The Insignificance of Suffering in Light of Everlasting Life

The Insignificance of Suffering in Light of Everlasting Life

Hello everyone, and welcome to Original Apologetics, where we seek new ways to defend Christians and Christianity. As always, I hope that you are doing well.

Alright, so, for this work, we are going to be discussing the issue of pain and suffering as it relates to the existence of God. More specifically, we are going to be discussing one aspect of that issue, which is how, in my view, when it comes to considering the issue of pain and suffering as it relates to God’s existence, many unbelievers simply fail to fully appreciate the directly related issue of what an utterly incomprehensible value and good an everlasting life with God is. And because many unbelievers often fail to properly take into account the full value of this unimaginably good thing, then they also fail to appreciate the kind of suffering that God might allow to happen in this world so long so doing so meant that even just one additional person would receive everlasting life who would otherwise not receive it in the absence of the aforementioned suffering. Now, to illustrate what I mean by all this, let me provide you with an extreme example of this idea, but one which will illustrate my point well.

Imagine, for the sake of argument, a situation where God knows that a certain person will only come to freely accept the gift of everlasting life with God if and only if one hundred trillion other people experience pain and suffering in their earthly lives. So, just to be clear, that is one hundred times one thousand billion people who have to suffer in this case. Or, to put it a different way, that is approximately thirteen thousand times more than the amount of people who currently exist on earth today. So this is a massive amount of people who would have to suffer for just one person!

Nevertheless, as stated, picture that God knows that a certain person will only come to freely accept the gift of everlasting life with God if and only if those one hundred trillion other people experience some level of pain and suffering while on earth. Perhaps these people even need to experience intense bouts of pain and suffering for the person in question to come to God. In fact, perhaps they even need to experience seemingly pointless pain and suffering, at least pointless from their limited perspective. So, for our scenario, just imagine that if those one hundred trillion people did not experience those sorts of intense and seemingly pointless pains and sufferings in this life, then that one specific person in question would not freely embrace everlasting life with God. So, in such a situation, what should God do?

Well, so long as all other things are salvifically equal—meaning that none of the other one hundred trillion people will reject their own salvation because of the pain and suffering that they have to endure—then, when placed in such a situation, I contend that not only would God permit the hundred trillion people to suffer in this life, but that He should do so. And He should do so precisely because He is loving. It is God’s love that would rightly and justifiably lead Him to allow incredible amounts of people to suffer in such a scenario. But how could this be the case? How could God’s love be the very thing that leads to an outcome where massive amounts of people have to suffer?

Ultimately, it is because the salvation and never-ending bliss of even just one soul is actually an infinitely greater good than any amount of finite suffering experienced by any finite amount of people. Let me say that again. All other things being salvifically equal, the salvation of merely one soul, who, through that salvation, enters into a state of unending bliss with God, is of greater value and importance than is stopping a hundred trillion people from suffering for some set period of time. And this is obvious when one reflects on it: a life with God is of such intense bliss that it makes any form of suffering pale in comparison, and since such a life is everlasting, then it makes any finite duration of suffering—whether experienced by a single person or a group—to be little more than a tiny blip of time in comparison to everlasting life. After all, an everlasting life with God is the greatest good possible, by a factor of infinity. And so, in light of such a calculation, a loving God would not only have a justifiable reason to permit the suffering of these one hundred trillion people to save one extra soul, but He should actually be praised for doing so. And He should be praised for doing so by everyone involved in the process, including those people who suffered. Why? Because even we, as humans, understand that we would do the same thing if we reflected on the matter thoroughly.

Additionally, note that this whole idea is quite Christian. In fact, it is an idea which is nicely captured in a fundamental form in Jesus’s parable concerning the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in order to save his one lost sheep. For while the other ninety-nine sheep may suffer during the shepherd’s absence, so long as none of the ninety-nine sheep themselves become lost because of the shepherd’s absence, then the shepherd is right to leave the ninety-nine behind to get his one lost sheep. And the same idea holds true for human beings as well, for it would be right for God to leave—so to speak—ninety-nine of us human sheep to suffer in His absence if doing so meant that He could save just one more lost sinner.

At the same time—and in anticipation of an objection—also note that eternal life with God is such an immeasurable good that it would thus be better for God to actually create the one person who could only be saved through the suffering of the one hundred trillion other people then it would be to have never created that person at all. Indeed, for eternal life with God is such a high good, that a loving God should create a person who would freely accept such an eternal life, even if that person’s acceptance of such a life could only be achieved through the suffering of others (although again, this is with the understanding that this would only be the case so long as none of those other people lost their own salvation on account of their experience of that suffering).

And, in fact, in our own human way, we actually already make a choice similar to the aforementioned one. For consider that most human parents have a second or third or fourth child even though they know that doing so will necessarily take some time, attention, care, and resources away from their earlier children, thereby causing their earlier children to suffer somewhat due to the existence of the newer children. But we as humans have more children anyway, because having life is such a great good—at least on a theistic view—that it is worth creating a new child even if doing so will necessarily bring some suffering to our other child. So, as mentioned, even human beings understand this idea of allowing suffering on the part of others to bring about a valuable good for someone else. Indeed, since the older children will not necessarily lose their own lives due to the creation of a new child—they only suffer somewhat due to it—then such an outcome is worth it since all the older children still have the good of life themselves, and a new being receives that good as well.

Furthermore, concerning all these points, note that it is worth reiterating that were we, as human beings, in the same circumstances as God, and if we were able to fully appreciate the infinite value of salvation in comparison to the finite and fleeting nature of suffering, then, I contend, we would also make the same decisions as God concerning allowing suffering for the salvation of even just one more person. After all, while it may seem harsh that other people may have to suffer for the salvation of someone else, the fact is that if we truly had a full and genuine understanding of the unbelievable good that salvation brings with it, then, on a personal level, we would readily and willingly volunteer to suffer, and suffer immensely, if doing so meant that one more soul would have eternal union with God.  Indeed, I contend that most people would agree to do this. I know that I would. And there is no doubt that God also knows that we would agree to do so if we had the same grasp of the situation as He does.

In fact, given the possibility of pre-earthly conscious existence, it is even possible that we actually freely agreed to endure such suffering for the sake of others before it happens to us on this earth. Or, on a molinistic view—where God knows everything that we would do were we put in a certain situation, even if that situation never actually comes about in this life—it could also be the case that God actually knows that, if we had His knowledge, we would answer positively to the question of whether we would endure suffering for the sake of the salvation of others. But even if these options are not the case, it is also true that God, ultimately, owes us nothing, and if we need to suffer so that another person can come to possess eternal life, then a loving God is entirely in His rights to allow that to happen, and He is still loving even if He does so, so long as our salvation is not lost in the process.

Finally, note as well that not only would a loving God be justified to allow a hundred trillion people to suffer to achieve the free salvation of just one person—again, so long as all other things were salvifically equal—but God would also be justified in doing this even if the person who was saved would not exist for hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of years after the one hundred trillion people actually suffered. But how could this be the case? How could a person be saved based on the suffering of people who lived thousands of years before that person even existed? Well, perhaps a person reads about the past suffering of the hundred trillion people and that is the only thing significant enough to make the person’s hardened-heart call out to God for salvation from this world of pain. Indeed, perhaps only something as shocking as a past event of great suffering makes the person begin his journey of even thinking about God and His salvation. Perhaps a recognition of the suffering of so many previously living people is the only thing that opens the person’s eyes to the real existence of evil, and that discovery then leads the person to God. All these possibilities are, in fact, live possibilities, and so they cannot simply be dismissed.

And note that I speak from personal experience here, for it was in part the suffering of others that, in my late twenties, woke me out of a flaccid mental state about religious affairs and caused me to seriously think about the existence of a theistic God as well as about the truth of Christianity. Consequently, perhaps without such suffering to reflect on, I, personally, would not have given God or Christianity much thought, being rather content with a religiously-avoidant consumerist existence of fleeting bodily pleasures—in a way, an existence quite similar to a pig who is content to stuff its face and roll in muck while not thinking of too much else. And so indeed, perhaps it truly was only the issue of suffering that could have been sufficient to spurn me to serious religious reflection, thereby meaning that to shake me out of my God-ignoring religious laziness, I would have needed actual instances of true suffering to reflect upon in order to make me think about God and the truth of Christianity. Now I cannot say that this was absolutely the case, but I can say, as I have said, that this was indeed my personal experience, and it therefore does stand as a personal testimony to the fact that, reflecting on the suffering of others was an important aspect of my own awakening which led me to the study of God and Christianity, and without seeing that suffering, I may not have been moved to engage in such study.

