What questions can only be answered by Christianity?

Please indulge me.
As a former atheist, I am attempting to form arguments for Christ that stem from general revelation, and logical evaluation of the existing world.
Sadly, many of the books I have read on this front (C.S. Lewis, Richard Keller, Paul Davies, etc.) all start with the assumption that God exists, and then find anecdotal evidence to back it up. While I see how this can serve to support those who already believe, this technique does nothing to influence those who don’t believe in the first place.

As such, I am looking for questions which require
1.) the presence of a God.
2.) that that God be the Christian God.
3.) (If possible) That the Catholic teachings alone provide the answer.

Even if you have questions that only meet criteria 1 or 2, please submit them.

I am looking for things like “Why do humans seem to have a sense of right and wrong?” “Why do people do things they know to be wrong?” “Do all humans need forgiveness?”

I am decisively not looking for things where other explanations work well (such as “the reason there are many languages is OBVIOUSLY because of the tower of Babel…” whether or not it’s true, there are sufficiently convincing secular arguments that it won’t sway anyone).

Even if you can’t quite articulate an answer, please voice your questions.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

As for the existence of God, the existence of the universe itself, having come from nothing as science pretty definitively tells us, is as strong an indicator as any. Science can tell us the “what” as to how all this came to be, but never the “why” nor, in a sense, the ultimate “how”. How is it this all came to be, how is it that the physical laws of reality operate as they do? The positing of an uncreated creator, an ultimate reality and intension from which all else derives its ultimate being, and which philosophical reasoning demands to avoid the infinite regression of an infinite chain of causality (the “it’s turtles all the way down” quandary), is and remains as reasonable a conclusion as it did in Aristotle’s day.

That things about this creator’s essential nature or characteristics can be inferred from the nature of his creation is also a reasonable inference. Thus, God is “love” whereby we understand love to be a selfless giving, as evidenced by the selfless outflow from nothingness to the reality we see around us…the ultimate essence of creation that we see in all things is freedom. A freedom to act, freedom to continually “come into being” as the evolution of the universe continues around us. Our free will manifests this truth, the fatalistic and poorly supported musings of determinists notwithstanding.

Regarding evil and moral law, the poster above mentions several secular scientific theories attempting to explain these things, but all of them have been to date found wanting. They are inadequate to explain reality…one need only stand in the gates of Auschwitz to know, deeply, that there is true evil in this world. Humans are capable of stunning acts of heroism and altruistic self-sacrifice, and of horrendous malice and evil, both extremes of which defy any purely scientific appeal to evolutionary psychology to explain.

These are brief musings, and much more could be said on these subjects. None are deductively irrefutable; they are not intended to be. They are examples of inductive reasoning and sign posts pointing the way to a transcendent meaning. “Proof” as demanded by some atheists, can never be offered in this life. Such proof would run counter to the very nature of God, that of “freedom”…freedom to choose, freedom to be what we will be. God never forces, not at the moment of the Big Bang, and not now.

Dear LJH_80

Welcome to the forums from a “newbie.”

And welcome to an age-old, I believe, dilemma’

First, in terms of persuasion, let’s think about the idea of premise. We all, I think, accept the dictum “wrong premise, wrong conclusion.” Well, it is kind of foregone that Christians or any God believers have a radically different premise than do atheists. Unfortunately, both "sides’ tend to argue from ideas arrived at after having accepted their funda*-mental* premise. So unless we can arrive at a premise that is basic to both atheist and believer, neither will have ground to stand on that has any useful meaning to the other. That’s despite the perception that both have “facts” to marshal to their ends, some of which are obvious to both, but again, interpreted differently!

Then we get to another point: Can God be explained or proved in terms of intellect? No, I think not. Else we would have everyone as agreed on God as on 2+2=4. Ain’t happening. So we can be realists about this, I guess, and agree with the person who said “religion can’t be taught, it has to be discovered.”

That’s why I don’t advance “facts” in any religiously oriented conversation but stick to questions. If you have ever been in a counselling situation, it can be discerned that asking questions elicits words and ideas which the speaker listens to as they say their say. Doing that makes much that is unconscious conscious. And so sometimes, in the fullness of time, a perception is arrived at that more approximates a greater reality than one’s personal bubble.

