’t think he is the sort of man who would snub someone like you. To show you that he can politely participate in an extended discussion, here is a link to one we had after I told him that I had bought, read, and reviewed his book:
    https://evo2.org/ny2018/#comment-48570

    Thanks for reading my review of his book and for letting me know that you agree with almost everything I said in it. Thanks, too, for the link to the Evolution News article about the Third Way, written persuasively from an ID perspective. However, you made points that invite further discussion.

    You told me that you “don’t believe Genesis 1 is scientific and contradicts geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data.” Scientific? Frankly, any story of origins is hardly scientific in my book, assuming that science is, by definition, based on observation and hypotheses that can be verified or falsified through repeatable experiments designed to increase our knowledge of nature and the laws of nature as they currently operate. I do not know of any widely-recognized definition of science that includes speculation about what might have happened in the unobservable past. I suppose archaeology and forensic science might be considered exceptions to this general rule. One key difference is that the no-miracle presupposition seems reasonable in these cases, while it is not in the case of a study of origins.

    We agree that evidence in all of the categories you listed has been interpreted to contradict either the revelation that God created the heavens and the earth in only six days or the suggestion from a study of biblical chronology that God did this only a few thousand years ago. So what? If there is a contradiction, one side or both of them must be wrong, but how do we pick winners and losers? It would be easy to say the Bible has to be wrong, but is this reasonable? I think there are plenty of reasons to doubt the other side in this case, which is based on the assumption that no miracle of God was involved.

    Looking more closely at your list, you should realize that evidence derived from ice cores, tree rings, and archaeological studies is not used to conclude that the earth is billions of years old, only that the true age is more than a few thousands of years or what is revealed through a biblical chronology like the one proposed by Aardsma. We are talking about a difference of over four billion years. That’s a long time.

    Neither geology nor the fossil record provides an independent check on the age of the earth, because fossils and geological strata are supposed to have absolute (as opposed to relative) dates that ultimately depend on radiometric dating. These dating methods rely on assumptions that cannot be scientifically verified. If one or more of the assumptions happen to be wrong, all bets are off, right? Is there any good reason to suspect that they are wrong? If there is, anyone who believes the earth is billions of years old can simply ignore or dismiss the problems, but no one is rationally obligated to take this approach.
    https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/circular-reasoning-dating-deep-seafloor-sediments-and-ice-cores-orbital-tuning-method/
    https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/3-soft-tissue-in-fossils/
    https://answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/helium-diffusion-rates-support-accelerated-nuclear-decay/

    Is this all that we creationists have to cast doubt on speculation about billions of years of history? Well, actually, there is more, for example the faint young sun paradox:
    https://creation.com/earth-impacts-and-young-sun
    This particular problem is not limited to the earth. A similar problem plagues attempts to reconcile ideas about solar evolution with ideas about the geologic history of Mars.

    You mentioned Spike Psarris. Have you seen his lecture video on the problem of distant starlight?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JEFy-ZtEzg

    How do you know “the sun did not stand still” (Josh. 10:12-14) and did not “go backward 10 degrees” (2Kings 20:8-11)? Is it by knowing that God has no power to perform such miracles or by not knowing that independent records confirm the biblical claims? If so, beware of the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy. What continuous secular chronicle covers notable events during the periods of interest?

    On a more positive note, I find the work of Gerald Aardsma encouraging because of the evidence he has found and interpreted to suggest that historical details in Genesis are highly accurate. His fairly recent discovery of a vitamin, believed to be a cure for aging, is noteworthy, since it depended heavily on information revealed in the Bible, especially in Genesis. I am the third person to have tested this vitamin in modern times. You can read my testimonial about it here:
    http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/products/vitamin_MePA_testimonials_prostate_cancer.php
    His book about the vitamin and its discovery is offered there as a free PDF download. To access it, click on the fourth book in the top banner.

    None of this is absolute proof, and maybe none of it will change your mind, but you should at least understand better why I prefer to trust what the Bible says more than the tentative speculation of scientists wearing their historian hat. Scientists are not supposed to be dogmatic. If they are, we can assume they are really talking about an ideology, not science. If you still disagree with me about the age of the earth or the universe and can point me to considerations that I may have overlooked or prematurely dismissed, I am interested. We can discuss this too.

    Can evolutionists “explain how life first started”? I think it depends on what counts as an explanation. They would explain that lifeless chemicals happened to get organized as necessary through purely natural processes, and they are hard at work trying to figure out the details of how this might be possible. Their proposed, incomplete explanation seems to be good enough for them in the meantime, but I would like to point out a problem that would remain, even if an abiogenesis experiment is eventually successful under plausibly primitive conditions and without intelligent intervention, once the experiment has been set up. This success would not justify a definite conclusion about what actually happened in the distant past, because we have no way to observe or measure past environments and know for sure that past events actually unfolded as demonstrated in the modern experiment. In the meantime, while waiting for a report of such a successful experiment, creationists need not worry about such a highly unlikely possibility.

    Thanks for sharing your story about meeting Richard and finding a 22% overlap in your lists of books on religion and reincarnation. This is impressive, all right, but it needs to be kept in perspective. Imagine that two Christians meet at random and compare their lists of books considered inspired by God and therefore legitimately a part of the biblical canon. What degree of overlap do you suppose they would discover with regard to basic doctrines?

    Who is Jesus Christ? If you reject the Bible as a reliable source of information about him but accept the biblical claim that he came to earth at a specific time in real history, all you can possibly know about him must come from other sources. The ones you accept evidently do not reveal much about him. As you know, my working hypothesis is that your sources ultimately get their information from enemies of God. You wrote, “The sources I read talk basically about a loving God. You rarely if ever hear the name Jesus or Trinity or son of God. He is never referred to as a Savior.” It seems reasonable to me to suppose that those supernatural sources would not want to acknowledge Jesus Christ or give heed to what his earliest followers reported (1John 4:3,6).

    Right, proof is a strong word, so we really ought to be talking about reasons to believe that may well fall short of absolute proof. Considering a number of your comments here, it seems that consistency among your sources is the main reason you have offered for belief in the correctness of your philosophy. The enemies of God may well present a fairly consistent collection of descriptions for your consideration, even if they are actually false. At the same time, they may present an alternative but inconsistent claim that God does not even exist. This alternative will be attractive to atheists, while you simply exclude it. This way, you can assure me that your sources present a consistent philosophy. The Bible and anything else that is inconsistent is excluded from your list, right? If so, I think the consistency is artificial and too easy to achieve even if the claims are false.

    To verify that the claims are true, wouldn’t we need to have direct access to the spiritual realm? What your sources evidently get is access to “spirit guides” who cannot be positively identified as angels on God’s side in the great conflict between good and evil (Eph. 6:12). This allows these sources to be easily fooled by spirits presenting themselves as angels of light (2Cor. 11:14), even assuming that human channels are truthfully reporting what they heard from their spiritual informants.

    Notice the first letter in the NDE acronym. It stands for Near, right? The people who report them have been pronounced dead in a medical or physiological sense, but in some spiritual sense, they have not yet actually died and crossed a real life/death boundary, one that cannot be detected by application of medical arts or sciences. You might say that their “silver cord” (Eccl. 12:6) has not yet snapped or broken. Nevertheless, you are expected to trust those spirit guides to tell you the truth about what lies on the other side of this boundary. I recommend more skepticism, even though “psychics and hypnotherapists hear the same things” as those people who have an NDE to relate.

    I am no expert on NDE stories, but here is one you and your listed sources might have overlooked. I watched the first and shorter video twice. The second link is to a longer, purely verbal account by the same man without any dramatization to illustrate what he experienced.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmp3UNjeu0k
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7PBAZZ-85A

    Thanks for your list of ways that “psychic mediums” help people. I do not dispute those claims or doubt that they talk about a great, loving God, but does any of this prove that their spirit guides are on the side of God in the conflict mentioned above? You know, it could be a trick (Matt. 24:24).

    You pointed out that “every source doesn’t cover every topic.” That’s a good point, well taken. Nevertheless, as far as NDE’s are concerned, you should recognize that many of them are consistent with a Christian perspective. Did the people who had them, not counting the one exception of Bryan Melvin, uniformly reject Christianity or belief in the Bible? If not, I think it would be a mistake to consider them all consistently supportive of your philosophy as opposed to the Bible and Christianity.

    I understand that you have compiled a long list of “major flaws and contradictions” in the Bible, and I agree that it makes no sense to attempt a point-by-point consideration of each one here. We might end up with a book instead of a blog discussion of reasonable length. However, I am open to careful consideration of one or two that you feel you can defend with confidence. Recall that you repeated a claim concerning the virgin birth prophecy (Is. 7:14) three times, as though you considered it more or less beyond dispute, but you have not yet refuted my challenge to it. If even the best items on your list are no more conclusive, maybe your list actually carries little or no weight as a whole.

    On your paragraph about “mass murder” perpetrated by God, I see your analysis as an indication that you reject Bahnsen’s fourth premise. I accept it. You judge God as though he were a human tyrant with no control over the eternal destiny of his victims, right? As it is, according to the Bible, God does rule with this kind of control (Matt. 10:28), so any just judgment ought to take this aspect into consideration. We do not know enough to do this properly, so I reject any attempt to judge God as illegitimate and inappropriate. Even in a human court of law, what really matters is what the judge rules. It is not a two-way street. The accused may dare to judge the judge too, but no authority backs up his insolent ruling. As for the way God treated Job, your analysis seems to be inconsistent with what Job himself concluded (Job 42:1-6).

    You said, “Having not interviewed God, I don’t think anyone can answer the question for sure as to what God can foresee.” In the case of prophecies that came true, there is no need to interview God. I think we are left with few alternatives, such as, God knew the future and revealed it, or a prophet made a lucky guess, or we were deceived concerning the relative dating of the “prophecy” and its fulfilment, which might have actually come first.

    I don’t think God puts anyone “into eternal hell for making a mistake.” I believe the people in heaven will be like me, all sinners saved by grace, while the people in hell will be those who decided instead to have nothing to do with God and refused his loving and gracious offer of salvation.

    You tell me that your “heaven is a place of total love, peace, and enjoyment,” but this description seems to be inconsistent with your idea that souls living there don’t have to reincarnate at all. They are free to stay there even though they still “have to master envy, jealousy, lust, greed, lack of compassion, materialism, hatred, etc.,” right? Given such an environment, how can you say, “Every soul is treated with respect and love”? Who established this arrangement? I think the atheist still gets to make his problem-of-evil argument, given your philosophy.

    Considering the horrors that might be planned for souls in a life on earth, intended for spiritual enhancement but with no other reward in store for them other than a return to their current life in heaven, and understanding that “it takes many lives to learn to cultivate and express the godly virtues and expand your consciousness,” I think all reasonable souls would exercise their free will option “to veto any plans or lives they dislike” and stay put instead, leaving well enough alone. What is wrong with this picture?

    To close this comment, maybe one that is already too long, let me give you one more link. This one is also about heaven and hell, but it is a report of a vision. What do you think? Is it credible?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKniy8CCKgs

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs): Tom Godfrey (response to your 3/1/19 reply), I am surprised at the days it takes to get a post to appear on the website. I did read some of the dialogue between you and Perry. As I have said several times, I believe before one accepts a religion, he should read and analyze its teachings. The Bible is said to be inspired by an all-wise, all-powerful being. When I read just the first book of Genesis, I personally—based on my degree in theology, my long-time experience of studying and writing about the Bible, and my study of reincarnation & NDEs—believe the Bible does not seem credible to me. I believe in an omniscient, omnipotent God, but I honestly think that God is not described in the Bible based on my experience and knowledge, though obviously you see things differently based on your unique experiences and background.

      My conclusion is the biblical God is moody, he resorts to and justifies killing too often for such a powerful being, he was a poor parent, he has an anger management problem, he sanctioned mass murder at Jericho and in Palestine, he is obsessed with penises and circumcision, and he advocated slaughtering innocent animals because he enjoyed the smell. My conclusion, Tom, is this is a make-believe God created by the Israelites’ priesthood who gave this god the same human characteristics as a fallible human leader of that ancient period of time. No amount of apologetics and scholarly assessments by Christian leaders is going to sway my opinion on this conclusion.

      The Bible isn’t said to be just an ordinary book. Christians claim it is “inspired” by an all-wise God. Hence, I expect it to meet the highest standard possible. Tom, it totally fails in this regard. If it had one or two major problems, perhaps I would consider valid explanations, but the Bible has so many problems that it takes whole books to get around them where scholars claim these verses need retranslation, that Hebrew or Greek word “really” means such and such, this account really should be interpreted to mean this instead of that, or God was justified in killing the giants because they had a “sinister bloodline,” or the mass murder of the children and animals at the flood was justified because, well, God said it was justified, and the people were really wicked. The OT describes a God who is supposedly against killing and abortion but who seemingly murders his children—his creation—for disobeying him quite frequently. Tom, I don’t believe the god described in the OT really exists or is credible in any way.

      The Jews have their Talmud, which includes the Mishnah and the Gemara—all to try to explain and decipher the Bible. The Christians have dozens of commentaries and Bible dictionaries, all trying to figure out the Bible and its quirks and contradictions, and they all come to radically different conclusions on many areas of the Bible—a book that is supposed to be inspired by an all-wise God. But, Tom, I have concluded that any inspired book with this much confusion is just simply NOT inspired! Period! No need for further argument! I don’t need 10 distinguished biblical scholars to dissuade me from the obvious. I am well-educated, analytical, and have common sense, and I believe God has led me to see the obvious.

      Genesis 1 contradicts scientific data and contradicts geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data by billions of years. Take radiometric dating. In uranium-lead dating, for instance, the radioactive decay of uranium into lead proceeds at a reliable rate. Based on the very old zircon rock from Australia we know that the Earth is at least 4.374 billion years old. But it could certainly be older. Rocks returned from the Moon have been dated at a maximum of 4.51 billion years old. Martian meteorites that have landed upon Earth have also been dated to around 4.5 billion years old by lead-lead dating. Radiometric dating is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes. … The two uranium isotopes decay at different rates, and this helps make uranium-lead dating one of the most reliable methods because it provides a built-in cross-check. See: https://www.google.com/search?q=radiometric+dating&oq=radiometric&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.4415j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8. None of the scientific data support an earth of only 6,000 years old. I refuse to be like the Catholic church of Galileo’s day—which rejected the truth that the earth was not the center of the universe—and ignore the huge amount of well-respected scientific data accepted universally by almost all scientists. I know you claim “These dating methods rely on assumptions that cannot be scientifically verified.” While obviously one can’t go back 4 billion years in time, Christians can’t provide any proof that the radioactive methods are not accurate over time or that the laws of physics changed. The ice core data go back 800,000 years—far past the Bible creation 6,000 years ago—and the ice core data is not based on radiation.

      Concerning Spike Psarris, I haven’t seen his lecture video on the problem of distant starlight, but I read what he thinks about the subject. See: https://www.creationastronomy.com/distant-starlight/. He discussed several 6 assumptions such as: The speed of light has been constant throughout history. But throughout the article he admits these ideas are basically hypotheses. On this assumption he wrote: “Among Biblical creationists, there was once a fair amount of interest in the idea that the speed of light used to be higher in the past. Some argued that there was good scientific evidence for this. Although this idea still has some adherents, many people think that the evidence that was offered to support it no longer seems compelling. So, for the most part, this idea no longer enjoys the support that it once did among creation-minded scientists.” He offers Assumption #2: The speed of light is constant throughout space. He concludes, however: “Some Biblical creationists have proposed this as the solution to the distant starlight issue. They point out that all of our measurements of the speed of light have been done within our Solar System, within the gravitational influence of our Sun. Therefore, it might be possible that the speed of light is different in deep space, because we’ve never measured it out there.” So here again we have speculation, but no real proof.

      In my last response I said the sources I read talk basically about a loving God or Source of All. You rarely if ever hear the name Jesus or Trinity or son of God. He is never referred to as a Savior. You say: “It seems reasonable to me to suppose that those supernatural sources would not want to acknowledge Jesus Christ or give heed to what his earliest followers reported.” It may seem reasonable to you, but when you understand my sources, it is not reasonable. The individuals who have NDEs simply describe what they saw during their out-of-body experience. You would expect Christians who had NDEs to talk about their Savior Jesus, their church, or the Trinity, but surprisingly they don’t. That is what is significant. Psychics and hypnotherapists find their individual clients or the spirits in heaven don’t mention these terms either. These supernatural sources have no agenda to downplay Jesus. After all, they describe a loving God who exists and an afterlife where their friends, parents, and relatives all went after their body died.

      Tom, you claim I am “expected to trust those spirit guides to tell you the truth about what lies on the other side of this boundary. I recommend more skepticism.” Tom, you trust that documents 2,000 to 3,000 years old are inspired by a God, and you can’t prove the apostles’ writings are all there, that God inspired them, or that they weren’t heavily edited and revised by unknown editors in the Roman Empire. You have faith in the Bible based on your analysis of the scriptures, and I have also analyzed the messages of those spirit guides and concluded they make sense and seem valid. At least I can tell you the sources of my philosophy because most of the sources are alive and the books are current.

      Consistency among my sources is one of the main reasons I’ve offered for belief in my philosophy. You declare: “The enemies of God may well present a fairly consistent collection of descriptions for your consideration, even if they are actually false.” Tom, I don’t consider individual humans who had life-changing NDEs to be enemies of God. I don’t believe hypnotherapists who are helping counsel people to improve their lives are enemies of God, nor do I believe psychics who help thousands to stop grieving over the death of loved ones and help thousands straighten out their lives are enemies of God. If anything, Tom, you maybe should wonder why an all-powerful God has apparently allowed the enemies to God to cause so much bickering and contradictions among the Christian churches. There are so many differing and contradictory Christian beliefs out there that it takes a large book just to document the major disagreements over such things as tithing, predestination, gay marriage, abortion, pedophile priests, Sabbath keeping, the law, divorce & remarriage, confessionals, sacraments, the Virgin Mary, healing, church government, hell, who is saved, prophecy, etc. If there are real enemies of God, you have to look no further than all the Christian churches. So how do you know your specific church or minister is right? The Catholics, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Baptists can’t all be right!

      You ask: “Did the people who had them [NDEs], not counting the one exception of Bryan Melvin, uniformly reject Christianity or belief in the Bible? If not, I think it would be a mistake to consider them all consistently supportive of your philosophy as opposed to the Bible and Christianity.” No, Tom, the NDEers didn’t all reject Christianity or the Bible because most of the NDEs don’t discuss that subject one way or the other. I’ve never seen in my literature any instructions to Christians that they can’t still go to church or claim to be a Christian. But NDEs show that once a body dies, its soul goes to heaven, and a number of those who have NDEs believe in reincarnation. Whereas with Christianity, only those who believe in Jesus are supposed to be in heaven, and only after the resurrection. So the NDE does show Christianity is wrong about needing salvation to get to heaven.