Now, as an important side-note to this whole discussion about allowing people to suffer and endure pain for the sake of others, it is also vital to point out the fleeting nature of earthly pain, especially when compared to the enduring and never-ending total bliss that will exist in the life to come. After all, in a discussion like this, it must indeed be remembered that the pains of this life are ultimately just momentary experiences of relatively short duration, with some of these experiences even being able to be mitigated by our own mental attitude towards them (and what I mean by this is that certain potentially painful situations, such as losing a job, can be looked at negatively, which thereby does cause a person to experience psychological pain, or they can be seen positively, thereby not causing psychological pain, but rather excitement and opportunity; and so, our mental reaction to these sorts of situations, and thus whether we feel pain from them or not, is largely up to us).

Furthermore, it should also be remembered that in many cases, the pains that we experience in this life are not all negative; for example, during an extreme weight-lifting or boxing session, I will experience intense pain and suffering as I push myself to excel, but such pain and suffering is a good and even blissful sort of pain; it is neither evil nor negative in the relevant sense. And so we must remember that some pains that we endure in life can be highly positive and beneficial to us.

Additionally, it should be further noted that the memory of pain is also fleeting. Pains that we felt years ago no longer exist, and the memory of such pains is lessened, even to the point of utter disappearance, as time goes by. That is not to say that the memory of the situation that brought the pain has disappeared, but it is to say that the memory of the pain itself has gone, and also that the memory of the situation no longer brings any fresh pains with it either. And again, I speak from personal experience here—as I necessarily must, given the personal nature of pain—for there are serious pains that I endured many years ago, but those pains are now gone, and the memories of the situations that brought those pains no longer bring any pain with them either. Thus, such pains and their memories, though strong when experienced and when recently remembered, both greatly weakened with time. And when a saved person’s existence is understood to be never-ending, then it is realized that the memory of negative pain and suffering for that person will, in time, essentially disappear, to be replaced by everlasting bliss and contentment.

Now, if this whole side-discussion seems to be minimizing the importance of the issue of pain and suffering, that is, in fact, partially the point. Or, more precisely, the point is to bring the issue of earthly pain into rational focus when compared to everlasting life, and also to untie the issue of pain and suffering, to the greatest extent possible, from its emotional moorings. Indeed, it is to make it clear that the experience of pain and suffering, though important, is still an experience which is ultimately temporary, finite, and even forgettable over the course of time. By contrast, everlasting life with God is none of these things. And so the latter trumps the former to an infinite degree. And while I understand that such an idea is hard to accept at an emotional level, especially when we are actually experiencing pain, the fact is that it is true. And so this point needs to be genuinely appreciated when discussing the matter of permitting someone to suffer for the sake of another person’s salvation.

So, with all these points in mind, let me also offer a real-life analogy that might better illustrate the idea presented in this video. Consider a situation where there is just one reconnaissance soldier who is trapped behind enemy lines. This soldier is at risk of certain death. Now, the only way to save this one soldier is for a military commander to march the hundreds of soldiers in his infantry battalion through the worst possible terrain to save the one soldier, for only a force of that size will dissuade the enemy from attacking the whole contingent. And so, in order to save the singular soldier, the hundreds of other soldiers will suffer immensely. They will get cold at night and overly hot during the day. They will get wet, become hungry, get eaten by bugs, get strains, pains, and aches. They will turn sleep-deprived and even endure massive amounts of fatigue for hours upon end. However, if they complete this painful march, no soldiers will die. None. They will all be saved, including the one reconnaissance soldier who is lost behind enemy lines. Now, in light of this, should the military commander still decide to save the one soldier even though doing so will cause the hundreds of other soldiers under his command to suffer? Of course he should. And there is little doubt that every soldier in the battalion would actually make the same decision if put in the commander’s position, even though doing so meant their own suffering.

But why is this the case? Why would every soldier make the same sort of decision as the military commander to suffer pain and hardship for the life of one other soldier? They would do so because they understand that the actual life of one soldier is worth more than some finite pain and suffering on their part, even if that pain is extreme. And if that is the case for earthly life, then it is obvious that this is even more the case for an everlasting life in bliss with God. At the same time, these soldiers would make the decision to endure pain and suffering for someone else because they would expect the commander—as well as their fellow soldiers—to do the same for them if they were ever lost behind enemy lines. And so, what this all means is that a military commander would indeed be justified in making the hundreds and hundreds of soldiers under his command suffer intensely if doing so meant saving even just one other soldier from death.

And to extend this analogy slightly, imagine that the commander’s diversionary march with his battalion distracts the enemy to a sufficient degree to allow the one soldier to survive, but it still takes that one soldier ten more years of escape and evasion to finally make it back to friendly lines. In such a case, would it still be worth it for the commander to make his men suffer now to save the soldier, even though the soldier’s ultimate salvation back to friendly lines would not actually occur for a further decade. Of course it would still be worth it. But what this extended analogy shows is that even if the salvific result of some current suffering does not arise for years after the suffering itself, it is still worth enduring the suffering for that eventual result.

Now, with all this said, and with the understanding that the salvation of even one soul is indeed worth the finite suffering of many other people, it thus becomes quite clear that there is literally no way for an unbeliever to ever claim, beyond a reasonable doubt, that some instance of suffering is gratuitous or unjustified, for there is no way for them to have any ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ idea of the salvific effects that that suffering might have for someone, either now or in the future. And so, it seems, at least to me, that in light of such considerations, the very guts of the theistic problem of suffering are ripped right out, and there is not much force left to that argument at an intellectual or rational level.

Of course, it is still understood that, instinctively, this idea may be difficult to swallow, but that is in large part because we are looking at the matter from a finite human perspective, not a divine one. We are also the ones who might have to suffer for others, so we are naturally reluctant to fully appreciate a scenario where this might have to be the case, especially given the ego-centric perspective that we human beings often have.

And yet, even if the problem of suffering may not have much force at a purely rational level, it is, as mentioned, a problem which has great emotional strength. And while the following is not necessarily an answer to the emotional aspect of the problem of suffering, it is still worth pointing out that unlike many other religions, Christianity presents us with a God who suffered alongside us, and who even endured all the pain of all suffering that ever existed in His own person; thus, in many ways, Christianity is a religion that presents us with a God—a military commander if you will—who does not ask us to go out and suffer while He remains comfortable back at camp; rather, Christianity presents us with a divine commander who suffers right alongside us and who endures all the suffering, and more, that we endure. In essence, in Christianity, when it comes to suffering for the sake of others, God leads by example. He thus understands the sacrifice that He asks us to make for He makes it Himself. And while that fact may not, in and of itself, solve the problem of suffering from an emotional perspective, it does show that, in Christianity, God both understands and literally feels our pain. Thus, God is not asking us to do something that He has not done Himself: namely, suffer for the sake of others. And since, on Christianity, we are meant to be perfect like God, it should be no surprise that we are asked by God to suffer for others as well.

But even appreciating the emotional force of the issue of pain and suffering, the fact remains that, in the end, the radical good that is everlasting life, when reflected on fully, and when combined with the live possibility that some people may only be saved through the suffering of others, means that it becomes much easier to understand and accept how and why a loving God would potentially permit great amounts of suffering to occur in this life. In fact, fully appreciating the value of everlasting life actually leads to a situation where if you were in God’s shoes, and if you had to choose between someone being given everlasting life and other people suffering for that to happen, then you too would readily allow the suffering of others so that even one extra life could be freely saved to have never-ending bliss with God.

Alright everyone, that concludes this particular work, which I hope you enjoyed and found useful. So, thank you for your interest, and, until next time, good-bye and Godspeed.

RDM

References:

Nil.