That holds for believers as well. A life that includes consistent contemplation of the mystery of God, or even just of the Universe, yields astonishing insights. That is why, mostly, I just encourage curiosity and wonder in any case, along with introspection and some grounding in critical thinking, if that still exists in our Country, lol!

I thoroughly enjoy reading the many Catholic contemplative’s works. If one has such a bent towards that way, which to me is the only really meaningful way, then one will be naturally drawn to these works. Otherwise, they seem too abstruse and distant. and that is fine too.

But what you know for yourself about yourself and God is wonderful. In the last analysis, that is what it’s about. And if you pursue that diligently, maybe you needn’t say a word. Those who are ready will be drawn to you and ask, and then you can speak appropriately. Otherwise you may be trying to set a diamond where there is no ring to hold it.

Hi,

In relation to point 1, here are some thoughts which make my head hurt!

Questions of the universe:

If nothing can travel faster than light, and since space and time are intertwined and will also be constrained by this law, the universe must still be expanding. What is it expanding into? Therefore, is there a dimension outside of the time-space universe. If so, did the ‘big bang’ occur in this dimension, which is an infinite dimension by definition as it is outside of time. Therefore the ‘big bang’ event occurred in an infinite dimension, in an infinite dimension there exists infinite possibilities. So at least one of these ‘big bang’ events must have been a purposeful act as opposed to a random event. If EVEN ONE of these events was a purposeful act, this proves the existence of God. “I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end”. I need a lie down after that ha ha.

God bless

A) Even if everything that you said was true, theism in general would be able to answer those questions, not just Christianity.

B) The idea that the universe came “from nothing” is far from being scientifically proven, and even those who say so, such as Lawrence Krauss, don’t really mean nothing in the sense of absolutely nothing, they usually mean a quantum vacuum or something similar that they refer to as “nothing”. In any case, the question of where the universe came from is currently unsolved. Christianity does offer a potential answer to this question, as do most religions and several unproven scientific theories, but potential answers are not good enough. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a potential answer to where the universe came from, but there is no actual evidence for it. The same can be said for most of the scientific theories on the subject, and for the Christian theory. There are a plethora of potential explanations for the origins of the universe, but we don’t have any evidence that would allow us to confirm one over the other. For now, the origins of the universe remain a mystery.

C) The question of why physical laws are the way they are is similar. We don’t know for sure. Several scientific theories have been offered to explain them, but those theories do not have sufficient evidence to merit belief in them. The same can be said for the various religious theories.

Everything that was said about scientific theories explaining morality is still compatible with what you said. We would fully expect human beings to view Auschwitz as evil if evolution had programmed human beings to find such things repulsive and evil. We would fully expect both “stunning acts of heroism and altruistic self-sacrifice, and of horrendous malice and evil,”, if evolution had programmed us such that we would be likely to do such things. Nothing that you said contradicts the scientific explanations on offer.

I’m not sure I would agree that C.S. Lewis starts with the assumption that God exists and then goes from there, at least not in his book Mere Christianity or Miracles.

As for the answers to your 1 and 2, I tend to think the Christian philosopher Will Lane Craig is pretty good. He’s not Catholic, but then no one is perfect :smiley:

His signature book is probable Reasonable Faith, which offers scienfitific and philosophical arguments for belief in God, as well as a section on Jesus that gives evidence for him and hence a case for Christianity more specifically. He also has a website by the same name.

Thank you all for the responses so far. I do have a couple responses.

[quote=Thought Officer]I’ll take a stab, sure. I’m not certain that Christianity answers questions that aren’t at least explained in secular terms.
[/quote]

Thank you, but I was not looking for answers to those questions, I was looking for questions like those.

[quote=Blacksword]The positing of an uncreated creator, an ultimate reality and intension from which all else derives its ultimate being, and which philosophical reasoning demands to avoid the infinite regression of an infinite chain of causality (the “it’s turtles all the way down” quandary), is and remains as reasonable a conclusion as it did in Aristotle’s day.
[/quote]

I’m curious how you argue against the corollary of the turtles argument, “It’s Gods all the way up.” In my more argumentative days, I posited that it made as much sense to argue that I followed IO, the god who created all the gods. And that, sure, this universe was entirely created by God, who sent down Christ as his son, etc. But that there exist many independent universes, all created by their individual gods, and that all these gods were, in fact, created by another higher-tier of gods. Pushing the creation-from-nothing step back from the universe to God only begs the argument that God could not have come from nothing, but must have been created by another god (who was created by another god, and so on…).
Sorry, that got a bit of a tangent.