      You are correct that I judge the OT God as though he were a human tyrant. You say that you reject any attempt to judge God as illegitimate and inappropriate. I am not judging what I believe to be the true God. I am judging the description of God in the OT as a human tyrant, and the God of the Bible who believes in eternal hell-fire torture for humans who have made mistakes and refused to accept Jesus as Savior.

      Because of the law of karma, which in a sense teaches and instructs us, and the fact that all souls will be assisted in love by the Divine to improve and grow over time to become more like their Creator, the Creator God has no need whatsoever for mass torture in a final judgment or eternal hell fire, nor is there such an event or place. It is only an inferior, unwise, impatient, non-forgiving, non-omniscient god who would have to resort to killing many of his children because, in his incompetence, he couldn’t help or convince his children over time that the way of love is the only way. Furthermore, I would add that for a god who is said to be all loving, all powerful, and forgiving to just give up on most of humanity because they are allegedly “wicked” and torture them for all eternity for mistakes made during a few years of a human life is unfair, barbaric, and criminal. This type of punishment and judgment is inconceivable for the real God of unconditional love and compassion.

      Tom, you wrote: “You tell me that your ‘heaven is a place of total love, peace, and enjoyment,’ but this description seems to be inconsistent with your idea that souls living there don’t have to reincarnate at all. They are free to stay there even though they still ‘have to master envy, jealousy, lust, greed, lack of compassion, materialism, hatred, etc.,’ right? Given such an environment, how can you say, ‘Every soul is treated with respect and love’? Who established this arrangement?” God gives us free will. I have no statistics on how many souls refuse to reincarnate to earth or to all other planets or how many refused on a few occasions. I understand that a soul is allowed to grow and develop at its own pace, so perhaps many souls who hate the violent, cruel earth incarnate on other planets that have fewer challenges. I assume God established this arrangement—who else? I still maintain that this is fair and that every soul is treated with love and respect by a loving God. Tom, if reincarnation is God’s plan, do you actually believe that God would somehow be unfair to the souls in heaven? If God is a God of love, that would be inconceivable.

      You write: “Considering the horrors that might be planned for souls in a life on earth, intended for spiritual enhancement but with no other reward in store for them other than a return to their current life in heaven, and understanding that ‘it takes many lives to learn to cultivate and express the godly virtues and expand your consciousness,’ I think all reasonable souls would exercise their free will option ‘to veto any plans or lives they dislike’ and stay put instead, leaving well enough alone. What is wrong with this picture?” Well, first of all it is distorted and shows you haven’t read much in this area. Not only is it reasonable that souls will veto plans they dislike, it is clear in the metaphysical literature that they do so. You mistakenly assume all souls would hate challenges and learning opportunities and that souls would find no reasons for reincarnating on earth or other planets. Tom, you are wrong because, unfortunately, 7 billion souls decided to accept the challenges and rewards for living here. Personally, I wish 6 billion souls would have found another planet to live on.

      Souls are just like humans in a way: they love challenges, puzzles, and opportunities for advancement. Look at what humans do: some become astronauts, even though this is a dangerous profession. Some love rock climbing and many pay with their lives. Some just love climbing the world’s major mountains like Mt. Everest, even though they know death claims many of them. Some explore the Amazon jungles or trek to the South Pole. Many spend their whole life doing scientific research, working long days, nights, and weekends. Others hit the slot machines in Las Vegas, trying to beat the odds and make a fortune. It’s the challenge, Tom. Nobody is forced to take up challenges (except maybe in the armed forces). So, Tom, why is it so odd to you that souls in heaven might actually enjoy difficult assignments and challenges? —Jim

  9. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    As you can see, Perry did address a comment to you, but he must not have seen the comment you addressed to him. You said you had “sent two posts to Perry,” but I found only one on this thread (December 26, 2018 at 8:14 pm). It had no questions. Instead of commenting on your alternative philosophy, he chose to focus on the Sabbath issue, a topic that evidently aroused his interest because you quoted something I had said about it in my review of his book. See you comment timestamped February 25 at 6:01 pm and addressed to me. He has decided not to engage with me anymore, but you may be interested in how I would respond.

    I think the big idea behind the day-age theory is that God used evolution to create the heavens and the earth, but this creation was not actually finished “in the beginning” but rather over an extended period that lasted for billions of years, about 13.8 billion to be exact. People who like this idea would probably be hard pressed to explain how the creation can really be considered finished even now, since new stars, for example, are supposed to be in the process of being “born” as we speak. Star formation is a process that they would say has continued without interruption for billions of years and is not likely to end for billions more, so where do we find room in this scenario for a “day” of rest for the Creator?

    Perry seems to believe he can solve this problem by appealing to the dominion mandate recorded in Gen. 1:26. One big problem with this idea is that stars are not included in the dominion of man, but what about the evolution of the living things that are under man’s dominion? Was God finally supposed to have an opportunity to start resting from this “work” once man had evolved and received “the breath of life”? This might make sense in the case of animals that man has bred, domesticated, or exterminated, but aren’t there millions of species not in either category? I am thinking of microscopic creatures in particular. If guiding their evolution can be considered work that God had to do all by himself for billions of years, I don’t think man ever took over the job in most cases, and yet the evolution of every living thing is supposed to be ongoing, including creatures not yet discovered by man. How can God get any rest?

    Perry dodged the issue of Sabbath enforcement under an interpretation where the model for the work week consists of overlapping “days” of indefinite length, including a “day” of rest that is supposed to be still in progress, but maybe to make up for it, he brought up the issue of the Fall and the kind of death involved in it. Perry said, “Romans never says that death was physical and neither do the Jewish rabbis,” and he may well be right about this, but do we read in Romans that death was not physical? Do we read anywhere in the Bible, “Death was man abandoning his connection to God. Adam going AWOL on his prophetic assignment”? Do the Jewish rabbis say this?

    If physical death is supposed to be a “very good” part of the natural order created by God before the Fall, how do we exegete Paul’s comments on the resurrection of the dead in 1Cor. 15:12-34? Is he really talking about a spiritual resurrection following a spiritual death? Is the “last enemy” (v. 26) really just spiritual death? I think we have good reason to suspect that Perry’s analysis is a stretch at best. Based on your background in theology, what do you think?
    Perry ended his comment with two questions. I think the answers are rather obvious—no and no. Would the answers have to be yes for us to consider Creation Week to be the model referenced in the Sabbath commandments? Perish the thought. God clearly finished his work of creating the heavens and the earth “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:1). Day 7 was a day of rest for God, but what about Day 8? Does the Bible have anything at all to say about Day 8? Many work weeks for man have certainly passed since the end of Creation Week. I don’t see any problem here, do you?

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation vs. the 7-Day Genesis Creation: Tom Godfrey (response to your 3/4/19 reply) you wrote: “I think the big idea behind the day-age theory is that God used evolution to create the heavens and the earth, but this creation was not actually finished “in the beginning” but rather over an extended period that lasted for billions of years, about 13.8 billion to be exact. People who like this idea would probably be hard pressed to explain how the creation can really be considered finished even now, since new stars, for example, are supposed to be in the process of being ‘born’ as we speak.” Tom, you are a young earth creationist (YEC) & a Christian, and Perry apparently believes the earth is over 4 billion years old and is also a Christian. Both of you have to deal with an interpretation of Genesis 1 since you are Christians. The YEC reads the Bible to see a literal 7-day creation, but this is contradicted by geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data by billions of years. Perry’s version of creation accepts the evidence from geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data, but then he has to really stretch the meaning of Genesis 1 from its literal meaning to a questionable interpretation.

      Actually, Tom, I think my hypothesis is the best of the three. By not accepting the Bible account as inspired and ignoring it, I can accept all the evidence from geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data without worrying about Genesis 1—and I still believe in a Creator God who designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce our complex life forms. My hypothesis gets rid of the problem of the dominion mandate recorded in Gen. 1:26—because I don’t accept any of the Bible’s statements. My hypothesis also isn’t affected by the issue of Sabbath enforcement or whether death was physical in Romans—because I don’t have to defend the Bible.

      Tom, you ask: “Is he [Paul] really talking about a spiritual resurrection following a spiritual death? Is the ‘last enemy’ (v. 26) really just spiritual death? I think we have good reason to suspect that Perry’s analysis is a stretch at best. Based on your background in theology, what do you think?” Tom, I don’t know what Paul is talking about for sure, and since I don’t believe the scripture, nor do I believe is has anything to do with creation, I am unconcerned about what the different interpretations for these verses are. My reincarnation philosophy belief frees me from worrying what some scholars claim the Bible might mean or how to reinterpret it. Perry Marshall’s great book fits my hypothesis just fine because he accepts a 13.7 billion year old universe, a 4.5 billion year old earth, the fact that some degree of evolution occurred; the fact that random mutations + time + natural selection alone couldn’t have produced the wonderful plant and animal creations we now see; the fact that all life had to have a designer, and the fact that design doesn’t come from chemicals or the laws of physics.

      What I’d like to find is one or more books by non-Christians who support my hypothesis of a God guiding evolution and designing through evolution. Unfortunately, I assume all the books claiming God is the Designer are written only by Christians who then have the Genesis 1 issue to haunt them. —Jim

  10. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    The long delay since my last reply to you is mostly my own fault this time. Whoever is moderating for Perry should get little blame for it. Thanks for being patient. Life goes on, and things come up. I’ll try to catch up, maybe little by little.

    Your March 5 at 3:40 pm comment is a reply to my March 4 at 10:11 pm comment, so the turnaround time there was unusually fast. I’ll start with that exchange related to Perry’s earlier (March 4 at 7:23 am) comment on the Fall, death, and Sabbath issues.

    You said, “[Perry] has to really stretch the meaning of Genesis 1 from its literal meaning to a questionable interpretation,” so we agree on this much, but you went on to point out that you disagree with both of us on the need “to defend the Bible.” Fair enough. My comment was mainly an indirect response to Perry, who at least seems to respect the Bible as the true Word of God. You do not.

    Okay, so let’s set aside the arguments that Perry and I advanced and look instead at your hypothesis, which you consider “the best of the three.” You summarized it when you said, “I can accept all the evidence from geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data without worrying about Genesis 1—and I still believe in a Creator God who designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce our complex life forms.” You put it in a nutshell when you wrote about your “hypothesis of a God guiding evolution and designing through evolution.”

    Frankly, this looks like cognitive dissonance to me. To me, design rules out evolution and vice versa. They are incompatible by definition. Maybe what you are really talking about is design work that involved lots of trial and error over billions of years. If you believe God was the Designer, your hypothesis is consistent with the idea that God is immortal, but what does it say about his wisdom and intelligence?

    Assuming that you, Perry, and I all believe in the reality of unseen spiritual beings, what do we have to say about their creation? Were they created instantly, or do you suppose it took God billions of years of “designing through evolution” to create them too? Whatever answer you have, do you also have evidence or testimony of any kind to support it? What answer is reasonable?

    How does your hypothesis differ from Perry’s? He worries about Genesis 1 while you do not, of course, but is there any other difference? This may be a question that you and he could answer much better, but he does not seem to be so sure that God designed life. Since you read his book, you probably know about his efforts to offer a substantial prize to anyone who can discover a purely natural, “defensibly patentable” process for generating code (https://www.herox.com/evolution2.0). He may be open to the idea that God had no need to do any designing, because all he had to do was establish natural laws and let nature take its course. By the same token, he might repudiate the idea that God ever “manipulated evolution” at any time in the alleged “billions of years” of evolution. Did you find anything in his book that might suggest he saw a need for divine manipulation at any point?

    Now back to your third hypothesis, what led you to believe that “God designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce complex life forms”? It was not any holy book, right? Was it a psychic or medium or a book on your list of trustworthy sources? Was it just an educated guess that you borrowed from theistic evolutionists?

    Maybe you were trying to explain when you listed what you consider to be facts (“13.7 billion year old universe, a 4.5 billion year old earth, the fact that some degree of evolution occurred; the fact that random mutations + time + natural selection alone couldn’t have produced the wonderful plant and animal creations we now see; the fact that all life had to have a designer, and the fact that design doesn’t come from chemicals or the laws of physics”). As you can see, these are merely bare claims without the supporting evidence you have accepted. I am asking about what convinced you, not about what you have concluded.

    For example, how do you know “all life had to have a designer”? If this conclusion is also a fact, not just a belief or working hypothesis, then you should have a good answer. Saying, “No way to generate life from chemicals has yet been found,” should not be considered a good, logically sound answer. That would be a logical fallacy, an argument from ignorance.

    In a comment back on February 25 at 12:59 am, you said, “Scientifically, Genesis 1 doesn’t fit the fossil, archaeological, or geological records, and it is contradicted by the tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric dating of all kinds.” At 6:01 pm the same day you added, “…I don’t believe Genesis 1 is scientific and contradicts geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data.” In my March 1 at 8:22 pm reply, I addressed both comments at length. In your most recent reply, you said, “… a literal 7-day creation … is contradicted by geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data by billions of years.” This just took us back to square one. To move our discussion of this forward, you would need to address the issues I raised in my March 1 reply. As it is, you have reinforced my idea that people can believe all kinds of nonsensical ideas, if only the problems with them are ignored, dismissed, or overlooked. This might be a case in point.

    I doubt that any creationist feels haunted by Genesis 1. I don’t feel that way. Perry may be another story. You may feel that we Christian creationists should feel haunted by it, because we have to ignore arguments based on the things you have been listing, but the fact is, we don’t ignore any of them. They have all been carefully considered and addressed by creationists. Maybe the evidence you have in mind has been misinterpreted, or else unjustifiable conclusions have been prematurely based on it. If you think I have overlooked or misinterpreted key evidence, let’s talk about it.

    Do any non-Christians believe that “God is the Designer”? I think you will find Jews and Muslims in this category. I have no example to cite, but one or more of them may have written a book to make a case from their own perspective. What about the psychics and mediums you trust? Do they agree with you on this point? What have they written about it?

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Evolution vs. the 7-Day Genesis Creation: Tom Godfrey (response to your 3/15/19 reply) I wrote: “I still believe in a Creator God who designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce our complex life forms.” You commented: “Frankly, this looks like cognitive dissonance to me. To me, design rules out evolution and vice versa.” I believe God designed life, as I said. Perry Marshall’s book seems to say the DNA and the cells could make improvements in life. I believe that a God designed them to do this. Could the cells have done the more complex designing themselves? It seems implausible unless God made it plausible. It seems more logical that God suddenly designed life in, perhaps, several stages—since I believe in an old earth and do not believe in a 6,000 year old earth.

      You mention the reality of unseen spiritual beings and you wonder if they were created instantly, or do you suppose it took God billions of years of “designing through evolution”? I have no idea. I have never heard these spirit beings, such as angels, evolved, and there is no heavenly fossil record to examine since I assume there are no floods in the spirit world.

      You ask: “How does your hypothesis differ from Perry’s? He worries about Genesis 1 while you do not, of course, but is there any other difference?…he does not seem to be so sure that God designed life.” Of the very few sources on the subject I’ve read, Perry’s book was the only source I’ve seen with his ideas, which seem fairly logical to me at this point. I loved his book and think it is a good source, but even he admits he doesn’t have all the answers scientifically. Perry is a Christian, and his website shows he believes in God, and he believes God designed life at least to a major extent. You ask: “Did you find anything in his book that might suggest he saw a need for divine manipulation at any point?” Tom, I believe he intentionally implies in his book the possibility of divine manipulation but carefully avoids so stating to appear objective. However, under “Intelligent Evolution Quick Guide” (source: http://evo2.org/intelligent-evolution-quick-guide/ ) on Perry’s website, I find: III. Proof that DNA was designed by God:
      1) DNA is not just a molecule – it is a coding system with a language & alphabet, and contains a message
      2) All languages, codes and messages come from a mind
      3) Therefore DNA was designed by a Mind.

      Perry concludes: X. All known examples of evolution (genetic programs, social progress) have an ability to evolve that is designed in. Therefore life on earth, the Fossil Record, the Cambrian Explosion and Punctuated Equilibrium are a result of:
      1) The ability to make evolutionary change is designed in (i.e., not random mutation, but pre-programmed variations); and/or
      2) Multiple incidents of special creation.

      I like his conclusion and it makes more sense than anything I’ve read. You ask: “What led you to believe that God designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce complex life forms?” You cannot take a course in biology without being amazed at the inconceivable complexity of life and the interconnectedness of all life. When I see PBS Nova programs about the mathematical universe and our sun, which is specially tailored for life on earth, I see a Creator and Designer. Atheists don’t see this. Fine! Romans 1:19-22 sums up my feeling: What can be known about God is plain based on the things he has made. I think these wise atheists have become fools. Based on the fossil record of billions of years, I believe the Creator must have created life in stages or perhaps using some designed pre-programmed variations as well. Tom, neither you, nor I, nor the Bible, nor evolutionists have all the answers.

      No one can prove “all life had to have a designer,” but no one can disprove it either. However, it’s my opinion that there is enough evidence that design and code come from a designer. If the atheists want to disagree, fine. They will change their minds at death. As I said earlier, Genesis 1 doesn’t fit the fossil, archaeological, or geological records, and it is contradicted by the tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric dating of all kinds. Young earth creationists have come up with their arguments and speculations as to why radiometric dating and the other forms of dating are wrong, but they can’t disprove the science. They can argue that radioactive decay “may” have varied or the laws of physics may not be constant, but none of their evidence is convincing—especially to the vast, vast majority of scientists or me. I reject the young earth also because I believe Genesis is a myth in the first place. I believe the OT God described in Genesis is immature, vengeful, impatient, out of control, and too quick to murder innocent humans instead of trying to work with them. All the excuses in the world from apologists and Christians will not make this character issue go away.

      You ask if the psychics and mediums agree that God is the designer? Of course they do. Why would these dedicated spiritual men and women who contact the spirit world regularly and describe the wonders of it, God’s plan designed for humankind, and the God of unconditional love doubt he designed the universe and all life? Jim Lea

  11. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    When I posted a comment for you this morning, it appeared immediately with a note in italics that said, “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” I am delighted to see this feature restored. No more waiting until a comment has passed moderation for confirmation that it was successfully submitted.

    Now I would like to begin replying to your March 5 at 2:15 pm comment, which was a reply to my March 1 at 8:22 pm comment. As I mentioned in my previous comment, this is the one where our topics included Genesis 1 and the age of the earth, so let me start there. After you repeated your earlier claim (“Genesis 1 contradicts scientific data and contradicts geology, archaeology, the fossil records, tree ring data, ice core data, and radiometric data by billions of years”), you elaborated, so let’s dig in.

