Being Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough

When I was a teenager, I went through a period of time during which I questioned whether or not I was a Christian. I figured, if I was saved, I’d want to obey Christ. After all, that’s what the Bible says. But I continued to sin. Oh, nothing big and horrific. But I knew I wasn’t honoring my parents. I knew I was selfish and angry with my siblings. I was under no illusion that I was perfect. But why not? I considered that, just possibly, I didn’t really “mean” it when I “accepted Jesus into my heart.” So to be sure, I accepted Him again. And again. I even raised my hand and went forward in church. Just to be sure.

At one point, though, I realized that I had to take God at His word. So when He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31a) He actually meant it.

I now understand that what I experienced then, and continue to experience now, is God’s grace. I did not, do not, and will not measure up to God’s standards—His righteous and perfect standards. In short, I sin. I do so because I am a sinner.

I’m always a bit mystified when someone claims he doesn’t sin. I’ve been in discussion with a number of atheists who don’t think sin is a real thing. But so far, not one of them refutes the fact that nobody’s perfect. They have no answer to the fact that the Bible says, The wages of sin is death, and the correlative fact that one out of one persons dies. Conclusion: all must therefore be sinners.

Either all are sinners or death has a different cause, which, of course, is their position, though one I don’t understand. I mean, we are evolving . . . until we die? How does that work? But that’s a different discussion. Except that grace doesn’t really make sense if you don’t see the sin problem which leaves all of us stranded, separated from God with no possibility of reaching Him.

Grace simply means that since we can’t do anything about the gap between us and God, He did the work for us. He didn’t help us. He didn’t start the process. He did what we could not do for ourselves. He came to us. He died for us. He gives new life to us. It’s all God. And He extends His hand to us, so to speak, for no other reason than that He loves us. He didn’t pick out the best looking or the tallest or the smartest or the thinnest or the kindest among us. He picked those who believe in Him. That’s it.

I’m pretty convinced that we’re all a mixed bag of belief and unbelief. There’s a man in the Bible who approached Jesus and said, I believe, help my unbelief. I think he illustrates where we all are. God does not withhold faith from some people. In fact, Scripture says that He does not want any to perish.

Furthermore, I see people who don’t believe in God, exercising belief is something else. Many believe in evolution. Or the goodness of humankind. Some believe in a mystic religion or in some other god. What I have never encountered is someone with no belief in anything.

Oh, sure, some atheists insist that they don’t believe because they have science. But what they miss is that they are choosing to believe particular scientists, since they themselves have not conducted the experiments or done the observation from which the conclusions they espouse have been drawn. They believe in their source of information and in the conclusion that certain people in a particular field of study have reached.

So the real issue is not, do you believe, but in whom do you believe? Because we all believe. Just like we all sin.

Back to grace. Not only did God cross the gulf that separated us from Him, He paved the way for us to follow Him. In other words, He crossed once so that we all can cross in His steps.

One thing grace does not do: it does not force anyone to join God. Sadly, there are some who choose to be His enemy. They don’t see His love and forgiveness. They don’t want Him telling them what to do. So they pull away from Him instead of following Him. They spurn His grace.

Because grace is extended to us, not forced upon us.

Published in: on October 25, 2017 at 4:00 pm  Comments (15)  
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15 Comments

  1. Amen, Becky.

    Some pastor on TV the other day made me laugh, he was talking about how he was all addicted to drugs, but his wife was like, always good. She had to be saved because she chewed bubblegum wrong. She really wrestled with the idea of sin because it wasn’t on the outside where she could see it clearly.

    Sometimes atheists remind me of that, they’re so used to living with Christian values,even having the freedom to not believe,that they don’t realize that sin is a real thing in the world,that given the right circumstances we are all there.

    The pastor’s wife began to recognize that too,to see how sin was real,how it was within her too, and all around her,but it wasn’t the depth of sin or the lack of sin that saves us,but grace alone.

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  2. How about defining sin?
    From what I grabbed quickly from the Internet “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.”. “a :an offense against religious or moral law. b :an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible.”

    I can’t speak for all atheists but “original sin” is part of *your* religious belief. Based on the definitions above, since I don’t follow divine law, sin would not be applicable to me. I follow secular laws, common laws, local laws..etc. Sure I went over the speed limit but I don’t consider that a sin. I’ve had pre-marital sex too and again, no laws were broken. Pre-marital sex may be a sin to you but, again, it doesn’t apply to me.