[quote=Stumblesalot]. Therefore the ‘big bang’ event occurred in an infinite dimension, in an infinite dimension there exists infinite possibilities. So at least one of these ‘big bang’ events must have been a purposeful act as opposed to a random event.
[/quote]

So to rephrase your argument (just to make sure I’m reading it right),
“If infinity exists, and there is a non-zero probability of there being a God, then God must occur.” But but in a truly infinite system, no matter the improbability, an infinite number of things would occur an infinite number of times, so there would be an infinite number of gods, yes?

[quote=danserr]I’m not sure I would agree that C.S. Lewis starts with the assumption that God exists and then goes from there, at least not in his book Mere Christianity or Miracles.

As for the answers to your 1 and 2, I tend to think the Christian philosopher Will Lane Craig is pretty good. He’s not Catholic, but then no one is perfect

His signature book is probable Reasonable Faith, which offers scienfitific and philosophical arguments for belief in God, as well as a section on Jesus that gives evidence for him and hence a case for Christianity more specifically. He also has a website by the same name.

[/quote]

C.S. Lewis tried not to, and I’ll admit I haven’t read Miracles but Mere Christianity attempted to arrive at Christ through a sort of process-of-elimination, which falls short because the possibilities he puts up and knocks down do not encompass all possibilities.

I will certainly check out Dr. Craig, though I admit that I’ll probably start with his videos as my “to-read” list is already a very large entity.
Thank you for the recommendation.

[quote=Micorhizea]Can God be explained or proved in terms of intellect? No, I think not. Else we would have everyone as agreed on God as on 2+2=4. Ain’t happening. So we can be realists about this, I guess, and agree with the person who said “religion can’t be taught, it has to be discovered.”
[/quote]

And I think that’s where my approach is different, and potentially effective. Most intelligent atheists consider themselves willing to suppose the untrue for hypothetical purposes. So instead of “here is a proof of God,” I ask the listener to assume, hypothetically that some god exists, but that we know nothing about this god, except that
A: it exists, and
B: it is responsible for the creation of the universe.
From there, I attempt to make nigh-incontestible observations of the world (i.e. humans experience time in a linear fashion, people die, etc.) and work logical proofs of what those would tell us about this hypothetical god (to steal C.S. Lewis’ simile, this is like Hamlet looking at his world to learn about Shakespeare).
Again, I have found most atheists willing to go along with this type of gedanken experiment. Once an outline of this hypothetical God has been created, it bears an exceeding similarity to the Christian God. Thusly, the proof shows that the right way of living is the Christian way. And while no theory (to include Christianity) is ever certain to a skeptical mind, it is still consistent with good science to adopt the theory that best suits the observed world until you can find a better one.

I try to stay away from historical facts or scientific grey areas because they are unconvincing and sell God short. God is not merely the thing we use to fill in what we don’t yet understand, nor is he merely something that happened a long time ago. If God is God, he must be everywhere at all times, and we should thus be able to discuss Him without resorting to historical records of Jesus or the gaps in current scientific understanding.

Not an infinite number of gods, one God who is infinite.

God bless

I do think that your last sentence sums up a stance that is not only close to good practice, it is close to sanity. I usually stop at A: and wonder how B: can be, because darned if we aren’t here, But in looking at that unavoidable admission, it would seem to me that we unconsciously use unexamined premises that keep us restricted to “proving” the “God” that is but a concept, aside from the reality of Deity as it is. Nothing we can say from human smallness can comprehend the infinitude the mind of one mortal isn’t, even if it is filled with ages worth of quotations and references. That isn’t wheer or how God IS.

As for my part, I still maintain that discursive deliberation in human terms only proves that awareness is present and that one is paying attention to what’s going on in their mind regarding things that are far beyond it. Therefor they are mostly not useful other than as an intellectual exercise. Fun, though, eh? And so many of us seem driven to do it.

