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Source: (consider it) Thread: Healthy scepticism or ...
Gamaliel
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This may cover similar ground to the 'Thank God ... you reckon?' thread but here goes.

I've seen a press-release from a well-known Christian mission/support agency which claims that someone was recently able to smuggle Bibles into a particular country without the border guards noticing them - even though they were on the back seat and in the boot (trunk) of the vehicle.

They put this down to 24/7 prayer and miraculous intervention and observed how it echoed stories recounted by Brother Andrew in the famous 'God's Smuggler' book ...

I must admit, I sighed with considerable scepticism.

The older I get the more inclined I am to take such stories with a pinch of salt. Particularly when Christians in Iraq, Syria and so on don't appear to escape the degradations of ISIS unscathed ...

My question is, at what point does a healthy roll-the-eyes scepticism topple over into raw unbelief?

Of course, our respective mileages will vary depending on a whole range of factors.

But I've got to be honest, my attitude towards the organisation concerned hasn't been boosted by the story - the opposite in fact.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Brenda Clough
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When Communism fell, along about the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, someone in our church claimed the credit for it. Prayer, she said. I could not but be skeptical.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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A theist believes that God is involved in absolutely everything, creating and upholding his creation. It's an almost-deist belief that God just reaches down to zap your goods through customs once in a while.

So yeah, God was involved. The question is how. If you are not prepared to acknowledge that God got those same goods confiscated on some other occasion maybe you should be asking yourself a few questions about agency, which is a far more complex thing.

Or so it seems to me.

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Anglo-Cthulhic

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hatless

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I went to a meeting many years ago where the speaker described his terror, driving round a housing estate in Romania at night, with a box of bibles in his boot. Occasionally he'd pass another car, but was it the same car? Was it the secret police? Then he got lost, adding to his panic. He eventually he found the right address, waited ages until he was sure he was unobserved, and finally made the delivery.

Next morning, my magazine from the Bible Society had photographs of enormous rolls of paper being unloaded at the docks in Romania, for the printing of bibles.

There's something about bibles ..

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My crazy theology in novel form

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Martin60
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If scepticism can be healthy, what is complete and utter rational denial?

I have utter unbelief of all claims but Jesus. I don't doubt claims of supernatural intervention, I deny them. All. None of them have any credibility, make any theodical sense.

If it weren't for Jesus I would be overwhelmed by the completeness of physicality. I cannot see that there is any reality beyond the physical (how can there be a meta-reality without quantum mechanics?). Except through Jesus.

And yes, of course I hypocritically yearn ... pray for a sign of the beyond. But I will die alone never having experienced one with the absolutely certainty that I'm far from alone in that, that no one has since His day.

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Love wins

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Lamb Chopped
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(coughs) We have.

That said, it is terribly unwise to go making divine claims unless you have overwhelming evidence or divine authority (aka Jesus said so in the Gospels, etc.) In the case of something like Bibles-in-the-backseat, I'd be more inclined to thank God for it, but not to make dogmatic claims ("God blinded their eyes") or to assume that when there's an opposite outcome, it was due to some failure on the part of the Christian involved ("you didn't pray enough").

God does and allows very strange things. And he feels no need to explain himself to us.

Which is why I take a polite but tentative attitude toward reports of miracles unless they are attested in Scripture or I've been involved in them and have a comprehensive understanding of the situation. I don't want to sign on for some miracle that turns out later to be coincidence or trickery or simply bad reporting.

That said, there ARE those really weird situations that make you narrow your eyes and wonder if God's messing with you. We need a word for that--"miracle" is too strong, and "coincidence" denies the possibility of divine involvement, which we don't know either. Things that are maybe 7/10 of the way along the road to a miracle...

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
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Stetson
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Okay, just 'cuz I'm in the mood, I'm gonna play Devil's Advocate(for lack of a better phrase) on this.

Gamaliel wrote:

quote:
The older I get the more inclined I am to take such stories with a pinch of salt. Particularly when Christians in Iraq, Syria and so on don't appear to escape the degradations of ISIS unscathed ...

Ah, but if you believe God cares about souls, then the Bibles getting into the anti-Bible country might end up helping more people get converted, and hence attain eternal life.

Whereas, if ISIS kills a bunch of Christians in Iraq, well, they were already Christians, and hence on their way to heaven, to begin with. So, at worst, it's a break even.

