Sitting on the fence
Published: 16 December 2012 (GMT+10)
John L. from the United States writes in response to Who created God?
There are many flaws in science as there are in religion, however, science at least has a mechanism to change science. Since everything in the universe is constantly changing, it makes sense that everything within the universe would be subject to change, including sociological aspects of human society. Archaic remnants of past civilizations are of value to religion and science. However, the fundamental difference is the way this information is utilized and understood. Clearly, it is up to the individual to decide how they will utilize this information, and in some cases, politics tries to make this decision for the society, and that can have terrible consequences. I do admit to tuning out an individual who boasts their atheism just as much as I tune out someone who boasts their religious affiliation. Both are of no interest to me as I subscribe to a more practical ideal of making decisions based on the information at hand, understanding that in 5 years, I will not be the same person as I was 5 years before, given the constant that life and information is ever changing. Currently, as I subscribe to no religion, I do not acknowledge a super-natural creator. I do not subscribe to atheism or anything of the such. More logical to me, is waiting until the dust settles as everyone is foolish to believe that “everything” has been answered or uncovered. Certainly, whether I expire early in life or of old age later, the dust will still be settling, but more information will have been revealed. I understand the concern from my religious friends, especially the Christians. I acknowledge Jesus as a real person, a social activist-not a god-man, so to my friends, who remind me that they pray for my soul, I am a sinner going to hell, no matter what good I do in life, because that is not the point-I have to accept a savior. period. I have had no good reason to believe this at the moment, and I have no faith based upon the information at hand, and I have experienced more religion than most of the individuals in each religion, especially Christianity because that was the default religion I was exposed to as a child! I will utilize the wonderful teachings from a social activist like Jesus, who used completely different tactics to force social change for his time. Instead of violence like the other messiahs before, he chose non-violence. So, I would respectfully disagree that it is not important to want to understand creation, as it is relevant to human society to understand the age-old question of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” If nothing else, at least it should get those who truly ponder the question to utilize the plethora of resources at hand to truly challenge their critical thinking skills. Thank you for posting this article to add to the information at hand!
CMI’s Dr Don Batten replied:
OK, so you would like to sit on the fence. However, there is no fence labelled “Jesus was a good man” to sit on. See former atheist C.S. Lewis’s famous trilemma argument.
You say, “There are many flaws in science as there are in religion, however, science at least has a mechanism to change science.” You are half right (about science being flawed). However, if Christian thought/theology (not just generic “religion”) is given (‘revealed’) by the Creator of the Universe, then it does not need to change. That is the point. God does not make mistakes, unlike His fallen creatures (us).
You want more information before making any decision? However, God says that you have enough information now. Romans 1:20 says that no one has any excuse for living as if God does not exist. The article shows this, which you don’t seem to have engaged with, rather sidestepping the arguments that there must be a powerful supernatural Creator of all and then just (re)asserting that you don’t believe in a supernatural creator. Living as if God does not exist is to live as an atheist. That is what you are doing, although you don’t want to wear the label.
I hope you don’t apply this fence sitting approach to other decisions of life. Perhaps you will never get married because you will never have enough information to know for sure that a particular lady will really be ‘the one’? Or maybe a better option will come along? I mean you can never know ‘for sure’ can you?
I’m not sure what you mean by objecting to “it is not important to want to understand creation”, as we don’t say that it is not important and modern science was founded by devout Christians. BTW, the chicken came first (it’s really quite simple).
You say you have experienced lots of “religion, especially Christianity”, however, I submit that you have never followed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or you would not speak as you do. Jesus calls us to follow Him, not experience a religion. ‘Religion’ will save no one, but Jesus will.
I hope that you will exercise the thinking skills that God gave you to realize that you will be accountable to Him and that you do need to be forgiven for your rebellion (sin); before it is too late. As the Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 “… it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”.