I mean no offense, but this is exactly the sort of thing I am arguing against (assuming by “revelation” you mean things told to man by God or His prophets).
If the only way to know God is through thousand-year-old events and words, then God is worthless today.

If we found papers in some vault from 1727 where Isaac Newton, on his death bed, said “Yeah, that whole gravity thing, I made that up. It doesn’t actually exist.” Would we all then go, “Well, no more gravity or physics for anyone?”
Of course not. While Newton may have made clear certain aspects of it that weren’t known beforehand, gravity stands on its own, and can be verified many ways on a daily basis.
And this is why science is acceptable to those who are skeptical about faith.

However, what if a letter were found in which Paul (or Moses, or John, etc.) said “yeah, I never really believed this stuff or had these revelations, I just did it as a prank?”
You and I both agree that if (in some hypothetical universe) Paul confessed to having just made up everything he said, that wouldn’t change the nature of God, nor His relationship to us.
Or to put it another way, our relationship with God must be stronger than any one man’s (or even a thousand men’s) credibility. If it’s not, then your faith in those men is stronger than your faith in God.

Thus, by my reasoning, our relationship with God must be clearly visible from the world around us and within us. It must be as clearly visible as gravity. Obviously there are some specifics that might require illumination (I doubt that you’d ever be able to intuit that the Lamb of God was named “Jesus” unless you were told), but those are not the fundamental points on which we base our faith (even among believers “Jesus” is pronounced differently among different languages).

Be careful. We can know God through our reason and the modern world (as St. Paul says), but the most important truths of Catholicism are known by revelation and two thousand year old events. That hardly makes them worthless!

For instance, the most important part of Catholicism is not that God just exists. On the contrary, a God who had nothing better to do than merely exist would be worthless. The most important parts of Christianity are that man sinned against God and fell, and that to redeem him God became man in the person of Jesus, died and rose from the dead (the latter two facts that can be historically verified), and that man is called to accept this salvation and enter into a loving relationship with God.

This cannot be known just by looking at the universe, but based on historical evidence and past events.

Now, I don’t of course, think that this is the only way to know God. I accept modern scientific and philosophical evidence for belief, as well as the idea that Christianity is properly basic, ie that God gives humans a sense of his presence. But, don’t scorn revelation and thousand plus year old words. We believe in a God who acts in history, why shouldn’t we expect that at some point he provide us with revelation (the Bible and Jesus) confirmed by miracles?

You and I are in agreement. I said “if the only way to know God…”
By your own admission, God is still speaking to us.

Let me posit to you another case. Let us say that there is a Satan, who has supernatural powers and wishes to draw people away from God.
Now, Satan could easily pluck the low-hanging fruit of people who will sell their souls for temptations, but that will only take him so far.
I imagine that Satan wants more than that, he wants to lure good people to his calling. So how could he do that? Well, if you must accept Christ for salvation, then all he has to do is lure people away from Christ. Thus, Satan creates other religions, and he fills them with morality. I, as a person of integrity who tries to do good, find a religion (let’s say Buddhism) that has morality that sounds good, and I follow this religion and try to lead a good life, only to find out too late, upon my death, that I was misled.

Well, what’s to stop a being with supernatural powers from living on Earth as a man, saying a bunch of teachings about how the church is wrong, and working “miracles.” Then, Satan could fake his own death and come back a few days later claiming to be resurrected.

So essentially, other religions are created by Satan to draw us away from the one True religion, right? So how do you know Christianity isn’t a false religion designed to draw you away from some other religion that’s actually the True one?
(Please don’t mention Matthew 12:26 as a counter argument, that doesn’t hold water on even slight scrutiny).
Thus, even if every event in the New Testament is true, it still does not rule out the idea that Christianity is not the way.

To compare this to gravity, imagine that Newton recorded an experiment where he dropped a hammer and it rose into the sky. Even if hundreds of people swore they saw it, it would still be scientifically irrelevant if it were not reproducible. I wouldn’t argue that it didn’t happen, but I would argue that something unexplained happening once cannot be the basis for daily life forevermore.