Not that I believe that for one split second, but if someone DOES subscribe to the view that there is an afterlife, the attainment of which takes precedence over any earthly pleasures, then it does sort of logically follow that God would care more about getting Bibles into Atheistania than about saving Christians from being crucififed in ISIS territory.

[ 05. December 2016, 17:02: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
Not that I believe that for one split second, but if someone DOES subscribe to the view that there is an afterlife, the attainment of which takes precedence over any earthly pleasures, then it does sort of logically follow that God would care more about getting Bibles into Atheistania than about saving Christians from being crucififed in ISIS territory.

Well, you'd also have to believe that attaining the afterlife (or at least a favorable one) is based solely on holding the correct theological opinions at the moment of death, but that seems like a fairly standard Christian belief, though rarely stated so baldly.

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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Lyda*Rose

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I totally believe that Bibles can get into an anti-Bible country without divine intervention if the country's security forces are anything like our TSA.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
Not that I believe that for one split second, but if someone DOES subscribe to the view that there is an afterlife, the attainment of which takes precedence over any earthly pleasures, then it does sort of logically follow that God would care more about getting Bibles into Atheistania than about saving Christians from being crucififed in ISIS territory.

Well, you'd also have to believe that attaining the afterlife (or at least a favorable one) is based solely on holding the correct theological opinions at the moment of death, but that seems like a fairly standard Christian belief, though rarely stated so baldly.
Well, yes, that is very much my impression of what people who follow the Brother Andrew-type ministries believe. I'm not talking about Catholics or Mormons, for example, who believe in a multilevel(so to speak) afterlife, with possibilities beyond the binary choice of saved or damned.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Schroedinger's cat

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I have a healthy scepticism. Actually, if it it healthy, it is the only part of me that is, so maybe not.

So God can enable a car to get across a border with Bibles in, sometimes. Not other times. It seems pretty random. It seems not to relate to the prayer that goes into it.

And yet he can't prevent people in those same countries being tortured or killed. Which would seem a far more reasonable thing for Him to do.

That is why I am sceptical, because the difference between the results of this prayer and randomness seem - slight. It doesn't mean that I don't believe in prayer - I do. But I think it is about getting God to do things. I do believe in miracles, but I think they are rather less common than good fortune.

Personally, I think this type of reporting cheapens the power of prayer and the importance of miracles. And so it cheapens God. God is far bigger than Bible smuggling. He is far bigger than our little colonial plans.

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Blog
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take out this broken heart and renew my mind.

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mr cheesy
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Curiously, I was just thinking of posting something very similar to this topic..

I was watching something which had a clip of the exile of Palestinian militants on a mountain for a year in 1994.

It made me recall reading a book by Brother Andrew where he claims to have visited the Hamas leaders on the mountain. Google suggests that the book was Light Force.

I'm not sure when I read it but it must have been a good 20 years ago and must have made an impression to make me remember it now. Brother Andrew seemed like a Boys Own superhero, alongside Jim Eliot and other fairly contemporary Christian missionaries.

But hearing and thinking about this incident today makes me doubt the whole thing, and makes me think that a lot of what Andrew writes about is bullshit.

The Israeli army wasn't allowing humanitarian access to the exiles, why would a random Dutchman be able to get there? What purpose is the story having in Andrew's narrative, particularly given that immediately after this episode, the Palestinian militants began their campaign of the most brutal civilian mass killings?

What message exactly was God using Andrew to take to Hamas? It makes no logical, historical, theological or any other kind of sense.

I think it is most likely delusional.

[ 05. December 2016, 18:20: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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mr cheesy
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Hmm. Either I read a different book or I read it much more recently than I thought..

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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Gamaliel
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Whatever the case, that's the kind of thing I'm getting at.

I know a chap who used to lead an 'underground' church in a former Communist country. He is very charismatic and not at all averse to talking about apparently miraculous events ... But he told me how pain in the neck evangelical teenagers from Western countries used to fly in and make things worse for indigenous believers by worshipping out on the street charismatic fashion outside homes used for 'underground' church meetings and cause all sorts of problems - only to then jump in a plane and fly back to Western Europe or the USA.

I could tell other, more tragic stories but will respect the anonymity of those involved.

As you say, mr cheesy, there's a Boy's Own element to all this which doesn't ring true.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mr cheesy
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Just to say Amazon gives the publish date for that book as 2004, which I guessed was about when I read it. Another source said 2011.. which seems much less likely, although I have a very selective memory for some things..