    You explained, “In uranium-lead dating, for instance, the radioactive decay of uranium into lead proceeds at a reliable rate. Based on the very old zircon rock from Australia we know that the Earth is at least 4.374 billion years old. But it could certainly be older.” Decay rates may indeed by reliable now, whenever modern experts measure them, but these rates could have been different in the distant past, when no human scientist could measure them. All of the dates like the ones you mentioned are based on the mere assumption that they have never changed, right? What if this assumption happens to be wrong? Well, any date based on it could be wrong too. I think this much is beyond dispute.

    You went on to mention “a built-in cross-check” that involves the different decay rates of radioactive isotopes. You gave me a link to a Google search, but we really need to focus on some specific claim or article considered supportive. I think you were referring to isochron dating (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isochron_dating). As explained in the Wikipedia article, “The advantage of isochron dating as compared to simple radiometric dating techniques is that no assumptions are needed about the initial amount of the daughter nuclide in the radioactive decay sequence.” Okay, but the assumption about constant decay rates must remain firmly in place, right? Do creationists have to ignore what modern experts say about isochron dating? I don’t think so. Consider these articles, for instance, and search (Ctrl-F) for the word isochron as necessary.
    https://www.icr.org/article/iconic-isochron-radioactive-dating/
    https://creation.com/radioactive-dating-anomalies
    https://creation.com/radiometric-dating-and-old-ages-in-disarray

    These articles may explain why the scientific case for any kind of radiometric dating is weak at best, but secular experts still accept isochron dating anyway and consider it their gold standard, of course. What alternative do they have? The Bible? One other assumption not covered in the articles I linked, one which I reject, is that no miracle or supernatural intervention was involved. Do you accept it in the context of finding the age of the earth? The decision to make this one in a scientific study might be called methodological materialism (https://www.conservapedia.com/Methodological_materialism), but remember that we are actually talking about history, not ordinary science.

    Next, you said, “None of the scientific data support an earth of only 6,000 years old,” but I think you came to this conclusion without having first made a careful study of creationist claims. If my guess is wrong, to my surprise, you must have overlooked this article, for instance.
    https://www.icr.org/article/new-rate-data-support-young-world/
    Besides this, there are other ways to estimate the age of the earth (possibly with a large margin of error) that are consistent with an age of about 7,200 years (proposed by Gerald Aardsma, based on a study of biblical chronology).
    https://answersingenesis.org/evidence-for-creation/the-10-best-evidences-from-science-that-confirm-a-young-earth/

    By the way, I am not happy with the “young earth” terminology adopted even by creationists. As I see it, there is nothing in all of creation that is older than the earth, not even the universe itself (Gen. 1:1). If it is young, and the first verse in the Bible is true, then nothing else in creation could be old in comparison.

    You also said, “I refuse to be like the Catholic church of Galileo’s day—which rejected the truth that the earth was not the center of the universe—and ignore the huge amount of well-respected scientific data accepted universally by almost all scientists.” I have four comments.

    First, I don’t think it is possible to detect scientifically how far the earth is from the center of the universe before we have detected the outer edge of the universe in practically every direction. Have we detected an edge in even one direction? The question is only further complicated if we must deal with the possibility that there is only one earth, but there are also undetectable universes separated in space from the visible universe.

    Second, you may have adopted a distorted analysis of Galileo’s historic dealings with the Catholic church, as explained in this article:
    https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/the-galileo-affair-history-or-heroic-hagiography/

    Third, rejecting the modern conclusion that the earth is billions of years old does not mean you have to ignore any data or evidence or modern interpretations of it. Many creationists give them careful scrutiny. Rejecting the conclusion that the earth might be only a few thousand years old could mean that you have ignored both supporting evidence and problems with the alternative conclusion widely accepted by modern experts.

    Fourth, a conclusion cannot really be “accepted universally” if plenty of scientists reject it, and in this case, plenty do. If you have to tack on “by almost all scientists” to be honest, then you have no business claiming unanimity or universality. Besides this, one should avoid logical fallacies that might be tempting, based on wide acceptance of a given claim (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority#Use_in_science and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum).

    You admitted, “…obviously one can’t go back 4 billion years in time,” but you failed to admit that this means that the age of the earth is not a proper topic for scientific investigation. Why? You explained, “Christians can’t provide any proof that the radioactive methods are not accurate over time or that the laws of physics changed. The ice core data go back 800,000 years—far past the Bible creation 6,000 years ago—and the ice core data is not based on radiation.” Decay rates are measured, not derived from a study of the laws of physics, but I see no need to quibble over this. Many of us believe in rare miracles, but who is arguing that the laws of physics changed? Your comment about Christians lacking proof reflects a misunderstanding that does need to be clarified.

    There are at least two different approaches to determining the age of the earth: (1) a study of biblical chronology that stretches back to Creation and (2) tentative interpretation of currently available physical data under specific assumptions about the unobserved past, perhaps with radiometric dating involved somehow. If you agree that (2) is unreliable when evolutionists do the interpreting, then you should understand that it does not become any more reliable simply because it is also unreliable even when creationists use this same approach to support beliefs that the earth is only a few thousand years old. (Some do.) In other words, any failure of creationists to convince you that approach (2) properly leads to the conclusion that the earth is 6,000 years old (or 7,200 per Aardsma) by no means justifies your concluding that the earth therefore must be 4.5 billion years old. Rejecting six thousand for lack of proof does not logically or automatically eliminate any alternative age of the earth, like six hundred or six trillion years old—or any other age.

    Personally, I prefer approach (1) over (2), but I understand that you are stuck with (2) until you either change your mind about the Bible or decide that the age of the earth is a mystery, perhaps one that will never be solved by mortal men. In either case, I don’t think you have a case against the Bible based on modern claims about the age of the earth, at least not one that withstands scrutiny. If you disagree, please explain.

    Do ice cores provide you with a killer argument? Have you considered articles like these?
    https://answersingenesis.org/environmental-science/ice-age/still-trying-to-make-ice-cores-old/
    https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/layers-assumption/
    https://creation.com/ice-sheet-age
    https://creation.com/do-greenland-ice-cores-show-over-one-hundred-thousand-years-of-annual-layers
    https://creation.com/ice-cores-vs-the-flood
    https://www.icr.org/article/ice-cores-seafloor-sediments-age-earth
    If you found a refutation of these creationist criticisms that withstands scrutiny, I am interested.

    Thanks for your comments on the Psarris analysis of speed of light arguments. You concluded, “So here again we have speculation, but no real proof.” Is this a problem for creationists? Did you think Psarris was trying to prove that speed of light evidence ought to lead to the conclusion that the earth and the universe are only a few thousand years old? He certainly did not do this, but did he even try? You may have misunderstood his purpose. I think it was just to cast doubt on the claims of people (like Perry Marshall) that speed of light arguments conclusively prove that the universe is far more than a few thousand years old. Note the title of the lecture I linked (“Distant Starlight: Does it Disprove Biblical Creation?” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JEFy-ZtEzg).

    The six assumptions he covered in the article you linked mostly overlap the seven assumptions he covered in the video lecture. For comparison, you can see a list of the seven covered in his lecture by sliding over to 11:01–11:11 in the video.

    Assumption #1 in the slightly older article is equivalent to Assumption #6 in the lecture. I agree that creationists do tend to accept this assumption as probably valid, but as Psarris points out, it is still only an assumption that cannot be verified scientifically, yet it is crucial to Perry’s speed of light argument. In a lecture lasting an hour and 18 minutes, Psarris devoted only about 11 seconds to this assumption (57:16–57:26).

    Assumption #2 in the article matches Assumption #4 in the lecture, and this one is more interesting, so Psarris devoted over two minutes of his lecture to this one (47:35 – 49:54). Your points about those first two assumptions in the article are well taken, but you have ignored most of what Psarris said in his video lecture. You may have more reasons up your sleeve that ought to inspire confidence that all seven assumptions are reasonable and that the atheists’ speed of light argument should therefore be convincing. If so, again, I am interested. Perry might be able to help you with this, but don’t hold your breath.

    Modern experts ultimately rely on some form of radiometric dating to associate an absolute date with an object that can be touched or visited by a space probe. For other objects, such as those outside the Solar System, an entirely different method must be used, since radiometric dating would be impractical there, and entirely different assumptions are involved. I suspect that verifying these assumptions is always problematic. I am convinced that the quest to find the age of either the earth or the universe is outside the realm of ordinary science, the kind that involves observation, repeatable experiments, and falsifiable hypotheses. If you disagree, please explain.

    I still maintain that no scientific study can reasonably be used to discredit the Bible. I hope these long comments help you understand that I feel prepared to defend this idea with confidence.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Evolution vs. the 7-Day Genesis Creation: Tom Godfrey (response to your 3/15/19 (8:43 pm) reply) you wrote that ”Decay rates may indeed be reliable now, whenever modern experts measure them, but these rates could have been different in the distant past, when no human scientist could measure them.” Yes, they could. But the young earth creationists can’t demonstrate that this occurred. As Perry said in his book “Evolution 2.0” about a similar hypothetical creationist argument, “Saying God made a universe with an exquisitely detailed illusion of history that never actually happened makes it impossible to be certain of anything. You could just as easily claim God made all of us 6 days ago with our memories intact” (pp. 318-319). Given the choice of believing a mythical book of Genesis and an OT God having major character flaws, I will rely on mainline science on this issue.

      You cite creationist articles to explain why the scientific case for any kind of radiometric dating is weak at best and state secular experts still accept isochron dating anyway and consider it their gold standard, of course. What alternative do they have? The Bible?” Again, as I just wrote, the Bible is a horrible alternative, which many believe to be a myth. The Bible has a talking serpent, a talking ass, the sun standing still or going backward, and it cites numerous examples where the OT god murders humans rather than trying to relate to them and work with them. You have a supposedly omniscient God who felt his creation was good, but after giving humans free will, he had to slaughter 99.999% of them in a flood that killed innocent children and animals. He approved of the mass murder of women, children, and animals at Jericho, and he allowed the devil to kill Job’s 10 children in a contest with the devil to test Job. Frankly, Tom, the scientific alternative—with some uncertainly—is a much superior, though not perfect, alternative in my mind to a mythical Bible.

      I would agree that the Source created the universe, but I don’t agree “if” the first verse in the Bible is true, then nothing else in creation could be old in comparison. I believe biblical description of God’s creation is a myth and is cannot be supported except by what ifs, speculation, apologies, and retranslations of the Hebrew scripture. You state “there are also undetectable universes separated in space from the visible universe.” Many who believe in the Big Bang believe in the existence of multiverses, and they use that idea to claim our universe and earth are not uniquely designed and fine-tuned but just accidentally came about from the infinite number of universes allegedly created by inflation after the Bang. There is no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis since these alleged universes are undetectable. God, however, can make as many universes as he chooses, and I have no idea if he has done this.

      Tom, I looked at Spike Psarris’ points on the Light Travel Time issue (LTT). He stated that “Each assumption provides an opportunity for a possible LTT solution. The point of this article is not for me to discuss my preferred LTT solution. Instead, we’ll talk about the most popular solutions, with a short summary of their pros and cons.” I thought he gave a good summary of the pros and cons without taking sides.

      You conclude with the fact that you “still maintain that no scientific study can reasonably be used to discredit the Bible.” The Bible is ancient history and philosophy, with a little poetry thrown in with liberal amounts of sex, violence, and miracles, so science can’t address most of that since all of it allegedly occurred 2,000 to 6,000 years ago, though I don’t believe Joshua’s long day, the sun going backward on Hezekiah’s sun dial, or the Genesis Flood can be justified scientifically. —Jim Lea

  12. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Oops. I gave you the wrong reference to what Psarris had to say about Assumption #6 in his video lecture. The correct reference is 54:59–57:23 (not 57:16–57:26), so this part of his lecture lasted over two minutes also, not just 11 seconds. Sorry for my goof here.

  13. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Today, I would like to move along to other topics besides the age of the earth in your March 5 at 2:15 pm comment. Unless something new from you passes moderation before I finish, this one may catch me up.

    You explained, “When I read just the first book of Genesis, I personally—based on my degree in theology, my long-time experience of studying and writing about the Bible, and my study of reincarnation & NDEs—believe the Bible does not seem credible to me. I believe in an omniscient, omnipotent God, but I honestly think that God is not described in the Bible based on my experience and knowledge, …” Fair enough. This summary is rather general, but we have also been discussing some specific issues that hinder your belief. Yesterday, I commented on some scientific issues, but what about the moral issues that seem to be most of what is left? You detailed some specifics in the second paragraph of your comment.

    Is God, as described in the Bible, moody? This is the first time, in our discussion, that you have said this adjective applies to God, and frankly, I don’t recall anyone else agreeing with you on this point, so I wonder what you found in the Bible that gave you such an idea. What definition do you have in mind? A mood is supposed to be a temporary state of mind or feeling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mood_(psychology)), right? Can you find a biblical example of God being gloomy or changing his mood unpredictably (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moody)?

    Your second observation was that God “resorts to and justifies killing too often for such a powerful being.” In this case, you provided a helpful example (“[God] sanctioned mass murder at Jericho and in Palestine”). This makes me wonder what your theory of war is. Do you consider President Truman to be a mass murderer because of the way he ended the war with Japan in 1945? Personally, I don’t see it that way. What am I missing? God gave the people in the promised land plenty of time to repent (Gen. 15:13-16), and those years of opportunity must have included about 40 with clear signs of an impending conquest, signs known even to a prostitute, so presumably also known to the general population of the area (Josh. 2:8-11). See also the story about Balaam (Numbers, chapters 22 through 24).

    Along the same lines, you wrote about God “killing the giants” and murdering “his children—his creation—for disobeying him quite frequently” and about “the mass murder of the children and animals at the flood.” What you say here suggests to me that you assume you know all you need to know to reach your conclusion. I doubt that this is the case. You should be aware that, according to the Bible, everyone (not counting Jesus Christ and certain angels) has either disobeyed God or will disobey him (Is. 53:6; Rom. 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). According to these doctrines, we are all destined to die (Heb. 9:27). This applies to the people who died in the flood, those in the ark, the inhabitants of Jericho and the promised land, the Israelite conquerors, you, me—in short, everyone. Why do you make an artificial distinction?

    You should understand now why your judgment against God seems nonsensical to me and maybe to anyone else with a biblical perspective. If it still seems reasonable to you, it may help to compare your own concept of God with the one described in the Bible. Has the kind of God you envision stood by, perhaps helplessly, for all of human history while people have died like flies, often after suffering excruciating pain, illness, or torture, in many cases, even before they were born? Is this same kind of thing supposed to be happening even on other planets? How many? Is it really the fault of all of these victims, because they planned their ordeal before they were born?

    Who established this arrangement in the first place? According to your philosophy, it was “an omniscient, omnipotent God,” right? How could this be? If he knew in advance that his creatures were going to plan such horrors for their various reincarnations, why couldn’t he have used his wisdom and intelligence to institute a more loving and peaceful arrangement? At least the God described in the Bible has provided a way of eternal salvation (John 3:16).

    Has the real God, in your judgment, simply stood aside and silently watched countless reincarnations, each one ending in death? Is it okay with you that this goes on, world without end? Does this divine behavior demonstrate unconditional love in your book? How credible is this? Is all evil justified, just because God wants to allow his creatures opportunities to enjoy challenges and dangerous adventures whenever they please, even for as many lifetimes as they please? Are we now talking about good parenting skills? Your philosophy has not yet made sense to me. How do you explain it to yourself?

    It is true that we have available in our day many alternative translations of the Bible and many books for use as study aids, but does it follow that this book could not therefore be inspired by an all-wise God? I think you see the situation as an indication of “much confusion.” I see it as an indication of much interest. Much confusion and much interest don’t seem compatible. I know from personal experience that almost everything in the Bible can be understood even by a child, depending on the child’s age, perhaps with some help from a believing parent or teacher.

    Because of enormous interest in the Bible, it has become a lightning rod for the enemies of God, who keep repeating the primordial temptation to doubt or reject it—“Did God really say …?” (Gen. 3:1)—or to be confused about what it clearly means (maybe, for example, as in Evolution 2.0., Appendix 2).

    It does make sense to me that God would communicate key information to humans, specially made in his image, either personally (Gen. 3:8; 4:6-7; 6:13-21; 9:1-17; 12:1-3; etc.), through prophets (Deut. 18:14-22), or through a book like the Bible (2Tim. 3:16). If you eliminate the Bible as a candidate, what do you have left? Your list of personally selected sources? Any other private canon of modern selections that have not even existed for most of human history? Or maybe nothing at all, as though God has nothing important to say to us in written form during our lifetime on earth? Did you suppose he provided anything like the Bible on other planets?

    You said, “I believe God has led me to see the obvious,” and as far as the Bible is concerned, “the obvious” seems to be practically indistinguishable from what atheists have concluded about it. In view of the primordial temptation in Gen. 3:1, one ought to wonder whether the source of this particular conclusion is really God and not ultimately fallen angels or God’s spiritual enemies. I do not dispute your claim that you are “well-educated, analytical, and have common sense,” but you should realize that other people who fit the same description disagree with you on this issue. I think it follows that even such a person can be deceived (Matt. 24:24; Col. 2:1-5; Tit. 3:3). No one wants to be deceived, right?

    Is God “obsessed with penises and circumcision”? This is where a concordance or BibleGateway may come in handy. There are 31,102 verses in the Bible. How many (or what percentage) of them mention one of these concepts? I checked both the KJV and the NIV and found not one mention of penis. The KJV does refer to males in six verses (two in 2 Samuel, three in 1Kings, one more in 2Kings) as one who urinates against a wall. The Lord speaks in only three of them. Besides those verses, I found only two verses that refer to emasculation (Deut. 23:1 and Gal. 5:12). To put this in perspective, compare the references to eye(s), arm(s), hand(s), and foot or feet. Should any of this qualify as proof of an obsession?

    You obviously have a better case related to circumcision, but just how good is it? I checked the KJV and NIV for words related to this concept or to foreskins and found a total of 112 (KJV) or 110 (NIV). Dividing 111 by 31,102 verses and multiplying by 100, we can calculate 0.357 as the percentage of Bible verses that refer to these concepts. Put another way, for every verse in this category, there are about 280 that are not in it. Frankly, if you count this as obsession, I am not impressed. Compare the number of verses related to lavers and washing, or the number related to law or love, for comparison.

    Did God ever advocate “slaughtering innocent animals because he enjoyed the smell”? Where did you get this idea? From Gen. 8:20-21 or Phil. 4:18? Neither one of those passages even attempts to explain why God commanded animal sacrifices in the law of Moses, let alone in earlier times. Unless you are making just a wild, facetious, or unreasonable guess about the true reason for God’s laws regarding animal sacrifices, I am mystified.

