Opinion

How Jesus’ transfiguration offers hope for transformation

“The Transfiguration” circa 1480 (oil on panel) by Giovanni Bellini. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

(RNS) — Of all the feasts celebrated in the church — Easter aside — the Feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated Aug. 6, is one of the most mysterious.

As a child, I thought that Jesus was simply showing off his power to his apostles. No doubt, many still preach that the transfiguration, which commemorates Jesus’ change in appearance on the mountaintop, is about Christ demonstrating power.

Portrait of John Henry Newman by Sir John Everett Millais from 1881. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

But John Henry Newman — following a lengthy tradition beginning in the earliest of Christian writings — challenges this idea as he speaks of the paradoxical and mysterious nature of the transfiguration as the key to our transformation.

Newman began his ministry as an Anglican priest in 1825 and was a founder of the influential Oxford Movement. He found himself drawn to Roman Catholicism and in 1847 was ordained a priest.

Newman locates Christ’s transfiguration within a pattern of divine revelation. God’s revelation to humans, or divine revelation, is never only for knowledge, as in school or book knowledge. Its purpose isn’t for us to only know about God.

Rather, it’s for us to know God, which is inherently transformational. Newman writes that when Christ was transfigured, or showed his divine nature to the apostles, he did so to show them that they too might be transformed with him:

“It is … the duty and the privilege of all disciples of our glorified Savior, to be exalted and transfigured with Him; to live in heaven in their thoughts, motives, aims, desires, likings, prayers, praises, intercessions, even while they are in the flesh; to look like other men, to be busy like other men, to be passed over in the crowd of men, or even to be scorned or oppressed, as other men may be, but the while to have a secret channel of communication with the Most High, a gift the world knows not of; to have their life hid with Christ in God.”

What does it mean to follow Christ’s pattern of transfiguration to our own transformation?

The location of Christ’s transfiguration is significant. He ascends the mountain, and at the top shows his glorified nature. Newman sees this as the apex of Christian faith and prayer, where all is “still and calm as heaven.”

But Christ and his apostles couldn’t stay at the summit of the mountain forever. They eventually had to descend the mountain and face a world that runs counter to the serenity of heaven.

For some Christians, both past and present, this descent from the summit of the mountain has meant intense suffering and even martyrdom. Many in today’s world are forced to follow in Christ’s death as martyrs like many Christians in Syria and in other parts of the Middle East.

The world is still witnessing the ever-present descent from the mountain as bombs decimate Coptic churches in Egypt, and Chinese worshippers watch the destruction and desecration of Christian churches.

Even in the midst of an often-unforgiving world, Christ’s transfiguration provides the hope of transformation. All who ascend are transformed. Those whose descent leads to dramatic suffering can rest assured that Christ suffers along with them and provides hope of the resurrection.

Those transformed in Christ emit a special kind of light in a world, which, as we all know, is often filled with darkness. The saints are transformed the most completely. They can guide the rest of us as we ascend and descend this often-precarious mountain throughout our human lives, whether we endure intense suffering as in the case of many Christians in Syria, Egypt, and China, or face the kind of suffering that all deal with, such as the loss of a family member.

The saints, led by the light of Christ, can help lead us through the often-unpleasant descent to the mysterious and glorious ascent of resurrection.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration may we remember the suffering that some endure on their journey to transformation.

(Elizabeth H. Farnsworth is the managing editor of the Newman Studies Journal and is a doctoral candidate in theology at the University of Dayton. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service)

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Elizabeth H. Farnsworth

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  • “…he did so to show them that they too might be transformed with him…”

    …leaving us to wonder why we can’t all be allowed to share that same transformational demonstration…

  • I’m new here and I’m surprised atheists are welcome. That’s a good thing. It’s also rare. I usually get thrown out of websites about religions.

  • Look – this transformation thing – it’s a story.

    If you’re so inclined – an encouraging and/or pain-deadening story into which you can read whatever symbolism you like.

    But a story it is; only a story, a pretend, an invention to support a rationally frail, unevidenced set of beliefs.

    Unless someone can demonstrate otherwise; and, if you can; please do so.

  • Make an earnest effort not to get booted and you usually won’t.

    Admittedly, some forums have zero tolerance for dissenting opinions. Thankfully, this isn’t one of them.

    Xapis…

  • Umm, nowhere in this article does Farnsworth deny the historicity of the Transfiguration account.

    She’s just offering an explanation of how Christians can apply it to their own lives today.

    But if you’ve got a rational reason why the Transfiguration account isn’t historically accurate (and make no mistake, you don’t have one!), then put it right here on the table.

  • 1 – To be accepted as factual any claim needs support from evidence and/or rational argument. The more unlikely the claim the greater the justification required.

    2 – I agree that the way the article is written indicates that the writer considers that the transfiguration account is historically accurate.

    3 – I see, within the article, an assumption, but no attempt to justify it, that the transfiguration is historically accurate.

    4 – Since the transfiguration myth requires a number of assumptions for which there is neither evidence nor rationally arguable need (the existence of God, the deity of Jesus, the non-disastrous suspension of the laws of physics) the reasonable response is dismissal of it as an historical event

    5 – The likelihood that the story describes an actual event is so minuscule that no reasonable, human being would come to the conclusion that it does. Believe it through unsupported faith if you will but don’t insult either your intelligence or the intelligence of others by claiming it as fact.

  • The greatest difficulty lies in the fact that whether one is a fervent advocate for God, or one who is entirely skeptical, some individuals are unable to act with grace towards those with whom they disagree. RNS tends to be extremely tolerant of that, whereas I wish they would occasionally admonish those on either side who cross the line of courtesy. In the interest of full disclosure, I speak as a conservatively inclined evangelical.

  • I thought this was well said, but I would as one in the process of the transformation described by Cardinal Newman, and the author. Not there yet…but that is the summit and the goal in view.

  • O-ho! The poster “Give” is seemingly ready for true Transfiguration debate action. Kudos, of course.

    I need about a couple hours to do some church-ish stuff (I’m typing this on cellphone before the church gig), and then I will try to reply to you.

  • Lol. You HOPE it is only a story and nothing more. Because if it is real you are in real trouble – for eternity in which “…time will hang heavy on your hands.”

  • I think a more literal/plain understanding of the MT event is this: it is a re-enactment and therefore a fulfillment of Moses on Sinai. In fact much of what Jesus did parallels OT events. For eg. compare the creation acct. in Genesis with John 1. See Hebrews: note how Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT types and shadows. That is a fascinating study.

  • No – sometimes I’ll play the odds, I’ll guess or make assumptions based on what little evidence there is (and sometimes be wrong) but believe on faith (decide that something is real without reason or evidence to support it) – no – I think not.

  • Wrong.

    Pascal’s wager is silly – even if we decide to pretend to believe (and do it well enough to fool a rather dim god) how do we know which god is the right one to suck up to? Humans are good at self-delusion; being deluded is not the same as being right.

    Oh, and by the way, Pascal assumed that God was the god of seventeenth century Roman Catholicism – so he probably doesn’t expect to meet you in heaven.

  • Much of what is claimed for Jesus was claimed for other gods and respected people. Virgin births were pretty much old hat a couple of thousand years ago.

    Perhaps (radical thought about to surface?) the reason people claimed things for Jesus was to try to legitimise him to those who believed the stories (mainly dubious or just plain wrong) about real or imagined heroes from the past.

  • I’m not suggesting PWs wager to you. I’m saying if you are wrong you will have an eternity to regret your unbelief.
    The fact is biblically faith is a gift based upon God’s grace and His illumination and revelation of His presence to you. All the facts in the world will not convince the unbeliever to believe in Christ. Only a sense of your own guilt and sin before a holy God and an understanding of the gospel will suffice.
    So what can someone in your frame of mind do? Nothing.
    Now if you were so inclined you might seek the Lord while He may be found – but based on your previous comments I doubt you’d want to.

  • Just so I’m clear Brother Harry (and thanks for reading and replying), are you saying that I should trust that He is before He demonstrates THAT he is…?

  • I appreciate the clarification. And thanks for your patience.

    So I should believe the Biblical account OF Him before He offers me my own transformational demonstration…?