John L. responded:
There is nothing wrong with “sitting on the fence.” I would contend that many of faith are and have been sitting on the fence for as long as they believed. You can use ancient texts and documents/books, such as the bible, as your primary source for argument as to how and why god exists, but even then, these documents are still created by man. How are you so sure that the word of god documented and written by man, that you strictly adhere to, is actually the word of god? With over 3,000 sects of christianity and with all of the other world religions, that know they are right, and with all of this information out there, I would say it is not bad to sit on the middle of the fence, with the rest of the world.
And actually, regarding marriage, information gathering would most likely be considered dating, which most of us do before we consider marriage. I am actually against promiscuity, but I do believe in knowing your mate very well before you tie the knot, even if it takes 20 years! I don’t really need to pull up divorce rates to back up my argument.
As for creation, some individuals (maybe not yourself and others) do not feel it is important to understand evolutionary science, for example, and I hate to bring it up for many reasons, but individuals with the same philosophy as Chuck Norris, who deny evolution, which seems silly given the evidence amounting. Just as there are skeptics that feel god and religion are creations of man, there are those who feel fossils and dinosaurs are creations of man.
Interesting response to the little chicke or the egg question. Fascinating science with an un-fascinating explanation. I get it, god created the universe and everything that’s in it. That’s not satisfying enough for me, though. Every religion has a creation story, all very similar in many regards, but it seems an all to easy speculation, done at a time without prying science or understanding of the mechanisms behind the natural world.
You are absolutely right about that I have never followed Jesus. It is probably part of the problem with christianity and the 3000 sects that make up christianity. I was raised catholic. As a child, I did not understand why I was not considered a christian. You and others can list all of the fallacies within catholicism, I am certain. I do appreciate the simplicity in basic christianity. Your ticket to heaven is through Jesus only. No matter what you try to do, your effort is not valid without Jesus. Can’t argue with the logic there-it’s plain and simple! So as a guy that sits on the middle of the fence, if I die on my walk home from work, without Jesus, I could follow all of the bible’s moral teachings, but not have a place in heaven. Or, I could live a moral life without Jesus, then one day be on my deathbed and accept Jesus and get into the same heaven as all of those who followed Jesus longer than myself. It’s difficult to measure sincerity, but since we already are considered sinners, nothing we really do is genuinely good, which requires Jesus’ sacrifice to save us according to the bible. It may not be word for word, given the differing explanations, but if there’s only one thing to know about christianity, that is certainly it!
Given the diverse world that we live in, I respect those who feel confident about their decisions that they make, especially when it comes to adhering to one of the many world religions, whose practices have noble causes along with eternal salvation. You may disagree (not with my charity or actions), but with my philosophy of living a moral life and working for the greater good of humankind, but I believe if salvation is a must, that I’ll roll the dice and take a chance-I mean, if every religious book claims that all other religions are false, then wouldn’t that cancel everything out?
Don Batten replied:
There is plenty of evidence there for anyone open to it; for example, that the Bible is not just a human creation, but ultimately divinely authored. I encourage you to read up on creation.com (use the search engine) or start with the Bible Q&A.
You say, “Just as there are skeptics that feel god and religion are creations of man, there are those who feel fossils and dinosaurs are creations of man”. I have come across many of the former and none of the latter. You might be interested in our ‘don’t use arguments’ article.
As for 3,000 Christian sects, this number seems like a ridiculous exaggeration; hyperbole. Other than the Catholic / Protestant divide, there is huge agreement on the fundamentals. Even with Catholics and Protestants there is unanimity on major doctrines such as the trinity, Jesus’ death and resurrection and that his death was for the forgiveness of our sins, the sanctity of human life, the reality of ultimate justice, etc.
This attitude that ‘there are too many options so I won’t choose any’ is illogical. It’s a bit like going to a restaurant and being offered a dozen options for salad dressing and deciding not to have any because there are so many choices, none of them must be any good. And you have chosen one option; living as an atheist; you might not wear the label, but there is no difference between you and an atheist in the way you live, because you live as if God does not exist.