    You are still writing about contradictions in the Bible, “so many problems that it takes whole books to get around them.” Please think about this. You are amazed by the large number of claimed contradictions, but I think you ought to consider how many of them are actually silly and easily resolved. This is why I have been requesting that you find one that you feel sure can withstand scrutiny. I understand that it would be unreasonable to consider a large sample of these. We don’t have the time for it. But if even the clearest contradiction is not presentable, then none of them are, regardless of the count, and this issue should also be crossed off of your list of reasons for rejecting the Bible as the word of God.

    I move on now to your comments about the enemies of God or supernatural sources presenting a fairly consistent collection of descriptions for your consideration but not wanting to acknowledge Jesus Christ or give heed to what his earliest followers reported. I think you misunderstood me. You may be confusing the psychics and people who have an NDE story to tell with their “spirit guides.” When I make a hypothesis about enemies of God, I have in mind the beings in the latter group—“spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). I have no reason to doubt that the human “sources” who wrote the books on your list are honestly reporting their experiences. Neither do I doubt that some of them help others improve their life.

    If you are reaching out to Christians, hoping that they might switch over to your philosophy, you should be aware that we have been commanded to test the spirits (1John 4:1-6). If they don’t pass the test, or if they encourage us to doubt the word of God, even during an NDE, then we need to be respectfully on our guard and not fall for their lies, even if they appear to be an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14). I understand that you reject the Bible and may therefore believe whatever any “spirit guide” says without question, but I don’t think it is reasonable to conclude that you could not possibly be deceived by them.

    You said, “… NDEs show that once a body dies, its soul goes to heaven, … So the NDE does show Christianity is wrong about needing salvation to get to heaven.” This may be a case in point. Remember what the N in NDE stands for. Someone experiencing an NDE may get to find out what happens when a body dies in some objective medical sense, but not what happens in a spiritual realm when the experience involves complete death, not just near death, and a certain boundary is crossed permanently. In other words, these people who come back to life in their physical body after an experience outside of their body may not be in any position to report truthfully whether salvation is needed with regard to their eternal destiny. They simply haven’t gone that far yet. The death referenced in Heb. 9:27 has not yet been experienced. Their body will die again, even though true and final death is a once in a lifetime experience. (I assume that resuscitation following an NDE is not considered a reincarnation.)

    Last fall, I started listening to a series of NDE videos produced by Nathan Wheeler without ever finishing the series. I wonder whether you have considered his story. He strongly encourages his audience to see each video in sequence without skipping. Here is a link to the first one, in case you are interested and want to comment on his series.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U166yf5VxM8

    I am running out of time to work on this comment this evening, but before I close, I have new questions about reincarnation for you. Have you ever heard of a case where someone reported seeing a deceased loved one “on the other side” and asked about yet another deceased loved one who was missing from the scene at the time? If so, I wonder whether the answer was ever, “He was here, but you can’t see him right now, because he has already reincarnated again and is alive on earth as someone else.” It seems to me that sightings of deceased loved ones over there would have to be specific to a particular incarnation. Could such an individual change at will to appear there as any incarnation in his personal series? The same goes for the newly arrived person. I remember watching an NDE video recently where someone reported a visit to hell and told about beings there who appeared to be a beloved relative but then morphed into a hideous monster.

    Take your time replying. Life goes on. Peace.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: The Character of the Biblical God: Tom Godfrey (response to your 3/16/19 reply) you wrote: “Can you find a biblical example of God being gloomy or changing his mood unpredictably.” Perhaps another adjective would have been more descriptive, but I had in mind God getting along with Adam & Eve very well in the garden, but when they took a bite out of the forbidden fruit in their immaturity hoping to be wise like their parent, God’s mood changed and he cursed the serpent, child bearing, and the ground (Gen 3:14-19). Perhaps I should instead say God was a poor parent who overreacted and he should have been more forgiving and patient.

      You claimed my second observation was that God “resorts to and justifies killing too often for such a powerful being. In this case, you provided a helpful example (‘God sanctioned mass murder at Jericho and in Palestine’). This makes me wonder what your theory of war is. Do you consider President Truman to be a mass murderer because of the way he ended the war with Japan in 1945? Personally, I don’t see it that way. What am I missing?” You are missing the fact that I am discussing the character of the OT God who claims to be omniscient and a God of love, rather than the decisions of humans in wars. You say “God gave the people in the promised land plenty of time to repent (Gen. 15:13-16),” but these verses don’t say that at all. The Israelites wanted the land of the Canaanites, they moved in, slaughtered all the inhabitants without mercy, and then they claimed a God justified their war crimes. I just don’t buy this!

      Tom, you comment that “according to the Bible, everyone (not counting Jesus Christ and certain angels) has either disobeyed God or will disobey him (Is. 53:6; Rom. 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). According to these doctrines, we are all destined to die (Heb. 9:27). This applies to the people who died in the flood, those in the ark, the inhabitants of Jericho and the promised land, the Israelite conquerors, you, me—in short, everyone. Why do you make an artificial distinction?” I am shocked at this statement. It appears you are justifying the mass murder of the inhabitants of the pre-flood world and those in Jericho just because they were going to die anyway and because they were sinners. So, is it okay to bomb and destroy those in the World Trade Center because the people inside were sinners who would eventually die? I’m sorry. Mass murder is mass murder. There is no justification for it.

      You state: “You should understand now why your judgment against God seems nonsensical to me and maybe to anyone else with a biblical perspective.” Even though I emphasize this over and over in my replies, I am not judging the true God of love. I am judging the mythical, very-human, vengeful, jealous, angry god portrayed in the OT & the somewhat improved god in the NT. You remark: “Has the kind of God you envision stood by, perhaps helplessly, for all of human history while people have died like flies, often after suffering excruciating pain, illness, or torture, in many cases, even before they were born? Is it really the fault of all of these victims, because they planned their ordeal before they were born?” Tom, whether we believe the OT God is responsible for our world today or my version of God, the world is the same world with the identical problems. God does not stand by helplessly. In the Christian world, most of humanity will suffer the ills you described and will die unsaved, only to be tossed into the lake of fire (Rev. 20). Under reincarnation, each soul is aware of the challenges it faces on earth and it chooses certain challenges with its free will before birth—all the time knowing it is immortal and will return to heaven after a hard life, in many cases. Given a choice between being immortal and suffering some difficult lives to learn and grow in wisdom vs. probably not being one of the chosen few in Eph. 1:4 and getting tossed into the lake of fire for ALL ETERNITY, the vast majority of earthlings would choose reincarnation.

      “Has the real God… simply stood aside and silently watched countless reincarnations, each one ending in death? Is it okay with you that this goes on…?” No, the real God doesn’t “simply” stand aside and “silently” cede his power and control in frustration. The God of love has a masterful plan that results in all souls growing spiritually and being totally reconciled to him over time, whereas the biblical God gives up on most of humanity and subjects them to eternal torture for mistakes made in just one life. You ask: “Are we now talking about good parenting skills?” Yes, because the reincarnation system guarantees that each and every soul, with divine assistance throughout time, will succeed in spiritual growth and wisdom, whereas the biblical system exhibits a God with poor parenting skills because that God doesn’t even work with the vast majority of the world’s citizens or try to get them saved before condemning them to eternal hell fire.

      You disagreed with my premise that the Bible is uninspired because it is so unclear and there are hundreds of conflicting ideas of exactly what it means, as evidenced by all the conflicting churches and differing commentaries. I’m sorry, but as an ex-editor, I’d never be satisfied with calling a book inspired when reasonable people can’t even agree on what it means or teaches on major subjects. You write that “I know from personal experience that almost everything in the Bible can be understood even by a child, depending on the child’s age.” Interestingly, Mormon children will have a different understanding of the Bible than do Jehovah Witness children who have a different understanding than Catholic children, than Seventh-Day Adventists children, etc. So I totally disagree with you here.

      You declare: “Because of enormous interest in the Bible, it has become a lightning rod for the enemies of God, who keep repeating the primordial temptation to doubt or reject it.” Tom, I am definitely not an enemy of God, whom I believe is the Creator and Source of All That Is. But the Bible totally misrepresents the God of love and paints him as a God who tortures sinners—the majority of humankind—in eternal hell fire. The Bible has been used to justify slavery, conquering and killing unconverted humans in the name of Jesus, the Crusades, killing or discriminating against gays, and abusing women & making them 2nd class citizens. The true God does not approve of any of this. So you could conclude that the Bible itself is an enemy of God!

      You claim “It does make sense to me that God would communicate key information to humans …through prophets … or through a book like the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16). If you eliminate the Bible as a candidate, what do you have left? Your list of personally selected sources?” Yes, you have my selected sources and many other metaphysical sources, but you have far more. Under reincarnation, each soul previews its coming life and prepares the karmic issues it will take on with full help, love, and guidance from its spirit guides and council of elders in heaven. Your guides assist you while on earth, and when you go back to heaven, you review your life, knowing there is no condemnation for mistakes or even failed lives. Under the biblical system, Christians fight and argue about the Bible’s meaning while most of the world’s people are taught nothing about Christianity, Jesus, the need to be saved, or the fact that if they are not saved, they will be tormented in eternal hell fire forever. This is a biased, unfair, exclusivist system that leaves most of humanity in the dark as to their fate.

      Tom, you feel that my view of the Bible is basically the same as the atheists. That is accurate. However, I believe all atheists will return to heaven after their lives end. If their atheism caused them to make poor decisions in their previous life, they will try to correct those deficiencies in the next life. They are not judged or condemned for their incorrect decision.

      You quoted me saying God is “obsessed with penises and circumcision.” You responded that the Bible has 31,102 verses and one mention of penis. I didn’t bother to count the number of penises in the Bible, but you can’t have male circumcision without a penis, so a penis is implied in multiple verses. The words “circumcision” and “uncircumcised” appear throughout the Bible. And King David seemed to love cutting off the foreskin of the penises of the Philistines that he murdered. You state: “To put this in perspective, compare the references to eye(s), arm(s), hand(s), and foot or feet. Should any of this qualify as proof of an obsession?” Yes, because the eyes, arms, hands, and feet are never mutilated like a penis.

      Tom you said I had a better case related to circumcision in that you found a total number of words related to circumcision or to foreskins to be 112 (KJV) or 110 (NIV). Dividing 111 by 31,102 verses and multiplying by 100, we can calculate 0.357 as the percentage of Bible verses that refer to these concepts. Tom, I have to hand it to you for amazing argumentative creativity. I would have never imagined such an argument being used to prove a point.

      Using your new argument, I have read National Geographic for the last 12 months and found no statements whatsoever about circumcision, penises, or foreskins. So I must conclude that the Bible is obsessed with penises and circumcision compared to National Geographic. I summarize a lot of my metaphysics books in Word documents and can’t ever remember seeing any of these words mentioned in almost 40 years. I checked the 48-page index of my daughter’s 1,400 page AP college biology textbook, and it contained 4 index references to “penis” and none to foreskin or circumcision. The huge glossary had one reference to penis. Under the main reference to penis, I found one mention of foreskin and the statement that “circumcision has no verified basis in health or hygiene” (p. 972). So compared to a college biology textbook where you’d expect the topic to be covered, the Bible is definitely obsessed with circumcision and foreskins—and I’m not sure children would understand this topic at all.

      You asked: “Did God ever advocate slaughtering innocent animals because he enjoyed the smell? Where did you get this idea?” I stole it from the Bible. Exodus 29:25 mentions a burnt offering being “a pleasing odor before the Lord” (RSV). See also Ex. 29:41, Lev. 1:9, 17, etc.

      Concerning Bible contradictions, the massive one is that God is portrayed as a God of love who is prepared to torture the wicked in hell fire for all eternity because they didn’t accept Jesus. There is no reason to bother with smaller ones, because all of them can be argued for centuries, and they have been. Look at the Jews. The have dozens of volumes by learned rabbis trying to argue and explain the Hebrew scripture, and each rabbi has his own arguments. I am not going waste my time getting into the Jewish game of debating scripture endlessly. Besides since I don’t accept the moral character of the biblical God, there is no reason to debate which verb is more proper in a scripture or which translation is a better fit or what the “real” meaning of some vague passage is.

      You implied that you think the spirit guides I refer to are “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). In my philosophy I do not believe there is a devil, demons, or any “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” God is in total control. Each soul in the spirit world is assigned one or more spirit guides or mentors who are advanced spirit beings who have ceased reincarnating. Actually, I am not “reaching out to Christians, hoping that they might switch over” to my philosophy. I share my philosophy with anyone who is interested like you. I like to emphasize to others that there is more than one world view of God and his purpose that makes sense, and just because one world view doesn’t make sense, that is not a reason to reject God.

      I stated that near-death experiences (NDEs) show that once a body dies, its soul goes to heaven, and I remarked that the NDE does show Christianity is wrong about needing salvation to get to heaven. You wonder if these people who come back to life in their physical body after an experience outside of their body may not be in any position to report truthfully whether salvation is needed. This statement overlooks the obvious. People of all faiths, non-Christians, agnostics, atheists, and young children have NDEs and enter the spirit world. They find their non-Christian friends and family members of all ages there. So if only Christians are saved, why would a doctor from India, for instance, see his Hindu parents and relatives? NDEers find babies and young children in heaven who had recently crossed over, but they weren’t baptized or saved either.

      You inquired: “Have you ever heard of a case where someone reported seeing a deceased loved one on the other side and asked about yet another deceased loved one who was missing from the scene at the time? If so, I wonder whether the answer was ever, ‘He was here, but you can’t see him right now, because he has already reincarnated again and is alive on earth as someone else.’” Several sources emphasize that when a soul reincarnates, it keeps a certain percentage of its energy in the spirit world, say 30% or 40%. Because of this, the soul can meet deceased loved ones and participate in activities in heaven while the other 60% to 70% of the soul’s energy is in a body on earth. Could there be a few exceptions? I have no information on that. Peace & Freedom to You. —Jim

  14. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Thanks for your detailed replies and for your patience in continuing this discussion. In his poem, “To a Louse,” Robert Burns wrote, “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!” One advantage of a friendly but serious and rational discussion like ours is that we may get to see ourselves or our ideas as someone else sees them from a different perspective. Problems that we may have ignored, dismissed, overlooked, or swept under the rug may get exposed so that we have to face them honestly.

    In this reply, I want to respond to your March 18 at 6:43 pm comment, the one where you admitted that decay rates could have been different in the distant past. Since a constant decay rate during a period of interest is an essential assumption for radiometric dating, I think it follows logically that this kind of dating could yield misleading data and is therefore unreliable. Creationists have found evidence that decay rates may indeed have changed but without actually demonstrating that they did, as you pointed out. Since we are talking about history, not science, I have no idea how such a demonstration could be provided without a time machine in good working order. Do you?

    So what? Should you consider radiometric dating reliable simply because you do not know of any proof that decay rates definitely did change in the past, while admitting that they could have changed? I think this would boil down to an argument from ignorance. By this logic, someone could just as well argue that radiometric dating is definitely wrong, because no absolute proof of constant rates for billions of years is known to have been discovered. I think the reasonable conclusion is that one can use this kind of dating method to speculate about ages, but the ages could be wrong. I recommend crossing the age of the earth issue off of your list of reasons for rejecting the Bible as the word of God. I doubt that you can defend it, but if you can, I’m listening.

    I still need to address Perry’s claim, which you quoted: “Saying God made a universe with an exquisitely detailed illusion of history that never actually happened makes it impossible to be certain of anything.” If a creation miracle really is performed, such an illusion of history inevitably results, so is Perry suggesting that one should either deny that God ever performed such a miracle or else it would be impossible to be certain of anything? I don’t get it. Can’t we still be certain that God performed creation miracles because the Bible says he did, not to mention the certainty that we exist?

    Perry went on to set up the Last Thursdayism straw man.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphalos_hypothesis#Criticisms
    While it would be easy for anyone to adopt such a hypothesis, all right, I don’t subscribe to it, and I don’t know any other creationist who does. Unless you do, let’s not go there. Let’s not be distracted by straw men.

    You concluded your first paragraph by saying, “Given the choice of believing a mythical book of Genesis and an OT God having major character flaws, I will rely on mainline science on this issue.” I think you are fooling yourself with this kind of thinking. You are not relying on “mainline science” but rather on speculation about history, perhaps as tentatively proposed by mainline scientists wearing their historian hat instead of their scientist hat. You have concluded that Genesis is a mythical book, but as far as I can tell, the “scientific” speculation in question is the only reason you have for believing that Genesis is mythical, and you ignore good evidence supportive of the accuracy of Genesis accounts. Maybe Perry does too. What could be easier? Let’s be reasonable.

    I asked, “What alternative [to isochron dating] do [secular experts] have? The Bible?” You answered the second question, which was meant to be a sarcastic guess, with mostly a repetition of old points about how horrible you believe the Bible is. Some of those points seem to involve a rejection of the idea that God can perform the miracles reported in the Bible. Some involve morality issues that we can discuss more later. Our focus now is on the accuracy of biblical claims about history. You dodged the first question, maybe because the answer is so obvious. Those experts may have no alternative to radiometric or isochron dating that is acceptable to them. What happens if you take it away? I think their whole chronology related to the age of the earth would fall into disarray. If you disagree, please explain.

    If the first verse in the Bible is true, as written (without “what ifs, speculation, apologies, and retranslations”), what else could be old in comparison to the earth?

    You repeated a suggestion, first shared with me in your January 9 at 1:39 comment, that you do not believe the story of a talking serpent in Genesis 3. I find this interesting, because it seems to be an important part of your reason for rejecting Genesis as a trustworthy account. On the other hand, you find the testimony of people who have an NDE story to tell more trustworthy. Do you hold those accounts to the same standard? Here is an NDE story you may not have considered yet. Please focus on 0:30 – 1:23.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOhOynR9Jxg
    Here is another retelling by the same man with a bit more detail. Please focus on 8:10 – 9:44 in this video and let me know whether this man might also be describing some kind of talking serpent.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn-PKUPYCg4
    Do you believe his story? I understand that this might be the kind of NDE story you would exclude from your list of trustworthy sources, maybe just to maintain the illusion that all NDE stories are consistent with your philosophy, but listening to this man’s story may help you see your own ideas from another perspective.

    I did not mean that I believe “there are also undetectable universes.” You left out of your quote the important first part of what I had said. Here’s the missing context. I had said, “The question is only further complicated if we must deal with the possibility that there is only one earth, but there are also undetectable universes separated in space from the visible universe.” Those other universes are only a possibility. You went on to comment on this idea but failed to concede the main point I was trying to make, as though you had missed it. Recall that you had said, “I refuse to be like the Catholic church of Galileo’s day—which rejected the truth that the earth was not the center of the universe…” In response, I said, “I don’t think it is possible to detect scientifically how far the earth is from the center of the universe before we have detected the outer edge of the universe in practically every direction.” I think my point stands. I am not expecting you “to be like the Catholic church of Galileo’s day.” I think you could agree with me and not have to reject any truth that is scientifically known to be true. If you disagree, please explain.