Orthodoxy, Progressives, Tolerance — Pick Any Two

Text from the Slides:

Orthodoxy, Progressives, Tolerance—Pick Any Two

Hello everyone, and welcome to Original Apologetics, where we seek new ways to defend Christians and Christianity. As always, I hope that you are doing well.

Alright, so, for this video, we are going to be discussing a fact about Christianity that traditional orthodox Christian believers need to be acutely aware of. And being aware of this fact is especially important as we Christians move into the future, for a previous lack of awareness about this fact is what has led, in large part, to the shift of many Christian denominations and churches away from traditional orthodoxy and towards liberalism, progressivism, and denominational collapse.

Now, to better understand the issue that we will be discussing, first consider that in the political realm, there is an idea which states that a country, if it wants to maintain the cultural and social norms that it currently has, can only choose two of the following three options: immigration, multiculturalism, or democracy. What this means is that if a country chooses to endorse a policy of large-scale immigration, as well as a policy of multiculturalism, then, to ensure the survival of its cultural and social norms, such a country will need to restrict its democracy. Why? Because if it does not do so, then the combination of a large population of immigrants, combined with the fact that such immigrants do not have to assimilate under a multicultural scheme, means that, eventually, such immigrants will use the democratic process to change the country to their image, rather than assimilate to the cultural and social norms of the country itself. But if a country wants to be democratic, and yet remain the country that it presently is, then such a country has two options: 1) it can either embrace multiculturalism, but not immigration, thus allowing small immigrant populations to maintain their cultures but not allowing them to get so large as to gain influence democratically, or 2) the country can embrace immigration but not multiculturalism, thus forcing immigrants to drop their old culture and embrace the culture of the country they just moved to, thereby not changing the country’s cultural and social norms via the means of democracy.

So, as stated, the idea is that a country, to remain the country that it is, must accept the following truism: democracy, immigration, multiculturalism—pick any two. And regardless of whether we are speaking of a country that considers itself a so-called civic-state allegedly built on a common creed, or whether we are dealing with a genuine nation-state, the fact remains that if a country does not limit itself to two of those three options, then very soon, it will no longer be the country that it once was. For any country that allows large quantities of immigrants to enter it, but also allows such immigrants to keep their previous cultural and social practices, and then also allows such immigrants to vote, will soon find itself slowly transformed—culturally, socially, and politically—by the very immigrants that it let in. And it is quite possible to see this in the world today, where multicultural Western democratic countries with many immigrants, have seen such immigrants create ethnic enclaves and vie for political power and cultural concessions based on their strengths as tribal voting blocks. Furthermore, in many cases, such immigrants have also demanded that their past cultural practices be either tacitly permitted or even actively embraced by the very country that hosts them. And so again, we see the truth of this maxim: democracy, immigration, multiculturalism—pick any two.

Now, the reason that the aforementioned political maxim is important to the discussion at hand, is because a similar maxim also applies in a Christian context. In particular, for traditional and orthodox Christian denominations and churches, such Christian entities must realize that they have a similar three-way choice to make. Specifically, they must select between holding to orthodoxy and traditionalism, or allowing progressives to enter into their churches, or embracing niceness, tolerance, and weak-kneed doctrinal openness. So, in short, orthodox Christian denominations and churches must realize that, for them, the simple truth is the following: orthodoxy, progressives, tolerance—pick any two.

To understand why this is the case, it must be understood that the nature of a progressive-leftist is to seek to change any traditionalist institution that he or she enters into. Indeed, the progressive will unavoidably attempt to make any group or organization that he or she enters into a more progressive one. That is what the progressive wants. That is what the progressive strives for. In fact, that is what, in large part, drives the progressive forward. And indeed, the history of previously-traditional-but-now-progressive Christian denominations and churches, not to mention the history of many once-traditionalist Western institutions over the past few generations, is a testament to this fact. Nor should this idea be surprising: after all, when people believe something, especially when they believe it fanatically—as many progressives do with progressivism—then they will naturally want to change any institution that is not in-line with their beliefs to an institution that is in-line with their beliefs. So it is no surprise that progressives do the same with any non-progressive groups that they run across, such as traditionalist Christian denominations and churches.

But what this entails is that if a Christian denomination or church wants to remain traditionalist and orthodox, while at the same time being open to all people, including progressives, then such a Christian organization cannot allow itself to be “nice” or tolerant. And what is meant by this is that an orthodox Christian group cannot be tolerant of internal dissent, nor allow the questioning of its core orthodoxy by its own practitioners, nor embrace “dialogue” with those members who want to destroy the denomination or fundamentally change the church. Why? Because if a Christian denomination or church does allow these things, then progressives will use such openings to gain positions of power and influence within the Christian institution, and then they will slowly destroy the orthodoxy of those institutions from the inside out by spreading and codifying their progressive opinions, all while claiming that it is not “nice” or “tolerant” to silence or punish them for doing so.

However, given their belief in their own righteousness, the progressives themselves will have no qualms about using whatever organizational power or tools that they have to silence, crush, or oust their own critics, which will all be done in the name of “tolerance” and combating “bigotry”, of course. Indeed, such things as vague and infinitely-flexible codes of conduct or speech codes against “hate”, “bigotry” and “intolerance” will all be used by progressives to legitimize their maneuvers to suppress and remove impediments to their progressive cause, while ensuring that they never need to be held accountable by their own rules.

And indeed, there are numerous examples where progressives use the ideas of tolerance, dialogue, and openness to gain positions of power and influence within an organization, and then, once sufficiently embedded in that organization, those same progressives turn around and attack the non-progressives in the organization, seeking to oust them because they are alleged “intolerant” or “bigoted”. This, of course, is just double-speak, for all it means is that the non-progressives are a potential threat to the progressive cause, and so they must either go or be cowed into submission. And the non-progressives, because they buy the fake idea of tolerance, but also because they are not as hypocritical in their use of the idea of tolerance as the progressives are, still try to have a “dialogue” with the progressives and apologize in order to work things out. This, of course, leads to the non-progressives constantly losing the ideological struggle, because they are fighting on the progressives’ own terms, which is always a losing strategy. And again, remember that this danger from progressives is not just theoretical; such tactics are used daily by progressives across the West today. Just see Vox Day’s two books SJWs Always Lie and SJWs Always Double-Down for numerous real instances of the use of such tactics by progressives in various areas of life.

So again, what all of this means is that if a Christian denomination or church wants to remain traditional and orthodox, but also wants to be open to everyone, including progressives, then such a denomination or church must ruthlessly reject the idea of tolerance; they simply cannot be tolerant of dissenting progressive views within their own ranks and long survive as an orthodox denomination or traditionalist church. Because again, remember, tolerance, in the hands of a progressive, is a one-way weapon; it is an ideological sledgehammer that is always used against traditionalism, but is almost never turned back on the progressives themselves.

Furthermore, as a Christian, it is also interesting and important to realize that Jesus Christ Himself understood the need to ruthlessly reject tolerance of dissenting views within His own ranks. For example, when Christ, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, Verses 35 to 70, offered a hard teaching which many of His disciples grumbled about and rejected, Christ did not open a dialogue or try to be tolerant with those that rejected the teaching; instead, He let those disciples go, showing that His teachings were not open to debate. And if you did not like that fact, then it was you who could leave. Or when Peter, in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 8, Verses 31 to 33, tried to stop Christ from fulfilling His mission, Christ did not open a tolerant dialogue with Peter, nor was Jesus “nice”; instead Christ yelled at Peter, called Peter ‘Satan’, and firmly rebuked Peter in the harshest terms. And also remember that when Christ sent out His disciples to the villages, the disciples were to preach the kingdom of God, but if they were rejected by some village, then they were to wipe the dust off their feet and leave the village, not open a tolerant dialogue with it. So again, the point is that even Christ and the early Church understood that to maintain orthodoxy, but to be open to everyone, then so-called niceness and broad tolerance for overtly dissenting views was simply not permissible. And we need to realize this again today.