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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Raptor Eye
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I wonder who is being glorified here. Is it 'look at me, the brave risk taker who prayed so hard that I got results'? By publicising this smuggling success, does it not put others at greater risk who are intending to smuggle more bibles in?

By the fruits we know who is serving God.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:

So God can enable a car to get across a border with Bibles in, sometimes. Not other times. It seems pretty random.

God seems to permit / allow / enable / facilitate cars getting across a border with drugs in, quite often...

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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I've often wondered how may 'likes' on Facebook a problem or request has to get before God pays it attention. [Roll Eyes]

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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Martin60
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I don't think Jesus wanted this. That it furthered His kingdom in any way, that it was an effective witness, a worthwhile martyrdom. It exposed, provoked the sickest evil, for no gain whatsoever.

In - be very warned indeed - this account.

The only good is that Jesus will reconcile all involved. He is that effectual.

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Love wins

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anteater

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I good ex (since I became the sperm of Satan) friend had God help him smuggle Watchtowers and Awakes into Commie countries.

So at least God's ecumenical.

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Goldfish Stew
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Well a friend of mine got stopped at a checkpoint in her car by police in a communist country years ago. After checking the car for contraband, they let her go - apparently not noticing her husband's pile of porno mags on the back seat.

Divine intervention

ETA: True story

[ 06. December 2016, 09:25: Message edited by: Goldfish Stew ]

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Gamaliel
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Perhaps they were being polite ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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venbede
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This is such an alien mindset to what I know that I may have misunderstood, but for what it’s worth, here’s my tuppence.

I find it totally natural to give God thanks for any blessing, particularly any one unexpected. But the Bible smugglers weren’t just attributing their escape to God’s will “They put this down to 24/7 prayer”, which could be taken that the miracle was a result of them somehow manipulating God. (I still believe in the importance of intercessory prayer as it is what God has asked.)


PS I hope the Bibles were complete by Orthodox standards.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Perhaps they were being polite ...

Or glad to be finally getting some good reading material in the country.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Stetson
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Since we're on Anecdote Lane now...

A friend of mine had his copy of this book confiscated by customs officials while entering South Korea. I think they were just spooked by the picture on the cover, since the book is in no way pro-North.

And the really funny thing is that I was able to purchase my copy of that book at a bookstore IN SOUTH KOREA.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Komensky
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quote:
Originally posted by Honest Ron Bacardi:
A theist believes that God is involved in absolutely everything, creating and upholding his creation. It's an almost-deist belief that God just reaches down to zap your goods through customs once in a while.

So yeah, God was involved. The question is how.

This sounds a but like like having your cake and eating it too. If you're right, then God is involved in toddler's developing bone cancer, babies born with HIV, children caught in crossfire in Aleppo—and so on. Is that what you mean, or have I misunderstood you?

K.

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"The English are not very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity." - George Bernard Shaw

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mr cheesy
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I think border-guards are more-or-less the same the world over. They're often underpaid and under pressure to find particular things by their superiors. The job is much of the time very boring.

So when they search anything, they're first looking for something valuable which they can steal/confisgate, and they're second trying to meet the particular target that their superiors have set this week/this month.

Hence it is almost no surprise that they miss things or don't look very carefully at things they're not interested in.

Also it is no particular surprise that they steal/confisgate random things which may not be actually illegal. I guess they figure passengers are too tired/busy to complain, and by the time that the do the item will be lost anyway.

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

Brother Andrew seemed like a Boys Own superhero, alongside Jim Eliot and other fairly contemporary Christian missionaries.

On the Boys Own connection, if you examine similar stories about non-religious histories written in the same style, you have parallels with hagiographies written in the 50s and earlier.

So I suspect part of it is just that that part of the Christian world has just remained stuck in the past in that sense.

Less immune to challenge because of the assumption of charity in most church circles.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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quote:
Originally posted by Komensky:
quote:
Originally posted by Honest Ron Bacardi:
A theist believes that God is involved in absolutely everything, creating and upholding his creation. It's an almost-deist belief that God just reaches down to zap your goods through customs once in a while.

So yeah, God was involved. The question is how.

This sounds a but like like having your cake and eating it too. If you're right, then God is involved in toddler's developing bone cancer, babies born with HIV, children caught in crossfire in Aleppo—and so on. Is that what you mean, or have I misunderstood you?

K.

No, I didn't mean that. The point was in the next bit, about agency. Things really are as they seem, but giving things their own ability to be themselves risks multiple trajectories, not all good.