    Another take-away from the Psarris lecture is that the LTT problem is not a legitimate reason for rejecting biblical chronology (thousands, not billions of years of universe history). If you can find out from Perry whether he still disagrees, and if so why, I would definitely be interested in his answers. Maybe all he does is disregard the points Psarris tried to make. What could be easier?

    Your description of the Bible in the last paragraph of your comment is fairly close to what I believe. I would rephrase it, however. Maybe you were just in a hurry and would actually agree with me that the Bible contains accounts of ancient history, including plenty of miracles, liberal amounts of poetry, some violence, some philosophy, some prophecy, and also a little sex. Science can’t address any of this, since it is all outside the realm of ordinary science. The historical events allegedly occurred between about 2,000 and about 7,200 years ago.

    You don’t believe Joshua’s long day or “the sun going backward on Hezekiah’s sun dial,” but why not? You have told me you believe that God is omnipotent, but is his omnipotence somehow limited so that this kind of miracle would be impossible for him to perform? Please explain.

    I know that Perry believes in miracles, especially miracles that are reported by charismatic Christians in our time, so his rejection of miracles is selective and perhaps limited to creation miracles, since they inevitably leave the impression of “an exquisitely detailed illusion of history,” but what about you? You should realize that any belief in supernatural intervention, even if the agents are “spirit guides,” could be considered belief in miracles, since they would have no scientifically verifiable basis. You evidently believe in the existence of undocumented planets, like Jaspear, for instance, right? You clearly do not insist on scientific verification as a prerequisite for belief. Where is Jaspear? How many light-years away is it? How was information from that planet brought here so suddenly? Was it miraculous? Please explain your position on miracles.

    You also said you don’t believe “the Genesis Flood can be justified scientifically.” We evidently agree that this is outside the realm of science too. So what? Have you considered the evidence Aardsma has found that supports belief in the historicity of the Flood? I realize that justifying God’s decision to send the Flood is a separate, moral issue, but we could skip this aspect if, in fact, the Flood never took place in real history as claimed in the Bible.

    To sum up, it looks to me as though you have prematurely, maybe even eagerly, rejected the Bible, leaving you with nothing else that is clearly more trustworthy to replace its account of origins and ancient history, so you rely instead on pure speculation and educated guesses about this early period of time.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: Radiometric Dating & the Character of the Biblical God: Tom Godfrey (response to your 3/16/19 reply) you wrote: “Since a constant decay rate during a period of interest is an essential assumption for radiometric dating, I think it follows logically that this kind of dating could yield misleading data and is therefore unreliable….Should you consider radiometric dating reliable simply because you do not know of any proof that decay rates definitely did change in the past, while admitting that they could have changed?” Tom, I believe the burden of proving radiometric dating wrong is on the young earth creationists (YEC). Archaeologists, paleontologists, geologists, and cosmologists consider the various radiometric methods reliable. The only doubt comes from YEC scientists who have to show the creation of the earth and the universe happened 6,000 years ago to avoid having their Bible discredited, so there is a little initial bias here.

      I believe the thousands of scientists that use the radiometric dating methods would revise them if they had any evidence they were unreliable since there is a lot of competition among scientists for new findings & recognition. And even if one radiometric method was shown to be less reliable, you would have to show all of them are worthless. In archaeological articles I see updating of the age of artifacts and ancient dwelling sites all the time, so scientists are not afraid to change course if need be. I’m sure if I were a physicist versed on the subject, I could give you a more technical reason for accepting the mainstream position, but I’m not. So in analyzing the situation, I believe the chances are far greater that the mainstream scientists are correct than the YECs, so I go with the mainstream on this issue.

      My guess is there is also overlapping evidence that supports radiometric dating from history, archaeology, paleontology, geology, and cosmology. I do know that ice cores go back 800,000 years, so even if you reject radiometric dating on flimsy evidence, you are confronted with 794,000 years unaccounted for by Genesis 1.

      You are unhappy with my reasoned conclusion, so you remark: “I recommend crossing the age of the earth issue off of your list of reasons for rejecting the Bible as the word of God. I doubt that you can defend it, but if you can, I’m listening.” I can and will defend rejecting the Bible. Here’s why. First of all, YECs offer no convincing evidence that the various types of radiometric dating are wrong that is accepted by modern science, and this dating undermines the authenticity of Genesis 1 and the whole Bible. Second, there’s absolutely no proof God inspired any of the Bible. When you analyze the written scriptures, all sorts of problems arise. The main problem is that the Christians took the Jewish holy scriptures and read into them a meaning the Jews say isn’t there—that is, that Jesus was born of a virgin and is the Messiah and is God. There is no way to prove the Christian interpretation of the Jewish book is valid, and the Jews reject it. There is no way to prove Jesus was God or a member of some mysterious Trinity. There is no way to prove the Trinity really exists, and the OT doesn’t mention or support it, even though the NT is based on the OT.

      The other main argument for rejecting the Bible is the character and morality of the God(s) described in the Bible. Tom, I cannot reconcile the supposed Bible’s God of Love with the God described in the Bible who drowned men, women, children, and animals in a great worldwide flood, who sanctioned the mass murder at Jericho and Sodom/Gomorrah, who killed hundreds of thousands of Israelites when David took a census that God disliked, and who intends to throw most of humankind into an eternal burning lake of fire for eternal punishment just because those humans messed up their one life and didn’t accept Jesus. So the fact that you can’t absolutely prove radiometric dating doesn’t mean I consider the unprovable Bible as a viable alternative. It is not a viable alternative to me in any way, shape, or form.

      Tom, it is also significant that not all Christians agree with the YEC concept. Perry Marshall is a Christian, and he accepts the evolutionary process—as do I—with some unstated divine intervention to design the DNA codes and spark life. Perry said: “Saying God made a universe with an exquisitely detailed illusion of history that never actually happened makes it impossible to be certain of anything.” I totally agree with Perry’s statement! Why does an all-powerful God need to lie and fake the time of the creation(s)? But you remark: “If a creation miracle really is performed, such an illusion of history inevitably results, so is Perry suggesting that one should either deny that God ever performed such a miracle or else it would be impossible to be certain of anything?” If a creation miracle occurs, I do NOT agree that an illusion of history inevitably results. Designing and creating life and the evolutionary process to assist the process is miraculous, and if God took a few billion years to perform these “miracles,” they are still miracles. Who are we to question God if he decided billions or millions of years were needed to produce the wonderful earth we have today?

      You stated to me: “You have concluded that Genesis is a mythical book, but as far as I can tell, the ‘scientific’ speculation in question is the only reason you have for believing that Genesis is mythical, and you ignore good evidence supportive of the accuracy of Genesis accounts.” As you can see from the above paragraph, I reject the inspiration and authority of the Bible for far more reasons than my views on radiometric dating, ice core dating, and tree-ring dating. I do reject many of the biblical stories as myth, and I do not believe the biblical God(s) reflect the real God of unconditional love reflected in my metaphysical sources.

      I went to YouTube and watched the Joe Hadwin video you recommended on his NDE of going to hell (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOhOynR9Jxg ). Interestingly, Joe says once saved always saved is “not the truth”; it “is a false doctrine, a lie from Satan.” Then he talks about his horrible drug addiction, a Christian minister trying to unfairly take his money to cure his drug addiction, his 14 years spent in jail, and his recurring addiction once he was released. He describes Satan and God bidding for his soul, and in the end, Joe said he accepted the God of Love, and when he awoke from the NDE, his addictions were all cured. So his NDE resulted in a changed life for him, which is great.

      A small percentage of those who have an NDE claim they went to a hell or saw a hell. Metaphysical books describe the fact that when a body dies, its soul has the free will to decide if it wants to go into the light and cross over, or if it wants to stay in the lower astral plane and be a ghost or a disturbed spirit. Apparently souls that caused incredible harm on earth to other humans like serial killers, for instance, may not want to be in the light or face God, so they remain in what is called the shadow world, the dark world, nether world, the gray world, etc. (Different terms are used.) These souls create their own mental hell and create their own dark world. However, they are not lost souls as emissaries from the spirit world constantly check on them and offer them help when they request it. This is not a hell created by God but by the individual soul. Eventually all these souls will be helped and return to God. They are not punished by God nor tortured in eternal hell fire. Apparently, some souls having NDEs see these disturbed souls and think they are in hell, but they are not. Why do these hellish NDEs occur? One researcher, Barbara Rommer, M.D., believes frightening NDEs occur for three reasons:

      “1. They provide motivation to the NDEers to reconsider prior choices, thoughts, and beliefs;
      “2. They result from the presence of a less than loving mind-set immediately prior to the NDE; or
      “3. They result from negative programming during childhood.”

      Tom, you wrote: “I don’t think it is possible to detect scientifically how far the earth is from the center of the universe before we have detected the outer edge of the universe in practically every direction.” Tom, I don’t know if scientists claim there is a center of the universe. When I go to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and talk with the scientists, they tell me they don’t know how far out the universe goes because of the limitations of our telescopes.

      You stated: “You don’t believe Joshua’s long day or ‘the sun going backward on Hezekiah’s sun dial,’ but why not? You have told me you believe that God is omnipotent, but is his omnipotence somehow limited so that this kind of miracle would be impossible for him to perform? Please explain.” This question is like asking me if God can create a rock that is too large for him to lift or move since he is omnipotent. I have no reason to believe God would intervene in his natural laws that keeps the earth rotating around the sun, and I doubt he could stop its rotation without major consequences. Since the biblical reason for Joshua’s long day was so Joshua could slaughter more humans, I find it extremely unlikely that a real God of love would be party to such a bizarre miracle, which I believe is a myth anyway. Tom, I’ve noticed when cornered, Christians always defend their Bible and their God—in spite of the evidence to the contrary—by saying it was a “miracle” or “God killed the humans because he is the almighty God,” and “who are we to question his wisdom?” With these types of illogical arguments the Christian’s view is always 100% correct, and the person trying to logically appraise the actions of the biblical God or the validity of the Bible is always wrong, mislead, deceived, misinformed, blind, or in denial.

      You wonder if I believe in miracles. God and our spirit guides watch over us daily. Though unseen, I believe they open doors for us in our life to help us fulfill our life’s contract. If we are threatened with death before our time, they will intervene. So unseen miracles occur all the time all over the world, but the big show-stopping miracles (e.g., Jesus raising the dead or walking on water) are apparently nonexistent or disputable.

      You state that I evidently believe in the existence of undocumented planets. Clients undergoing hypnotherapy have stated that there are many inhabited planets in our universe. Interestingly, in the March 2019 issue of “National Geographic,” we’re told: “There are more planets than stars, and at least a quarter are Earth-size planets in their star’s so-called habitable zone, where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold for life. With a minimum of 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, that means there are at least 25 billion places where life could conceivably take hold in our galaxy alone—and our galaxy is one among trillions” (“Who’s Out There?” p. 46). Think about that! Tom, it makes total sense that a God who created a whole universe would also have inhabited planets with his created beings throughout his glorious universe.

      I do not believe the biblical Genesis Flood can be justified geologically. If it didn’t occur, the Bible is uninspired and in error. If it did occur, the biblical God murdered thousands of helpless men, women, children, and animals, which also discredits the Bible and that god.

      You conclude with: “To sum up, it looks to me as though you have prematurely, maybe even eagerly, rejected the Bible, leaving you with nothing else that is clearly more trustworthy to replace its account of origins and ancient history, so you rely instead on pure speculation and educated guesses about this early period of time.” To sum it up, Tom, it appears to me as though you believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, miraculous, absurd, and primitive stories, and you say that by rejecting this book, I have nothing else trustworthy to replace it with. Fortunately, I do. My metaphysical sources are far more believable and reliable than the alleged biblical miracles and a god who exterminates those he can’t get along with. —Jim

  15. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    This reply is in response to your March 29 at 10:32 pm comment, the one where you started by explaining why you described the biblical God as moody.

    Was God ever a “poor parent who overreacted and … should have been more forgiving and patient”? You suggested that the story in Genesis 3 illustrates what you had in mind, but does it really? Why do you suppose Adam and Eve were “hoping to be wise like their parent”? As far as we can tell from Gen. 3:6, only Eve saw that the forbidden fruit came from “a tree to be desired to make one wise,” while Adam ate the fruit simply because Eve served it to him, and he had no objection, even though he knew what he was doing. Why was she deceived? It was because she trusted the serpent to tell her the truth, even though he had encouraged her to doubt what God, her creator, had said, right?

    So how should a patient, forgiving parent have handled this, in your opinion? Just by a gentle rebuke (“Please don’t let this happen again”)? I don’t think your parenting analogy works here. We are talking about an omniscient God, and we do not know enough to second-guess God and pontificate on what would have been a better course of action in this circumstance. Do we even know why God made forbidden fruit accessible? We are not told, so we are free to speculate, of course, but ignorance is no solid foundation for any firm conclusion. For all we know, the episode in the primeval garden differed dramatically from any challenge familiar to modern parents.

    I understand that you want to discuss “the character of the OT God,” not the decisions of humans in wars. Fair enough, but I still have trouble understanding why you consider God a mass murderer because of decisions he made to command wars that would result in whole cities being utterly destroyed along with their human and animal inhabitants. If you had told me that Truman was a mass murderer too, I would have thought that you must have in mind a concept of murder that differs from mine. If you had told me that Truman was not a mass murderer, I would have wanted to know the key difference between his decision and God’s.

    You said, “The Israelites wanted the land of the Canaanites, they moved in, slaughtered all the inhabitants without mercy, and then they claimed a God justified their war crimes. I just don’t buy this!” Who told you that this is the truth and wanted you to buy the idea? The Bible tells a different story. The Israelites heard the report of spies, who were sent at God’s command, and refused to take possession of the promised land (Numbers 13 and 14). After most of that generation died while wandering in the wilderness, Joshua led them in a conquest of Jericho and lands beyond, also at God’s command (Josh. 1:1-9). See a summary of the history of this period in Joshua 24, which ends on a high note of general commitment to obedience and loyalty to God. Unfortunately, this commitment did not last, and the sad results of disobedience, unfinished conquest, and failure to remain loyal to God are reviewed in Judges 1:21 – 2:15. There are no “war crimes” without an applicable, properly enacted law. What law or laws did you have in mind?

    Before we move on, let’s think a bit more deeply about the concept of murder and whether God should be considered guilty of it at some scale. On the negative side, murder should be carefully distinguished from death due to natural causes, the killing of animals, the killing of enemy combatants in connection with a war (possibly involving civilian collateral casualties), and routine execution of legal capital punishment, right? On the positive side, murder is any other intentional shortening of someone else’s span of life, regardless of the degree of shortening, so for example, a murder could be committed against an elderly victim on his death bed as well as a healthy child still in a womb without changing the category of crime involved. Murder also implies a measure of hate, criminal disregard for human life, or desire for personal gain or convenience, right? If you disagree with any of this, please explain.

    You clearly believe that God murdered the citizens of Jericho, but do you maintain that he also murdered everyone else who has ever lived and died? Recall that people lived past the age of 900 before the Flood, according to the records in Genesis. Is it unreasonable to suppose that Adam and Eve would have been immortal as long as they lived on in obedience to God (Rom. 5:12)? By this logic, everyone who has ever died has also experienced a shortened life span due to God’s judgment, and those who died after the Flood typically had theirs shortened more than those who died closer to the time of creation. If you see a key distinction between the deaths at Jericho and the those in Hiroshima in 1945, please explain.

    To justify your charge of murder, it is not enough to point out that people’s life span was shortened. You would also need to establish that God had no legal right to act as he did. If you like this alternative, you also need to identify the relevant law, who established it, and to whom it applied. In this regard, consider our modern laws against speeding on our highways. A state trooper can exceed the speed limit without breaking any law, right? If you deny that God can serve in the role of a state trooper in this analogy, please explain.

    As I recall, you decided to reject the Bible only after you earned your degree in theology. I assume this meant that you went around for years, like ordinary Christians, without considering God to be a mass murderer, even though you were fully aware of what the Bible says God did. What changed your mind must not have been a shocking biblical story (about the Flood or casualties in war) or a familiar interpretation of what you had read in the Bible for years. So what did finally lead you to find an allegedly “mythical, very-human, vengeful … god portrayed in the OT & the somewhat improved god in the NT”?

    Once you had changed your mind, you formed a new concept of God based on your list of trustworthy sources, right? Under this new concept, God had absolutely no responsibility for death, right? In this new view, death is blamed on the victims and their “spirit guides” who do all the planning in advance. How does your philosophy differ from deism and ietsism? Has God, in your opinion, ever done anything of interest to people, apart from being the source of all in creation? If that was it, God might be legitimately described as omnipotent, all right, but otherwise uncaring, as far as people are concerned. Is any shortened life span of any concern to him? To make this more personal, what do you believe “the true God of love” has done for you?

    You already addressed these questions by stating, “God does not stand by helplessly,” and “God doesn’t ‘simply’ stand aside and ‘silently’ cede his power and control in frustration.” Those negatives set up an expectation of reasonable positive support, so let’s review what you gave me, specifically, “The God of love has a masterful plan that results in all souls growing spiritually and being totally reconciled to him over time, … the reincarnation system guarantees that each and every soul, with divine assistance throughout time, will succeed in spiritual growth and wisdom …”

    These claims confuse me. Now you are talking about God’s “masterful plan” that involves not just one physical death, not just one life, possibly filled with misery, but multiple lives and deaths “over time” and “throughout time.” How much time? You may have given a clue to your answer back in your December 28 at 7:11 pm comment, where you said, “I believe strongly that our Creator wants fully developed, self-actualized, thinking, innovating, loving beings like himself, but it takes longer for this to occur. But who cares? We have eternity!”

    Is such eternally recurring misery balanced by blissful intervals spent in heaven, “a place of total love, peace, and enjoyment” (February 25 at 12:59 am)? You have repeatedly made the point that reincarnation is completely voluntary, and people can choose to stay in heaven as long as they please, regardless of their current state of progress “in spiritual growth and wisdom.” Are you now telling me that God “is in total control,” that he does the planning and actually guarantees success within “the reincarnation system”? If so, I think this makes him totally responsible for whatever evil may occur. Don’t his guarantee and “divine assistance” have to involve a measure of coercion, at least for those who would personally prefer an attractive option to postpone reincarnation indefinitely?

    This looks like cognitive dissonance to me. If God ever allows people to roam at large in heaven, including people who still need to be reconciled to him, not yet “fully developed, self-actualized, thinking, innovating, loving beings” like him, I don’t understand how heaven could be an appropriate way to describe such a place. Do you? What kind of God would feel at home in a place like this?