So, to recap, realize that if your now orthodox and traditionalist Christian denomination or church does allow progressives and other dissenters into its ranks, and yet your Christian group maintains a stance of weak-kneed niceness and tolerance when dealing with its members, then, over time, your Christian group will lose its orthodoxy and either become progressive, or collapse, or it will fracture into multiple different denominations, some progressive, and some not. By the same token, if your denomination or church actually wants to be nice and tolerant with its members and yet still remain orthodox, then it cannot allow progressives either into its ranks or to remain in its ranks, for to do so is to invite an unavoidable shift into a more progressive direction within your denomination or church. And, ultimately, this point applies to all traditionalist Christian groups, not just different denominations or individual churches.

Thus, to remain orthodox, a Christian group must either be restrictive concerning who it allows in its door or it must be restrictive concerning who it allows to speak once they are inside the walls. This is just a fact. Indeed, it is an experienced and lived truth, as many once orthodox but now progressive Christian groups testify to. And so, in the end, this whole video is a more complicated way of saying that orthodox and traditionalist Christians must remember this maxim: orthodoxy, progressives, tolerance—pick any two.

Alright everyone, that concludes this video, which I hope you enjoyed. And remember, if you ever have a question for Original Apologetics or if you would like to submit any material to the site for potential publication, then please e-mail Original Apologetics at ‘originalapologetics@protonmail.com’. Thank you and good-bye.

RDM

References:

amazon.com/SJWs-Always-Lie-Taking-Thought/dp/9527065682/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520786687&sr=8-1&keywords=sjws+always+lie

amazon.com/SJWs-Always-Double-Down-Anticipating/dp/9527065194/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1520786687&sr=8-2&keywords=sjws+always+lie

Taking a Staff or Not? A New Solution to an Alleged Gospel Contradiction

Text from the Slides:

Taking a Staff or Not? A New Solution to an Alleged Gospel Contradiction

Hello everyone, and welcome to Original Apologetics, where we seek new ways to defend Christians and Christianity. As always, I hope that you are doing well.

Alright, so, for this video, we are going to be discussing an alleged contradiction within the Synoptic Gospels that some skeptics claim is, in fact, a genuine contradiction that cannot be reasonably explained. So, what is this alleged contradiction? Well, it arises from the fact that when Jesus dispatches his twelve Apostles on a ‘miniature’ commission to spread the Good News to surrounding villages, in some Gospels, Jesus appears to be telling his Apostles not to take anything with them, not even a staff or sandals, and yet, by contrast, in another Gospel, Jesus actually seems to tell his Apostles to take a staff and sandals with them. Indeed, in the Gospel of Matthew, in Chapter 10, Verses 5 to 11, and in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 9, Verses 1 to 4, Jesus appears to command the Apostles not to take any staff or sandals with them, whereas in the Gospel of Mark, in Chapter 6, Verses 7 to 11, Jesus commands the Apostles to take a staff and sandals with them. Thus, we have different Gospels passages which, for all intents and purposes, do appear to be contradicting each other.

Now, just to be sure that we are correctly articulating the alleged contradiction that is claimed to exist from this part of the Gospels, let us refer to the way in which self-proclaimed skeptics bring up this specific scriptural problem. So, consider that in his 1995 article titled “New Testament Contradictions” on the Infidels.org website, author Paul Carlson articulates this particular scriptural difficulty in the following manner:  QUOTE – “When Jesus summons the twelve disciples to send them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, he lists the things the disciples should not take with them. In Matthew 10:9-10 and Luke 9:3-5, a staff is included in the list of things not to take. In contradiction to Matthew and Luke, Mark 6:8 makes a specific exception – the disciples may take a staff.” – UNQUOTE. Additionally, consider that the author of The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible also articulates this alleged contradiction by pointing out that in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus tells His disciples to go barefoot and take no staff, whereas in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells His disciples to wear sandals and carry a staff. So, this is the alleged Gospel contradiction that skeptics challenge Christians with, and it is a problem that definitely deserves an answer. And so, we can genuinely ask: What is the answer to this particular scriptural difficulty?

Well, to begin with, consider that most Christian apologists tackle this challenge by dealing with the specific language found in each of the Gospels. For example, the Apologetics Press, in its answer to this objection, notes the following about the difference between Matthew and Mark:  QUOTE – “The differences between Matthew and Mark are explained easily when one acknowledges that the writers used different Greek verbs to express different meanings. … In Matthew, Jesus is saying: “Do not acquire anything in addition to what you already have that may tempt you or stand in your way. Just go as you are.” As Mark indicated, the apostles were to “take”…what they had, and go. The apostles were not to waste precious time gathering supplies (extra apparel, staffs, shoes, etc.) or making preparations for their trip, but instead were instructed to trust in God’s providence for additional needs. Jesus did not mean for the apostles to discard the staffs and sandals they already had; rather, they were not to go and acquire more.” – UNQUOTE

The Apologetic Press then notes that an alleged contradiction still exists between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke. And so, in response to this further problem, the Apologetic Press concludes their argument as follows:  QUOTE – “Just as [the Greek word for ‘provide’] did not mean the same for Luke and Matthew, the Greek word [for ‘take’] (…in both Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3) often did not mean the same for Luke and Mark. (Understanding this simple fact eliminates the “contradiction” completely, for unless the skeptic can be certain that Mark and Luke were using the word in the same sense, he cannot prove that the accounts contradict each other.) … Without going any further with these language comparisons, one simply must understand that the Greek language (like most languages) is flexible enough so that sometimes two writers can use the same word to mean different things, and sometimes they can use different words to mean the same thing.” – UNQUOTE. Thus, the Apologetic Press solves the difference between Mark and Luke by arguing that though they use the same word, they do so with different meanings in mind, thus resolving the contradiction between them.

And another Christian apologetics website called ‘Contradicting Bible Contradictions’ argues that the word for ‘staff’ should actually be translated as a ‘stick’ in Matthew and Luke. And if this is the case, then there is no contradiction between the various Synoptic Gospels given that, in Matthew and Luke, Jesus is essentially telling his Apostles not to bring a stick on which their belongings can be hung, but that they can bring a staff for walking as per the instructions in the Gospel of Mark.

So, as can be seen, many apologists do indeed seek to resolve this alleged contradiction using linguistic means, essentially arguing that some critical words used in the Synoptic Gospels around this ‘staff’ issue actually have different meanings, a fact which, if true, effectively counters the claim that there is a clear contradiction in these specific scriptural passages.

Now, there is no doubt merit to this linguistic approach, and the fact is that such an approach may even solve this Gospel problem completely. And yet, even if this is the case, what I wish to do in this video is to provide a new and complementary solution to this alleged Gospel contradiction. And it is a solution which is based on a portion of the text in the Gospel of Mark that is almost always overlooked when discussing this particular scriptural difficulty. In fact, as far as I know, no one, as of yet, has offered this particular solution to this specific Gospel problem.

So, what is this new solution to the alleged ‘sandal and staff’ contradiction in the Synoptic Gospels? Well, to understand this solution, consider Mark, Chapter 6, Verses 6 to 9, in Young’s Literal Translation, which says the following:  QUOTE – “And he [Jesus] was going round the villages, in a circle, teaching, and he doth call near the twelve, and he began to send them forth two by two, and he was giving them power over the unclean spirits, and he commanded them that they may take nothing for the way, except a staff only — no scrip, no bread, no brass in the girdle, but having been shod with sandals, and ye may not put on two coats.” – UNQUOTE

Now, the key section of that scriptural passage is the little portion that mentions that Jesus called near the twelve Apostles, and then sent them out two by two. That is the critical section. Indeed, that is the small nugget that can plausibly and reasonably solve this alleged Gospel contradiction in a way that is different from the linguistic approach. But how can this tiny bit of information solve the alleged contradiction under consideration? Well, it can do so in a number of different ways.

First, consider that if Jesus sent out the Apostles two by two, then it is entirely plausible that Jesus gave each pair of Apostles individual instructions before He sent them out. And while the instructions could have been similar in each case, they would not need to be identical. Thus, the writers of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke could have received their information from Apostles who had been told not to take staffs with them—nor sandals in the case of Matthew—while the writer of the Gospel of Mark received his information from Apostles who had been allowed to take a staff and sandals with them.