  • Digression: I think the MT event was a fulfillment of the type seen in Moses (who was a type of Christ) on Sinai. Jesus was transfigured not the disciples. If the author wants to see it as a symbol of our own transformation I don’t really have a problem with that – it’s not the direction I would go with it. If anything I’d say the believer’s transformation in this context is the believer’s resurrection which comes when Christ returns.
    But can believers expect a transformation now? Yes. When you receive Christ you become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are justified – acquitted/forgiven of your sin and guilt before God. To effect your conversion God gives you His Holy Spirit. Then daily the believer is sanctified – set apart – to be obedient to God and to grow in Christ’s likeness. His Holy Spirit lives in our hearts to assist us also in our growth in grace. That transformation into Christ’s likeness is ongoing and more resembles a child growing to maturity.

  • “When you receive Christ you become a new creation in Christ…”

    This would seem to suggest some manner of encounter WITH Him. How might we go about performing a demonstration of such an encounter for the benefit of neutral observers (toward subsequent peer review and validation)…?

  • When you met your significant other you didn’t need neutral observers, peer review or validation. Relationships don’t require those things – unless you have serious emotional security and trust issues. I’m not proving God exists – no one can. But God’s word says “taste and see that the Lord is good…”

  • “When you met your significant other you didn’t need neutral observers, peer review or validation.”

    True enough, but I did need a physical HER.

    = = = = = = = = =

    “I’m not proving God exists – no one can.”

    I applaud your candor, Brother Harry. I guess I’m left wondering why (and for that matter, HOW) we can or should believe any proposition which cannot be proven…?

  • Okay, I’m back. Thanks for your patience, Give. And sincere thanks for you taking on the Transfiguration, even as a skeptic. (Dirty Harry, also thank you for asking that one question; that was important.)

    Bible Text:
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+17&version=NIV

    Now, your five points there. First three of them, I agree with you. No opposition from me. No joke.

    (And I’m not ducking you. All your five points are similar to the mental ladder or pathway that I would follow from the opposite side. #4 and #5 are the punchlines, and those are the two punchlines I actually offer to YOU.)

    Item #4 — You only need ONE assumption for the Transfiguration account to rationally make sense. Can you guess what it is? Yes, for you already know: You only need a theistic universe. Nothing else.

    How so? Simple. Is there supernatural stuff clearly happening in the Transfiguration account? Yes, in fact that’s the only reason why you’re bucking it. (After all, there’s NO other biblical or non-biblical texts that rationally contradict this historical account).

    But now remember your own Item #1. It’s okay to derive support from “…rational argument,” right? So here’s a rational ditty for you: The only way to rationally rule out the existence of the supernatural within this universe, is to rule out the existence of a theistic universe in the first place. (Hat-Tip to Christian philosopher Winfried Corduan on that one. Never forgot it.)

    So tell me, have YOU **rationally ruled out** the existence of God across all standard avenues of knowledge? Has any atheist? Or has NO ATHEIST yet succeeded? Until that specific ruling-out happens, all humans (even non-Christian humans) ARE rationally safe, (that is, we violate no rational standards), to adopt and follow that one assumption, and thus we can safely and rationally affirm the historicity of the account.

    Item #5 — Notice that you appealed directly to probability (“…the likelihood”) for your Item #5. But now the tables have been rationally, irrevocably turned on Item #4, which means a theistic universe is rationally safe for humans to assume right now. Therefore, which way does your probability arrow NOW point, concerning your Item #5? You now have no clear pathway to attack the historicity of the Transfiguration.

    By the way, *Israel Houghton and New Breed* wanna say something about this topic. They’re some pretty good philosophers in their own right.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=708opj5poOc

  • Not a proposition- He’s a person.
    CS Lewis was an atheist who became a Christian. Of his conversion he said on that day he left his house an atheist and arrived at his destination a Christian. Remarkable.
    And every person I know who has become a Christian first believed in God and had a sense of his/her own sinfulness. And then they trusted Christ as their Savior. If you don’t have this conviction of your need of God’s forgiveness all I can do is pray for you. Of course you might pray to God as well that He would do a work in your heart to bring you to that point.

  • It’s not about rationally ruling out the existence of God – the claim that god(s) exists requires positive support – and doesn’t get any other than “you can’t prove it/they don’t”.

    In other words –
    “The only way to rationally rule out the existence of the supernatural within this universe, is to rule out the existence of a theistic universe in the first place.”
    is simply wrong – it should read
    “The only way to rationally rule in the existence of the supernatural within this universe, is to rule in the existence of a theistic universe in the first place.”
    – and I think we could argue that that was irrationally selective.

    There are many things that I cannot disprove, little green men, unicorns, fairies at the bottom of my garden etc. etc.. Being unable to disprove they exist does not mean I should believe that they do. It’s OK to have an open mind, but not to the extent that one’s brain falls out!

  • ” All the facts in the world will not convince the unbeliever to believe in Christ.”
    A generalisation that is unknowable – It just means you have no facts that have convinced an unbeliever.

    “Only a sense of your own guilt and sin before a holy God and an understanding of the gospel will suffice.”
    I’m not guilty in the way you think I am.

    Imperfect by my own, and my culture’s, standards – yes, of course.

    Somehow owing a debt to a nasty being who insisted that I be part of a world I did not seek, made rules it knew I couldn’t keep (and, just in case, tried to con me that my forebears’ naughtiness precluded any possibility of success), caused me to be born despite foreknowledge that I would see through its immorality, threatens to punish me for being what it unnecessarily created, refuses to put right the harm and suffering it has caused and still watches over without intervention – no sir – no debt to such a monster – NOT GUILTY.

    “So what can someone in your frame of mind do? Nothing.”
    I disagree – they can expose their confidence to argument, risk finding that someone actually has a reason to suspect the existence of the supernatural, discuss with those who seek to convince me I’m wrong. Ever heard the expression “Trust but verify”?

    “Now if you were so inclined you might seek the Lord while He may be found – but based on your previous comments I doubt you’d want to.”
    And this exposes the reason you cannot reach me – you think I consciously choose to disbelieve whilst, in reality, I am, at the unconscious level, unable to believe. The lack of either valid evidence or rational need is overpowering – to believe in spite of my conviction is impossible and will, I suspect, remain so unless appropriate evidence (whatever that might be) becomes available.

  • I’m not even Christian and I don’t believe the transfiguration happened. I do have a problem with your saying it is only a story. War and Peace is just a story, but is says a lot about human nature. Stories are important. They are not just stories. I know the Exodus probably didn’t happen happen. That doesn’t make the story less important.

  • Only if you start out already believing in Jesus and look backward when reading what you call the “Old Testament.” Otherwise it’s not there or it was put there on purpose by the “New Testament” authors. That’s why Jesus parallels Moses.

  • “…every person I know who has become a Christian first believed in God and had a sense of his/her own sinfulness. And then they trusted Christ as their Savior.”

    And then they were transformed by Him…?

  • You can choose your own opinions but you can’t choose your facts. You have the necessary facts and evidence found in the Bible – they witness to the truth – and you choose to disbelieve them. And God locates your problem – not in a lack of facts – but in your heart. The scribes and pharisees had “all the facts in the world” in the person of Jesus and most of them rejected Him.
    That’s Bible – not DH.

  • No SS. Any student of literature can make those observations.
    Added: you have no basis for your claim that those facts were added afterwards.

  • You’re a lot better than I am at this. I can’t stand the god-soaked. It’s difficult to be nice.

  • That’s one characteristic of the new life in Christ – being nice because you want to imitate Christ; that & you just can’t get enough of being “god-soaked.” (good way of putting it)

  • Not to mention– how was this thing recorded? Who witnessed it, that they would write of it?

  • “: The only way to rationally rule out the existence of the supernatural within this universe, is to rule out the existence of a theistic universe in the first place.”
    Not a good argument at all. You still need to prove it is a monotheistic universe, that the jewish god created it, that the Christian god is the one running it.

  • Thanks.

    My basic motto is “Lose your [temper], lose the argument.” I’ve edited my motto in deference to the propriety of the forum and our benevolent moderator… 😉

  • At your convenience, my friend.

    I cannot overstate how much I appreciate the time and consideration of each reply.

    Here’s hoping you enjoy your Sunday. Cheers…!