You comment about, “the many world religions, whose practices have noble causes along with eternal salvation”. Actually, only in Christ is there confidence of eternal salvation. I don’t know of any religion that claims to offer that assurance, because such assurance is based on what God has done for us in Christ, not what we are doing to earn salvation. ‘Religion’ is about rites and rituals that will earn you ‘Brownie points’ with the cosmic forces, but you can never be confident that you have enough points to make the grade.
I will make one further comment on your statement: “I mean, if every religious book claims that all other religions are false, then wouldn’t that cancel everything out? ”
This is also illogical. It is a bit like saying, “There are so many counterfeit banknotes in circulation that I don’t know what money is real, so I won’t use any of it”. Did you ponder the trilemma argument I referred you to?
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). He was either right or he was wrong. There is no fence. You are living as if he was wrong, which is not on the fence.
Think about these things.
Very well written article! I'm amazed at how John L. seems to be knowledgeable about the Bible and plan of Salvation and totally reject it.
Well done Don in providing a nice, well rounded response!
Love the articles on this site! Keep up the great work!
Jesus tells the parable of the gardener who needs workers. He goes out in the morning, and agrees to pay a day's wages. Same at noon, and again later in the day. Each time he offers full pay. So it is when we accept the Lord. It does not matter if we are 5 or 50 or just minutes before our death. The day's pay is the same - salvation. So it was with my Grandfather - just days before his death from lung cancer - he sat with his eldest son, and accepted the Lord. I WILL see my Grandpa in heaven. Great news. Funny thing - at first I was bitter that he could spend years as a professing atheist, and then change his mind at the last minute, and still get salvation. After reading this passage, I realized that it was God's plan, and so I should accept it. So for those "on the fence" (that doesn't exist), we need to continue to pray for and preach to them because God will accept their repentance whenever it happens before death. Praise God, He is forgiving.
I agree with those who point out that the writer of these letters is not agnostic at all. I recently had an internet debate with someone who claimed to reject both militant atheism and my Christianity. He was so certain of his position that I called him a 'dogmatic agnostic', which he found funny. However, as I discussed his situation further it was obvious he was actually an atheist who was embarrassed by the New Atheists and tried to distance himself from them. It appears open-minded to say you are sitting on the fence, but if you are that opposed to God that you will absolutely not surrender to Him, you can only be an atheist. 'Atheist' means 'without God'.
I often say atheism comes in two forms: agnosticism and antitheism. The etymology for atheism is "without God", which just means you don't believe God exists. An antitheist, by definition, believes God does not exist but though an agnostic doesn't have an affirmative disbelief he\she doesn't have an affirmative belief either. Saying "I'm not an atheist, I'm agnostic" is like saying "it's not an apple, it's a Granny Smith".
I have complete respect for the type of agnostic who genuinely seeks answers (ie, the one who thinks they don't know YET but that it is possible to know and that they are aiming to find-out), there are doubtless countless people who have come to faith in the Lord that way (myself included). But all too often agnosticism simply seems to be an excuse for NOT seeking answers, for believing that the question can't be answered definitively.
Such an attitude suggests that the person is happiest to believe God's existance can't be proven. This puts that sort of agnostic in the same boat as the antitheist, even if the agnostic lacks the antitheist's conviction and isn't typically to be found preaching about the evil that theism supposedly does or about how believers are cretins of the highest order.
Somebody needs to find that 'narrow gate' that leads through the fence and reveals a whole new perspective on everything, once one's mind is free from the bondage of humanity's sinful amnesia.
No offense intended to the writer, but this is all very, very predictable Agnostic-type reasoning. It has a varnish of reasonability, but underneath it is merely a passive form of atheism.
What really gives it away is that the person never once submits to even the possibility that there is evidence that is consistent with a Creator.
A truly neutral person would reasonably do that.
