By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
—– Original Message —–
To: Thomas Lee Abshier
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2008 11:54 AM
Subject: “Hank Video”
Tom, see what you think of this video.
(Note: the link to the video upon which this essay was based was deleted. It uses language commonly recognized as offensive, thus I shall simply refer to various concepts that it introduced and discuss those concepts.)
John, yes, of course, the “Hank Video” used the setting of Jehovah’s Witnesses going door to door to stage a condemnation/parody of the Bible and Christianity. It included:
1) Accusations that the Bible was collection of stories that had no validity other than a circular reasoning that self-validated without external evidence, 2) Implications that the Bible did not prove the existence of God, was a story about something that happened a long time ago, and was probably just written by men without divine guidance, 3) Declarations that God would punish sinners and send them to hell for not believing in Him, or accepting his gift of salvation, 4) Statements that you cannot get the gift He promises until you die, so all through life you live without knowing if God exists or not, and thus are following the promise of an afterlife gift by blind faith, fear of punishment, or greed for the gift, 5) Implications using Freudian symbols that the Biblical guidance regarding sexuality was nonsensical prejudice held by bigots and simpletons who simply believed it, but had no reason validating the prescriptions of the various sexual behaviors.
The presentation was a one-sided exaggeration of the points and doubts about Christian doctrine and Biblical authenticity, which gave the authors license to lampoon the existence of God and the precepts of Christianity without restraint. When one takes the extreme end of any argument and does not soberly consider the arguments of the opposing side, it is easy to create scenarios that present the opposing perspective as absurd. Nevertheless, the Hank Video raises valid questions that every person who embraces Christianity should consider.
I mention below a few of the points brought up by the Hank Video, and a short, incomplete response to the questions it poses. The discussion of any of these points has no end, so I shall not attempt any response that is exhaustive or even well-validated.
These are the questions of the ages and will continue to be.
1) Is there a Heaven and Hell?
The concepts follow naturally from the metaphor of what we see in the real world. Both punishment and reward are integral to the motivation of humanity.
2) Do the Commandments have real meaningful consequences in this world and the next? Did God ordain them?
God created the entire creation, including the rules for humanity to follow, but also gave free will. The commandments reflect the nature of the universe He created, and their proclamation was for information, rather than a creative or judicial act. The Commandments are a standard which is true and absolutely reflects the optimum path of action to maximize happiness in the world as it was created. The obedience and disobedience of God’s commands is a choice given to men that has consequences and allows souls to self-winnow into the camps of goats and sheep (rebels and willing followers of God’s Way). This standard provides the foundation for the drama of moral dilemmas, soul passions, temptation, character, enthusiasm and commitment. The choice of Heaven or Hell, may not be just a judgment made by God, but rather a natural consequence of each man’s heart and affinities. Man is naturally drawn to the life which his soul desires. Those who hate, disbelieve, or have little affinity for God would find little joy in such a world as Heaven. Hell is any environment where the presence of God is veiled, and His way imperfectly implemented. Hell may have many layers. His rules, governance, and ways will be repulsive to the rebel’s embedded and nourished character. Such a soul will instead choose to surround himself with an environment that reflects his values and desired rule of life. Sadly, all such bubble universes have suboptimal rule-sets for relationship and satisfaction. The man choosing to enter such a world will find that moving from there more difficult than making that same change of allegiance during this life on earth.
3) Is there a God at all, or is He a manmade fiction/creation?
When given the choice between God as a creative agent, vs. entropy and random chance producing the entirety of the incredible complexity of the creation, belief in evolution requires too much faith for me. I take the road of less faith.
4) Why should God offer us the free gift of Salvation, and then punish those who do not accept the free gift?