  • God the Holy Spirit, in response to an individual’s faith in Christ, comes and resides in that individual’s heart and causes him to be born again – hence the transformation (also called regeneration and renewal). This is a life-altering experience wherein theologically speaking the human spirit – which was dead because of sin – is made alive by the Holy Spirit. Some results of being born again:
    1. Assurance your sins are forgiven: I John 1:9
    2. Assurance of answered prayer – John 16:24
    3. Assurance of your salvation -I John 5:11-12
    4. Assurance of God’s guidance – Proverbs 3:5-6
    5. Assurance of His help in overcoming temptation –
    I Corinthians 10:13

    Other manifestations of this transformation:
    *peace
    *joy
    *love and concern for others
    *a love for God’s word
    *a desire for Christian fellowship
    *a desire to tell others of Christ
    *a desire to be obedient to God and to know God.
    *a freedom from sinful behaviors and a hatred of sin/sinful behavior in which he felt ensnared.

    Please consult a Bible to read the texts.

  • Matt. 17:1 says “Peter, James, and John the brother of James” as witnesses.

    They, in turn, reported it to the other disciples, after Jesus was raised from the dead (because Jesus directly told them to wait until then to tell others about it, see verse 17:9).

  • I’m hard-pressed to recall the last day I haven’t had my nose tucked into the scriptures, Brother Harry. (And thanks again for the elaboration.)

    It seems we’ve both encountered all sorts of people who have:
    – pre-supposed God’s existence;
    – prayed to Him in earnest; and
    – felt assured, peaceful, joyful, loved, and unburdened afterward, so much so that they were compelled to share their experience afterward.

    I hope I’ve done the synopsis justice…?

  • Cool.

    Then I hope we can agree that isn’t unthinkable that somebody could likewise:

    – imagine God’s existence;
    – imagine He can hear their thoughts and pleas; and
    – imagine that He loves them, thus allowing themselves to feel assured, peaceful, joyful, and unburdened

    …in
    which case I’m left wondering how we’d demonstrate the difference
    between the true religious experience and the imagined one?

    I hope your busy weekend went well for you, sir… 🙂

  • Thank you. I hope yours went well too. And by the way, thank you for such excellent questions.

    So how do we know what we know and experience is real and valid? Well I must defer to the writers of Scripture for that insight:
    Paul the Apostle said in Rom. 1:19, 20 that God’s existence is obvious. But even then creation could not predict or prove a savior. For that Paul used the OT scriptures and his own testimony as a witness to the truth.
    And Jesus did not even attempt to prove who He was – He just made the claim and let His words and deeds provide the evidence. And then He challenged people to believe in Him.
    For those who require absolute scientific verification before they believe I’m sorry but you will be disappointed. It is by faith and not by the scientific method that you will become a believer.
    So what about those other religions? How can you know which are true? Read the Bible. I understand FBI agents don’t examine in detail every possible counterfeit bill in order to know what a real dollar bill looks like but they get to know the real dollar bill backward and foreword. Then they are able to spot the real dollar from the counterfeit.
    John 14:6 Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.
    Jesus claimed exclusive rights to the truth.
    So you either believe Jesus or you don’t. It is by faith…
    Now there is evidence (philpsophical, scientific, archaeological) But all the evidence in the world will not convince someone of the truth claims of Christ.
    Anselm of Canterbury: “I believe in order that I might understand.”

  • “So how do we know what we know and experience is real and valid?”

    Not exactly my question (though I appreciate the quotes, having ping-ponged between the Epistles and Gospels for a few days now).

    What I meant to ask was: How do we demonstrate to others the difference[s] between one person’s real and valid transformational God experience and another person’s imagined or pretend transformational God experience?

    Perhaps better put: If person ‘A’ really DID pray in earnest and felt transformed afterward, while person ‘B’ just SAYS they did, is there some way person ‘C’ can demonstrate a distinguishment between those two to the satisfaction of observers ‘D’ through ‘Z’…?

  • And herein is the rub: how to tell who is and who isn’t a genuine believer. Once again I must defer to Scripture. Jesus said twice in
    Matt. 7:16, 20 “You will know them by their fruits.” In fact that entire passage (vv 15-23) addresses that very issue.

  • How are we to interpret “fruits” in that context? Most seem to suggest it’s their actions or deeds, but I don’t want to presume you feel likewise…?

  • The very fact that there are different understandings of “fruit” makes it almost impossible to determine the truthfulness or falseness the spiritual intent of another person. Good works can be generated by a range of intent from selfish hypocrisy the purest possible intent of love toward others. Even Jesus’s deeds and words were judged as self-aggrandizing by some of his religious critics, and his motives questioned by his own disciples.

    Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (ch. 4) reminds them of this when he tells them that there examination of him was useless, even his own self-examination, when he could find nothing note worthy, wasn’t sufficient to exonerate or commend him, for, he said, “my judge is the Lord.” Then he exhorts them not to make definitive judgments before they finally stand before the Lord. Then is when the doer will receive commendation from the Lord.

    This is why there are so many scriptures urging believers not to judge others. Knowing them by their fruits is more about having a relationship with one and seeing over time what makes them tick. And when one sees certain qualities in the other, one may inquire as to the other’s source of inspiration. The other’s response then can be assessed in the context of the whole of the relationship and be accepted on the level of one’s trust of the other.

    As far as imaging one has encountered God. That is possible, but even that cannot compare with a revelation from God that goes deeper than the emotional response one may have in such an encounter. Mystics refer to the Cloud of Unknowing which is suggestive of the Transfiguration story. In such an experience one knows without knowing, but the knowing is a change in consciousness of the Other, and a certainty of encounter, but that often leads to an ineffable clarity. After that ineffable clarity a return to the normalcy of life is slightly different but the mind will still always pursuing a capability of grasping and expressing what one has come to know.

    In one sense it is similar to Einstein’s revelation of the relationship between time and light that foster his theories of relativity, which are still being pursued in terms of expressing the details, its import and functionality in our reality, and its possible limits–even its accuracy is still somewhat uncertain–even though the certainty of its core revelation is a guiding light to scientists.

  • Oh please Trad con biblical scholars fill academia and are highly respected. Your are wrong.

  • Context determines what the word “fruit” means and its various shades of meaning. Its not that deep.

  • Cool.

    So is it possible that a person prays in earnest, feels transformed afterward, and demonstrates the authenticity of their experience through good deeds and teaching, yet somewhere down the road (being a fallible human) slips or errs in some sinful manner?

    An example might be a devout and devoted husband and father who comes home to find his wife in the passionate embrace of another, flies into a fit of rage and murders them both.

    Can we confidently say of that man that his belief, prayers, and transformation were never authentic…?

  • First off, thanks for a well thought-out and elaborate reply. I think I agree from the get-go with you that:

    “The very fact that there are different understandings of ‘fruit’ makes
    it almost impossible to determine the truthfulness or falseness the
    spiritual intent of another person.”

    …which would bring me back to wondering if we as a third-party CAN externally discern for ourselves whether or not somebody purporting to have this transformational experience/relationship with God is imagining it…?

  • Because there is such a range of human personality and intent discerning what is in the black box another human mind and accounting for human behavior is guess work at best. Denominations that vet persons for ministry use all kinds of procedures including interviews by elected and appointed boards to determine fitness of candidates. The best they can do is judge on doctrinal, behavioral, and long term performance standards. And still sometimes, more often than the churches would like, they get it wrong. Plus people change over time. Some for the better, some for the worse. A long term relationship situates one in the best position to know the heart of a person–but still divorces happen.

  • No. We could come more nearly confident in saying that his belief, prayers, and transformation were authentic if in such an event he acted with grace, forgiveness, and kindness. But even that would draw criticism from those who espouse religious piety.

  • Fair enough.

    If:
    – a neutral observer cannot distinguish whether an individual is divinely touched or delusional; and
    – delusion is a demonstrable physical phenomenon; and
    – the supernatural is NOT demonstrable

    …what justification could there be for said observer to suspend their incredulity and embrace any such unsubstantiable God claim over the natural, demonstrable explanation…?

  • Well for me it came when the Voice of God, (not audible, but strongly discernible) spoke to me in the darkness of a VW van while riding down Interstate 20 headed to nowhere, and then again in a graveyard at Ruston, Louisiana when in cried out, “God, I’ve been dead so long. Save me!”

    In the first incident I felt afraid and claustrophobic in the second received a full release that my mind consciously tried to reject but the core of my being leapt at and found powerful inner strength and comfort.