(Please understand the plethora of counter-arguments. I spent decades as an intelligent, argumentative atheist, and became well-armed. When I became a theist, I needed to know that my faith could withstand all the attacks I had previously launched against others, or my own faith was weak. It is my way to prove something by examining evidence, finding a plausible explanation, and then doing everything in my power to disprove my explanation. Only when I cannot, do I consider my premise sound).

I say again that, if God is God, His way must not merely be a historical event, but must permeate every atom of existence. I do not say that we can entirely know God, but merely that if we look at what is going on, we will see evidence that His way is the way we should go.
It doesn’t matter whether 500 people saw Jesus rise from the dead, or if it were just 2, or even if 5,000 people watched his tomb day and night for a week and swore he never rose from the dead. My faith in God is greater than my faith in those people.
If your faith is resting on that, I am curious to know exactly how much historical proof does your faith require? How many witnesses had to see the resurrection for you to believe it?

The initial things I said about the creation of the universe were not meant to point to Christianity specifically, but to the starting point of God’s existence. Then we move after intuiting his existence to what we can ascertain about him from the nature of the created universe, that he is free, that he loves, that he does not compel, etc., which are qualities Christianity asserts belong to God also.

As for the science and evolutionary models of morality, my understanding is that scientists agree generally that the evolutionary models and theories of human psychology and behavior do NOT adequately explain the full realities of human morality. Perhaps they could at some date so I am hesitant to enter into “God of the gaps” territory, but my understanding is that to date all attempts to explain such empirically with morality and empathy tests of apes, construction of evolutionary psychology models, and so forth have been failures at worst, and highly debatable (among scientists and researchers themselves) and incomplete at best. So no, the point is science does not adequately explain the full dimensions of morality yet, and it remains highly uncertain that it ever could on it’s own.

Put it this way: I’ve seen and read about the “God helmet” that a researcher made that stimulates a specific region of the brain and thereby creates a sensation of “experiencing God’s presence” or that the subject was somehow with God…a religious experience. Does that mean that all such experiences are merely perceptions in the brain of the subject? No, not anymore that stimulating the visual cortex to create sensations of seeing things would mean the subject has never actually seen existing things outside the body. The models can describe certain aspects, but not the whole picture as we know and experience it to be, and due to the natural limitations of science, they may never be able to.

I understand you thought process, and laud your approach. I will respond to the part of this relating to mainly my earlier post. The infinite Gods problem is only a problem when we have not sufficiently defined what it is we mean when we say “God”. God is not some extremely powerful or immortal man in the clouds. That’s a man-made myth like Zeus or Thor. “God” is fundamentally “That than which nothing greater can be conceived”. If we have intermediate “powers” such as angels, other “gods” or what have you, they are not the end until you are at that ultimate infinity, a being who, in Aquinas’ words, has His ultimate essence in His existence, and whose existence is His essence. That than which nothing greater can be conceived. Thus, by definition, that ultimate being and reality is the end of the line. It cannot come from something else, because then it would not be that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. This is and has always been the (I believe unique) position of the three Abrahamic faiths. The, as St. Paul put it, “over all, in all, and through all”, which goes to what you are saying about evidencing God within every atom. He is there, and more than there, as one might say the universe and all reality is itself within Him, and yet He still goes beyond it infinitely. This is not panentheism, as the universe is not God, but rather is within Him at all levels, and yet God still goes infinitely beyond it. I am not certain, but I don’t think any other religious faiths have this construction of God. And ultimately atheism must turn to the universe itself and say it has the attribute of self-causing, or otherwise assign these characteristics to the universe in some fashion. But the universe is NOT self-explanatory, whereas God, understood thusly, is.

In the end though, I do think once arriving to this point, deciding whether Christianity (and which kind of it at that!), Islam, or Judaism is truest, one must look to the historical claims to discern. Without the record of what has happened, I would not see a way ahead at this point. Do you see that as a weakness? It seems once we are here we have reasonable grounds for looking at least in part to history, just as we would do so to know anything about the history of Rome, or the Civil War for that matter, not being able to experience these events first hand.

I apologize if I’m not making myself clear. I’m not demanding that he does so, I am stating that he does so.

I am looking for questions that people believe that only Christianity can give satisfactory answers to.
I am asking because I feel capable of proving observance of the natural world leads to Christian beliefs.