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Anglo-Cthulhic

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Zappa
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Utter skeptic here.

And yet.

Any yet.

Intellectually I am persuaded by Lambchopped's
quote:
God does and allows very strange things. And he feels no need to explain himself to us
and I think those of us who bear the curse of belief are meant to be. I'm reading a massive OT Theology tome at the (two-year-long) moment, and in it John Goldingay argues again and again that the telling of the story of the Hebrew People of God is precisely designed to acknowledge "God does and allows very strange things. And he feels no need to explain himself to us."

Scientific normality and the occasional extraordinary event ... and love, and a Beethoven sonata and a sunset ... and existence all miracles. [Overused]

Some nasty things, too. Snakes and slugs and the rise of a Donald Trump.

So I keep on stumbling along. But I eschew the Boys Own Bullshit. Becuase it's Boys Own Bullshit.

Oh, and Brother Andrew? [Projectile]

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and mayhap this too: http://broken-moments.blogspot.co.nz/

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
I totally believe that Bibles can get into an anti-Bible country without divine intervention if the country's security forces are anything like our TSA.

Unless, of course, you've hidden them in your shoes.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
I've often wondered how may 'likes' on Facebook a problem or request has to get before God pays it attention. [Roll Eyes]

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Eutychus
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Coming a bit late to this.

My wife and I personally know somebody who used to smuggle bibles into communist Russia (she now lives in Russia and is Orthodox). She once smuggled in silk for a clandestine printing press. I have absolutely no doubt she did this.

In the wake of recent overblown testimonies I admit to a degree of scepticism about some of Brother Andrew's stories, although I think there is good evidence for Project Pearl having happened.

I am direct mailed relentlessly by Open Doors and direct bin it, since it seems to be more about fundraising these days than anything else.

However, I recall, and indeed took part in, their seven years of prayer for the Communist world. That began in 1982 and ended in 1989, and you all know what happened that year - something that's stayed with me.

Similarly, my wife recalls a speaker from Open Doors in the early 80s saying that the big threat to Christianity was not Communism but Islam, which seems remarkably far-sighted at a time when the Cold War was still very much a thing.

On the wider topic, I am very much a believer these days in personal faith. I believe God can give individuals genuine faith to do some fairly crazy things and "deliver" on that faith.

That, on the face of it, is after all what happened in the Biblical story of Abraham which underpins the whole concept of justification by faith and all nations being blessed through his descendance.

Where things start to go wrong is when we try to copy, systematise, or grade such experiences.

Then again we could just go with Leonard Thynn and start smuggling bibles out of China...

[ 06. December 2016, 19:49: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
My question is, at what point does a healthy roll-the-eyes scepticism topple over into raw unbelief?

To the original question...

I think everybody who sets foot in a pulpit or writes anything for any Christian publication should follow a mandatory course in fact-checking. Last Sunday we were treated to the testimony of the Psalm 91 regiment which sent at least two members of the congregation (me and my son) reaching for our smartphones to confirm it was an urban legend.

There are often a number of telltale signs when a story is not properly grounded in fact. How much energy is put into proving a story is not true depends on the medium and the context. In this context (a congregation member's extempore contribution one Sunday morning), I simply took steps to ensure it didn't make it into our church's weekly e-mail shot.

If the claims are bolder, or reaching a wider audience, I may do more (I am currently biding my time until January, as challenged, to take up Ramarius' suggestion of an update on the Reading Outpouring...).

If the claims directly impact something I consider to be within my sphere of responsibility, I usually do more still.

Genuine faith withstands legitimate doubt and has nothing to fear from fact-checking.

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Martin60
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@Zappa. Have at you sir. Scepticism is not enough. It's not a rigorous enough intellectual position. As for Lamb Chopped's (and you KNOW you invoke my esteem, my respect above and beyond the requirements of Purgatory, as does she) "God does and allows very strange things. And he feels no need to explain himself to us", nice rhetoric, and yours that followed inspired by Goldingay. But God does NOT and allows every filthy evil imaginable like the meaningless Zirve Publishing House massacre I linked to and cannot explain Himself to us. And yet ... He is. And He is great and He is good. The only evidence for that being Jesus. THE explanation.

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Martin60
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God and I are watching Yemeni babies dying again.

[ 06. December 2016, 21:06: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
My question is, at what point does a healthy roll-the-eyes scepticism topple over into raw unbelief?

To the original question...