  • I understand. I guess I’m more focused on the existential quandary (exposed by Hume’s observation that our own experiences are necessarily first-person) by introducing the neutral observer.

    My Uncle Nick might one day insist he commutes with the spirit of Elvis. In that scenario, his doctors are unlikely to consider him the final arbiter toward the voracity of that claim. 😉

    Those of us outside Nick’s head would be hard-pressed for the justification to believe him…

  • Even believers have different responses to “demonstrations of power” that physically affect the receiver. For instance, let me briefly share two similar incidents I personally witnessed and in which I was directly involved.

    In one there was a little boy of four years who was born with ambliopia. The father told me the doctor had tried everything he knew to improve the situation. This was about 1974. But the eye was getting worse. So we discerned that God’s Spirit was directing us to pray. We prayed. Nothing outward happened at the moment but the next week, when the boy went to the doctor, the doctor pronounced him well. The father called it a miracle of God.

    in the second a couple I knew were struggling with the wife’s months long suffering from an eye disease under the care of a doctor. On their way back from an appointment in which the doctor had declared he had done everything he could do and that she could continue to take the medicine he had prescribed weeks before, which she had immediately been taking, I encountered them.

    They said her eye was not improving and the doctor didn’t know what more could be done. I asked if they would like to pray for her. They were glad to. We prayed. The next week her eye showed significant improvement. I asked them what they might attribute that to and their reply was, ‘We guess the medication finally started working.” They were faithful members of my church and worked relentlessly to help the poor and people in the community.

    So even believers’ minds are prepared differently to explain unusual phenomena that occurs to them.

  • Maybe, but for a lot of others maybe not. I’ll bet if you read different commentators on those passages you’d still get variations of meanings, some you wouldn’t agree with.

    Context is generally how I interpret also. But literary context is only one thing: there’s cultural, both of the original hearers and hearers contiguous through until today, all of which bring cultural biases to the reading. Though you may settle on a particular range of meaning, others may honestly not agree with you. That’s what makes it hard to definitively say exactly what Jesus meant. But when the Spirit reveals to you what you are to know about it, that’s the meaning you should operate from.

  • There sre some passages that are difficult to understand even taking into account the various contexts. My opinion: not this one. Jesus makes a fairly general statement that encompasses both wrong doctrine and wrong conduct.

  • Of course. King David is a prime example of this. He was not only guilty of adultery but murder. He repented and was forgiven, but he still experienced the consequences of his sin – his baby he had with Bathsheba died and his reign as King was filled with trouble.
    Another eg. is Judas Iscariot. Judas betrayed Jesus, felt guilty, but instead of seeking forgiveness he went out and hanged himself.
    All sin can be forgiven but there is one that cannot- blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

  • Your understanding of what is meant by by “facts” and “evidence” differs from mine.

    Just because something is said in the Bible does not make it a fact, (the creation myths, the worldwide flood, the trek to Bethlehem) nor does it give what it says the status of evidence for the veracity of an event.

    Using your reasoning Harry Potter is real and the “fact” that Hermione knows him is evidence for his existence.

  • Then if the sincerely transformed is AS capable of misdeeds as his counterpart who only imagines himself transformed, they are (as Brother Jim, our well-spoken latecomer to this thread has gracefully acknowledged) indistinguishable from one another to any neutral observer.

    We’re back then to searching for the criteria by which we the outsiders can discern those who sincerely believe they’ve been transformed by the Holy Spirit and those who only imagine they do.

    Given that quandary, what demonstrable justification can we offer for believing any proclamation of divine transformation to be anything beyond self-delusion?

    I suspect you might be tempted to answer with Scripture again, but that only raises the parallel question: Since two equally devout and sincere people can come away from the scripture with two distinctly different interpretations of His message, again, what justification can we offer (if any) for believing one over the other…?

  • “My opinion: not this one.” There you already graciously allow for different interpretation from yours on that passage. I do know that many people interpret this passage as a license to judge others according to their own standards, but Jesus pretty well clarifies at the end of it that he is the judge. Our knowing people by their fruits is for discerning what the final product of their deeds (see Deuteronomy 18:15-22), which can take some time. Even Ezekiel and Isaiah’s prophecies hadn’t been fulfilled in their times. In both passages, Matthew and Deuteronomy, God basically says leave the judging to me, and we are to do what we know is God’s will regardless.

  • To rigorously prove that an event occurred there must be multiple attestations. For the transformation, there is only one i.e. Mark 9:2-10 (= Matt 17:1-9 = Luke 9:28-36) i.e. Matthew and Luke plagiarized Mark’s myth.

  • “Stories are important. They are not just stories”

    ?

    I meant story in the sense of not being demonstrable truth.

    As to War and Peace (which I’ve never read). I suspect that it is, for some, an entertaining, perhaps enthralling, reflection upon human nature. Since it is a novel I question whether it can be said to say a lot about human nature – perhaps it says a lot about the author’s take on human nature and that take may resonate with readers, but such resonating would validate the storytelling rather than the actuality of human nature wouldn’t it?

  • DH is, I suspect, genuinely unable to envisage the possibility that the Bible, and any interpretation he teases from it, is inaccurate.

    Reason, facts, evidence and scholarship must fit with his preferred reading of the scriptures or be wrong – it really is as simple as that.

  • Enjoyed reading this discussion. To add to it:

    John’s gospel is historically nil (see below) and cannot be used as a citation in any discussion:

    With respect to John’s Gospel and John’ epistles, from Professor/Father Raymond Brown in his book, An Introduction to the New Testament, (The book has both a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from theCatholic Church),

    John’s Gospel, Date- 80-110 CE,
    Traditional Attribution, (2nd Century), St. John, one of the Twelve,

    Author Detectable from the Contents, One
    who regards himself in the tradition of the disciple.

    First Epistle of John, Authenticity-
    Certainly by a writer in the Johannine tradition, probably NOT by the one
    responsible for most of the Gospel.

    From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book,
    Rabbi Jesus,

    “Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three
    gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in
    works of late date. John’s Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a
    source……

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

    “Since “the higher criticism” of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] “[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,”[5] and date it to 90-100.”

    “The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle.”

    And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his
    book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

    “Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. “

  • “Any student of literature can make those observations” I would hope that all students of literature would do so – it’s clearly a rational explanation, much more so than miracles.

    SS does have a basis for her claim – it’s called reason. It’s not proof beyond doubt, but it’s far and away the most likely explanation.

  • All the facts and evidence in the world will not convince you of the truth claims of Jesus – b/c you are not saved ie brought into a right relationship with God through intellectual assent. It is through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

  • Apparently you didn’t read the post to which SS replied. To make those comparisons requires the ability to analyze the text. All you need is an OT and a NT text and an attention to detail. Even R. Bultmann would agree with that.

  • Much of the higher critical movement’s claims have been rejected – but you won’t mention that. Lol.
    For eg the hcm claimed Nineveh didn’t exist – then they found Nineveh. But that doesn’t bother your ilk.
    And many of those “apologetic” scholars you dismiss so quickly have more degrees than you have letters in your name. And they will pick your experts scholarship apart like vultures on a fresh carcass. Think I’ll trust them over wiki theologians.

  • We await your specific citations .

    Better make sure they are not featured in a wiki review. Most experts are.

  • I don’t see it as a license to judge by our standards. God’s word is the standard by which we judge what others say and do.

  • I like what Prof. Richard Neibuhr replied when one of his theology students entered his office shaking a Bible tightly in his grasp at the professor saying, “Is this the Word of God or not?”
    Neibuhr reportedly replied, “If you grasp it, It’s not. If it grasps you, it is!”

  • I want to return to the cuckolded husband. There you speculated – but no one said Christians are perfect. My bro in law once said in reference to his Christian experience: “I’m not the kind of man I want to be but thank God I am not the man I used to be either.” His life had dramatically changed when he became a Christian. And everybody who knew him saw the kind of man he was BC and what he became AD. And btw he was far from delusional. Now Paul the Apostle said in Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect…
    A Christian’s transformation has only begun when he is born again. In fact we live in the period theologians call the “already” but “not yet”. We possess the earnest deposit of the Holy Spirit – the guarantee of what we will possess fully in the resurrection. Life has changed but that change is just a foretaste of what will come later. – Now back to the cuckolded husband:
    We could have just as easily speculated that the cuckolded husband, upon finding his wife in the arms of someone else, took her back and showed even more love to her. That’s what Hosea did. That’s what Joseph (Jesus’ father) did. And that is how the prophets portray God.
    I once asked a friend and mentor of mine “How long does it take to be relatively certain that someone is a soundly converted Christian i.e. genuinely born again?”
    He said probably 10 years.
    I guess that’s why Jesus said in Matt. 7:14 For the gate is small and the way narrow that leads to life and there are few who find it.