Essentially, I am asking you why you became a Christian. So far the answers seem to be:
[LIST]
*]“I was raised Christian since before I was old enough to make my own decisions, and then I just kept going with it, and it still seems right.”
*]“I wasn’t a Christian and I wasn’t happy, but others who were Christian seemed happy, so I followed them, and now I’m happier.”
*]“Jesus spoke to me personally, and told me the truth.”
*]“I looked at science and other religions, but only Christianity gave me satisfactory answers to the questions I had.”
[/LIST]
I’m looking for people in the 4th group. I want to know what questions they had. The other reasons are fine and great, but they don’t affect the people I’m trying to affect.

And that’s why I’m disregarding certain things. It’s not that I don’t think Biblical history is relevant to being a Christian. I’m saying Biblical history is irrelevant to the happy, intellectual, atheist. I know it’s irrelevant to them because I was one, and I could argue my way out of anything related to that.
Now that I’m not one, I still keep one in the back of my mind, and believe that if I can’t convince that guy of my arguments, I’m not going to convince the next atheist I talk to.

My faith does not rest on historical proof of the Resurrection, but I do think that you are not giving evidence for the resurrection the care that it deserves. I do think that evidence is remarkably good and the questions you raise can actually be fairly easily answered.

I don’t necessarily think that other religions are the work of Satan. I think many are people responding to general revelation, but since they do not have the whole story (Christian revelation), then there is variance and error. Of course, being guided by general revelation, there are some important similarities, such as moral beliefs.

How do I know that Christianity is God’s true revelation? Well, we can know by historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.

Now you imagine an atheist with a novel approach, he doesn’t deny that the resurrection happened, but says that it could be the work of Satan. So he admits that the historical evidence for the Resurrection is actually very good. But notice that to think that Satan could explain away the Resurrection, your atheist is committed to believing that Satan exists! How could Satan be an option to explain away the Resurrection unless he exists? And I have run into some people who believed in God but not Satan, but never anyone who believed in Satan but not God. Hence, your atheist, in trying to escape the truth of Christianity, seems to be admitting that Jesus rose from the dead, and that God and Satan exist. This sounds like a very strange form of atheism!

But suppose your “atheist” (who by now is not really and atheist) is stubborn at this point, and insists, that how does he know that he should believe Jesus? How should be know that Jesus is not some trick of Satan? (I admit, I have never heard that one before, it seems to me like a desperate, radical skepticism).

  • Well, consider Jesus’ teaching. He commanded people to love their neighbor, forgave those who sinner, told them not to sin anymore, told us to care for the poor and weak. Unless our moral intuitions are wholly untrustworthy (which would have some absurd consequences), then these are actually highly moral and loving things to command, and something that would bring people closer to God.
  • Jesus always stressed his dependance and obedience to God. Again, this is a message that would draw people closer to God.
  • The moral and theological context in which Jesus did his miracles (and in which his own resurrection took place), is also important.
  • Jesus claimed to be God’s unique son, the authority to forgive sins, and to speak and act in God’s place; in essence, he acted like God and at his trial, claimed to be God.
    Now unless this is true, then this is such a terrible blasphemy that he would be either insane or would be the devil himself. Neither of those options are very plausible, but we can go further.
  • God raised Jesus from the dead. God, however, would not have raised a blasphemer from the dead. so by raising Jesus, God confirmed his teaching.
  • No other religion can claim a miracles of this magnitude, that a historical man (claiming to be God) who were he not God would have been a direct blasphemer was killed and subsequently vindicated by God.

So I agree that God’s revelation was not just a one time historical event. He continues to be present and can be known other ways. But Since he did reveal himself most directly in the person of Jesus, then we should learn about that and use that knowledge.

And if Christianity were the only religion that claimed to have an evil adversary, this would hold water. The Jews have Satan, maybe Satan played the role of Christ to get people to stop following the law. Hinduism also has dark forces, and that’s not even getting into the lesser religions, or even hypothetical religions that no longer exist precisely because their Satan-figure was so effective.

You are dragging this away on a tangent, but here goes.

How could Satan be an option to explain away the Resurrection unless he exists? …

The point is that powerful acts do not make moral correctness. If a magician appeared out of the sky tomorrow shooting lightning from his fingers and shrugging off bullets, he would certainly be powerful. But that doesn’t mean I would follow his teachings if they conflicted with my internal morality.