Jesus died to establish and ground the entire universe in eternity. He died not just to save men, and pay for sins, but to seal it against its own self-destruction. He created it, died into it, and followed the rules of the creation so well that its laws of death could not hold Him. His victory over death, the death that He ordained and established, has already been accomplished, the universe is completely secure, it will not be forgotten, disappear, or self-destruct due to a violation or rebellious spirit. The creation is subject to God’s will and way, and follows Him without resistance. But, people were given Godlike power, and act as free agents. The spirit of man is in this manner the same as God. Men must choose to accept the validity, security, of submission to the Way of God. Without bowing to that way, and submitting to that same path of perfection, in essence making Jesus Lord of one’s life, the universe will be able to exert the forces of destruction and death upon all who are not able to walk that path. All men fall short of walking the perfected path of God’s Way, which leaves us all subject to the lawful degradation following violation, and leaves us in need of a redeemer to take the blow of the natural consequences that follow our imperfect action.
5) Are the guidelines of sexual behavior meaningful?
The sexual guidelines deal with subtle effects of consequence associated with violating the ways of life in the domain of sexuality. They are given to warn men against their commission because of how those violations affect one’s own soul. The laws/rules/guidelines of Godly sexuality can be broken or ignored, but the effects still operate regardless of one’s belief system. The degradation of the soul may be unnoticed for a short or lengthy period because of their small effect and delay in maturation. Examples of the consequences of unmoderated sexuality can be: pregnancy, disease, heartache, and a changed heart. Thus, the small signal of sin’s consequence is often unnoticed compared to the large immediate pleasure and seduction of sexual gratification.
I digress momentarily to discuss the tool of satirical humor so pervasively used in the Hank Video to confront what the screenwriter believed to be an error of reasoning in the Christian theology and worldview.
Humor in its most pure form gently confronts error, as it illuminates the mental-emotional disconnect between reality and belief. Humor can be harsh, as we see that the roots of the word sarcasm means: “cutting the flesh”. Sarcasm can be used for healing or hurting; as we note, sarcasm confronting the wise person caught in foolishness can be the stimulus that cuts the soul free of its embraced error. Likewise, it can be used to diminish the self-respect and optimism of a weak soul struggling to find its way in a cruel world. The spasm of laughter is a reflection of the feeling of release of the potential energy associated with separated concepts. The laughter can be holy and healing as when the soul separates from the tension associated with being bound by the spirit of error. Likewise, laughter and humor can be the tool of degrading the soul when used to desensitize against the repulsion and accept that which was unholy and forbidden and release it into the uncritical embrace of accepted reality. Humor can convict of error or mock holiness. Humor and laughter at their most abstract, basic, and God programmed levels, are emotions that arise when expectation does not match reality. For example, a story that leads people to believe that a character is a woman, and she turns out to be a man, confronts expectation with reality. The reaction to the disconnect could be shock, anger, or laughter. Typically humor falls into the middle ground of difference between expectation and reality where survival is not threatened, and core values are not grossly violated. Humor is thus a tool for moving people easily from a place of one set of expected realities to another. For example, moving a liberal to a conservative position could be done with good humor by taking examples of liberal policies which produced poor results, and tell a story about how things were done and the results of those liberal policies. The bad results, if presented in a comparative humorous manner, could shock and confront the liberal with the reality of his error, and possibly even produce laughter. If the speaker used a pleasant mode of humor, this confrontation of error may be gentle and subtle enough to bypass the defenses of partisanship and challenge the mode of thinking and reveal the ineffectiveness of the political philosophy.
The Hank video seeks to mock the assumptions and reasoning of Christianity, and thereby cast doubt about the credibility of the belief system. And, it uses the technique of analogy, rather than direct confrontation. This method places doubt in the mind of the listener, without confronting values or beliefs directly that might be more tightly defended. Thus, the viewer does self-confrontation about his belief system. Such an attack subconsciously seduces the listener to let the invading concept into his soul, where it erodes the core values from within. The direct attack is defended against by discounting, blocking entry, and categorizing such concepts as enemies.