  • See essay Destructive Criticism and the Old Testament by Wayne Jackson.
    First rate trad con scholars:
    Alvin Platinga
    Darrell Bock
    Gordon Fee
    JP Moreland
    Wm Lane Craig
    FF Bruce (deceased)
    CFH Henry
    Norman Geisler
    Millard Erikson
    Craig Blomberg
    Thomas Oden
    and many more.
    And they take a back seat to no one in their field.
    Interesting piece by liberal scholarJoshua Berman. He says conservative scholars are delegitimated and marginalized by liberal scholars based on liberal BIAS. And he thinks it’s wrong.

  • Don’t have to. I’ve been reading theology for over 40 years. I know their reputation. They write textbooks that are studied in seminary. How long have you been reading theology – 45 minutes? Thomas Oden (on the list if you bothered to read it) said as a young scholar he wanted to know the latest theology since last Wednesday. Then he was challenged by his Jewish mentor to learn Christian history. He soon jettisoned his marxist presuppositions and left liberalism.

  • But previously you bad mouthed wiki theologians but then proceed to list your experts all who are also wiki theologians. As you noticed, all your wiki theologians’ jobs depend on the their belief that the bible is inerrant.

  • Sorry, I used that as though it were a synonymous short-cut for the sort of transformation we’d been discussing all along. Thought it might be less wordy…

  • My larger point may have been lost. It was this:

    When asked how we discern one who was truly transformed from one who merely imagined it, scripture’s answer was “by their fruits” which we agreed represented deeds, actions, and teachings.

    But we subsequently established that either party might well perform deeds contrary to His law, so that benchmark doesn’t appear reliable. We’re back to the situation where truly transformed person ‘A’ is externally indistinguishable from imaginarily transformed person ‘B’.

    If the purportedly genuine and potentially delusional are indistinguishable to any outside observer, how can we assert they are truly different…?

  • You said “you have no basis for your claim that those facts were added afterwards”

    SS has – it is called reason/logic/rationality/cognitive discipline.

  • The whole point of faith is that there is neither fact nor evidence to support it – it would cease to be faith if there were.

    “intellectual assent” in this case means making a conscious decision to pretend to believe (and act) as though one believes something one doesn’t believe, closing one’s mind to evidence and “plucking out the eye of reason”.

    Your “faith in the finished work” (not truth I note) simply means that your un-evidenced and irrational faith insulates you from learning, knowledge and enquiry.

    Until you manage to release yourself from the bondage of the bubble-wrap of faith you are entombed within you will persist in trying to promote imagination over evidence and wishful-thinking over fact; sadly no-one can help you do this, it’s something you have to do for yourself.

  • This is how I define evidence:
    ev·i·dence
    / Evadans /
    noun
    1.
    the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid:

    Apparently you do have a different definition.

  • Question: “What is the definition of faith?”

    Answer: Thankfully, the Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

    This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

    Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

    Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons “believe” in God and acknowledge those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).

    The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

    Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10).

  • I didn’t need to go to wiki to find them. That you had to go to wiki to find some demonstrates your theological illiteracy. LOL.

  • “But we subsequently established that either party might well perform deeds contrary to His law, so that benchmark doesn’t appear reliable.” You perhaps established that but I would disagree. Perhaps your standard for reliability and mine are not the same.
    But regarding how to tell the difference between one who merely professes belief from one who is an actual believer I quote Jesus once again:
    Mark 4:2 He taught them many things in parables and said to them in His teaching: 3 “Listen! And take note: A sower went out to sow. 4 As he sowed, some seed fell beside the path, and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and soon it sprang up because it did not have deep soil. 6 But when the sun rose, it was scorched. And because it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seed fell on good ground, and it yielded grain that sprang up and increased by thirty, sixty, or a hundred times as much.”

    Also: John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
    Jesus said His disciples’ love for each other would set them apart. And so it does. But does it always? Sadly no. Again we are not perfect.

    G. K. Chesterton quipped:
    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

    Again Christians are not perfect this side of glory. But that doesn’t mean they are indistinguishable from non-Christians. We could as well argue that a doctor who earned a medical degree with honors from Harvard Medical School made a mistake during surgery and the patient dies. Do we automatically question his board certification or his title? Do we say he really isn’t a doctor after all, that he is no better than an imposter posing as a doctor? No. Now every once in a great while we’ll hear about someone who impersonated a doctor or an air plane pilot but is eventually caught. He made people believe he really was a doctor or a pilot. The same can be true of anyone’s profession of faith. Time will tell. But I think you are drawing some some conclusions that do not necessarily follow.
    You assume there are no demonstrable behaviors between a truly transformed person and one who isn’t. I disagree and refer you back to the Mark passage that sheds some light on the issue.

  • Re my: “…we subsequently established that either party might well perform deeds contrary to His law..”

    You’ve offered: “You perhaps established that but I would disagree.”

    Forgive me, but you’ve already concurred. I specifically asked:

    “…is it possible that a person prays in earnest, feels transformed afterward, and demonstrates the authenticity of their experience through good deeds and teaching, yet somewhere down the road (being a fallible human) slips or errs in some sinful manner?”

    …and your refreshingly candid response was: “Of course.”

    = = =

    We can take a different approach if it’s clearer. Please imagine this scenario:

    You and I are put in a room with two people we’ve only just met. One is a devout Christian who absolutely and truly HAS been personally transformed by God. The other hasn’t had that experience, but insists that he has. Each presents themselves equally as sincere and passionate as the other.

    Can you and I tell which has truly been transformed? If so, I’m on the edge of my chair to find out specifically how. If you can distill every parable at your disposal into a concise “How To”, I’ll be forever in your debt.

    And if we can’t tell the difference, how are we justified in insisting that there IS a difference…?

    = = = = = = = = =

    “Do we automatically question his board certification or his title?”

    No, but the doctor owes us a face-to-face for some answers. If the hospital insists that the only way to discuss the matter is to sincerely meditate until we feel at one with the surgeon, we’d be well within our rights to call them on their obvious obfuscation…

  • The Bible Critics Were Wrong
    1.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT ANCIENT WRITING.

    In the 19th century it was believed by theological modernists that writing was not developed by Moses’ day, thus he could not have written the Pentateuch.
    Ancient libraries have been unearthed at Ugarit, Mari, Ur, Ebla, Nippur, Nineveh, Persepolis, and many other places. Tens of thousands of documents dating to Abraham’s age and earlier prove that the ancient civilizations described in Genesis were highly literate.
    2.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT ANCIENT LAW CODES.

    19th century skeptics said that Israel could not have possessed a complex legal code because no such codes were known in those days.

    The discovery of the Code of Hammurabi in 1901 destroyed this thinking. It was a complex law code written by Hammurabi, the king of Babylon, and it dates to about 200 years before Moses.
    3.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT UR.

    In the 19th century, skeptics claimed that Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, was a myth.

    Yet in 1922, the city of Ur was located by Leonard Woolley and excavated over the next 12 years.
    4.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT DAVID.

    Modernists long called the Bible’s account of King David a myth because there was no extra-biblical record of him.

    In 1993 and 1994, two discoveries provided evidence to disprove the skeptics. In 1995, Time magazine reported, “The skeptics’ claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend” (“Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?” Time, Dec. 18, 1995).
    5.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT SHEBA.

    The Bible says that the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon and brought a great camel train of riches, including gold and spices. Sheba and the land of spices was long thought to be mythical by Bible critics.

    Now the existence of the ancient kingdom is acknowledged, and its capital city of Marib has been excavated. Wendell Phillips led the first expedition in the 1950s. He said, “There is no reason to doubt that the Queen was real” (Qataban and Sheba).

    Expeditions have continued. In September 2000 the University of Calgary announced at its web site: “Arabian Desert Surrenders Queen of Sheba Secrets.”
    6.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT BERODACH-BALADAN.