I think everybody who sets foot in a pulpit or writes anything for any Christian publication should follow a mandatory course in fact-checking. Last Sunday we were treated to the testimony of the Psalm 91 regiment which sent at least two members of the congregation (me and my son) reaching for our smartphones to confirm it was an urban legend.

There are often a number of telltale signs when a story is not properly grounded in fact. How much energy is put into proving a story is not true depends on the medium and the context. In this context (a congregation member's extempore contribution one Sunday morning), I simply took steps to ensure it didn't make it into our church's weekly e-mail shot.

If the claims are bolder, or reaching a wider audience, I may do more (I am currently biding my time until January, as challenged, to take up Ramarius' suggestion of an update on the Reading Outpouring...).

If the claims directly impact something I consider to be within my sphere of responsibility, I usually do more still.

Genuine faith withstands legitimate doubt and has nothing to fear from fact-checking.

Oh not that old Psalm 91 chestnut - nearly as bad as the old "camel and eye of THE needle" story as pushed out by Nicky Gumbel amongst others.

As regards Reading, I'd welcome your views. We're not far away (geographically) and there's pressure to get involved. Mind you I notice on the webpage (7th Nov.) that this is now one of the "greatest evangelistic campaigns in the nation's history..."

IME depth is in inverse proportion to hyperbole. Possibly truth too. Thoughts welcome Euty by PM if you like

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mr cheesy
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I can believe that Brother Andrew did do some stuff (eg bibles behind the iron curtain) just as I can believe that Brother Yun did some stuff.

But I think there is something about being a quote "Christian celebrity" which encourages exaggeration, delusions and talking stuff up. I find it pretty hard to believe that Brother Andrew really was best mates with the leadership of Hamas and that he met them on the lonely mountain in Lebanon. For one thing, one would think that the Hamas leadership would themselves be in some kind of trouble if it got out that one of their main outside contacts was a Christian evangelist/missionary.

There may even be a kernel of truth to some of this. Maybe he was politely met by someone from Hamas and.. well I dunno, it becomes quite hard to see where the line between possible reality and fantasy lies.

But for me, if I was a "famous Christian" and I was looking to do something useful in the middle east, I'd not print books telling everyone that I was a pivotal part of some great peacemaking effort that never happened in the subsequent decade.

The Brother Yun thing just sounds mostly made up to me, but maybe there is some kernal of truth there somewhere too.

As to the Reading stuff - this is the first I've heard of the Thames Valley outpouring.. although I suppose it isn't totally unbelievable given that the town's student population has been expanding in recent years (which possibly/maybe has an impact on attendees at evangelistic things?). I also wonder how many people are serial attendees (ie the same people keep going to the events that are put on)?

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Martin60
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I see an empty, faithLESS determinism about getting Bibles in to communist countries. What difference did they make? They didn't bring the Berlin Wall down after all did they Eutychus? Look at the difference they made to Russian and Chinese culture. Keep looking ...

The same determinism keeps Bibles and missionaries most effectively out of Islamic countries - as in the Turkish Zirve Publishing House massacre - and communities (any in Europe) and is squeezing ancient Christian creedal communities out of Islamic countries for a start. I don't see what God's gift of faith has to do with any of it and what God has to do with the success or failure of these self praised activities. As in the sad dead bear bounce revivals in the UK.

As for the prescience of seeing Islam as the threat to Christianity, anything that incarnational will be to anything that nominal. David Pawson knew that over 60 years ago.

Healthy scepticism isn't enough.

[ 07. December 2016, 10:08: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Love wins

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
I see an empty, faithLESS determinism about getting Bibles in to communist countries.

How is taking action faithless or deterministic?
quote:
What difference did they make? They didn't bring the Berlin Wall down after all did they Eutychus?
I have no idea what this may or may not have achieved at a macro level but at a micro level I am sure they enabled people who otherwise would not have had access to the Scriptures to read them and come away changed as a result.

As far as the Berlin Wall goes, I can't prove cause and effect but I nonetheless find it striking that Open Doors got people to pray for seven years starting in 1982 and ending in 1989 and the Wall came down.

Of course others were praying too, notably Orthodox believers, but the Open Doors initiative was the one I took part in.
quote:
Look at the difference they made to Russian and Chinese culture
You like repeating the phrase "ten thousand years". I think it's a little too soon to make any assessment. But if you look at Europe, there's little doubt that the arrival of Christianity has made an impact.