Each of the points made by the Hank Video was a plausibly valid criticism of Christianity. Every thinking person who embraces Christianity should examine each of these issues of evidence and logic and come to a point of rationally defending the faith in the face of such criticism. The skeptic can generate endless questions about the existence of God. And, the lack of proof of God’s existence, and doubts about His plan of life does not prove or disprove His existence. The same level of doubt can be cast against evolution, and God’s non-existence. Doubt can be cast on every argument for and against the validity of Scriptural authority, origin, and the Laws of Godly sexuality and relationship. Every point of atheistic and Biblical doctrine could be impugned by innumerable intangible considerations, un-rationalized explanations, or data-deficient questions.
In other words, we don’t have the perspective on life to absolutely and without a doubt prove or disprove God’s existence. It would be equally easy to make a parody video about the belief systems of people who do not believe in God.
(“So where did all of this Creation come from if God doesn’t exist and He didn’t make it?” According to Sir Fred Hoyle, the random formation of just the enzymes comprising a single cell could only arrive by chance with the probability of 1:1040,000. Evolution depends on a cell forming in the sea in a period of 4×109 years, with 31×106 seconds/year. Thus, in a period of 31×10^18 seconds, it is necessary to actualize a probability that is one chance in 1040,000. And this is just the start, the cell has to form all the structures that support the enzymes and pattern their continual production. And that is the problem with producing just one cell by chance since after the cell existed, it must then multiply, and adapt its genetic program to adapt to all the various environments just because it got blown into a different puddle with a slightly different environment. And all this has to happen by chance when in the laboratory there has been nothing more than a few amino acids and other organic molecules formed from the presumed primordial soup and lightning. Now that’s material for some humor.)
And just as in the case of the Hank Video, for a parody against atheism to have the impact and contrast between reality and belief that humor requires, the universe must have already built into it a whole body of phenomena, and known or knowable facts that would give external credibility to God’s existence.
Ultimately, faith in the God of the Bible comes by a sincere examination of the facts. The study must be approached with the frame of attempting to see if all the facts can be made consistent with the Christian worldview. If the system of beliefs that subsequently arises from this examination is self-consistent and consistent with the broad range of experimental secular/cultural knowledge, then the first half of our examination is complete. But, at this point, an adequate case has not yet been made for belief in the God and Christianity since our research has only has used the tools of logic and evidence on one belief and framing system.
Proverbs 18:17 The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him.
To begin with, all the questions and conditions that could challenge Christian belief system cannot be challenged for consistency with internal logic and external facts. In other words, reality is composed of a near-infinite mosaic of possible combinations of principles and poles, and we will never come to the end of fully examining even one belief system.In the process of examining the Biblical narrative, some may be stopped in their study by apparent contradictions and paradoxes of various Bible verses. These stumbling blocks to a consistent logic could be seen as proof of error and fallibility of the Scriptures. But, the seeker of truth may adopt the tools of paradox resolution, which first includes looking at several sources to examine the possible interpretation of the original words. Secondly, paradoxes often resolve by taking a larger perspective of two apparently contradictory verses. If they are set in different contexts then the moral hierarchy is changed, and the stories, lessons, or moral commands then illustrating how a moral principle is applied in a different situation. Context is extremely important since both virtue and vice have latitude in their definition determined by the environment of the particular moral play.