    In the 19th century, skeptics doubted the existence of Berodach-Baladan (also Merodach), the king of Babylon mentioned in 2 Kings.

    Archaeology has confirmed Berodach-Baladan’s existence. Among other things, he is mentioned in the Sennacherib Prism, which is located in the British Museum. Here Sennacherib describes his defeat of Merodach:

    “In my first campaign I accomplished the defeat of Berodach-Baladan, king of Babylonia, together with the army of Elam, his ally, in the plain of Kish.”
    7.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT CYRUS.
    It was once thought by critics that the Bible’s record of Cyrus’ release of the Jews and his granting of religious liberty (Ezra 1:2) was mythical, since it was contrary to the known policy of kings in those times.

    The Cyrus Cylinder, found in 1879, silenced this criticism. It proves that Cyrus had the policy of restoring captives to their lands and assisting them in rebuilding their temples.
    8. THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT BELSHAZZAR.
    In the 19th century, critics claimed that Belshazzar was a myth and that Nabonidus rather than Belshazzar was king of Babylon when it fell to the Medo-Persians.

    In 1854, the Nabonidus Cylinder was discovered which is an account of King Nabonidus in which he plainly states that Belshazzar was his son.
    9. THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT THE BOOK OF ACTS.
    In the 19th century, critics attacked Luke’s book of Acts as a historically unreliable document that wasn’t written until generations after Christ. German critic F.C. Baur claimed that the book was not written until the end of the 2nd century. In 1963, classical historian The liberal view was debunked by archaeologist William Ramsay, among others. As a student at the University of Aberdeen and Oxford, Ramsay was taught the liberal view and believed it. When he began to make expeditions to Asia Minor and Palestine, he intended to prove that the Bible is “not the book from heaven it claimed to be.” But instead, he proved that the book of Acts is historically accurate and was written during the first century. A.N. Sherwin-White confirmed Ramsay’s view of Acts:
    10.THE CRITICS WERE WRONG ABOUT THE LATE DATING OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
    F.C. Baur, father of the Tubengin School of theological liberalism in Germany, taught that the New Testament was not written until a century or more after the apostles by unknown men who used the names of the apostles. He proposed that the Gospel of John was not written until 170 AD. Baur’s theory influenced many.

    But this has been disproven by the discovery of New Testament manuscripts dating to the end of the first century and by the existence of hundreds of quotations from the New Testament books in the writings of Christian leaders dating to the late first and early second century. (See the report “The Bible Critics Were Wrong” at http://www.wayoflife.org.)

    See also: https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/does-archaeology-support-the-bible/

  • So it seems your question is this: How can I tell the difference between a real Christian and an imposter?
    Am I correct in this?

  • Sort of. I shied away from “imposter”-esque labels because I don’t know what’s in another person’s heart, and that implies intent.

    But yeah, I’d like to know specifically how we can discern between somebody whose transformational God experience was authentic and somebody who is, intentionally or not, deluded…

  • Jesus addresses this problem:
    John 2:23-25

    Jesus Knows All Men
    “23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and did not need anyone to bear witness of man, for He knew what was in man.”

    Now its true that Jesus is God (the Son) so He is omniscient – but we are not. In many cases we don’t know if someone has been soundly converted or not – but with time we will learn.

    I hope you don’t mind that I quote Jesus a lot but He is the authority and He has already addressed every concerns that you’ve expressed. And I’d rather let Him speak for Himself anyway.

  • “I’d rather let Him speak for Himself anyway.”

    As would I, but until He infiltrates the forum or graces me with a Damascus Road experience of my own, you’re my best hope. 😉

    = = =

    “In many cases we don’t know if someone has been soundly converted or not – but with time we will learn.”

    Do we just assume they are until they’ve been demonstrated not to be, or vice-versa…?

  • “…is it possible that a person prays in earnest, feels transformed afterward, and demonstrates the authenticity of their experience through good deeds and teaching, yet somewhere down the road (being a fallible human) slips or errs in some sinful manner?”
    …and your refreshingly candid response was: “Of course.”
    And that is true. None of us ever match up to our own expectations.

    Your initial question remains: how can we definitively tell if someone is a “real” Christian from one who is just pretending?

    I hope I have answered your question. I have given you biblical texts that addresses that very issue (which by the way is a very perceptive question, one which is of great concern to pastors).

    Now if you could please restate the essence of my responses in a short paragraph (a couple of sentences) I’ll know whether I have been clear or not.

  • You concern is legitimate. So let me address your “scenario” this way: Maybe.
    Lawyers put people under cross examination all the time to get at the truth. But churches don’t go through this kind of thing unless you are being ordained to the ministry.
    And many churches have catechism classes to teach the fundamentals of their belief. At the end the catechumen must answer a series of questions. But even that isn’t used by most churches.
    Mostly people give an assent to a churches belief statement, are baptized and are admitted to church membership. Most churches leaving the sorting out to God of who is and who isn’t a “real” Christian.

    So given your scenario – technically no because people can put on an act. But God knows and that’s the important thing.

    But consider this too: how many times do you hear about the “perfect” couple pledging their undying love and fidelity to each other only to learn later on that one of them had been living a double life. That happens because it happened to a friend of mine.

  • Well, all I have as a resource for your inquiry are the words of Jesus. Aside from Scripture here are some things to consider.
    One way you can determine is to ask them to give their testimony of their conversion. In my experience most insincere people are not able to articulate a conversion testimony. But, if someone wants to deceive you they can memorize the right words.
    Another way to determine if someone has been born again is to listen to them talk. What is the content of their conversations? Do they continue to use profanity, tell dirty jokes, make fun of others?
    Another indication is their interpersonal relationship, people they associate with.
    Another is what they watch on tv or the movies.
    Another is what is important to them now that they are a Christian.

  • “If you can distill every parable at your disposal into a concise “How To”, I’ll be forever in your debt.”
    Wow! Forever? ;D
    My tentative distillation:
    You can know/tell a truly converted person by what they say (including their profession of faith) what they believe, and how they conduct themselves at home, at work, or when they think no one is watching.
    Please allow me to revise this if I need to.

  • “Do they continue to use profanity, tell dirty jokes, make fun of others?”

    It’s not unfathomable that our impostor could display to us all the behaviors of a Christian you’ve outlined and still be insincere.

    Perhaps the issue would be easier to address in an entirely different context: We’re again in a room with strangers ‘A’ and ‘B’. ‘A’ has sincerely encountered THE Bigfoot in the forest. ‘B’ has not, but insists he has as well. Neither man can demonstrate the truth of their assertion.

    Are we rationally justified in believing either of them…?

  • Bigfoot? Lets stick with “is you is or is you ain’t”? discussion. Jesus didn’t have anything to say about Bigfoot.
    Lol.

  • Interesting to note that the Greek word used throughout the gospel of John for “believe” is “pisteuó” which encompasses to believe, to trust in, and to have faith in. It is a verb derived from the noun “pistis” which means faith.

  • “This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.”

    I’ve heard several variations on this – turning on a tap in expectation of getting water comes to mind. They are spurious, as is this one.

    ” Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair…Trust is actually sitting in the chair.”

    A chair is a physical object that can be sat upon.
    If we have previously sat on a chair recognising another has no requirement for faith – we sit (if we want to) because previous experimental evidence and our evolved ability to recognise shapes tell us we can.
    If we have never seen a chair before we might experiment to find out what can be done with it – again – no requirement for faith. We might realise we can sit upon it – we might even discover that we can use the upended chair to suspend a muslin bag to facilitate straining fruit juices.

    What you want people to do is imagine a chair in their mind, decide that it exists in reality, tell everyone that it exists and announce to the world that they are sitting in it – but it only “works” provided that they first pretend to themselves that the chair exists, that they imagine that they are sitting in the non-existent chair and accept the reasonable scepticism of those viewing them as confirmation that their faith is justified.
    Now – that demonstrates faith!

  • So what do you have that both fits your definition and supports your beliefs?

    So far you’ve provided nothing except your unjustified convictions and an inaccurate, inconsistent collection of writings which are validated only by the contents of that same collection of writings (and your unjustified convictions).

    Must do better.

  • Very well.

    My understanding is that God existed and interacted with people even before Jesus. The Son is not a prerequisite for investigating those interactions. Put ourselves in Mosaic times and make Moses our ‘Person A’ and Pharaoh ‘Person B’ if you’d like, and we’d still need a way to discern which of them really DID have a hotline to their respective gods.

