Sunday, February 28, 2010

 

A Snapshot of My Conversion

I caught a really bad cold on Jekyll Island so I am going to make this a brief post. After the festivities last night, some of the young LvMI aficionados offered to buy me drinks if I didn't go back to my room. I considered the offer and texted my wife, "I believe the children are our future..."

Anyway, one of them was an atheist and asked me what made me convert. (I too had called myself a "devout atheist" in undergrad, and now I call myself a born-again Christian.) People ask me this a lot, so let me give the very quick summary of how my beliefs evolved.

(1) I can't go into the details here, but I went through a very powerful experience in which I experienced firsthand how much one's beliefs can influence perception. I had always known corny stuff like, "If you want to win the championship, you have to visualize success" or, "The guy who gets the girl is the guy who knows he's getting the girl." But I'm talking about much stronger stuff here, like having huge hives on your skin if you're worried about something.

(2) This newfound knowledge about how much you "create your own reality" made me really understand how it was possible that if a devout Jew truly believed the Messiah had just healed him, that he would actually be healed (of his lameness, leprosy, etc.). Note that at this point I was still an atheist. I just thought that I had figured out the trick. I no longer had to assume there was some guy Jesus who said some neat things, and then his followers invented a bunch of stories to make others pay attention. No, now things made a lot more sense: I thought there had been this guy Jesus who was earnest but had been raised in an unscientific culture, and he really believed he was God. Since he was so confident, he convinced a bunch of other people too. And you can't blame them; he was literally healing people on the spot. But it wasn't a miracle or magic; it was all due to the power of the human mind over the physical body, which I had only recently discovered.

(3) At some point (there's a lot more to the story) it occurred to me that if there were a God and He were to become incarnate as a man etc., that things would appear exactly as my atheistic investigations had revealed. In other words, what more do you want than a guy who goes around healing people, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, etc.?


I don't expect the above to persuade anybody who thinks psychomatic medicine is some New Age touchy-feely thing, and that, "If you're sick you need some good drugs and maybe a CAT scan." But for whatever it's worth, it was the path that led from my atheism to theism.



Comments:
Bob,

Your proclamation of faith in the Lord Jesus is very heartening to your fellow believers. Praise God.

What finally led to your mental acquiescence to the gospel message? At first, the warning alarms of your rational mind were all flashing "irrational" in response to the story of theism and of Jesus, but then something in your internal calculation changed. Why?

Further, why do you think that an intelligent, rational person such as Murray Rothbard, who knew quite a lot about theology and the history of religion, apparently did not accept its validity, while Bob Murphy does?

PS

Hope you get over your cold quickly.
 
Why does God Hate Amputees? He never heals them. He heals the blind, the lame, the mute, the epileptics - he even raises the dead. But, he never, ever heals the amputees.
 
I don't think everyone needs "healing". Or that god hates a person for what we perceive as an infirmity. Musician Ray Charles was blind but that led to his greatness. It just depends on how you use the gifts god gave you and to appreciate the events put in your life as learning lessons. Although I am proclaiming this statement while healthy and using both hands to type, I don't think we can judge a higher power from our limited perspective.
 
"He never heals them. He heals the blind, the lame, the mute, the epileptics - he even raises the dead. But, he never, ever heals the amputees."

A) How do you know God has never healed an amputee? You say it mockingly because there is no empirical evidence of it happening, but that does not disprove it.

B) Maybe the same reason he doesn't strike someone down when they beg for it, as if that proves he isn't listening. perhaps he wants an element of doubt in our heads, so that the true believers really do love and have faith in him rather than just "put the pieces together" and believe in him the same way we believe in bridges.

In other words, who knows? There are a million reasons why anyone, human or God, would choose to do and not do things. If I was capable of regenerating amputee's legs, i might do it. then again, I do not posses the same information God would have about life, the universe, and everything in it, so to judge how God uses or refrains from using his abilities based on my knowledge of the world would get me nowhere.
 
Very interesting. Thanks. Christianity Today has an article in one of its back issues called "When Atheists Believe." I think Chuck Colson wrote it. It gives more examples of devout atheists turning to God.

James: "Why does God Hate Amputees?"

That's a good question. But keep in mind that Jesus healed very few of the lame, blind and sick in Israel of its day, probably less than 0.1%. So the problem isn't just that God doesn't heal amputees, he doesn't heal most people, even innocent children with cancer. Which leads to the question why not, if he is really God? Does he not care or is he impotent?

The simple answer is that he doesn't exist, but leads to a boatload of intellectual problems. The only satsifactory answer I have found is in the first few chapters of the Bible.
 
How does a Milk Jugs ability to answer prayers differ from that of any given deity? sometime it answers, sometimes it fulfills, and sometimes it does not. Just like deities.
 