And note that while there is nothing explicitly stated in the Gospels to indicate that some reason was present to require that some Apostles have a staff and sandals, while others did not need them, the fact is that plausible reasons can be given for why this might have been the case. For example, perhaps a few of the Apostles were sick or injured at the time, thus requiring them to use a staff and sandals. Perhaps some were older, thus leading Jesus to allow those older ones to use a staff and sandals. Perhaps a pair of the Apostles were dispatched to an area with very harsh terrain, and so sandals and a staff would actually be required to get around. And perhaps it was even the case that some Apostles simply had a staff and sandals with them, and so they were given permission to keep the belongings that they already had at the time. Heck, maybe some even asked permission to take a staff after the fact, and were given permission to do so. And all these reasons are not only eminently plausible, but we encounter such reasons in daily life as well. Indeed, we provide similar-but-slightly-different instructions to different people depending on their specific circumstances all the time in our daily lives, and there is no reason that the same could not have occurred in the case of Jesus and His Apostles during this specific event.

Note as well that this idea that Jesus gave similar-but-individualized instructions to each pair of Apostles that He sent out is supported by the fact that the Gospel of Mark appears to indicate that Jesus was sending out the Apostles in pairs before He gave them instructions on what to bring with them, thus allowing the text to be plausibly interpreted as showing that Jesus was giving each pair of Apostles specific instructions as He was sending them out separately. Additionally, this new solution also accounts for why each Synoptic Gospel is slightly different in what it claims Jesus said before sending the Apostles out, for while the instructions that Jesus gave to each pair of Apostles were similar, they were not identical, thus plausibly allowing for differences to occur.

Now, in reference to this first solution, it may be objected that in Mark, Chapter 6, Verses 8 to 10, the term ‘them’ is used, which seems to indicate that Jesus is referring to all the Apostles as one group when He is giving them His instructions. But note that the term ‘them’ is very flexible: it could be referring to all the Apostles together as one large group being spoken to at the same time, or it could be referring to all the Apostles as a group of individualized pairs who were spoken to separately but sequentially, or it could even be referring to just one pair of Apostles who were sent out individually—after all, just one pair can be legitimately referred to as a ‘them’ given that it is composed of multiple individuals.

So, for example, consider that this would be similar to me giving instructions to, say, a platoon of soldiers doing an obstacle course; I might give ‘them’ the instructions, but what I actually did was give each pair of soldiers similar-but-individualized instructions right before each pair separately started the course. And this might be done for a variety of reasons, such as safety—in order to ensure that the instructions were fresh in each soldier’s mind right before they started the course—or because I wanted to give each pair of soldiers a unique challenge that the other soldiers would not receive. But now note that if I were to subsequently write a report or an e-mail concerning the platoon’s daily activities, I could nevertheless still truthfully write that I gave ‘them’, meaning the whole platoon, the obstacle course instructions, even though I did so to each individual pair, but not to the whole group. In fact, given that such a detail might be superfluous to a broad report or e-mail, I actually would write that I gave ‘them’ the instructions, and leave it at that. And note that I speak from personal experience when I give this example. So, what this example helps to illustrate is the fact that Mark’s use of the term ‘them’ does not necessarily mean that Jesus was referring to the Apostles gathered all as one large group (although note that this option will be examined as well shortly).

Furthermore, also note that it is quite plausible that if one pair of the Apostles were given one set of instructions from Jesus, they would have assumed that the same sort of instructions were told to the other pairs of Apostles as well. This could explain why the writer of the Gospel of Mark used the term ‘them’, because the Apostles from the Gospel of Mark could have assumed—or later learned—that what Jesus told them was very similar to what Jesus told every other pair of Apostles, thus leading to the use of the term ‘them’. Note as well that this approach would also explain why the writers of both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke also stated that Jesus told their statement to all the Apostles, because He did, but He could have done so in the sense of telling all the Apostles as a group of separate pairs, rather than telling them all as one group.

And again, there is nothing implausible about this idea. After all, and to use our previous example, note that a pair of soldiers who completed the obstacle course might, later on—perhaps for an article in a Regimental newsletter or something similar—write down the instructions that had been given to them specifically, but they might also extrapolate that similar instructions had been given to all the other pairs of soldiers as well, thus leading the original pair of soldiers to write that such instructions had been given to all of ‘them’, meaning the whole platoon. Now such an extrapolation might be an assumption on the soldiers’ part, but it would be a natural and reasonable assumption given the circumstances. Or perhaps they made such an extrapolation after speaking to a few other pairs of soldiers and learning that they too had received similar instructions. Or perhaps such an extrapolation was done in the interests of saving written space and time, because it was not really that important to list the individual instructions that each pair of soldiers received. And all these reasons serve as a plausible explanation for such an extrapolation. But also note that, in the end, such an extrapolation would still be broadly truthful, in the sense that every pair of soldiers doing the obstacle course did receive similar instructions, even though they were also slightly individualized for each pair of soldiers doing the course. But now note that in the same way, a similar extrapolation, and for potentially similar reasons, could have been done on the part of the Gospel writers when they used the term ‘them’ in this section of the Gospels.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the aforementioned solution to this scriptural difficulty is questioned. Indeed, perhaps the skeptic points to the fact that the most plausible reading of both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke is that Jesus told all the Apostles, as one group, not to take or acquire sandals and/or a staff. Consequently, could the aforementioned solution still somehow apply to this further objection? Yes it could. And to understand why, let me provide another analogy.

Consider that when I have had birthday parties with my young son and his friends, my son’s older sister—my eldest child—is usually also there with one of her older friends. Now, at such parties, there have been times when I have gathered all the children together, including my eldest daughter and her friend, and then clearly and forcefully told everyone the specific rules that they all had to follow, including mentioning that they were not allowed to do, say, a certain activity. However, as I then sent out teams of children to play at different spots, I also pulled aside my eldest daughter and her older friend and told them that they were allowed to do the very activity that I had just told everyone else not to do. Why did I make this exception? Because they were older and more mature than the rest of the other children, so they were permitted to do the thing that the other children were not allowed to do. Thus, even though I told all the children as a group that they could not do that certain activity, in a more private setting, and because of the special circumstances surrounding them, I then told my daughter and her friend the opposite. But this is not a contradiction; rather, it is a natural way of dealing with such issues, in the sense that clear and unambiguous instructions are often provided to a group as a whole, and then, in order to avoid confusion or upset, a few exceptions are dealt with privately on the side.

And again, it is worth reiterating that this is a perfectly normal way of interacting with people, especially in the context of giving orders and instructions, which is what Jesus did. Indeed, for consider that, in the military, I might instruct my whole training platoon that no one was being allowed off-base on the weekend. But then, in private, I might pull Corporal Bloggins aside and tell him that of course he is actually allowed off-base given the fact that his father is seriously ill, a situation which I would have been aware of beforehand. So the point is that there is nothing unnatural about giving a broad and sweeping command to a group, and then dealing with the exceptional cases separately. And that is because, generally-speaking, in most cases, such broad and sweeping statements are not meant to be absolutes with no exceptions, but rather they are meant to convey the fact that no exception will be made unless there is a good reason for it. And so, in the case of Jesus and the Apostles, the same could have been true. Jesus could have made a broad and sweeping claim to all the Apostles, but then privately dealt with the one or two exceptions when He sent out the Apostles two by two. And such an explanation is entirely plausible, natural, and reasonable.

And remember, as previously mentioned, while there is nothing explicit in the Gospels to show that some special reason was present to require that some Apostles have a staff and sandals, while others did not need them, the fact is that plausible reasons can be given for why this might have occurred. Some Apostles might have been sick or injured. Some might have been older. Some might have been dispatched to a place with brutal terrain that required a staff and sandals for safety. And some Apostles might have had a staff and sandals with them, and so they were given permission to keep the belongings that they already had when they were sent out in pairs. And all these reasons are not only eminently plausible, but we encounter them in normal life as well. For example, people who are blind are allowed to bring their seeing-eye dogs into locations where animals are not normally allowed to go, and there is nothing exceptional about such a course of action, because we recognize the accommodation that such a special circumstance requires. Thus, we allow concessions to otherwise firm rules all the time, and there is no reason that the same could not have occurred in the case of Jesus and His command about whether or not the Apostles could take a staff with them.