(Whether the impact could have been better is debatable, but the fact that there has been one appears beyond question to me).

quote:
The same determinism keeps Bibles and missionaries most effectively out of Islamic countries - as in the Turkish Zirve Publishing House massacre - and communities (any in Europe) and is squeezing ancient Christian creedal communities out of Islamic countries for a start.
Again, you are going to have to explain what you mean by "determinism" here.
quote:
I don't see what God's gift of faith has to do with any of it and what God has to do with the success or failure of these self praised activities. As in the sad dead bear bounce revivals in the UK.
And why should you? "Who are you to judge another man's servant?"

My stance on dead cat bounce revivals focuses on dishonesty and fact-checking, not on the faith or lack of it of those involved. That is between them and God.

To my mind faith is a profoundly personal thing and it is an individual story each of us has to tell. Isn't this evident in the story of Abraham, which plays such a pivotal role in the Gospel?

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Martin60
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I see no parallel with the four thousand year old mythic Abraham story whatsoever. How could I? There is none.

The determinism is that it's all historically inevitable, it has nothing to do with people praying any more than healing has. I prayed earnestly that Peter William Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper would be stopped. He didn't kill again and was caught. At the time I was awed. So? He was caught for utterly deterministic reasons. The Berlin Wall didn't fall because a handful of holy huddles prayed for it to do so for 7 years, nor communism for 70. I paid to see Reinhard Bonnke's right hand man, a former British army officer, say that 7 7 happened because their prayer team didn't cover Britain at that time.

We must put away childish things. Including mere scepticism.

I note with interest that you don't challenge the utter futility of converting Islam that nobody dares try.

And aye, I'm glad communists like Solzhenitsyn, Gromyko and Gorbachev and even other little people were reached in the Soviet Bloc and China, I had the privilege of fellowshipping with some from my para-Christian cult in Czechoslovakia in 1979. What good being given bibles does I'm not quite sure.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
I see no parallel with the four thousand year old mythic Abraham story whatsoever. How could I? There is none.

The parallel I see is that God promised something to Abraham that Abraham believed, on his own account, thanks to which, according to Paul, he was justified i.e. in the right place with God, acted, and the promise was fulfilled.

The coming of Christ is understood by Paul as the ultimate fulfilment of that promise to Abraham. I don't have a model for God working with humanity outside that narrative. Do you?

quote:
The determinism is that it's all historically inevitable, it has nothing to do with people praying any more than healing has.
History happens because it has to? Sounds a bit marxist to me. What became of the sentiment I quoted from you in my sig?
quote:
One must take part, scary as it is
quote:
I paid to see Reinhard Bonnke's right hand man, a former British army officer, say that 7 7 happened because their prayer team didn't cover Britain at that time.
There is a big difference between praying FOR something and being berated for NOT praying for something.
quote:
We must put away childish things. Including mere scepticism.
Why? And to be replaced by what, precisely?
quote:
I note with interest that you don't challenge the utter futility of converting Islam that nobody dares try.
That was not a deliberate omission. The gospel is folly, according to Paul. But also the power of God for salvation. What do you think would be involved in "converting Islam"?

quote:
And aye, I'm glad communists like Solzhenitsyn, Gromyko and Gorbachev and even other little people were reached in the Soviet Bloc and China, I had the privilege of fellowshipping with some from my para-Christian cult in Czechoslovakia in 1979. What good being given bibles does I'm not quite sure.
Why are you glad if you're not sure what good being given bibles did them?

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Raptor Eye
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Being given a Bible might do a lot of good, Martin, if whoever reads it finds God through its writings. The Bible is holy, after all - which means that some people find God there (as I did, initially). Some don't. Or perhaps, don't yet.

Either way, Bibles should be freely available to all people imv. If Internet access to them is not available, books are the only alternative. Some people memorise the words in case the Bibles are found and destroyed by those who see them as dangerous.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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To continue the skepticism:

Abraham and the people believed that God promised them something. We don't know that God promised anything at all. Abraham could have been a nutter, hearing voices etc. We don't know that God promised anything at all, any more than God wants another nation to be something special, e.g., America to be a shining city on a hill and a beacon of hope etc, that Jerusalem will be built in green and pleasant England, or that the 21st century belongs to Canada (I may have slightly mangled all or some of these, please forgive). We know that Abraham believed he was promised something, but not that it is true, and we do not know that it is based on anything except a belief. Faith means you accept without proof, and live in accord with it.

Some aspects of probably genuine belief get twisted by humans. Hence we have kings appointed over the Israelites, some of whom came out wrong. We have the British Empire, some of which was pretty shabby and maltreating of others. We have Canada's and America's abysmal treatment of indigenous peoples. We continue onward with senses that we are special if we are people of faith. To the world's peril. I think this specialness underlies our willingness to relatively ignore the plight of people "not like us", and to do even more damage by organizing their politics, cultures and economies to serve our's.

So we need to harbour a healthy scepticism of Abraham's specialness, our specialness as Christians, the specialness of any faith, nation, people. Because it is probably foundational to great, great sin.

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Lamb Chopped
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God points out rather firmly that Israel's "specialness" came from being chosen, and not the other way around--that is, he deliberately went looking for the most un-special people he could, those that didn't even exist! It follows logically that being chosen by God is equivalent to a great big "here's a nobody" sign on one's forehead. If we keep this in mind when we consider Christian "specialness," it ought to head off the worst sins.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
Some aspects of probably genuine belief get twisted by humans. Hence we have kings appointed over the Israelites, some of whom came out wrong.

That particular narrative is expressly detailed and acknowledged in the Bible. Kings were, we read, the people's idea, not God's.
quote:
I think this specialness underlies our willingness to relatively ignore the plight of people "not like us"
No, I think human nature does that all by itself. The Gospel is an appeal positively not to ignore the plight of people not like us, against our better instincts.
quote:
do even more damage by organizing their politics, cultures and economies to serve our's.
Missionaries may have played a role, more or less wittingly, in imperialism, but they were certainly not the only factors and quite arguably not the worst. Western civilisation expanded pretty relentlessly in the 19th and 20th centuries; the question may well have been seen as whether or not it was accompanied by the Gospel. For all its ills, I'm glad to enjoy the freedoms of Western society (especially as I wonder how long it might last...), including the freedom of religious belief.
quote:
So we need to harbour a healthy scepticism of Abraham's specialness, our specialness as Christians, the specialness of any faith, nation, people. Because it is probably foundational to great, great sin.
If you are so willing to discredit Abraham as wholly self-deluded, what is your definition of sin?

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Penny S
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From Eutychus:
quote:
I think everybody who sets foot in a pulpit or writes anything for any Christian publication should follow a mandatory course in fact-checking. Last Sunday we were treated to the testimony of the Psalm 91 regiment which sent at least two members of the congregation (me and my son) reaching for our smartphones to confirm it was an urban legend.
How did you find that out so quickly - I can't find anything except sites confirming it as true! (I'd never heard of it, only the Angels of Mons.)

[ 07. December 2016, 15:38: Message edited by: Penny S ]

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Eutychus
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I googled something like "91st regiment" and "prayer" without quote marks. Google returned hits including the story from WW1, WW2, and variously referring to "brigades" and "regiments", including one with an actual name. That was enough of a mix of detail and confusion to convince me.

A little more work threw up this site which gives a well-researched explanation.

My day job as a translator involves a fair bit of fact-checking and has probably helped me developed a flair for dodgy ones.

Many years ago I also read an excellent book on rumours (I think this is the English translation). I defy anyone to read this and not find out they'd believed a common rumour (of which many local variations may exist) that is untrue - in my case, the rumour that it had been planned at one time to surround a seedy district of my city with a wall.

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Jerusalem is a city without walls

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mr cheesy
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I've always thought that Abraham is a very odd choice as a "man of faith" notwithstanding the epistle-writer's poetry. Before he set out on his epic journey along the fertile crescent, we've got no particular indication that he was a prayerful man at the biginning of the story, and iirc the first time we read of him conducting the blood sacrifice was when he attempted to use Isaac was the victim.


Quite how this relates to the modern religious Protestant views of justification-by-faith and the efficacy-of-prayer, I have no idea.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:

A little more work threw up this site which gives a well-researched explanation.

This kind of thing works so long as people occasionally come out of their bubble - recently it seems they are increasingly resistant to it ("Of course the media will try and suppress it - God can do this if he wanted to").

Not coincidentally this comes about at a time where politics is also going post truth (one of the interesting datapoints here was that there was a viral story circulating that snopes was funded by George Soros, and so therefore untrustworthy).

.. and that's before you run into embellishments rather than outright fakery (aren't there some suggestions that the story of the missionaries and the Huaorani may have not been as simple as commonly portrayed?).

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