Another distraction toward developing a consistent, God-centered view of life is the argument that God is not necessary to consider as the author and arbiter of morality since every human knows right action innately. This is just another argument that God does not exist or is irrelevant since the existence of moral laws follows naturally from a universe that exists and works. Again, the existence of God can only be resolved by probability and comparison with external data since any system of belief can be validated within itself. Possibly the universe does have its own moral system, and it does not need God to administer it. But, the more relevant perspective regarding morality and daily personal life is that humanity has been unable to govern its behavior well throughout the ages, and in general resides in a fog of moral confusion. The evidence of wars of aggression, power, and ego as well as the personal crimes of theft, rape, murder, and disrespect all illustrate the deep chasm between man’s knowledge of good and evil and his execution of that knowledge. Man’s inhumanity appears rampant, even though he may have a spark of the knowledge of righteousness. The real question is whether the acknowledgment of God, the establishment of a heartfelt relationship with Him, and placing one’s life and conduct under His moral guidance and Lordship, produces a better society and interpersonal fulfillment than one that recognizes morality only as a natural force and principle. Another objection to believing the validity of scripture is the humble and obscure time in history when these dramas unfolded. The Old Testament reveals God, Yahweh, as the giver of Law. In the New Testament, God was revealed as the giver of mercy from the Law. The Word of Truth was promulgated to the world by men of humble origin, a small band including a fisherman, tax collector, and carpenter. The complexity of the story, the prophecies of the Old, and the fulfillment in the New, historical drama, commandments, and lessons in wisdom together provide a rich tapestry of metaphor that presents a fractal-like layering of meaning and validation. The real question we must ask is, “How would it be possible for God to reveal Himself so as to leave open the possibility of faith and free will, yet provide enough assurance of His existence and the Truth of His Word that it could stand against the weight of a skeptical observer.”
The Kingdom of Heaven and the knowledge of God and His Way were purposely designed to be difficult to find and recognize. Matthew 13:44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, “which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.
The second half of the validation of the authenticity of the Christian belief system is confronted when we consider the best possible arguments for an alternate explanation of the universe as a system of non-contradictory theories that are consistent on the level of first principles applied in various domains of life. When God’s non-existence and alternate doctrines and revelations have been adequately explored as theoretical options, the analysis may then proceed to the third stage where the arguments and belief systems are compared.
I have done this thought experiment and lived alternate lifestyles with an attempted dedication to those paths. And, I continue to examine the doubts, questions, and scenarios that cross my vision with vigor and open-minded consideration. After my examination, I have come to believe the Christian system to has more reality than simply self-referential validation. Rather, I believe the external world offers strong supportive evidence from the fields of archeology, science, metaphysics, human nature, psychology, politics, personal experience, fulfilled Biblical prophesies, and the evidence of miracles. And while none of these data point domains is adequate in isolation to produce a body of conclusive, irrefutable evidence leading to absolute proof, nevertheless, the body of evidence taken together produces a strong case for the existence of God, the validity and reality of the Biblical scenario of history, and the significance of Jesus/The Word in both the creation of the universe and locking it into eternal existence.
Thus, while there is no absolute proof from the human perspective that could be presented to validate God’s existence, the arguments against God cannot offer that level of validation either. Thus, each man must stand on one or the other side of the argument at every moment, while continuing to in his commitment to find and know Truth. But to actually find Truth, a man must open his heart and ask, “What is True?” This is the prayer where we submit to God and say, “God, I don’t know if you are real or not, but if you are, you must convict me and give me that faith, because on my own I do not have it. I can do the work of the mind to gather facts, but you must move your Truth to convict my heart. I am open to that miracle. Convict me of the Truth.”
Such a prayer is at the heart of a seeker of Truth. A person who is committed to embracing a lie would never pray such a prayer. If such prayer were actually answered it would move him away from his purpose, goal, and heart which desired to remain in the embrace of a lie or half-truth. A person who is committed to Truth will take any risk, look at any perspective, consider any point of view, and examine any data, doctrine, or doubt.
At the moment we are convicted of the Truth of God’s existence, or God’s non-existence, we enter into life with faith. Both of these positions can only be adopted by faith, but every position of faith should have its origin in the cradle of information and be birthed through the hard labor of logic and filling in missing gaps.
All attitudes and beliefs about life and Truth have an element of Faith included within them, but the faith we adopt after a sincere search is not blind faith. On the other hand, blind faith chooses to accept superficial appearances, peer pressure, mockery, personal prejudice, or preference as the deciding factor in dictating one’s worldview. Ultimately faith and the adoption of a position can only be made after significant, honest, and sober study of the evidence on both sides of the question.