But perhaps the skeptic could continue to object to this solution by reinforcing the point that there is nothing in the Gospel texts that specifically indicates that there was a reason for any exception to be made to the main command that Jesus seems to give to all the Apostles about not taking a staff or sandals. The skeptic might thus claim that we are reading things into the text that are not specifically there. And in a way, this is true, but it is also not nearly as strong of an objection as the skeptic might think. Why? Because the Gospels are not a detailed record of every minute fact and occurrence that happened to each individual Apostle. Nor are they meant to be. Indeed, they are not a court-transcript meant to record every grunt, hum, and word that each Apostle made.

Thus, it would not necessarily be expected that every single detail would be recorded in the Gospels. However, this is not necessarily a worry, as no human records are so precise as to record every tiny detail of an event. Even police records—such as police officer notes or witness statements, of which I wrote many—are neither meant to copy down every single detail of an occurrence, nor will they be able to do so. That is why follow-up questions are often required in such cases. And even then not everything will be captured. And so, allowing for a plausible interpretation of the text is a perfectly rational course of action to take in this case, especially when such an interpretation largely aligns with our human experience of how real people actually record events that occurred to them.

It is also important to remember that in providing this argument against this alleged Gospel contradiction, I am not necessarily making the strong claim that my offered solution is what actually and certainly happened. Rather, I am simply offering a defense of the Gospels by showing that my solution to this alleged contradiction is an entirely plausible and reasonable solution, which it is. Indeed, the idea that the Apostles were given similar but still individualized instructions as they were sent out in pairs is entirely plausible. At the same time, the idea that the Apostles might have been told one thing as a whole group, but then an exception was made for some of them later on, especially as they were being sent out in pairs, is also entirely plausible. After all, we see such events happen all the time in daily life in all sorts of different circumstances. Furthermore, it is also quite plausible that in a document like the Gospels, such details would not have been explicitly reported for various reasons. Thus, the skeptic’s objection that this solution is not overtly stated in the Gospels in every detail is largely irrelevant to the fact that it is still a plausible and reasonable defense against this alleged Gospel contradiction, for it is a defense that stems from a clearly recorded Gospel detail—namely, that Jesus sent out the Apostles in pairs—and it is also a defense that is in accordance with both a reasonable reading of the text and with normal human experience of how events are recorded in a written format.

And so, finally, to reinforce this whole overall point, let me offer one last analogy for this solution. While serving as a police officer, we often had to police certain events that required the officers doing the policing to be fully standardized in their dress and appearance. Thus, when the officer-in-charge of the event briefed the dozens upon dozens of officers participating in the event, that officer-in-charge would tell all of us that we were, for example, all required to wear our police forge caps—which is a type of dress hat—while policing the event. Furthermore, on the official documents for the event, it would be noted that the official dress for the event was a forge cap, and that all officers had to wear that hat. However, during such an event, I might—and actually once did—see an officer in her police toque instead of her forge cap. So what explained this apparent contradiction? Well, that particular officer would sometime suffer from migraines, which the forge cap made worse. And so the officer had medical permission not to wear her forge cap. Thus, when that officer was being sent out individually for the event, the officer-in-charge already knew, or was made aware, of the officer’s condition and he then told her that she did not have to wear her forge cap and could, instead, wear her toque.

Now remember that the toque-wearing officer was present when all the police officers, including her, were told to wear their forge caps, but that did not negate the fact that later, in her specific case, she was allowed to wear her toque instead. And this was either because the officer-in-charge knew of her medical condition and thus specifically pulled her aside and made an exception for her before she was sent out or because everyone already knew of her condition and they just assumed that she would not wear her forge cap. So this is exactly the point:  even though a general order was given to everyone, an exception was still made for a specific person later on. And this is not surprising at all. In fact, we see such human behavior occur all the time, in many different circumstances.

Also note that if someone were to look back on the written records for this event, they would see, in certain records, that all the police officers were told to wear their forge caps for the event. But if, say, they looked into the police notes of the specific officer who wore her toque, they might find that her notes state that she was told to wear a toque rather than a forge cap. Now, would these two written records be contradictory? Not obviously. In fact, not even reasonably. Why? Well, first, because we are not excepting every minute detail to be recorded about an event, and second, because we know, from experience, that there are many entirely plausible explanations for why such a difference in testimony might exist. Indeed, as stated, perhaps all the senior officers already knew about the specific police officer’s inability to wear a forge cap, and so no one felt the need to write down that detail in an official document while the actual officer did mention that point in her own notes. Or perhaps no one felt the need to write down every detail that occurred surrounding the organization of the event because that was not the important aspect of the event itself. So there could be numerous entirely plausible and natural reasons why such details might not be fully recorded. And the exact same thing could be the case for this alleged contradiction in the Synoptic Gospels.

So, in the end, while the linguistic solution that is routinely offered to this alleged Gospel contradiction of Jesus telling his Apostles to either take a staff or not is solid, the alternative solution offered in this work—namely, that Jesus ultimately sent His Apostles out in pairs and thus could have given one or more pairs of the Apostles individualized instructions as they left—is also a plausible explanation for this problem and a reasonable defense against this alleged contradiction. Furthermore, this solution is the sort of explanation which has applied and could apply to numerous other situations, thus further reinforcing its plausibility. And lest the skeptic object that the apologist is simply biased and thus seeks to find any explanation to resolve this apparent contradiction, it can simply be pointed out that, first off, this explanation actually is entirely plausible and reasonable, and that, second, the skeptic himself can be accused of having biases about wanting there to be contradictions in the Gospels, and his biases can just as readily blind him to an entirely plausible solution to such contradictions, such as this one is. And so the skeptic’s objection is itself suspect. But ultimately, those seeing this solution can decide for themselves whether or not it is a plausible solution to this alleged Gospel contradiction.

Finally, as an important side-note, it is also worth pointing out that a case could be made that this solution to this alleged Gospel contradiction can even serve as some evidence for the authenticity of the Gospels. Why? Because the solution offered is a type of un-designed coincidence which resolves the alleged contradiction. After all, consider that the addition of a seemingly unnecessary and throw-away detail in one Gospel—namely, the detail that Jesus sent out His Apostles in pairs—is actually critical to explaining how and why the three Synoptic Gospels, which seem to contradict themselves, can actually be plausibly harmonized once the full implications of that little throw-away comment are actually taken into account. Furthermore, as a former Detective, I can tell you that it is such unnecessary and seemingly superfluous details that serve as a sign that a statement is based on actual eye-witness testimony of an event, and this is especially the case when such details also serve to plausibly resolve a difficulty in the testimony between different accounts, which is precisely what occurred in this case. And so, this alternative solution to the ‘staff’ problem not only provides a plausible and reasonable defense against the problem itself, but it also serves as some evidence for the authenticity of the actual Gospels. And that is an excellent result.

Alright everyone, that concludes this video, which I hope you enjoyed. And remember, if you ever have a question for Original Apologetics or if you would like to submit any material to the site for potential publication, then please e-mail Original Apologetics at ‘originalapologetics@protonmail.com’. Thank you and good-bye.

References:

https://infidels.org/library/modern/paul_carlson/nt_contradictions.html

http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/barefoot.html

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=295

http://www.contradictingbiblecontradictions.com/?p=25

Twins, the Trinity, and a Biblical Explanation

Text from the Slides:

Twins, the Trinity & a Biblical Explanation

Hello everyone, and welcome to Original Apologetics, where we seek new ways to defend Christians and Christianity. As always, I hope that you are doing well.

Alright everyone, so, for this video, we are going to be discussing the Trinity, which is the Christian concept that God is one being, but is also three persons, each of whom are fully distinct and different as persons, but who are also each fully God. Thus, in short, the Trinity is the idea of one God in three persons. Now, the Trinity is a fascinating concept, but it is also one which many people have said is mysterious, difficult to grasp, and hard to accept.

And yet, it can be wondered whether we make the Trinity more mysterious than it actually is, especially since, when we look at our own world, we can see analogous examples to the Trinity existing in the here and now. Indeed, how can the Trinity be so difficult to understand and accept when we have an example of something very much like the Trinity on this Earth, visible to our very own eyes.