James,

You missed an easy one. You could have said, "Why doesn't Jesus cure your cold, Bob?" I was sure somebody would have said that by now...

Also, Jesus did cure people with "withered hands." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but if you are trying to imply that Jesus could overcome physical deformities, you are wrong.

Also, curing people of leprosy is rather miraculous, wouldn't you say?

So my point is that you seem to want to isolate it to people who have migraines or something, but I'm telling you that even outwardly appearing physical deformities can be cured instantly. I would probably not have made the leap myself had I not had my own personal experiences in this regard (which I will explain at a later date).
 
Oops, should have said "if you are trying to imply Jesus could NOT overcome physical deformities, you are wrong."
 
Thank you, Bob.

I, for one, would love to see more details at some point. (As much as you'd be comfortable with, or capable of.) This isn't a request I'd have made a few years ago, when I was also, to use your term, a devout atheist. But after a few years at a church that speaks to me (my wife is born-again), I find myself in an unusual and interesting place "spiritually." (That word still sounds odd to me, so I'm still in transition.)

Your path sounds almost opposite mine: while it sounds like you essentially built upon thoughts rooted in atheism to reach theism, I find my objections to faith being slowly torn down, one by one. Christian attempts to attack my atheism hold no more sway than they ever did, but attacks on faith are starting to sound similarly hollow. (Even the ones I once believed in, like that god-hates-amputees one.)

Thanks for the post, Bob.
 
Peace be with you, Bob, and thank you for being candid.

Rest assured that God chose you, and not the other way around. Unbelievers cannot make a decision for Christ. Creating faith and trust is God's work. (Eph 2:8-10)

Too often people find themselves trapped by "decision theology" e.g. "I chose Christ" because during rough spots in their life, they begin to doubt the conviction of their choice. Or worse, "if only I had really trusted God, bad things wouldn't have happened to me."

I hope you take comfort in the fact that no one can choose God, but that He chose you.

"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."
Romans 3


Ps 14:1-3
Ps 53:1-3
Eccl 7:20
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Hypercapital,

Finally, another Reformed Evangelical is in the crowd! Good to know you are out there. I have been on Bob's case for a while about his view of free will and soteriology, so it is now your turn. Keep going!
 
K Sralla said:

Hypercapital,

Finally, another Reformed Evangelical is in the crowd! Good to know you are out there. I have been on Bob's case for a while about his view of free will and soteriology, so it is now your turn. Keep going!


K Sralla, at first I was going to make a joke and say, "Why are you encouraging Heyercapital? It's almost as if you think he is choosing to send me those verses, rather than God doing it through him." But then I realized you would have no choice but to reply, "I couldn't help but type out that message to Heyercapital."

I think this is the basic problem with your view; you are only looking at one side of the (apparent) paradox. YES, I totally agree that I didn't do anything righteous; I don't deserve to be saved.

On the other hand, I also believe that God gave us free will, that He isn't forcing us to love Him or accept Him.

You (and Heyercapital) are focusing on passages that emphasize one half of this conundrum. But there are plenty others that emphasize the act of will, such as the prophets and disciples telling people to repent.
 
@James Rothfeld
Jesus did heal a man who had his ear amputated by Peter's sword.

@Bob Murphy
Great post...thanks.
 
"On the other hand, I also believe that God gave us free will"

OK. You have established that you believe in a certain notion of "free will". Now I ask again.

What finally led to your mental acquiescence to the gospel message? At first, the warning alarms of your rational mind were all flashing "irrational" in response to the story of theism and of Jesus, but then something in your internal calculation changed. Why?
 
Bob,

I promise to quit bugging you. Before I sign off however, let me make a bold prediction (I make no claim to any sort of predictive gift). As you keep thinking hard about this classic "conundrum" and continue to progress into the meat of the Christian faith, I strongly suspect you will eventually come over to the Augustinian view of salvation. Keep thinking and reading! Blessings to you.

KBS
 
K Sralla, why do you want to convert Bob to Calvinism? Don't you know that he can only do what God tells him to do? I'm being facetious.

But don't you think it a little bit odd that God can make people believe in spite of themselves (according to Calvinism), but he can't make them believe the right doctrines, at least not right according to Calvinism?

Or maybe his has made us non-Calvinists believe what we believe for some particular reason.
 
Blessings to you too my fundamentalist Arminian brother. Praise God that one does not have to be a Calvinist to be a Christian. Justification is through repentance and faith in Christ alone. We(evangelicals) all agree on that, and when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! Maybe then we find out the answers to the conundrums.

I promised Bob to get off his blog, so I am finished causing trouble.
 
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Jesus did heal an amputee. Peter cut off Malchus' ear and Jesus healed it. (Luke 22:51)
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_Calanda

Perhaps we don't see more healings of amputees because of our lack of faith.
 
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