The opposing polarity that must moderate the virtue of seeking truth is falling prey to the temptation to continue seeking, without ever taking a stand. Endless seeking robs a man of the rewards that lie at the end of the search. Seeking can become its own end, an idol we worship, a virtue of the highest order, and falling to the seduction of endless open-minded searching because of the benefits that come from staying open to all possibilities. The resolution of this paradox of virtues comes by noting that the two conditions, “adopting a position”, and “staying open to the possibilities” are not mutually exclusive. In fact, a true seeker of truth should not stop his research and critical mind after adopting a position. Such a posture is the next level of maturity in the process of growing in adulthood.
Each person should stay open to the possibility of being wrong in his position of perspective and judgment. And, he should seek to find and embrace the actual Truth of life, and do so with action as well as in ideals. One could argue that choosing a position reduces one’s flexibility and ability to maintain neutrality and openness in judging life. And this is certainly a temptation. Nevertheless, it is possible to retain intellectual and emotional honesty and hold a position. Such is the challenge of real maturity.
If there truly is a Truth that is Right in the Universal sense, then that Way is the most productive for self, others, and society in general. To adopt a position of neutrality regarding Truth is to be in a position of reduced power and effectiveness in promoting the implementation of Truth in the larger world. Absolute neutrality takes no stands, makes no alliances, and executes no action. In such a commitment there is no risk, no courage, and the opportunity for strong participation in the forward motion of life is missed.
I have not answered all the questions raised about God in this essay, but I have attempted to establish that belief or non-belief in God is on an equal footing at the very least. In my own case, I have decided that the evidence, probabilities, experience, and logic connecting the existence of God to reality are far more connected to internally and externally consisted data than the argument against God’s existence. To me, the possibility that God does not exist is possible but extremely remote. I personally believe that anyone who has engaged the question of God’s existence with the rigor and tenacity that I have would come to the same conclusion. I have based my life on the primary value of making the argument for God’s existence, and helping others to come to that place where the gradient to come to that belief is reduced, and the path made straight. I have come to this deep assurance because of the heavy weight of evidence and deep level of interconnected validation which makes the acceptance of God a trivial step of faith, rather than the chasm that society, government, media, peer pressure, literature, music, and popular culture has presented. I believe this posture and commitment is a sufficiently lofty goal/purpose as to be worthy of expending the precious gift of life in pursuing its manifestation.
I leave the ball in your court in terms of confronting the specific questions about faith. The topic is endless, so there is little possibility of actually addressing all the points of doubt raised by the Hank Video. I would prefer to be more pointed in addressing issues that are relevant to your particular questions of faith.
Thanks for sharing the Hank Video with me, and asking me the question, I found it enlivening. I obtained deeper insight into this subject as I considered the question.
Additional reference materials available for the student of Truth:
Case for Faith, Lee StrobelCase for Christ, Lee StrobelCase for a Creator, Lee StrobelEvidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell
—– Original Message —–
To: ‘Thomas Lee Abshier, ND’
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2008 1:18 AM
Subject: RE: Hank Video
Tom, that was an amazingly insightful and complete analysis. I am very impressed and even surprised.
Did you really write all that tonight in response to the video?? Or condense it from your previous writings?
—– Original Message —–
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2008 3:28 PM
Subject: Re: “Hank Video”
John, Thanks so much for appreciating my work. I am so pleased to hear that you got some value out of it. I didn’t use any of my previous work in this essay, it was all generated de novo in response to the video. I had written about and considered many of the concepts presented at various levels of intensity and completeness, but there were a number of points which were new revelations to me for this essay. I started with a short response on Friday night when it arrived, and then got inspired on Saturday morning and wrote on it for a number of hours, and then read it to Margo in the afternoon, and then worked on it most of the evening, and then emailed it off to you around midnight. After your comment this morning I read it to Margo again, and then corrected and clarified portions before posting it. Thanks for being willing to participate in such a receptive manner about such a controversial topic.