So what is this earthly example of a Trinity? Well, consider the story of Krista and Tatiana Hogan, which is a real-life case of twins conjoined at the head and brain where we actually have two distinct individuals with two centers of consciousness, and yet, given its interconnectivity and its inseparability, these two girls share one large and very unique brain. And, almost miraculously, these two girls, being physically connected as one, can see through each other’s eyes, can share sensory inputs, and can even share their thoughts.

But don’t take my word for it; instead, here is a snippet—which has been edited for relevance—of a November 5th, 2017 article from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation titled “BC’s Hogan Twins Share a Brain and See Out of Each Other’s Eyes.”

QUOTE – “BC’s Hogan twins…are unique in the world. Joined at the head, their brains are connected by a thalamic bridge which gives them neurological capabilities that researchers are only now beginning to understand. A CT scan of the twins showed they could never be separated due to the risk of serious injury or death. … The structure of the twins’ brains makes them unique in the world. Their brains are connected by a thalamic bridge, connecting the thalamus of one with that of the other. The thalamus acts like a switchboard relaying sensory and motor signals and regulating consciousness. … Krista and Tatiana Hogan share the senses of touch and taste and even control one another’s limbs. Tatiana can see out of both of Krista’s eyes, while Krista can only see out of one of Tatiana’s. … Tatiana controls three arms and a leg, while Krista controls three legs and an arm. They can also switch to self-control of their limbs. … The twins say they know one another’s thoughts without having to speak. “Talking in our heads” is how they describe it. … The girls have very different personalities. Tatiana is outgoing, talkative and high strung while Krista is quieter, more relaxed and loves to tell jokes.” – END QUOTE

And from an earlier January 2nd, 2014 article about the Hogan twins from the Vancouver Sun newspaper, author Denis Ryan writes the following about the experiences of these twins:

QUOTE – “In order to see through each other’s eyes there is some internal shift, a decision, as if each sister’s soul moves over and makes space for the other. … This seemingly magical ability — to see through each other’s eyes, to feel what the other experiences, perhaps even to share thoughts — has stunned neurologists and makes these tiny girls unique in the world. They are conjoined not just by flesh and bone. Their brains are “zippered” together by a neural bridge between the thalami, the sensory processing hubs of their brains. This bridge, which the girls can flitter across at will, has raised questions and inspired a sense of wonder among even the most seasoned specialists. How does it work? What are its limits? What could it mean to our understanding of the ability of the brain to change and adapt? What does it mean in terms of how we understand the development of personality, empathy and consciousness? What does it feel like to literally see through another’s eyes?” – END QUOTE.

So here we have, for all intents and purposes, two persons—meaning two centers of consciousness and two different personalities—housed in one very unique brain and one very unique body. Indeed, since their brains are joined together in an inseparable way, these twins essentially have one brain, although it is an incredibly unique one. And so, these are two persons who can literally see through each other’s eyes, share control of their limbs, and even share thoughts with each other directly and without the medium of verbal communication. Consequently, through this real-life case of the Hogan twins, it is possible to see and understand how a thing that is ultimately one in its ‘whatness’, namely their one unique brain and one unique body, can actually be two in its ‘personhood’. And all this is quite analogous to how the Trinity is claimed to exist.

After all, in the Trinity, the ‘whatness’ of God is shared by three persons while still being just one thing, just as the ‘whatness’ of the Hogan twins, namely their one unique brain, is shared by two persons while still being just one thing. And while such an analogy for the Trinity is, of course, not perfect—for no analogy is ever perfect—this analogy nevertheless does provide us with a living example of two centers of consciousness in one brain sharing sensations and even sharing their thoughts, which is precisely what the Trinity is said to do. Thus, this real-life case does serve as an example which should diminish the mystery that surrounds the Trinity itself, for here we have an illustration, in nature, of two persons being able to act in a manner reflective of how Christian theology teaches us that the Trinity can act.

At the same time, it is also worth pointed out that the Bible itself, in its interesting distinction between a ‘spirit’ and a ‘soul’, as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12, might also provide us with the very means to better explain the Trinity. Why? Because God could be one soul with three spirits, or vis versa, just as Krista and Tatiana Hogan are one brain with two persons. Indeed, in such a case, the soul would be analogous to the body and the spirit would be analogous to the mind of a person (or vis versa). Furthermore, since, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, the New Testament states that a human person is a mix of soul and spirit and body, and since the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-27, also says that men are made in the image of God, then this gives us yet further reason to think that God is a mix of soul and spirit.

At the same time, it is also worth pointed out that the Bible itself, in its interesting distinction between a ‘spirit’ and a ‘soul’, as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12, might also provide us with the very means to better explain the Trinity. Why? Because God could be one soul with three spirits, or vis versa, just as Krista and Tatiana Hogan are one brain with two persons. Indeed, in such a case, the soul would be analogous to the body and the spirit would be analogous to the mind of a person (or vis versa). Furthermore, since, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, the New Testament states that a human person is a mix of soul and spirit and body, and since the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-27, also says that men are made in the image of God, then this gives us yet further reason to think that God is a mix of soul and spirit.

Finally, Isaiah 42:1 also hints that God is indeed both soul and spirit when it says, speaking in God’s voice, that “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him (NASB)”. So the idea that God is both soul and spirit, and that the Trinity thus could be three spirits in one soul, has some Biblical support. Thus the Bible itself, through its division of soul from spirit, when combined with the real analogous example of two persons sharing one brain, provides us with yet further means by which we can better understand the Trinity.

And so, in the end, not only does nature provide us with a living example of something that is analogous to the Trinity, thereby lessening the alleged mysteriousness of this Christian concept, but the Bible itself gives us the grounds to understand that the Trinity might be structured in a similar way, namely as three spirits, or three minds, in one soul. And really, there is nothing contradictory or overly difficult to grasp about that idea.

Alright everyone, that concludes this video, which I hope you enjoyed. And remember, if you ever have a question for Original Apologetics or if you would like to submit any material to the site for potential publication, then please e-mail Original Apologetics at ‘originalapologetics@protonmail.com’. Thank you and good-bye.

References:

http://www.cbc.ca/cbcdocspov/features/the-hogan-twins-share-a-brain-and-see-out-of-each-others-eyes [Accessed 18 Feb 2018]

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Through+sister+eyes+Conjoined+twins+Tatiana+Krista+were+extraordinary+from+beginning/7449226/story.html [Accessed 27 October 2016]

Apologetics…Useful, Vital, and the Most Important Thing Anyone Can Do

Apologetics…Useful, Vital, and the Most Important Thing Anyone Can Do

Hello everyone, and welcome to Original Apologetics, where we explore new ways to defend Christians and As always, I hope that you are doing well.

Alright everyone, so, for this video, we are going to be addressing the issue of whether engaging in Christian apologetics is a useful endeavor or not. After all, one of the complaints that is often leveled against Christian apologists and Christian evangelists from atheistic unbelievers is that apologetic work is ultimately a massive waste of time and energy. Such atheistic unbelievers argue that rather than expending such a large quantity of effort on such drivel as apologetics and evangelism, Christians should strive to do something more useful with their time and energy, like science or alleviating the suffering of others through some kind of more tangible and material work. So, what should Christian apologists make of this kind of objection from an atheistic unbeliever (and note that in this case, we are only dealing with this objection from the specific perspective of an atheistic unbeliever, not from some other religious individual)?