    You asked me whether it is “okay to bomb and destroy those in the World Trade Center because the people inside were sinners who would eventually die?” Perish the thought! I repudiate the idea you described. Mere mortals have no right to usurp God’s authority with regard to life, death, and lethal judgment outside the realm of divinely established human government. I am certainly not justifying this. No way.

    Moving on, you wrote, “I’d never be satisfied with calling a book inspired when reasonable people can’t even agree on what it means or teaches on major subjects.” Never? Did you feel the same way even while you were studying theology? You should realize that plenty of people, maybe even millions of us, agree on what the Bible means and teaches on any given subject. I suspect that you really meant that not everyone agrees. Some factions certainly do disagree. Do you imagine that a truly inspired holy book would meet with total agreement on its meaning, regardless of one’s upbringing and attitude toward God and the things of God?

    Personally, I don’t set the bar that high, and I doubt that you always did, but correct me if I am wrong. In any case, you seem to have found a solution. You can simply deny that God ever inspired or delivered to mankind any document or verbal testimony that could be exposed to critical scrutiny. No problem. I suppose this view is entirely consistent with deism and ietsism, but personally, I don’t find it attractive or consistent with my idea of the nature of God.

    You said the “true God does not approve of” such things as “slavery, conquering and killing unconverted humans in the name of Jesus, the Crusades, killing or discriminating against gays, and abusing women & making them 2nd class citizens,” but how can you possibly know this? You accept no holy book as God’s authoritative word on these issues, right? You believe God is omnipotent and does not approve of such things, but what has he done about them? According to your philosophy, absolutely nothing, once he got the ball rolling, right? Approval or lack thereof could be irrelevant. Does God really care one way or the other? You admitted, “…whether we believe the OT God is responsible for our world today or my version of God, the world is the same world with the identical problems.” You may be left with the problem of evil to which Greg Bahnsen has proposed a reasonable solution from a Christian perspective.

    You wrote about “a choice between being immortal and suffering some difficult lives to learn and grow in wisdom vs. probably not being one of the chosen few in Eph. 1:4 and getting tossed into the lake of fire for ALL ETERNITY.” I think the immortality of the human soul is uncontroversial on either your side or mine, but in any case, I think you have oversimplified or misrepresented the choices on the table. On your side, there is evidently an additional option to stay in heaven indefinitely, without any hope of ever successfully reaching a goal that would result in a more satisfactory existence. An eternity of trying reincarnation anyway is not supposed to be the only option, right? On the Christian side, the lake of fire destiny has nothing to do with probability. “Whosoever will” (1John 4:15, 5:1; Rev. 22:17) can be among the “chosen few”—actually, “a great multitude, which no man could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev. 7:9).

    Jim, I am not accusing you of being an enemy of God. I am your friend, not your judge or accuser. I am suggesting that you may have been fooled by enemies of God in the spiritual realm. I do not judge the people who tell NDE stories either. I assume that they honestly relate accounts of their experiences, but I believe that they could be fooled too by spiritual beings who really are enemies of God.

    You answered my question about proof of obsession, “Yes, because the eyes, arms, hands, and feet are never mutilated like a penis.” Is the penis really “mutilated” in circumcision? Can you find an unbiased definition that fits? I suppose I should concede that the idea is not preposterous, because I found three mentions of mutilation in the Wikipedia article on circumcision. Nevertheless, I stand by my own conclusion that God is not “obsessed with penises and circumcision” any more than he is obsessed with blood or with hearts and circumcision of the heart (Jer. 4:4; Rom 2:29), which could apply to 100 percent of the mature population. I concede that my verse statistics prove nothing, but if you consider this issue to be a reasonable objection to the description of God in the Bible, I think you must be grasping at straws. You could easily let this one go. If you believe “circumcision has no verified basis in health or hygiene,” you may be interested in the WebMD article on the subject.

    I think you missed the point of animal sacrifices. If your analysis were correct, God could have slaughtered and burned his own animals to his heart’s content (Ps. 50:10; 1Kings 18:27-39). How do you make sense of passages suggesting that God is more interested in obedience than in burnt offerings (1Sam. 13:11-14, 15:13-23), if the really big idea was just to enjoy the aroma? I think the real reason God commanded animal sacrifices is explained well in Hebrews 10:1-10.

    It is true that Exodus 29:25 and numerous other passages mention a burnt offering being “a sweet savour before [or unto] the Lord” (KJV) or “a pleasing aroma [presented] to the Lord” (NIV), but you said God “advocated slaughtering innocent animals because he enjoyed the smell,” as though one might understand from these passages the main reason God had for mandating bloody sacrifices. Those passages do describe in anthropomorphic terms one purpose of the offerings from the point of view of worshipers. All sacrifices tangibly demonstrated obedience or voluntary thanksgiving, thereby pleasing God, just as a pleasant aroma might delight people.

    You asked, “So if only Christians are saved, why would a doctor from India, for instance, see his Hindu parents and relatives [during a near death experience]?” How does anyone know that those parents and relatives are in heaven? Do demons have no power to assume a human appearance or to present the illusion that they are in heaven? Whatever your answer is, how do you or your human sources know that it is true? Deceivers in the spiritual realm should realize that you just have to trust them and can take advantage of your decision not to trust what God has revealed in the Bible. I may not be able to answer your question with confidence, but I suspect that if anyone back from the other side believes that he saw a truly unsaved person in heaven, we may well be dealing with some form of confusion or deception. Part of the problem here is that we may not know for sure whether a given person who died is now in the family of God with his name in the book of life or not (Rev. 20:11-15). We can assume that God knows his own.

    Are “babies and young children” who have “crossed over” special cases? Do they have to be baptized or pray to receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior before they die, or else they go to hell? I don’t know anyone who believes this. Do you? I think 2Sam. 12:23 gives comfort to Christian families who have lost an infant to early death, but really, this is a matter for God to decide, and we are confident that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen. 18:25).

    As I have pointed out before, there should be a clear distinction between a DE and an NDE. If anyone has an NDE story to tell, he came back to life without having crossed a spiritual life/death boundary, the other side of which allows no opportunity for return. There is one kind of death defined in medical terms. This kind might be experienced more the once. The other kind, mentioned in Heb. 9:27, is experienced only once. God may give people a vision of heaven or hell, but maybe no one has an actual experience of being in either place before a once-in-a-lifetime experience of final death.

    You ended your comment with a total surprise. Ever since we started discussing reincarnation, I assumed that you believed that a soul was either 100 percent in heaven or 100 percent alive on this side of some spiritual boundary. Now it comes to light that you might believe in only partial reincarnation and in earthly bodies running on low energy in their soul. It was already a mystery to me how a soul could spiritually benefit from an adventure on earth while not even aware of experiences in past lives supposed to be conducive to growth in wisdom or enhanced development. This new wrinkle only complicates the matter. Do you suppose someone with only 60 percent of his soul’s energy on earth gets at most only 60 percent of the maximum possible benefit from his ordeal? Could the percentage drop to as low as one percent, and if so, would this low-energy condition be easy to notice on either side?

    To sum up, I see no compelling reason here to reject the Bible or its description of God. Do you? If so, please explain when you have time. Peace.

  16. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    I referenced your “March 29 at 10:32 pm comment” in my previous reply. The correct reference was to your March 19 at 10:32 pm comment. Sorry for the goof and any confusion it may have caused.

    This comment is a reply to your March 18 at 4:15 pm comment, where you started off by trying to clarify what you meant when you wrote, “I still believe in a Creator God who designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce our complex life forms,” as well as your March 28 at 10:19 pm comment, where you started off with a continuation of our discussion of decay rates.

    Atheists who believe in evolution would repudiate any notion that evolution involved divine intervention of any kind, whether design work or staged manipulation. Maybe what you really meant was that God designed life so that it would “make improvements … in, perhaps, several stages” over billions of years. Okay, but how did you come to believe this? Your trusted sources evidently know almost nothing about the origin of physical life and its early history, and the same goes for spiritual life. If my guess is wrong, and someone actually provided you with a credible written account, similar to Genesis, one that we can review and critique, please send me a link or reference to it.

    Thanks for calling my attention to Perry’s “Proof that DNA was designed by God” and his conclusion X. We both like his conclusion, all right, but did you spot any problem there? What about his second premise, for example? How can he possibly know, “All languages, codes and messages come from a mind”? Has he (or anyone else) actually identified the source of every language, code, and message? I have heard of encyclopedic knowledge, but now we are talking about something approaching omniscience with regard to the items listed.

    I think what Perry must have really meant is that he does not know of any exception to that second premise. That is, he probably just does not know of any language, code, or message that does not come from a mind. With this correction, to make his syllogism realistic, we have converted it into an irrational argument from ignorance. In any case, the conclusion may or may not be true. Conclusion X (based on “All known examples” as though unknown examples do not matter) appears to be yet another illustration of an argument from ignorance. A conclusion can be valid, even though the logic behind it is flawed.

    It is encouraging to see that we both like Romans 1:19-22, but note that this passage is about “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (v. 20). This provides no basis for a belief that “what has been made” provides a trustworthy history of life on earth from the beginning. I think this kind of information needs to be specially revealed, especially if it involves miracles.

    In the next-to-last paragraph of your earlier comment, you repeated your list of things that you believe contradict or are inconsistent with Genesis 1 (tree ring data, ice core data, and so forth), taking us back to square one (again) after I tried to move discussion of these items forward in my March 1 and March 15 comments. I dispute every point you listed, but I understand that this is no place for a comprehensive rebuttal. If you still believe that even one point on your list, say fossils, really does contradict Genesis 1, and you feel prepared to defend your idea with confidence, please pick the best one and either provide a link or make your case here briefly in your own words. Otherwise, should I assume that you are simply taking someone else’s word for it in each case and have not thought deeply or seriously about any of those points? You still list ice core data, for instance, but do you have any rebuttal to ice core articles like these?
    https://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j19_3/j19_3_51-53.pdf
    https://www.icr.org/article/8130/
    https://www.icr.org/article/8181
    https://www.icr.org/article/8503
    https://www.icr.org/article/wwii-plane-found-frozen-in-greenland-ice/
    https://www.icr.org/article/earths-thick-ice-sheets-are-young/
    Is there even one item in your list that does not crucially depend on the no-miracle presupposition? It is easy to ignore problems with any idea currently entrenched in one’s belief system, but no one has to do this, not even you. We always have an option to keep an open mind and to consider an issue unresolved.

    I move on now to your March 28 comment. You want “the burden of proving radiometric dating wrong” to be on those of us who doubt that it is correct, but without a time machine in good working order, how can anyone prove that it is right or wrong with regard to dates millions or billions of years in the past? It might seem to be helpful to send us on a fool’s errand, but is it really?

    You said, “Archaeologists, paleontologists, geologists, and cosmologists consider the various radiometric methods reliable.” You should know that archaeologists have no interest in determining the age of the earth or in anything else that is supposed to be millions of years old. The same goes for history, which you later added to your list. Cosmologists currently have no way to use radiometric dating outside of the Solar System, which is only a relatively tiny fraction of their area of interest, and they ought to suspect that this method is unreliable due to problematic local evidence, such as the comet problem and the faint young sun paradox.

    Geologists, paleontologists, and some other specialists should be qualified to rebut creationist claims that radiometric dating is unreliable, if this is possible. The fact that many of them consider the method reliable in spite of problems is actually irrelevant. It is admittedly the best method available to anyone who rejects the alternative of biblical chronology, regardless of how reliable or unreliable it is. It may even be considered advantageous to use a method that no one can scientifically prove to be wrong. If the dates are wrong, who could possibly catch the mistake?

    I think your objection here and your decision to go “with the mainstream on this issue” boil down to a fallacious argument from authority. “YEC scientists” do not have to show anything. Doubts about the reliability of radiometric dating are justified independently of any ideological bias. We creationists are biased, all right, but we call attention to problems that people with another bias may prefer to ignore or dismiss.

    You went on to say, “And even if one radiometric method was shown to be less reliable, you would have to show all of them are worthless.” You don’t really need to be “a physicist versed on the subject” of radiometric dating to understand that the problem here is necessary assumptions that cannot be scientifically verified or falsified, especially the assumption that decay rates have been constant for billions of years (not to mention the no-miracle presupposition).

    It is not as though all we have is “flimsy evidence” of dating errors or good reasons to believe that one method is less reliable than another. Those methods all share one key problem—those assumptions—regardless of problematic physical evidence. Has anyone found a way to get around it? Unless you find one, I recommend honestly admitting to yourself that the ages you have been trusting really are unreliable. Why not drop the age of the earth issue from your list of reasons to reject the Bible? It is bogus. You could always add it again later, if those troublesome assumptions ever turn into verified facts.

    Moving on to your second reason for rejecting the Bible, you wrote, “The main problem is that the Christians took the Jewish holy scriptures and read into them a meaning the Jews say isn’t there—that is, that Jesus was born of a virgin and is the Messiah and is God. There is no way to prove the Christian interpretation of the Jewish book is valid, and the Jews reject it.” This is yet another issue where you want to bring us back to square one after I tried to move the discussion forward. I offered my challenge to this alleged difficulty back on January 5 at 9:50 pm. This is now the fourth time you have brought it up, as though you imagine that you have a sound case here, one you can defend with confidence. All four comments about this are still up (December 28 at 7:11 pm, December 30 at 2:20 pm, January 22 at 8:27 pm, and March 28 at 10:19 pm). If you have a good reason for keeping this virgin birth issue on your list, you should be able to rebut my challenge to it. Otherwise, it looks as though you insist on listing it regardless of how silly or indefensible it may be.

    Before leaving this issue, let’s take a closer look at your claims, “… there’s absolutely no proof God inspired any of the Bible … There is no way to prove the Christian interpretation of the Jewish book is valid, … no way to prove … no way to prove …” These are your claims, not mine, so if there is any burden of proof, it is certainly not mine. I suspect that what you really meant is that you do not know of any such proofs. I think we agreed earlier that we do not expect absolute, incontrovertible proof of our beliefs. (Search for “strong word” without quotes in your February 25 at 12:59 am comment and in my March 1 at 8:22 pm reply.) What we are really after is reasonably credible evidence.

    Anyone can overlook valid evidence, so beware of arguments from ignorance. If you do not know, this is not a logically valid basis for concluding anything, unless your knowledge really is exhaustive. Who but God is omniscient? If you deliberately ignore evidence, such as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or if you hold the New Testament and secular documents covering history of similar antiquity to significantly different standards of credibility, there is even more reason to suspect that your conclusion is premature and unwarranted.

    You claim to know that “all sorts of problems arise” with regard to “the authenticity of Genesis 1 and the whole Bible.” You may be impressed by the sheer number of “problems” with the Bible, and they may even seem serious, if you ignore challenges to them, but really, if they are all as easy to resolve as the one about the virgin birth that you keep repeating, the whole lot may be worthless. If this is the case, I recommend crossing it off of your list too. We have no time to discuss tons of silly claims about clear Bible difficulties, and we should recognize that some mysteries remain regardless, but if your list has any merit, you ought to be able find at least one that you can defend with confidence and without ignoring reasonable resolutions. We could discuss it here.

    You explained, “The other main argument for rejecting the Bible is the character and morality of the God(s) described in the Bible,” and gave me a list of five specific examples of what you have in mind. Let’s consider them one by one, but in general, I doubt that you are “trying to logically appraise the actions of the biblical God.” What does your appraisal have to do with logic? I think it is all about a kangaroo court with no jury of peers. This makes sense, since God has no peers, but in this case, who represents the accused in your court? No one, right? Have you appointed yourself the judge, jury, and prosecuting attorney, all rolled into one? How much information do you have? Do you know enough to find God guilty of immorality?

    1. “If [the Flood] did occur, the biblical God murdered thousands of helpless men, women, children, and animals, which also discredits the Bible and that god.”

    How do you know how many were “murdered” by God? Okay, this doesn’t really matter, but you made the claim, and it seems important to question whether you really know. Even if only one person died in the Flood, was it really murder, or could it be capital punishment? What did these people do? I concede that children below the age of accountability were almost surely involved. What would have happened if they had grown up? What was their eternal destiny after they died? Just how helpless were the victims in this Flood? Did any of them have an opportunity to repent and board the ark? What was the eternal destiny of the adults who drowned? Noah and his family did not die in the Flood but died years later anyway. Were they also murdered? Do you know the answers to any of these questions? How do you know? If you do not know, what qualifies you to charge God with murder? How do you define murder?

    2. “[The God described in the Bible] sanctioned the mass murder at Jericho …”

    What you call “mass murder” in this case was mostly a military action, though it seems likely that some of the casualties died as the walls of the city fell down miraculously (an act of God). Was the city defenseless? Did it have any advance knowledge of the invasion? Again, we need a reasonable (not ad hoc) definition of murder that fits this case. I doubt that you can find one. Prove me wrong if you can. Many of my questions under the previous point apply here. I doubt that you know enough to charge God with any wrongdoing that would hold up in court.

    If you are really interested in evidence for the historicity of the attack against Jericho, I ought to tell you that the expected date of archaeological evidence of its destruction, according to Aardsma’s proposed chronology is about 2407 B.C. (A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, p. 86). Such evidence has been found. Let me know if you want more details.
    http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/answers/conquest_jericho.php

    You can easily find claims that the biblical accounts of the destruction of Jericho and Ai are fictional or legendary at best, based on admissions of lack of archaeological evidence, but those admissions depend crucially on the relevant biblical chronology. Since they ignore Aardsma’s chronology, investigators continue to look in vain for Conquest evidence dated a thousand years this side of the actual event.

    3. “[The same God also] sanctioned the mass murder at Sodom/Gomorrah …”

    What you call “mass murder” in this case was clearly an act of God, not a matter of sanctioning or giving human conquerors either orders or permission to destroy those cities (Gen. 19:24-25). Nevertheless, most of the questions I asked about the Flood also apply here.

    Considering how much earlier these places were destroyed, one ought to wonder whether any evidence has been found to justify considering the event a valid part of real history.
    https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/have-we-found-sodom/
    On top of this, Aardsma found a study of the level of water in the Dead Sea for the past 7,000 radiocarbon years published years ago in an article by four Israeli scientists. Aardsma relates this study to Gen. 13:10, which reports that Lot saw a well-watered plain before those cities were destroyed. Conventional chronology places the date of Lot’s observation to a time within the period from 2200 to 1800 B.C. According to the study, the south basin was dry the whole time, the surface of the Dead Sea being over 400 meters below sea level then. According to the corrected chronology, Lot observed the area around 3080 B.C., when the level was about 100 meters higher, about 80 meters higher than it has ever been in the past 6,000 years (The Biblical Chronologist 1:1:4, January/February 1995).
    http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/products/archives/vol1.php#num1

    4. “[The same God also] killed hundreds of thousands of Israelites when David took a census that God disliked …”

    Well, this one is surely an honest mistake, though exaggeration of the number may have seemed consistent with what you want to believe anyway. According to 2Sam. 24:15, 70,000 people died in the plague of interest here. Nevertheless, honestly, even with this correction in mind, I understand why anybody could be puzzled by what God did to people who, according to King David, were “but sheep” and should have been spared (24:17). One might therefore be tempted to pass judgment on God, even though he is our omniscient Creator and Lawgiver, but I don’t think any of us knows enough to make a case that can hold up in court. He is qualified to judge us, not the other way around. Our not knowing how to justify what God did is no logical basis for a case. Beware of arguments from ignorance.