  • Well, consider Jesus’ teaching. He commanded people to love their neighbor, forgave those who sinner, told them not to sin anymore, told us to care for the poor and weak. Unless our moral intuitions are wholly untrustworthy (which would have some absurd consequences), then these are actually highly moral and loving things to command, and something that would bring people closer to God.

And here you get to two things.
1.) Without going to circular reasoning, how do you know that these teachings are “highly moral… and would bring people closer to God?” In other words, there must be a secular concept of morality and what God should be like in order to say these teachings would bring us closer to Him.
2.) Even if the things he taught were morally good, is acting morally good sufficient to achieve salvation? No. Faith, not works, leads to salvation, so it doesn’t matter how well Jesus’ teachings make our works be, if we follow Jesus, and he is not the savior, then it’s irrelevant, right?

  • The moral and theological context in which Jesus did his miracles (and in which his own resurrection took place), is also important.

Agreed, but the theological context must be acknowledged before it can be seen as important.

  • Jesus claimed to be God’s unique son, the authority to forgive sins, and to speak and act in God’s place; in essence, he acted like God and at his trial, claimed to be God.
    Now unless this is true, then this is such a terrible blasphemy that he would be either insane or would be the devil himself. Neither of those options are very plausible, but we can go further.
  • God raised Jesus from the dead. God, however, would not have raised a blasphemer from the dead. so by raising Jesus, God confirmed his teaching.

As for Jesus claiming to be God, that only occurs in 1 of the 4 gospels. In all except Mark, He deliberately avoids saying that, instead, He simply says “that’s what you say I am.” And even then, it’s only in front of the council that the story changes, in front of Pilate He’s back to saying “that’s what you say.” So 7 out of 8 times that people ask Him if He’s the son of God, He deliberately avoids saying “yes.” Good historical record keeping dictates that, when faced with multiple conflicting sources, we take the most common account.

  • No other religion can claim a miracles of this magnitude, that a historical man (claiming to be God) who were he not God would have been a direct blasphemer was killed and subsequently vindicated by God.

Really? The Qu’ran specifically says that Jesus was taken bodily up to heaven, and although He was never crucified, it was made to appear as if He was.
Additionally, Mohammad only ever claimed 2 miracles: the writing of the Qu’ran, and the defeat of the armies at Mecca, despite being hugely outnumbered. Both of these are also historically documented facts.

So if you want to follow historical precedent, why not be Muslim?
Jesus, born of a virgin, preached to the Jews and appeared to be crucified? Check!
Qu’ran written? Check
Mecca defeated? Check.

I’m not trying to go line by historical line with you. I’m asking what caused you to believe.

Was it the preponderance of historical information? If not, then it’s irrelevant to THIS discussion. I am agreeing that the circumstances of the crucifiction are relevant. All I’m saying is that, for the path that I’m taking, they are a much later step.
The arguments like the ones above can go on until both sides finds the other one clasping at straws or behaving illogically. I know. I’ve done it many times. Which is why I’m trying to look for a new angle.

The fact that you can’t stop talking about the arguments that you want to make, in order to address the issue I asked about, shows why I think I am better capable of reaching these people than you are.

I get it. Sorry I am dense.

The question that only Christianity can answer is on the value of suffering. I do not know that the answer could make any sense to an atheist. It kind of like studying math. You need to know something about numbers, before you can learn trigonometry.

I am in the third and fourth group. I had a little Catholic formation, became an atheist, was pulled toward religion, considered most religions, only Christianity made sense and God spoke to me.

You might consider this as you try to develop intellectual reasons in defense of religion. Faith is a gift. Catholics say it is one of the three theological virtues. It is called theological, because it is infused in the soul directly by God.

In my experience, many people discuss and debate religious ideas. Winning debates and arguments rarely cause conversions. What does cause people to come to faith is love, the witness of love, love of God and love of others.

Love, or charity is also a theological virtue, the crowning or ultimate virtue. Many people talk about it and think they know what it is without ever really experiencing it. This is the power that changes us. It is what we are all drawn to. When we see it we want it.

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