Well, leaving aside the fact that many Christian apologists only engage in their apologetic endeavors on a part-time basis, and thus readily contribute to society through their primary employment, thus negating a substantial amount of force from the atheistic unbeliever’s objection, the fact remains that even if this was not the case, and even if a Christian apologist was working on apologetics full time, the atheistic unbeliever’s objection would still be unsound. Why? Because, ultimately, Christian apologetics/evangelism is, in fact, the most important endeavor that any human being can perform, and so the apologist is not only not wasting his time, but he is actually engaging in the most critical work that there possibly is.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider the fact that if Christianity is true, then apologetics and evangelism—which help bring people to Christ, and thus help bring people to an eternal life of incomparable bliss—would indeed be the most important sorts of activities that any person could perform. After all, if there exists an eternal life of the utmost bliss that can be freely chosen, as well as a life of self-inflicted suffering in hell which can be freely avoided, and if apologetics and evangelism can help someone to accomplish the former while also avoiding the latter, then anything and everything that could be accomplished on this earthly plane pales in comparison to the task of helping people make that positive choice. So, for example, while curing cancer may be an incredibly worthy goal, it would ultimately still pale in comparison to helping even just one person come to know Christ and have eternal life. Let that fact sink in for a moment. Curing cancer for millions upon millions of people, though an overwhelming good, nevertheless is still almost insignificant compared to a person choosing eternal life with God. That is how valuable eternal life is.

And so, in light of this fact, if Christianity is true, which the apologist obviously believes, then far from being faulted for doing something useless, the apologist should be commended for doing the most important task imaginable, for he is not only bringing the truth of Christianity to people, but he is also helping them to fulfil their highest self-interest and their highest well-being by assisting them in the achievement of eternal life. So, in an ultimate sense, if Christianity is true, there is literally nothing more important that a person could do than apologetics and evangelism. For such tasks both strengthen existing believers and help move unbelievers towards Christian truth.

However, for the sake of argument, let us imagine, for the moment, that Christianity is actually false and that atheistic-naturalism is true. In such a case, is the Christian apologist/evangelist now wasting his life by arguing for the truth of Christianity. Not really, for on atheistic-naturalism, there is no objective purpose or meaning that people have to fulfil. Indeed, on such a worldview, and in the ultimate sense, there is nothing objective that humans should do or need to do. Thus, on this view, humans have no objective duties nor any requirement to fulfil one purpose over any other. And even if there somehow were objective purposes and duties on atheistic-naturalism—although there are not—the fact would remain that on atheistic-naturalism there would still be no ultimate accountability for failing to fulfil such purposes and duties. After all, it needs to be remembered that at the core level, on atheistic-naturalism, humans are little more than gene-propagating meat-machines, with, at best, no more of an objective purpose or meaning to their lives than spreading their DNA.

So, on atheistic-naturalism, the most plausible account is that while human beings can provide themselves with a purely subjective purpose that is individually chosen, they do not have any objective purpose, nor a duty to fulfil any specific purpose, nor any ultimate accountability for the purposes that they either do or do not fulfil. But now, with that understanding in mind, note that one person’s subjective purpose in life is as good as any other’s. Thus, on atheistic-naturalism, one person’s subjectively chosen purpose to cure cancer is objectively no better or worse than another person’s subjectively chosen purpose to be, say, a video game player. Nor, on such a view, does a person have any duty to fulfil one purpose over another; thus, even if a person could cure cancer, but played video games instead, he would not be shunning any objective duty or proper purpose by doing so, because his subjectively chosen purpose to play video games is as objectively valid as curing cancer. Nor, on atheistic-naturalism, will a person be held ultimately accountable for deciding on one purpose—such as playing video games—over another purpose, so there are not even self-interested reasons for choosing one purpose over another.

And so, what does this mean for the Christian apologist? It means that—even assuming that atheistic-naturalism is true—the Christian apologist’s self-chosen purpose of defending Christianity is objectively no better or worse than any other subjectively chosen purpose. Nor does the Christian apologist have a duty not to defend Christianity. Nor will the Christian apologist be ultimately held accountable for choosing to defend Christianity as his purpose. Essentially, on atheistic-naturalism, the Christian apologist’s drive to defend Christianity is, from an objective and ultimate perspective, as valuable and legitimate as any other purpose. Now, the atheistic unbeliever may not like that the Christian apologist does what he does, but on atheistic-naturalism, who cares about the unbeliever’s subjective likes and dislikes. They are no more valid than the Christian apologist’s likes and dislikes, and so, from an objective perspective, they can be readily ignored!

Now, the atheistic unbeliever might nevertheless still object that if atheistic-naturalism is true, then the Christian apologist is essentially spreading falsehoods and lies by engaging in apologetics. But again, ultimately, so what? After all, to repeat the key point: on atheistic-naturalism, humans have no objective purposes or duties, and thus they have no objective purpose or duty to follow the truth. Nor are humans held accountable if they do not follow the truth. Furthermore, on atheistic-naturalism, if self-interest, personal pleasure, and self-satisfaction conflicts with the truth, then why should a person sacrifice the former for the latter, especially since this is allegedly that person’s only life to live? Of course, on atheistic-naturalism, rationally, they shouldn’t sacrifice those things for truth—assuming, of course, that those things conflict with the truth, which they actually very often do. And so the atheistic unbeliever can hardly object if a person tells him that, on atheistic-naturalism, the truth does not override self-interest in importance. Thus, the atheistic unbeliever’s objection from truth simply has no objective force on his own worldview.

And, as a side-note, also remember that, in arguably all cases, the Christian apologist genuinely believes that he is the one spreading the truth, and that it is the atheistic unbeliever who is actually spreading falsehoods. And so, what this means is that even if Christianity is false, the Christian is still seeking to defend the truth of Christianity because the apologist believes it to be true, and thus the apologist cannot be morally blamed for lying or willfully spreading falsehoods unless it can clearly be shown that the Christian apologist knew better and yet continued to argue that Christianity was true regardless of consciously knowing it to be false—not that moral blame, in an objective sense, even makes sense on atheistic-naturalism, but you get the point. Furthermore, since the Christian apologist believes in what he is doing, and since, on Christianity, what he is doing is the most important thing that he could do, then this very fact also makes the apologist’s behavior commendable, even if atheistic-naturalism were true.

But what about the idea that an apologist should be helping people and seeking to alleviate their suffering in this life rather than wasting his time with defending and spreading Christianity. Well, even here, the atheistic unbeliever’s objection fails. Why? Because, first, and as already argued, if Christianity is true, then helping even one soul to achieve eternal life is a greater good than anything else that a person could possibly do on this earth. But the objection also fails because, over the ages, accepting Christianity as being true has brought countless individuals satisfaction, well-being, and mental contentment. Indeed, the fact is that a worldview like Christianity has brought many individuals great peace and joy, thus serving to alleviate their suffering and also helping to remove their harmful vices. In fact, in terms of worldviews, for many people—not all, for sure, but for many—Christianity serves to alleviate a person’s suffering and improve their life much more than a worldview like atheistic-naturalism does.

Thus, ironically, even if Christianity is not true—again, a point which is accepted only for the sake of argument—the apologist still serves a very useful function by the atheistic unbeliever’s own standard of alleviating human suffering and improving the lives of human beings. In fact—and this is even more ironic because it is still using the atheistic unbeliever’s own metric of alleviating suffering in this earthly life—a strong case can be made that the Christian apologist arguably serves a more useful purpose than a proselytizing atheist does, for the Christian apologist provides many people with a worldview that creates mental contentment and much joy. By contrast, atheistic-naturalism—which, at its core, holds that a human being is essentially a soon-to-die meat-sack who is the equivalent of a really complex form of slime mold that can think—is an ultimately depressing and unmotivating point-of-view. So, even on atheistic-naturalism, a Christian apologist is arguably performing a better service to other people than a vocal atheistic unbeliever is.

And so, in the end, if Christianity is true—which it is—then the Christian apologist/evangelist is engaging in the most useful and important activity that any human being could perform. And even if Christianity is false and atheistic-naturalism is true, then even in such a case, the Christian apologist’s subjectively chosen purpose to spread Christianity is, objectively speaking, no more or less worthy than any other subjectively chosen purpose.

So, all this is to say that, no, the Christian apologist is not doing something useless. Far from it. In fact, the Christian apologist/evangelist is doing the most useful thing in this world.

Alright everyone, that concludes this video, which I hope you enjoyed. Now, before you go, and if you would like, please subscribe to Original Apologetics if you have not already done so. Your support is greatly appreciated. Additionally, if you have a question for Original Apologetics or if you would like to submit any material to the site for publication, then please don’t hesitate to e-mail Original Apologetics at ‘originalapologetics@protonmail.com’. Thank you and good-bye.