    5. “[The same God also] intends to throw most of humankind into an eternal burning lake of fire for eternal punishment just because those humans messed up their one life and didn’t accept Jesus.”

    Just because? I think you have distorted here what the Bible teaches. Our concept of messing up includes making honest mistakes that could be due to mere incompetence, not necessarily involving any immorality. If what you really meant is just sin, deliberate rebellion against God, then we are all guilty of this. If sin alone could doom us to hell, who could escape? The Bible says that the Lord wants everyone to come to repentance and not perish (2Peter 3:9), and whoever wishes may “take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17), presumably in heaven, where the Lamb of God will have purchased for God “a great multitude that no one could count, from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Those banished to hell, where there will evidently be various degrees of punishment (Mark 12:40), may well be just those who have refused the gift that God graciously offers to all (Heb. 2:2-3).

    Before we leave this topic, we should also consider your comment, “I do not believe the biblical God(s) reflect the real God of unconditional love reflected in my metaphysical sources.” God in your belief system was “in total control” during the Holocaust, right? Was he therefore a mass murderer for not preventing the tragedy through his omnipotent power? As the omniscient “Source of All,” God knew about it in advance, too, right? How would this compare to the plague described in 2Sam. 24? I suppose you might blame all of those deaths on the victims or their spirit guides, but by the logic or standard you use while judging the God of the Bible, would a God of unconditional love really turn a blind eye on all of their plans? What kind of love is this? What do your metaphysical sources have to match John 3:16, 1John 3:1, or 1Peter 2:9-10? What evidence have they given you that God even cares what happens to people? Anything goes, right? Even in heaven, right? Do you hold both concepts of God to the same standard?

    So far, you have left me with the impression that your philosophy is similar to deism or ietsism, so if mankind ever behaved in a seriously evil manner, you would not expect God to intervene, and his tolerance of even the most horrible acts could be justified as a necessary evil, allowed for training purposes to benefit souls who voluntarily choose the challenge in hopes that they might eventually enhance their development, right? Presumably, this might never result in a utopia, either in heaven or on earth, because the process could continue forever, right? If my guesses are right, I don’t see how you have really solved the problem of evil, because the evil doers can go unpunished and unrepentant forever, if they so choose, while God always looks the other way. What is wrong with this picture? I do not see it as an even theoretical improvement over the holy God of the Bible who cares about his creation and applies discipline as he sees fit (Heb. 12:4-11).

    After I guessed that the only reason you have for believing that Genesis is mythical is “scientific” speculation, you reminded me that you “reject the inspiration and authority of the Bible for far more reasons than my views on radiometric dating, ice core dating, and tree-ring dating.” By “far more reasons,” did you have anything else in mind besides your brazen judgments against the God of the Bible? If so, please explain.

    Thanks for watching Joe Hadwin’s NDE testimony and commenting on it. It was the climax of your comment, from my perspective, and quite interesting.

    You have written, “Tom, I haven’t really found much if any inconsistency among my sources on major points” (February 25 at 12:59 am), and, “Consistency among my sources is one of the main reasons I’ve offered for belief in my philosophy” (March 5 at 2:15 pm). NDE stories are a major part of your list of sources, right? Now it has finally come to light that not even these stories can be trusted to be free of confusion or deception, even by your own lights. Someone might return to this side with a frightening story to tell and assurances that a biblical hell was visited, while your trusted sources assure you that such a person must have been fooled. One of the main reasons you have presented to support your belief system may be merely an illusion that you have created for yourself by ignoring or excluding any source that is inconsistent with what you have already decided must be the truth. Could you not just as easily find a body of NDE sources, for instance, that features “amazing consistency” with your former beliefs as a theology student?

    You also wrote, “Upon death, each soul returns to its eternal home in heaven in the spirit world and assesses its progress” (December 26 at 8:14 pm), but it seems that this was actually only a simplified version of what you really believe. Now you profess that souls “[apparently] may not want to be in the light or face God, so they remain in what is called the shadow world, the dark world, nether world, the gray world, etc. (Different terms are used.) These souls create their own mental hell and create their own dark world.” This really puzzles me. It seems to reflect the teaching in John 3:19, but why would such a soul be hesitant to face God, who loves unconditionally? Why would any soul be embarrassed to live “in the light”? As I understand your concept of heaven, the place must be teeming with souls who still need to be reconciled to God, not yet “fully developed, self-actualized, thinking, innovating, loving beings” like him. What would motivate them to leave heaven, where they can also find plenty of loving souls ripe for falling prey to their evil schemes and without any judgmental God or spirit guides to thwart them?

    You went on to reassure me by saying, “Eventually all these souls will be helped and return to God. They are not punished by God nor tortured in eternal hell fire.” If your sources really are in a position to know that this is true, one of them should be able to tell you the longest time that someone might remain in his own hell because he was still too proud or irrationally fearful of facing God to ask for the help needed to escape it. I suppose it could actually be a fairly long time for a soul feeling more or less comfortable in a “hell” that he had made to order.

    You may want to consider the possibility that the major issue of the reality of hell is not the only one where you and your sources could be fooled. What if hell really exists as described in the Bible, but spiritual enemies of God want you and others to consider it to be purely imaginary, because they are not really your friends either? Misery loves company.

    By the way, I still believe “once saved, always saved” in spite of the Hadwin testimony, but I understand why he called it “a false doctrine” (1:50 – 2:03). He is convinced that he was saved when he was 14 but later became lost again and actually went to hell. However, one could be mistaken here in at least two different ways. First, he said he was saved, but was he really? 1John 2:24 and the following verses give tests that Hadwin evidently did not pass, so maybe he was not saved at 14 after all. Second, he said he went to hell, but he clearly did not stay there, as a lost person would have, forever. God graciously reached out to him and allowed him to escape. I think it is possible that he was actually still lost when God allowed him to have a vivid vision of the destiny that awaited him if he continued in his rebellion, and the experience changed his life dramatically—“which is great,” as you said.

    On the center of the earth issue, I think we now agree that the actual center of the universe has not yet been detected by astronomers. I hope this means you will stop saying, “… the Catholic church of Galileo’s day … rejected the truth that the earth was not the center of the universe.”

    With all due respect, no, asking “if God can create a rock that is too large for him to lift or move since he is omnipotent” is not the same as asking if his omnipotence is limited so that he would be unable to perform either miracle related to the sun that we discussed. The question about a rock leaves God unable to do something regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, but this is not the case when we ask whether God can miraculously lengthen a day (Joshua 10:12-14) or make a shadow move backwards (2Kings 20:8-11). No logical or mathematical contradiction, like 2+2=5 or an irresistible force coexisting with an immovable object, is involved in cases like those.

    You went on to tell me, “I have no reason to believe God would intervene in his natural laws that keeps the earth rotating [actually, revolving] around the sun, and I doubt he could stop its rotation [on its axis] without major consequences.” If you reject the Bible, of course you would doubt its reports of miracles, but you missed the point. You told me that you believe God is omnipotent, yet you use these miracle claims as reasons to reject the Bible. Let’s be reasonable.

    You imagine that God had to stop or reverse the rotation of the earth, and maybe he did, but the text does not say he did. It’s just that you do not know of any alternative way to perform the miracles, right? Beware of fallacious arguments from ignorance. If anyone believes the first verse in the Bible, solar miracles must be a piece of cake for such an omnipotent God. The way he managed to do it is irrelevant, and we are under no obligation to explain either how he did it or how he avoided “major consequences.”

    You may “find it extremely unlikely that a real God of love would be party to such a bizarre miracle,” but your doubts are irrelevant to what actually took place. I think you are stuck, for now, with the cognitive dissonance of saying you believe that God is omnipotent while doubting that he is able to perform certain miracles.

    You wrote, “Tom, I’ve noticed when cornered, Christians always defend their Bible and their God—in spite of the evidence to the contrary—by saying it was a ‘miracle’ or ‘God killed the humans because he is the almighty God,’ and ‘who are we to question his wisdom?’ With these types of illogical arguments the Christian’s view is always 100% correct, and the person trying to logically appraise the actions of the biblical God or the validity of the Bible is always wrong, mislead, deceived, misinformed, blind, or in denial.” There is a lot to unpack here. I am not sure what the point of your saying this is, but let me try to understand you.

    Have you “cornered” me at any point in our discussion? I have never felt cornered, but I sometimes do defend the Bible or the God who is featured in it. I don’t see any “types of illogical arguments” in your list. Are miracles supposed to be illogical? Is there any “evidence to the contrary” that might demand doubt that an omnipotent God could perform a given miracle? If so, please provide an example of this to illustrate what you mean. I have never heard any Christian say, “God killed the humans because he is the almighty God.” If this is not just a straw man, please cite at least one example, preferably a case where I have said this. The third item you listed is a question, not an argument, but it seems to be a great question. Do you have a great answer to it? Illogical arguments never logically lead to a conclusion that the person who made them has a view that “is always 100% correct.” In our discussion, please point out any error you find in my logic, and I hope you will not feel offended if I do you the same favor.

    You claim to believe in “unseen miracles” happening “all the time all over the world.” Fair enough. I suppose if any doubters ever challenge your belief and say they are either nonexistent or disputable, you have a ready reply: “Hey, these miracles are unseen, so they certainly cannot be proved or disproved.” I don’t know on what basis you decided that “the big show-stopping miracles … are apparently nonexistent or disputable.” Well, I understand that atheists would dispute every miracle or conclude that any alleged miracle must be nonexistent, either a myth, illusion, or deliberate deception, but this should be a trivial objection to any theist like us, right? My original question may need to be more specific. Does the first verse in the Bible report a miracle that you believe God (“the Source of All”) has the power to perform? If so, what other miracle reported in the Bible should one consider to be absurd or unreasonably difficult for almighty God to perform?

    You wanted me to think about “at least 25 billion places where life could conceivably take hold in our galaxy alone—and our galaxy is one among trillions.” Okay, no problem, but I am willing to subject ideas like this to critical scrutiny. Are you? If so, what have you done to scrutinize this one?
    https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/alien-life/evidence-were-alone-universe/
    https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/extrasolar-planets/exoplanets-unpredictable-patterns/
    https://creation.com/seven-planets

    Your remarks about this are interesting, all right, but they miss the point I wanted to make—“You clearly do not insist on scientific verification as a prerequisite for belief.” You also dodged the specific questions I had about Jaspear, none of which had anything to do with modern estimates of the number of possibly habitable exoplanets. I admit that God certainly has the power to create life wherever he pleases, so I keep an open mind concerning the possibility that we might be alone or might not be. I am not making any argument from ignorance here. What about you?

    Your summary of our beliefs is fascinating. Should I assume that belief in witches and demons is unreasonable, while belief in spirit guides and what modern-day psychics report is not a problem at all for you? By the same token, “all sorts of magical, miraculous, absurd, and primitive stories” should be considered problematic and destructive of credibility, but not stories about life on Jaspear? You said, “My metaphysical sources are far more believable and reliable than the alleged biblical miracles and a god who exterminates those he can’t get along with.” Maybe I am taking your statement too literally, but if believability is measured by the number of people who believe a given claim, what proves to be the more believable? The Bible or your metaphysical sources?

    I hope that none of my questions or challenges offend you or make you feel cornered, but I do hope that you feel encouraged to think through your reasons for rejecting the Bible in light of a different perspective. Either one of us might have been fooled, so let’s help each other think well about what we have somehow come to believe. We do not have to ignore problems with familiar and favorite ideas, problems that we may have swept under the rug. Peace.

    • Jim Lea says:

      Subject: The Character of the Biblical God: Tom Godfrey (response to your 4/10/19 reply) you wrote: “Atheists who believe in evolution would repudiate any notion that evolution involved divine intervention of any kind.” As I wrote earlier, “I still believe in a Creator God who designed life and manipulated evolution over billions of years to produce our complex life forms.” I have no idea how God designed evolution or how he manipulated it or to what extent he might have created some creatures whole. I thought Perry Marshall’s theory and book made total sense, however.

      I now have accumulated about 100 pages in Word of our discussions, and I believe these discussions are getting way too lengthy and redundant. My initial purpose of corresponding was to explain my reincarnation philosophy and contrast it to Christianity to show why I prefer reincarnation. In many cases I have covered the same subjects over and over, and you are still asking for more “proof.” Tom, many religious and philosophical issues cannot be resolved with “proof” because they are unprovable to humans and science. You can’t prove God, you can’t prove the Bible is inspired, you can’t prove Jesus existed or that he was a Savior or descended from David, I can’t prove reincarnation, you can’t prove there is a devil and demons, etc. The most our discussions can accomplish are to show what evidence I have and why I rely on it, and I have patiently given you far more evidence on the subject of reincarnation than you will ever get from anyone on this website. There comes a time when, if you really are interested in understanding—not just knowing about—reincarnation, you will have to read with an open mind the many quality sources I have listed written by psychics, medical doctors, hypnotherapists, philosophers, and researchers on this subject. If you don’t do this, you will never really comprehend why I believe the reincarnation philosophy is superior to anything the Christian religion offers.

      As I have said before, I believe there is overwhelming evidence for reincarnation based on thousands of independent sources from many different areas. I also believe there is overwhelming evidence to reject the Bible as uninspired and mythological based on the character and performance of the God(s) in the OT & NT. We each have our own method of evaluating the evidence available, and you, based on your experience and study, have obviously come to a completely different conclusion that I have based on my background and the studies I’ve done.

      Tom, you sent me a monstrous 7-page post, more than double your normal post. Trying to answer this has overwhelmed me, and since I believe I have more than sufficiently responded to the topics you brought up again, I am going to skip the ones I’ve already answered to shorten my reply.

      I think Perry believes God is the ultimate designer of life and the DNA code/language, and I agree based on evidence I see, but in his book he says he does not know of any way code and language can occur without a designer, but to remain objective, he doesn’t come out and state that God, therefore, “must” be the designer. And I agree with that approach because, again, we can’t “prove” God designed it, nor can we disprove it.

      I believe the evidence I’ve seen is adequate to believe the tree ring and ice core data. Neither of us is qualified to prove or disprove the scientific evidence. I realize I don’t have absolute “proof,” but neither do you. Just because you have maybe read 5 articles on the subject disproving its validity and I have, let’s say, read 3 or 9 articles supporting its validity doesn’t settle the issue and can never settle the issue. I see no reason to continue this subject. This same conclusion applies to radiometric dating. You ask: “Why not drop the age of the earth issue from your list of reasons to reject the Bible? It is bogus.” Since I believe I have valid evidence to reject the Bible as inspired and believe most, if not all, of Genesis is a Paul-Bunyan-type of myth populated by mythical people and a mythical, uncaring, angry god, I believe my decision to reject the Genesis account of creation based on the age of the earth and all the other reasons given is entirely logical.

      In my last posts I said there is no way to prove the Christian interpretation of the Jewish book is valid, no way to prove the virgin birth, and no way to prove Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews wrote the OT, and they reject the Christian interpretation of the OT that says Jesus was born of a virgin and is the Messiah. I look at the big picture here. Just because you can quote some Christian scholar that claims otherwise doesn’t impress me. Even if you found 13 rabbis that agreed with you, so what! There is no scientific way you can prove the father of Jesus was the Holy Ghost, period. You can’t even prove he was descended from David or Mary. You take it on faith. So why claim otherwise?

      You keep asking me to cite Bible difficulties. Again, looking at the big, over-arching picture, I will once again cite the character of the OT and NT God(s). I reject the Bible based on the poor moral character and immoral performance of the biblical God. Period! It’s that simple. If the God portrayed is unloving and immoral, he is unbelievable. If he is unbelievable, the Bible’s God is not the true God of unconditional love. A true God of unconditional love forgives all, whereas the Christian God tortures most of humanity in hell and refuses to forgive blasphemy of the spirit. It is both contradictory and illogical to say God is a God of unconditional love and at the same time say he sets up a hell and casts into hell humans who disagree with him to be tortured for all eternity. Love consists of patience, compassion, empathy, kindness, forgiveness, etc. An intelligent, loving God doesn’t need a hell, and he doesn’t have one. I don’t need to consult biased biblical scholars and linguistic experts in Greek and Hebrew to figure out this simple truth, and I don’t need to argue endlessly the meaning on mythical scriptures to come to a knowledge of the truth.

      You ask: “Have you appointed yourself the judge, jury, and prosecuting attorney, all rolled into one?… Do you know enough to find God guilty of immorality?” Tom, in order for a person to evaluate a religion or philosophy, or that religion’s god, one has to appoint himself judge, jury, and prosecuting attorney. I read and studied the Bible for decades, read commentaries and Bible dictionaries, and wrote articles on the Bible, and after years of experience and prayer I concluded, based on the evidence I saw, that the Bible’s God is an angry, jealous, immoral God based on the Bible specifically saying this jealous God [“jealousy” is one of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5] was involved in the murder of humans in Noah’s Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, Jericho, Canaan, etc. The Bible specifically says this God intends to torture all unrepentant humans in eternal hell fire. I consider these actions immoral and unbecoming of a true God of unconditional love, of which I have much evidence of. The overall big picture is obvious to me and millions of others who have rejected the Christian idea of God for these reasons. I see no reason to get down into little questions like what would have happened to the children drowned in Noah’s Flood if they had grown up or what was their eternal destiny after they died, as you asked. These accounts are all myths. It’s like asking me what happened to Tinker Bell after she met Peter Pan or was it fair that Captain Hook died or was Peter Pan really a sinner.

      You ask how many were “murdered” by God and ask me to define “murder.” The humans at Jericho, Sodom, Canaan, Canaan, and the humans whom God either exterminated or ordered slaughtered lost their life. Whether God technically murdered them, killed them, slaughtered them, exterminated them, or displaced them misses the key point. What the OT God allegedly did in these mythical stories is still totally immoral.

      I pointed out that God killed 70,000 men (and probably 200,000 counting the women and children) in Israel when David took a census God disliked. You answered: “Well, this one is surely an honest mistake….I understand why anybody could be puzzled by what God did to people who, according to King David, were ‘but sheep’ and should have been spared…. One might therefore be tempted to pass judgment on God, even though he is our omniscient Creator and Lawgiver, but I don’t think any of us knows enough to make a case that can hold up in court.” Again, to have the OT God murdering up to 200,000 Israelites over a census is a pretty serious crime, and you don’t need a jury to figure that out. This isn’t omniscience but uncontrolled anger and total misuse of power by this mythical God.