    How would we have done so…?

  • I suppose if I were a neutral observer then I would say that Moses was definitely different when he called down the plagues on Egypt. But that was under the old covenant. The Holy Spirit hadn’t been given yet. That comes in the NT in Acts. Remember I noted earlier it is the Holy Spirit that effects the new birth/transformation in the believer.

  • Your opinion. I gave you proof that your “experts” were wrong on many occasions and I gave you proof that the bible was accurate. I gave you evidence that the truth claims of Christ could be trusted based on the historical accuracy of the Bible. But like those of your ilk you still do not believe. Is it because you do not want to be morally accountable to God? Your loss in the end.

  • I did not go to wiki to find theologians. You are the one who downgraded them and then referred to a number of your favorites and it turns out, they also are wiki theologians. If you ever want to think outside the bible box and read the studies of theologians and religious historians not encumbered by their employment, some suggestions:

    H.S. Reimarus
    R. Bultmann
    E. Kasemann
    Earl Doherty
    Alvar Ellegård
    G. A. Wells
    Gregory Riley
    Robert Eisenman
    John Dominic Crossan
    Robert Funk
    Burton Mack
    Stephen J. Patterson
    Marcus Borg
    Stevan Davies
    Geza Vermes
    Richard Horsley
    Hyam andMaccoby
    Gerd Theissen
    Bart Ehrman
    Paula Fredriksen
    Gerd Lüdemann
    John P. Meier
    E. P. Sanders
    Robert H. Stein
    Karen Armstrong
    Albert Schweitzer (The Quest for the Historical Jesus)
    Mahlon Smith
    Elaine Pagels

  • Copy/paste. Lol.
    They all are/were enslaved to 19th century German rationalism. Thanks but no thanks. “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” — not german rationalism. Lol.

  • A miracle has occurred, Brother Harry!

    In the middle of the night, I was visited upon by the Holy Spirit Himself, and experienced the very sort of revelation I’ve been begging for. Touched and transformed, I fell to my knees and wept, pledging my undying love to Him.

    Can you help me demonstrate to people that my transformation is undeniably genuine, and that I’m not just making this up…?

  • Sure, I’d be glad to. Just answer these questions:
    1. Describe your life/sinful behaviors BC
    2. Describe your steps to faith in Christ
    3. Describe your conversion experience.
    4. Describe the change in your life that occurred AD.
    5. Describe how you are growing in Christ now.
    6. Explain what you believe now that you didn’t believe before?
    7. What church do you attend?
    8. Have you or do you intend to be baptized?
    9. From what sources do you get spiritual nourishment?
    10. How do you know right from wrong?
    11. Are you obeying the the 2 greatest commandments?
    12. Describe your prayer life.
    13. Describe your time you spend in the word of God.

    Some of these questions overlap I am sure, but I am trying to be thorough.

  • We seem to agree it’s fair to surmise we shouldn’t expect anybody to take my claim at face value without some investigation and/or interrogation. Again, you’ll correct me if I’ve misstated this, please. (I’m always eager to discover what we actually agree upon.)

    That noted, is it your point that one couldn’t possibly address all these points in a biblically consistent manner and NOT have experienced a divine transformation?

    Again, we’re looking to demonstrate the truth of the matter to a vast array of neutral, objective third parties, not just satisfy my friend Harry’s newfound skepticism… 😉

  • Professors Crossan and Borg are not German meaning you did not review any of their studies i.e. still stuck in the bible box.

  • ROFL! You figure it out. I’m not going to explain it to you as I am laughing too hard! I have an idea of what box you’re stuck in but my brothers and sisters in Christ would exhort me to not use such colorful metaphors.

  • Using your conditions consider the following:
    1.Lets say you were an alcoholic and you wanted to change. How would you demonstrate that you were a changed man?
    2. Lets say you had a bad heart and then you got a heart transplant? How would people know that and how could you demonstrate that?
    3. Lets say you were an abusive husband but you wanted to change because you really did love your wife and kids and you knew you needed to change. How would people know you no longer abused your wife and how would you demonstrate that?
    4. Let’s say you were a serial adulterer but you found the significant other of your dreams and you wanted to demonstrate that you were a person of fidelity? How would you demonstrate that?
    5. Let’s say you were blind but you regained your sight. How would people know that?

  • I must have missed these contributions but

    “experts” (not mine or yours – just knowledgeable people) are often wrong – what has that to do with anything I’ve posted.

    “you may be able to demonstrate that a few (very few) items in the Bible are accurate there are many which cannot be demonstrated to be either true or untrue and many more that are just plain wrong”
    And, unlike some, I’ll give some examples –

    worldwide flood – no:
    the description of the falling walls at Jericho – wrong
    the timing, method, location and personnel in the erroneous story about why Jesus was (allegedly) born in Bethlehem – wrong
    All disproven by evidence – proper evidence – not circular reasoning.

    Garden of Eden
    Moses
    The captivity and Exodus
    David
    Solomon
    The rending of the temple curtain
    The mass rising from the graves
    The earth ceasing to turn

    all, everyone, things that ought have supporting evidence – either physical evidence or contemporary writings – nothing, nada, zilch.

    You use the words “fact” and “evidence” but I don’t think you understand the definitions you quote.

    Lastly – I am not accountable, in any way, to the immoral, devious, lazy and/or incompetent figment of your imagination that you refer to as God.

  • Nooooooo – I mustn’t – I really really mustn’t,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • 1) I’d submit to a rigor of blood-alcohol analyses;
    2) The discarded heart that matches my DNA would be rather compelling, as would the scar in my chest; face-to-face consults with the surgeon[s], X-rays, the grieving widow of my benevolent donor, and the surgical operating theater which allows direct observation (and video/audio recordings) of this sort of procedure;
    3) The same way people with NO domestic abuse history demonstrate not beating their wife: by observably not beating my wife. It’s worth noting that I would have forfeit any claim to the benefit of the doubt by being abusive in the past. Nobody is obliged to take my word for it;
    4) By observably discontinuing my adultery (again given my history, nobody is under any obligation to believe me); and
    5) Via eye tests administered by any competent optometrist and/or ophthalmologist.

    Do we have ANYTHING on par with the Breathalyzers, MRI machines, videography, opthalmoscopes, et al that we can use to empirically, demonstrably, and falsifiably test for the presence of a deity with the same confidence in which we measure blood-alcohol ratios, heart functionality, and/or visual acuity?

    And if not, how can our confidence in such an entity be justified…?

  • We agree! Wise decision…because when you DO you just put your illiteracy out there again for others to see.

  • Ok. Now we are down to the nitty gritty: “Do we have ANYTHING on par with the Breathalyzers, MRI machines, videography, opthalmoscopes, et al that we can use to empirically, demonstrably, and falsifiably test for the presence of a deity…” We’re back to the falsifiability test of God. And that’s how it should be. So – Nope. And we never will. But I told you that at the beginning of our discussion. But I will hasten to add those “empirical” tools are not perfect either. They don’t always tell the truth.
    All of my examples above were to elicit your answers. You want to know how you can tell the difference between a real believer and one that pretends. And you provided the correct answers: by observable behaviors. Can any of those examples be faked? Yes – now pretending you can see when you’re really blind will take some doing, but those other behaviors can be faked. So you’ll never be 100% sure.
    Jesus said in Matthew 7 of those who professed belief in Him “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?’ 23 But then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.’”

    Here’s an interesting quote:
    “Atheists are hung up on empirical knowledge. Thats why so many of them (not all by many) insist that we have no info about God, you can’t verify God and so forth. but God cannot be the subject of empirical data because is not given in sense data. That’s because God is not just another object along side objects in creation. God is not just another thing, God is the basis of reality. That’s like a fish scientist saying “they assigned me to study this thing called ‘water’ but I can’t find any water.” he says that because it never dawns on him that its’ all around him, the medium in which he lives and he’s always looking through it. he can’t see the water because he’s looking through it.” http://www.doxa.ws/Theology/Phenom.html

    “How can our confidence in such an entity be justified?” I guess you’ll just have to find that out for yourself. I have been a Christian since I was almost 21 years old (I’m 65 now) and He has proven faithful over the years.

  • “I guess you’ll just have to find that out for yourself.”

    Which is precisely why I have these conversations, my brother.

    = = =

    I admitted earlier in our discussion that I’d likely find a Damascus Road experience of my own to be very convincing as to His existence.

    You seem the open-minded type. Have you given any thought as to what might convince you that the God proposition[s] lacked validity…?

  • Well sure I have. But I come back to 1. the word of God 2. my own conversion experience 3.the last 40 years of being a Christian and experiencing the reality and goodness of God in my life and how He has changed me for the good over the years.
    G. K. Chesterton reputedly said: “When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”

    And I would recommend to you to read the Bible starting with the Gospel of John. And ask the God you do not believe in to show you the truth.
    Thanks for the protracted discussion. It was intense but polite and it was also intellectually satisfying.

  • I will do that, my friend. I might have mentioned before that I’m hard-pressed to remember the last day I haven’t had my nose in the Bible, Strong’s Concordance, the work of Apologists, Counter-Apologists, and even the Apocrypha, et al.

    Having lost my father some years back, a friend last week, and about to surrender my brother to his mortality any day now, it would be insincere to say I didn’t hope I might some day see them again. But I need more than my own wishful thinking or voluminous and impassioned devout assertions to convince me that I might.

    I appreciate your time as well, sir. Rattle my cage anytime.

    Xapis…

  • I am sorry for your losses. We do live in a vale of tears and I know it too well myself. And I agree that we need more than wishful thinking or devout assertions on which to base our faith. I think I have found it; I hope you will as well. And I will pray for you, your lost loved ones and the brother you are too soon to lose. God bless.

  • ROFLSHIAPMPs – you’re the one who is dispensing excessive verbiage about non-existent gods. I’m talking about the real One.

  • Authors are usually very observant people and they learn a lot about human nature, but they are part of a specific time and place which affects everyone. Tolstoy’s reflection on human nature is a valid as anyone else.

  • I don’t base my actions or beliefs on what happens in the world to come. They need to be real right now in this world. I don’t think we should base our actions on reward or punishment in a heaven or hell. We should act on our love of God and/or our love of our fellow human beings.

    Besides, as a Jew, I am going to Hell even if I believe in God according to Dirty Harry#1.

  • The Hebrew word for sin means to have missed the mark. Jews don’t believe in original sin. We don’t need Jesus to save us from that.

  • I meant your interpretation was added afterwards, but there are proofs as well. The Hebrew Bible never says a “virgin” shall conceive. It says “a young woman shall conceive.” If you put the Hebrew Bible in its proper historical context, it is not referring to Jesus. It’s obvious that the Gospel authors knew about Moses and had read the Hebrew Bible which ends at Chronicles II, not Malachai.

  • That’s not all you need. You need a good and accurate translation of both. It would be better to have someone who can understand the original languages. You also need a knowledge of the history of the period to put the prophecies in the proper context.

  • Focus: 2 questions:
    First:”What positive evidence do we have that the actions or words of the characters in John’s narratives are indeed historical?”
    Second, “Is there anything in the text . . . that is implausible within the historical context to which it is attributed, particularly if we assume the general historical trustworthiness of the Synoptics?”

    “…we have 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. When you include the quotes from the church fathers, manuscripts from other early translations like the Latin Vulgate, the Ethiopic text, and others, the total comes out to over 24,000 ancient texts. With so many ancient texts, significant alterations should be easy to spot. However, those who accuse the New Testament of being corrupted have not produced such evidence. This is significant because it should be easy to do with so many manuscripts available. The truth is, the large number of manuscripts confirm the accurate preservation and transmission of the New Testament writings.” Patrick Zukeran

    The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
    https://bible.org/article/historical-reliability-gospels

    The Historical Reliability of the Gospel of John
    http://www.affinity.org.uk/foundations-issues/issue-67-article-1-the-historical-reliability-of-the-gospel-of-john
    A majority of biblical scholars are sceptical about the historical reliability of the Gospel of John. After delineating the problem and defining key terms, this article presents a cumulative case to the contrary by looking at issues such as ancient history writing, oral tradition, authorship, genre, the historical quality of John’s Gospel, social memory, chronology, archaeology and names. The argument is that the Gospel of John is the accurate and reliable eyewitness account of John of Zebedee about the life and ministry of Jesus.

    Conclusion
    In this article, I have presented a cumulative argument for the historical reliability of the Gospel of John. While my case may not win over any sceptics, I suggest it is fair to say that a good case can be made that the Gospel of John is trustworthy account of Jesus’ life and ministry according to the literary conventions of that time. The Beloved Disciple was a unique eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus, who monitored the oral tradition and at one point decided to write down his eyewitness testimony in the form of the Gospel, more or less as we have it today. The most likely candidate for the identity of the Beloved Disciple is John of Zebedee, who claims that his eyewitness account is a trustworthy basis for a life-giving belief in Jesus. The Gospel of John is therefore not an anonymous creative account of various oral traditions passed on over a long time (the prevalent view) but the eyewitness account of John of Zebedee recorded within his lifetime.

  • Any good English translation is sufficient to do a literary analysis – if you know how to do one. I am a retired English teacher and taught students how to analyze text and write a literary analysis. And any tools you need can be found on the internet. You are making it way too hard.
    biblestudytools.com

  • It depends what you consider a good translation, I had a rabbi as a teacher who knew Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Sumerian and Akkadian as well. To study the Bible with him was amazing. You do need an understanding of the history of the period. Isaiah wasn’t predicting Jesus, He was predicting Cyrus who did come and liberate Israel and allow the Jews to settle there again.

    I will try your Christian interpretation, if you are willing to to give the Jewish method a try.

  • DH#1 believes what Jesus said in John 14:6 “6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

    Your argument is with Jesus – not me.

  • Even tho I would not agree with your Rabbi on many things it would be an intellectually stimulating opportunity to listen him expound on the OT.

  • Correct. The English KJV says virgin – most young women of that era were virgins tho. So virgin/young woman is a distinction without a difference. And correct in its historical context it is not referring to Jesus – exclusively. That is the nature of prophecy. It can have an immediate application and it can have an application down the road.
    Book of Malachi – is placed last in the Christian ordering. But it is included in the Jewish text is it not?
    But anyway Malachi was the Italian prophet. His name is pronounced “Ma-lah-chee”
    ;-D

  • “Tolstoy’s reflection on human nature is a valid as anyone else.”

    “perhaps it says a lot about the author’s take on human nature”

    I don’t see any conflict here.

  • Re-read what you posted and I responded to – what you actually wrote not what you meant to write.

  • You don’t know that Jesus actually said that. The Gospels were written after Jesus’s death. That may or may not be true. I don’t accept that the Gospels are literally true. I don’t believe that everything in the Hebrew is literally true either. I don’t see that we need to come to the Father through anyone else.

  • His name is not pronounced Ma-lah-chee in the original Hebrew. The KJV is a translation of the Septuagent (sp?), which is a Greek translation of the original Hebrew. So it is a translation of a translation. It make a difference because at the end of the Jewish Bible the Jews are back in their land. The prophecies might have an application down the road, but they are still not about Jesus. It was about the Messiah. None of the prophecies that are supposed to happen after the Messiah came happened during Jesus’s life time or after his death. If we have a world of peace, love and understanding, I missed it.

  • You might try to read Michael Carasik’s The Commentators Bible. That would give you and idea of what the Jewish commentators over the centuries have thought. There will be a book for the 5 Books of Moses, but he has not finished yet. He hasn’t finished Genesis yet

  • I don’t have any evidence, but you’re the one who believes in Jesus. You’re the one who should care whether it is an accurate depiction of what Jesus said. Personally, it’s not that important to me either way.

  • Your original post referring to illiteracy was, itself, illiterate.

    Sometimes I try too hard not to go for the low-hanging fruit, don’t I?

  • Well brother I deserve it! LOL. It makes no sense – unless you’re writing stream of consciousness. Even then…
    But thank you.

  • Religion has dulled and sullied the transfiguration of Christ with its disfiguration of its conception of the Cross of Christ. Religion is still steeped in the carbon world of ritual rather than its transfiguring into the realm of Light where there is no matter and anti-matter/anti-Christ. Light photons have no anti-matter, thus the beast is the carbon 666 molecule that is a lower realm of life than in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is not heavy but light, having no matter, hence, no weight in a wait-less realm.

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