Ultimately these types of reasonings from our fence-sitting friend, seem to be based on SELF. What SELF thinks is true, what SELF feels is true. Well - so what, it is clear that SELF leads to SELF-based answers, and not very good ones at that.
I would like to address your letter. You made the statement that "you accept Jesus on your death bed." For you and I this does not apply because we have knowledge of Him and we must choose NOW to follow Him. The death bed is to late because of this knowledge. Our salvation does not come from man, I feel sad that all your bad memories are causing you to reject Jesus. I have a lot of bad memories as well. Keep debating because others will help you sort out your feelings and hurt. He loves you and hasn't rejected you.
It's a good article- I did expect the responses to be quite lengthy but the logic he was going by was: I have no knowledge of any supernatural entity or actions so I need more information to choose. Kind of like how you would need more information to say something about a subject that you never heard of. I believe that there is enough information. "Going to a resturaunt and not picking anything because there are so many choices" is much different than choosing what to believe in.
Nonetheless it was a good article.
Your approach was clear and thoughtful. I don't think John's critical thinking skills are as sharp as he thinks they are. This was quite helpful, thank you.
John, I want to make a direct appeal to you because I have been in similar shoes as you; I waited very long to make a decision and I spent a lot of time "information gathering." Eventually through the force of sheer reason I had to conclude logically that yes, I need Jesus, but more importantly, learned the extremely difficult lesson that the real reason I hadn't accepted him was emotional. I was stuck in a sort of addiction to sin. And this was forcing me to ignore what I understood deep down all along; I had no excuse.
Trust me, if you really want to take the information-gathering route, read everything you can on this site and others like it and be brutally honest with yourself about it. But I believe that even now, from your conscience, you do know that you need Jesus.
One of the most important things I learned, is that accepting Jesus is NOT just about fulfilling a list of "do this" and avoiding the list of "do not do this". What a dry, fake life that would be! You'd be an "imitation human".
But if you accept Jesus, then he "seals" your soul with the Holy Spirit, who dwells in your heart, and the Bible says this is the proof of your salvation. If we accept Jesus, and rely on the Spirit's guidance (see Galatians), he transforms our hearts to do right because we love Him and the others He created, not to pridefully say "I am good". I know because Jesus has transformed me, so I desire sin less and less, and I find peace even in hardship, where before I was miserable even at the best times. So God exists, and has the power to transform.
Life is not about "being good". We were made to live in love with God, restored to genuine perfection. When we accept the love of our Creator and Savior, Jesus, then we finally become genuine, and then it really matters. :)
Trying to hide out there on the fence only makes you an easy target.
Well done Don, we are either in or we are out and trying to hide from either side is futile.
He who does not gather scatters and those who are luke warm are useless.
I am frequently astounded at the statements made by people such as the one who wrote these letters. What astounds me is that I have yet to see any argument put forth by any of them that has not been dealt with on the CMI and/or other websites multiple times. It is the same old excuses for rejecting their Creator offered over and over and not one holds water when scrutinized. I think the average atheist ran out of new material long ago.
Indeed so. And the skeptics' arguments against the Bible were nearly all dreamed up over 200 years ago by the American deist, Thomas Paine.
Sitting on the fence? I definitely did not get the impression that John L. was sitting on the fence in either letter, but especially not the second one. It sounds like he has his mind made up and this affirms what the Lord himself has said:
"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Matt 12:30)
There is no such thing as "neutral ground", i.e. there is no fence to sit on! To claim neutral ground is to claim that Jesus was wrong about there being neutral ground, therefore the skeptic would necessarily be taking a position against the Bible.
I agree with Dr. Batten. For all practical purposes, John L. is an atheist, and he might as well admit it. If he really thinks he is "sitting on the fence" then he is only deceiving himself.
Nice article; clear and to the point. I fail to recognise how anyone who sits on the fence is any different to one who won't commit and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ as our one and only Saviour God. Common sense, true logic and correct English as well as scripture makes no distinction. So, in effect one is either for or against Christ.