      I commented that the biblical God intends to throw most of humankind into an eternal burning lake of fire for eternal punishment just because those humans messed up their one life and didn’t accept Jesus. Your reply is that “Those banished to hell, where there will evidently be various degrees of punishment (Mark 12:40), may well be just those who have refused the gift that God graciously offers to all (Heb. 2:2-3).” The God in my reincarnation philosophy is also basically omniscient and omnipotent like the Christian God supposedly is, but the reincarnation God doesn’t need to punish any human in a hell fire because he has a plan of incarnations that ensures all souls grow spiritually in love and wisdom. As a parent, this God doesn’t foolishly reject most of his children over their rejecting him because his plan ensures they won’t reject him in the first place. This is true omniscience. This God grants each newly created soul eternal life before it ever reincarnates, unlike the Christian God who rations eternal life out only to those who are lucky enough to hear about Jesus and accept his alleged sacrifice.

      Yes, Tom, our world has a history of horrible wars and torture. Recently we saw the Holocaust and genocide in Cambodia, Russia, China, and Rwanda. Both the Christian and the reincarnation God were in charge at this time, and both of us detest war and hatred. The reincarnation God informed the souls going to earth of these coming genocides and gave them the choice to avoid them, die in them, or assist some to escape. This was part of each soul’s training over many lives. Those who died basically went right back to heaven afterward, and they didn’t have to worry about rejecting God or getting toasted in hell fire. I never said I love the training we get on earth from my earthly perspective, but I believe souls have a different perspective or they wouldn’t incarnate in the first place. But with the Christian God, if these humans died in the various genocides unsaved, their future was bleak: eternal hell fire. They don’t get additional lives to improve and accept Jesus’ atonement.

      Tom, I can tell from your comments that no matter how I explain how God uses the world as a training ground for spiritual evolvement, you are hostile to the idea. Fine. We can agree to disagree. God essentially gives us free will on earth so we can learn from our mistakes. Yes, he could have made us sinless robots, but he didn’t. Humans do commit hateful and evil acts as they learn, but they are not thrown into hell by God for doing so. There is no need to do so. There is the universal law of karma in effect. A person’s actions and attitudes in one life determine the setting and challenges of a life or lives to come. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:7: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” This is karma’s impersonal accountancy at work; everything an individual thinks and does acts upon the universe to create its own reaction. When a soul returns from an incarnation, it undergoes an extensive life review. The soul is confronted with an instantaneous panoramic flashback that contains every detail of the last incarnation. One subject said under hypnosis: “It’s like climbing right inside a movie of your life. Every moment from every year of your life is played back in complete detail. Total, total recall. Any emotional suffering that was inflicted on others is felt as keenly as if it were inflicted on oneself.”

      The knowledge of self that is gleaned from the life review process equips the soul to make the vital decisions that will determine the form and type of its next incarnation. The decision-making is heavily influenced by the members of a soul’s council of elders and spirit guides, who, mindful of the soul’s karmic debts and its need for specific lessons, give wide-ranging counsel and help the soul plan its next incarnation. These wise, highly evolved beings have finished the incarnation process.

      As I explained, almost every soul returns to its eternal home in heaven, but a few are said to remain as ghosts or disturbed souls. You wonder why a soul would be embarrassed to go to the light? The ghosts want to hang on to their material possessions and the disturbed souls who committed major atrocities are apparently fearful of what might await them if they meet God, or they don’t want to be around an atmosphere of love. Not having surveyed these souls, I can’t give you more detail. Souls leave heaven and go to earth to evolve spiritually. Under the Christian system, only saved souls make it to heaven, but they haven’t evolved spiritually very far after just one life, which could consist of a few months or years after conversion or maybe a few minutes in the case of a death-bed conversion.

      You love asking me what-if questions such as: What if hell really exists as described in the Bible, but spiritual enemies of God want you and others to consider it to be purely imaginary? I will return the favor. What if hell is imaginary and just part of a fear religion used to control and manipulate Christians so corrupt church leaders or pedophile priests can live off their resources?

      You state that “by the way, I still believe ‘once saved, always saved’ in spite of the Hadwin testimony….” But you are not sure when someone is saved or if they are saved for sure. The same is true with Hadwin’s alleged NDE testimony. He said he went to hell, but he clearly did not stay there. Since he had drug problems, did he really have an NDE or did he just have a horrible hangover? I don’t know, but the good thing is his life was turned around.

      Discussing omnipotence, I have no idea if God is omnipotent because it depends on how you define it. Obviously, he is omnipotent compared to us. In his omnipotence can he or would he stop the earth’s rotation? Neither you nor I know that answer. You can ask me a thousand questions: Does God do miracles today? Big ones? Healing ones? Visible ones? Does he do miracles thru church leaders? Tom, there’s no way to know for sure and prove it! Tom, if you want to believe in every single biblical miracle as fact on faith, as you are doing without proof—even though you are assuming the ancient biblical manuscripts were accurately describing miraculous events—go ahead. It won’t help or hinder your acceptance into the afterlife.

      I quoted National Geographic stating that there are “at least 25 billion places where life could conceivably take hold in our galaxy alone—and our galaxy is one among trillions.” You say you are willing to subject ideas like this to critical scrutiny. Are you?” A cosmologist wrote the article in a prestigious magazine. What do you recommend I do: march over to Caltech and demand an audience with 5 cosmologists and 5 physicists? So what would you do to scrutinize this common assumption among cosmologists?

      I believe my metaphysical sources are far more believable and reliable than the alleged biblical miracles and a god who exterminates those he can’t get along with. You accept faithfully without challenge the Bible stories of demons and the devil tempting Jesus, but you stumble when I mention loving spirit guides mentoring individual souls in heaven and working with God to assist souls as they evolve. Spirit guides are performing a mission of love and compassion. What’s so evil and unbelievable about this? Yes, I mentioned that one client under hypnosis mentioned life on a planet called Jaspear. Tom, if 25 billion planets could have life and God created the universe, this is believable. But notice, I never said this was inspired or fact—whereas Christians believe on faith that everything, no matter how miraculous or ridiculous, is fact if it’s in the Bible—or should I say the Bibles, since the Catholics have a different Bible than the Protestants. If Jaspear did nor did not exist, it wouldn’t change my belief in reincarnation.

      Tom, I’ll be honest with you. Your questions have encouraged me to think about the reasons I’ve rejected the Bible and do more research on the subject, and I feel more strongly than ever that I made a good, logical, defensible decision. Your arguments only strengthen my convictions in the beauty of reincarnation. Yes, I know I can’t prove everything and I can’t interview each psychic, hypnotherapist, NDE recipient, etc., but I know you can’t interview ANY of the biblical writers or prove the Bible is inspired or even accurate either. It all boils down to what evidence each of us values. I feel I’ve more than answered all your questions with more than 50 pages of text. It is not my intention to write a book on Perry’s website or answer another 1,000 questions when there are hundreds of excellent books on the subject far better written than my posts. If you have a few more sincere questions, I’ll try to answer them, but the last few posts were way too long. Amen. Jim

  17. Tom Godfrey says:

    Jim Lea,

    Thanks for your detailed May 4 response. You must maintain an offline document similar to mine, maybe where just our conversation is maintained. This facilitates searches. It is obvious that our comments have tended to be unusually long, and at 5,450 words, my April 10 reply to you was unusually long even for me. You followed up with 3,096 words in a comment unusually long for you. Few people here are evidently happy to invest so much time in a discussion like ours, and that’s fine with me too. I take comment length as a measure of patience and interest. I think that really brief comments suggest either little patience, little interest, or both. Nevertheless, I suppose that the patience of even the most patient participant can eventually be exhausted. If yours has finally run out because I talk too much, no problem. We may have reached a point of diminishing returns and really ought to move on. Anyone can quit at any time.

    You said that I am “still asking for more ‘proof’” here, but can you find any example of this? You may have overlooked what I wrote about this last month. Search for “before leaving” (without quotes) to find the paragraph.

    You wrote, “I believe there is overwhelming evidence for reincarnation based on thousands of independent sources from many different areas.” We should agree that the evidence you have in mind comes from the reports of people living in a presently observable world, but whatever those independent sources believe about reincarnation necessarily involves experiences in a spiritual realm where the possibility of deception practiced by enemies of God could have produced merely an illusion of reincarnation that cannot be verified scientifically. Remember that you explained, “Apparently, some souls having NDEs see these disturbed souls and think they are in hell, but they are not,” so you acknowledge that someone having an NDE might be deceived. Even “thousands of independent sources” could be deceived by a single mastermind in a spiritual realm. I say this not to demand proof but rather to explain why I do not consider the evidence that convinced you to be so overwhelming after all, no matter how many witnesses are involved.

    Thanks for explaining once again your rationale for rejecting the Bible as the true Word of God. From my own perspective, your conclusion was made possible by ignoring the problems with it. You can probably remember a time in your life when you did not imagine that you know enough to judge God, and you gave him the benefit of the doubt, like millions, if not billions, of believers who have been reading the same stories for centuries without concluding that God must be immoral. You may have turned a blind eye to the evidence that the God of the Bible demonstrate his love by his “patience, compassion, empathy, kindness, forgiveness, etc.” He forgives all who turn to him in faith (John 3:16; Rev. 22:17) and loves even the worst sinners (Rom. 5:8; 1Tim. 1:15; 2Peter 3:9). I think hell is only for those who refuse to turn to God and be saved, but really, who on earth has a list of people actually residing there or destined to go there later?

    Your reluctance to grasp problems with your conclusions is particularly evident in your last comment, where you repeated an argument for the fifth time without showing me any problem with my resolution of it. This time, you wrote, “The Jews wrote the OT, and they reject the Christian interpretation of the OT that says Jesus was born of a virgin …” Search for “bring us back” (without quotes) to find the details. Think Septuagint.

    You may be thinking that I also ignore problems with my ideas about God, because I ignore the many stories about people who died as a result of what should be considered acts of God. The truth is that I do not ignore those stories at all. I just read them as most other believers do. At some time in your past, you may have read them the same way. We presuppose that God is holy, as claimed (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8), and never does anything wrong or immoral, even if we cannot explain why his action was better in a specific case than an alternative that one can imagine would have been better in the long run. We recognize that God, unlike us, is omniscient and even knows the future. This is why we do not extend the same benefit of the doubt to a common murderer.

    You dodged my what-if question about hell, but I accept the challenge of facing yours. You asked, “What if hell is imaginary and just part of a fear religion used to control and manipulate Christians so corrupt church leaders or pedophile priests can live off their resources?” If this were the case, I think some people might be fooled and do whatever the leaders or priests taught was necessary to escape hell; while others would discover that it was only a ruse, that the doctrine of hell was not believed by those trying to use it to their own advantage. Word would get around, so that the latter group would tend to grow as the former group shrank.

    I do not expect you “[to] interview each psychic, hypnotherapist, NDE recipient, etc.” In fact, I recommend that you not base your beliefs about the afterlife on this kind of evidence. While I acknowledge that I “can’t interview ANY of the biblical writers,” this is not necessary to reach the conclusion that the Bible ought to be accepted as the true word of God. I understand that neither one of us appeals to absolute proof. We rely instead on evidence that we accept as relevant and interpretations of it that seem credible to us. Maybe you ignore some, and I ignore some, but this is why we have discussions like this. We each get to present evidence from our own point of view that the other may have ignored or dismissed. For example, I recently reflected on the prophecy in Mark 14:9. What do you suppose the chances of fulfillment were when it was originally written (according to scholars, probably before 70 A.D.)?

    If you don’t have time to answer my questions, that’s okay. I appreciate Perry for allowing our comments to remain here for the consideration of future visitors. Peace.

    • James Lea says:

      Subject: Reincarnation & NDEs: Tom Godfrey (response to your 5/30/19 reply), I’ve been busy the last few weeks planning a month-long trip to the Northwest & several national parks. I research and book each motel ahead of time, and I study each attraction I want to see. Then I write up a long itinerary, so I didn’t work on a reply to you until I finished.

      Tom, you wrote: “You said that I am still asking for more ‘proof’ here, but can you find any example of this?” I am not going to do a word search of our past discussions to look for your use of the word “proof,” but you tend to pose certain hypothetical questions in such a way that no matter what I say, they have no provable answer. For instance, Tom, you wrote “that the evidence you have in mind [to support reincarnation] comes from the reports of people living in a presently observable world, but whatever those independent sources believe about reincarnation necessarily involves experiences in a spiritual realm where the possibility of deception practiced by enemies of God could have produced merely an illusion of reincarnation that cannot be verified scientifically.”

      Your sentence sounds impressive at first reading, but it makes unprovable assumptions and makes claims I have never made. For instance, I don’t believe and never said “an illusion of reincarnation” or “reincarnation” can be verified scientifically. I have read several books in which authors have checked out what people said about their past life both under hypnosis and just in a casual conversation as a young child. I would never claim this proves it scientifically, but it is evidence of possible reincarnation. For instance you could read the book by Cathy Byrd titled “The Boy Who Knew Too Much.” In the book a baseball prodigy Christian Haupt at age two began sharing vivid memories of being the famous New York Yankee Lou Gehrig in the 1920s and 1930s. His mom checked out the stories, as documented in the 227-page book, and is convinced Christian lived a past life. This story, by the say, didn’t involve an experience in a “spiritual realm,” though you seemed to imply all my evidence came from the spiritual realm. You don’t understand where much of my varied evidence comes from because you don’t read the metaphysical material I read.

      Your sentence implies there are “enemies of God” in a spiritual realm and you add: “Even thousands of independent sources could be deceived by a single mastermind in a spiritual realm.” While this idea might be part of a great plot in a star-wars fiction novel, there is no real evidence that this is occurring or has occurred. It is just idle, unprovable speculation. I believe God is sovereign throughout the universe, and I have no reason to believe he is allowing some mysterious powerful mastermind—whatever or whoever that might be—to compete with him and counteract his divine will and subvert his plan for humanity. This idea is just plain illogical to me.

      Yes, Tom, I know about the horny old mythical devil called Satan or Lucifer, but I see no logical reason to believe this alleged entity has any of these powers to deceive all of humankind or that such a being exists. Just because the Bible talks about Satan doesn’t prove a thing about his existence. It is just talk—just idle speculation. And if this devilish being somehow does exist, he obviously has deceived most Christians since the Christians are hopelessly divided, they fight among themselves, and teach dozens of contradictory doctrines. Just look at the odd, contradictory but supposedly inspired teachings of the Mormon, the Catholics, the Pentecostals, the Baptists, the Christian Scientist, the Jehovah Witnesses, and the Seven-Day Adventists and tell me who is correct. They can’t all be correct! The way you question my beliefs rather than your own, I think you have somehow falsely assumed the devil would only deceive those who believe in reincarnation but leave alone the many fine but confused Christians. I disagree. I think your fictional mastermind would go after the Christians first if he were real. Show me why I am wrong. (This is an example of the unprovable questions you pose to me.)

      Again, you seem to assume since the evidence I use to support reincarnation comes from the reports of individual people living all over the world, that all these people “could be deceived by a single mastermind in a spiritual realm” or by “enemies of God.” You seem to have an instant built-in bias against any religion or philosophy other than your Christian belief. For instance, you would never state that a single evil mastermind in a spiritual realm may be deceiving Christians—just non-Christians.

      I think the fact that consistent evidence to support near death experiences (NDEs) and reincarnation comes from men and women of all races and religions all over the world is actually a real strength and is significant. The same is true with science projects. If scientists all over the world come to the same general conclusion on an issue based on various data about, say, the climate, we consider that a strength—not the work of a deceiving and evil mastermind.

      Yes, Tom, the thousands of NDE and reincarnation stories do have some inconsistencies among them, but overall the major conclusions are clear. You would say the same thing about the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell different aspects of the Jesus story, and we see a different emphasis in Paul’s writings, but you wouldn’t conclude—though the Bible critics would disagree—that the inconsistencies show the NT is contradictory and uninspired. Humans don’t always get all the details perfect. Take the recent final NBA championship game between Toronto and Golden State. If you selected 1,000 men, women, and children from the audience at the final game and asked them questions about the game 10 years from now, you would find disagreement. Most would agree Toronto won, but a few might think Golden State won. When asked about the game, some would describe the great moves of Curry and others would remember Leonard. Many would forget who the leading scorer was in the game. But just because there was some disagreement about the events of the game, that wouldn’t mean some evil mastermind in a spiritual realm planted fake memories in these people’s minds and that no such championship game was ever played.

      Tom, you made a major, major admission—and I really, really appreciate your honesty—as to what drives your belief system and causes you to mistrust my philosophy from the word go when you wrote: “You may be thinking that I also ignore problems with my ideas about God, because I ignore the many stories about people who died as a result of what should be considered acts of God. The truth is that I do not ignore those stories at all. I just read them as most other believers do. At some time in your past, you may have read them the same way. We presuppose that God is holy, as claimed (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8), and never does anything wrong or immoral, even if we cannot explain why his action was better in a specific case than an alternative that one can imagine would have been better in the long run.”

      Tom, this quote perfectly sums up why you can never, never agree with my philosophy. You are a true believer. I am not. I read the Bible—just as I read anything else—as a critic, a skeptic, or as an editor would read it. You read it as a total believer. I see numerous immoral acts attributed to God by the Bible. I see clear descriptions of a flawed, jealous, angry, impatient God unwilling to use his omniscience to save all of mankind because it is apparently easier to torture them in hell fire than to work with them & help them succeed, but you, as you wrote, “presuppose that God is holy.” You presuppose the God described in the Bible is holy, “never does anything wrong or immoral,” and is always righteous regardless of what the biblical text actually says—“even if we cannot explain why his action was better in a specific case than an alternative that one can imagine would have been better in the long run.” As long as you view Christianity and the Bible as absolute, unassailable truth and the actions of the Bible’s God is perfect and righteous, everything I say to the contrary will always be characterized as error or heresy.

      I have spent months patiently explaining a beautiful reincarnation philosophy to you that portrays a God of unconditional love. This God has no conditions for receiving his love such as believing in Jesus, and because he is omniscient, my sources reveal that this God has figured out how to reconcile all humankind to him over time and therefore doesn’t need to torture unrepentant humans in eternal hell fire, which, of course, would be a contradiction for a God of love to engage in. Unless you are willing to read the Bible in context for what it actually says—instead of always believing the God described in the Bible “never does anything wrong or immoral,” you will never grow beyond your present belief system or grasp the simplicity and beauty of how reincarnation works. Luckily, however, each of us has the free will to decide his religious philosophy and practice it. Peace & Freedom, Jim (sent 6/18/19)

Leave a Reply

You must use your real first and last name. Anonymity is not allowed.
Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *