Responses to a reader who rejects Christianity

Latest post in my blog on popular science:
Responses to a reader who rejects Christianity

Happy New Year!

Manuel, upon reading your latest blog post (that you posted to SpareOom) about your responses to a reader of your blog who “rejects Christianity” (although does not necessarily reject God), I’m just going to come right out and charge you with unnecessarily putting a stumbling block to the gospel in this man’s path.

You state that his main objection to Christ is his objection to “miracles” and that by far his main objection to miracles is due to your obsession with promoting “the Miracle of Fatima” as a clear example of a genuine miracle. SpareOomians may recall that I criticized you for this obsession here in SpareOom back in May of this year.

Here are three facts about me:

  1. I am a Christian
  2. I believe in miracles
  3. I am sure that there zero evidence that a miracle occurred at Fatima

And here are three INCONTROVERTIBLE FACTS about what happened when thousands gathered at Fatima in response to the hysterical children’s claims of a visitation by the Virgin Mary:

  1. Many thousands of attendees (people of faith) reported seeing nothing unusual at all, let alone a miracle
  2. Many thousands of attendees reported seeing many DIFFERENT AND CONFLICTING things that they could not explain (but NONE claimed to see Mary)
  3. The things that were reported (primarily the sun changing colors and dancing around in the sky) are WELL KNOWN medical responses reported in numerous gatherings around the world in various times and places where people are staring up into a sunny sky. (As I mentioned previously, a scientific research paper about these types of phenomena was published 1988 in the British Journal of Ophthalmology entitled “Solar Retinopathy Following Religious Rituals.”)

So, this poor fellow who reads your blog is thinking that this is the kind of thing that we Christians mean when we talk about miracles. But it is not what THIS Christian thinks is a miracle! And you elevating this to the status of miracle, Manuel, demeans and diminishes the testimony of actual miracles. Does the gospel record have examples of miracles like that of Fatima? When Jesus restored withered limbs and restored people to sanity, did many in the crowd say “what do you mean, Jesus healed him… I didn’t see anything”? No! They were either perplexed and amazed or accused Jesus of taping Satanic power. When Jesus did the miracle of the loaves and fishes, did many in the crowd say “I didn’t see any loaves and fishes, and I’m still hungry”? Again, no.

I really cannot understand why you place so much insistence in your writings and posts that the Fatima incident is undeniable proof of miracles! You are usually more careful in your reasoning, but you have staked this incident out as your “hill to die on” to use a military metaphor. If I had to guess, I would say it must be because it is the one “miracle” which endorses your Catholic faith specifically, rather than just your Christian faith generally.

But it’s much worse than that. Your emphasis on Fatima-as-clear-proof-of-miracles both tarnishes the miracles of the gospels and (at best) distracts from the gospel message or, worse, constitutes a stumbling block to faith.

Mike, we had a debate about this before. I don’t want to start all over again. However, I must state a few points about your message:

  1. I DON’T base my Catholic faith on the miracle of Fatima. I base it (as every Christian) on the Resurrection of Christ.
  2. I DIDN’T speak about Fatima in the post where that (agnostic?) reader attacked me. He dedicated a lot of space (over 2000 words) to speak about Fatima in his comments, just as you did when you and me debated around another previous post. In this post I am answering him. I suppose I am allowed to answer when I am attacked, am I not?
  3. I suppose you have not read the comments this person made against my Catholicism. Therefore I think you are crossing the line when you accuse me of “putting a stumbling block to the gospel in this man’s path.”

That’s all. As I said above, I won’t go into that useless debate with you again.

Have a happy new year!

Leaving Fatima (in which I have no interest) to the side, your interlocutor’s problems run deeper than a rejection of miracles:

The problem comes when we try to use all these reasonings (which, in principle, speak of God as something completely ethereal and impersonal)

No, in principle, they do no such thing. “Something completely ethereal and impersonal” does not design or create things (much less a universe); that’s a distinctly personal act. Creation tells us unmistakably that there is a personal creator, and it further tells something of the character and attributes of that creator (See, e.g., Psalm 19, Romans 1). And at that point, miracles are already established–if there’s a personal being who designed and created all that exists (which would inherently be miraculous, working directly rather than through means), there’s no reason to conclude of necessity that that being cannot continue to work without or against means. Any remaining objection at that point is based on taste or preference, not on logical necessity.

He is right, though, to say that the existence of a personal God does not establish “the story of Jesus Christ,” and that’s a criticism also made (with some validity) of Mere Christianity. But one argument need not establish the entire system.

That’s why I’ve had difficulty to classify my reader as an atheist or an agnostic. His first paragraph I selected seems to mean that he accepts the idea of God, but the second seems to mean that his idea of God is akin to that of Spinoza or Einstein, about whom I have the same difficulty.

You are right, of course, that theism does not imply Christianity. C.S. Lewis was a theist long before he was a Christian.

The reader wrote those comments in my post on “The principle of indifference,” where I discussed Pascal’s wager. In my last paragraph I pointed out that “although science does not offer proof of the existence of God, it does provide inklings. I estimate that these inklings unbalance the equiprobability of the response, and by adding other sources of knowledge, apart from science, the total result for me is close to 100%.” I did not mention Christianity. The reader did. And he seemed to be very worried about the miracle of Fatima, which I had not mentioned at all.