    For “The wages of sin is death” (; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.)… again, this is your (Christian) belief, eternal life is a Christian belief of the afterlife, an atheist does not believe in a Christian afterlife.

    Your statement on “belief” seems a bit convoluted. We all have our own worldviews. Both an Atheist and a Theist can have a “Belief” in Science. I for one can look at a science experiment and be in awe. Both the atheist and theist can look at the research, peer review, it can be tested and repeated. Just because we all have different worldviews (or beliefs) does not mean we all “sin”. (maybe in your eyes, everyone sins but again, that’s based on your religious beliefs)

    “Sadly, there are some who choose to be His enemy. ”
    I’ll just repeat what I wrote in “What Atheists Don’t Understand”: Why are you in such disbelief that someone would have a different belief than you? (and equate that with being your gods enemy?) Is this what you say about Buddhists? Those of Jewish faith? Hindu? (and various other religions, worldviews and philosophies). Hmm… Is it you or your religion that is causing so much angst inside you? Acceptance of others is key.

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    • David, that’s a good question. The way the Bible defines sin in one of the letters by John is that it is lawlessness. You could also think of it as the condition in which we act as a law unto ourselves. The real authority, Christians believe, is God, so whenever we put ourselves in His place, that’s sin. Which also leads to us doing sinful things such as your internet definition detailed.

      As far as the definition of sin applying to you, it doesn’t really matter if you recognize or believe that moral or divine laws are for you. That’s part of the package: when you reserve for yourself the right to decide if you’re going to obey God or not, you are not. It’s kind of like, I can’t see gravity but the law of gravity is still in place, regardless.

      Same with the afterlife. Not believing in it doesn’t change the fact that it exists.

      I’m wondering, David, what you find to be convoluted about my definition of faith. Of course you’re right the atheist and theist alike can examine scientific data, and we do. Both can also examine the claims of Christianity. Both require faith—the first in the scientists who did the observations and experiments, the second in the theologians and Bible scholars who have done work with primary documentation. And of course, in archeologists and historians and translators.

      But I think you may be overlooking one point, or maybe I didn’t say it—that is, both have faith but the field of study is unique. Science doesn’t deal with spiritual matters, and “religion” deals with the unseen world of the supernatural.

      I’m not sure, however, how you reached the conclusion that we don’t all sin. David, even if we were only talking about breaking the moral law, we’ve all sinned. You have admitted as much about yourself in your comments. You aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Another way of looking at sin would be, anything that keeps us from being perfect.

      I’m sorry I got behind on my responses to comments. I answered the one you mentioned earlier today, but I’ll try to encapsulate it here. First I’m not in disbelief that some people don’t believe as I do. Rejecting the existence of God is hardly an act of a friend. I don’t consider people with different worldviews to be MY enemy. God Himself loves them and “does not wish any to perish.”

      And I don’t have any angst about this. I know this will seem like Greek, but one thing God generously supplies for those who trust in Him is peace. Internal peace, though the world might be collapsing around us. “The peace of God which surpasses comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

      Thanks for engaging in these discussions, David.

      Becky

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  3. Good day to you and thanks for tossing things around with me…

    Where to start….To someone who does not believe in a god, “sin” or the specific “divine” laws do not apply but based on your statement, it can equally be argued that you ARE violating Sephartic laws and Sharia laws. It doesn’t matter that you are Christian! It doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe, you are violating the laws that others believe in! Silly isn’t it!

    If you find that silly, that is more or less what you are telling me. Of course you can argue that yours is the only true religion… but that’s the same thing the follower of Judea and Islamic religions might tell me, that only their religion is the true religion. (See also previous conversation in regards to “true religion”)

    As for the Scientific examples.. The point is, they can be tested and reproduced. You’re example of “Gravity” is another example. We cannot see Gravity but it can be reproduced in a lab, in space..etc. It is verifiable but a god cannot. We also cannot test to see if that god is Islamic, Jewish or Christian much less which denomination said god is.

    Afterlife… goes along the same lines of what I wrote above in regards to sin. There are varying religious narratives of the afterlife. Heaven, Paradise, Reincarnation, Being Reborn..etc. For instance, my belief that I blogged about is that we are buried, we decompose, we become the humus of the earth. We become part of the soil, oxygen, water. We become part of the grass, the plants and trees…. Who am I to tell someone they won’t go to heaven, paradise, be reincarnated or be reborn in the land of ultimate bliss?

    When I talk about accepting people of differing beliefs, it is reaching out to them, getting an understanding of their beliefs and realizing there are many “religious” (or non-religious) paths in life. Researching *all* religions/worldviews/philosophies and the history behind them. It’s a big eye opener. While we all believe we are going somewhere in the afterlife, we are all one on this earth.

    Hopefully my thoughts give you some insight.

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    • Thanks, David, for your thoughtful response. I see your point about putting yourself under laws from various competing religions, but since truth is not relative, only one of those systems can be right. So you don’t put yourself under any moral law because you don’t believe God exists whereas I do. The point I’m trying to make, particularly with the gravity illustration, is that it doesn’t matter if you agree or recognize the moral law and God who ordains it or not, you are still subject to it.

      As to your ascertain that God cannot be verified, you are applying scientific reasoning to that which is supernatural, so using that set of verification tools, you’ll only be able to ascertain what is in the physical realm

      It’s like this. If a person decided that mathematics was the only field of study that would yield accurate information, they would not be able to determine if beautiful was an adjective or adverb. You simply can’t get to the answer by using math. It requires a working knowledge of grammar which is a separate discipline. So of course you are not going to verify God’s existence by using the scientific method. That’s the wrong discipline.

      You’re right that the afterlife is in the same category. It’s supernatural, so you can’t get to the truth about it by using “natural laws.”

      But you can study all the various beliefs. You can see if what they each say is logical, comprehensive, coherent. Christianity happens to be, so what it says about the afterlife is also the most logical, comprehensive, coherent.

      I agree with you, David, that we share a lot in common here on earth. I’d even go so far as to say that’s why I am happy to discuss big picture things with people of all kinds of religions. But that’s not the same thing as shrugging and say, whatever they believe is good for them. Because I think it matters and I care enough to wave a flag and say, there’s a reason for you to think further about these matters.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Becky

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      • “I see your point about putting yourself under laws from various competing religions…* ”
        “So you don’t put yourself under any moral law because you don’t believe God exists”

        Do you? because your next statement tells me you missed the point:

        “you don’t believe God exists whereas I do. The point I’m trying to make, particularly with the gravity illustration, is that it doesn’t matter if you agree or recognize the moral law and God who ordains it or not, you are still subject to it.”

        By that argument, you are subject to Sharia and Sephartic laws. You said…It doesn’t matter if you agree or recognize the moral law and the God who ordains it or not, you are still subject to it.

        * “but since truth is not relative, only one of those systems can be right”.
        If you want to look at it that way, let’s get a group of 10 people from each religion to debate which religion is true. Maybe they are all wrong. Maybe atheism is the truth, maybe everyone is following the wrong religion and the true one has not yet been discovered.

        “You’re right that the afterlife is in the same category. It’s supernatural, so you can’t get to the truth about it by using “natural laws.””

        My afterlife narrative is not supernatural but go dig someone up who died 200 years ago and lets see if my narritive is correct. But lets say for the sake of argument that it is supernatural. Again, which afterlife narrative is correct? (and what if the true narrative has yet to be discovered)

        “But you can study all the various beliefs. You can see if what they each say is logical, comprehensive, coherent. Christianity happens to be, so what it says about the afterlife is also the most logical, comprehensive, coherent.”

        That is your opinion and your belief. Atheism is logical, comprehensive, coherent to me. I also find many religions to be logical, comprehensive and coherent despite the fact I find certain aspects a little unbelievable.

        “I agree with you, David, that we share a lot in common here on earth. I’d even go so far as to say that’s why I am happy to discuss big picture things with people of all kinds of religions. But that’s not the same thing as shrugging and say, whatever they believe is good for them. Because I think it matters and I care enough to wave a flag and say, there’s a reason for you to think further about these matters.”

        I’m quite sure that you feel your religion is your truth. Based on your religion, I’m sure you want to pass along what you deem to be the truth. You want to “Save” people, you want to “Bless” them with well wishes.. I get that. But imaging if every religion did that. Imagine I took the same tack in some respects and went around trying to save Christians from life long church donations, 45-60 minutes of sitting in a hard wood pew 🙂 They would serve their time better using that time to get exercise (just coming up with things at random) As a Christian, you would probably hate me for it 🙂

        I think people of all religions and worldviews should see how it feels to be the one who’s getting more or less talked down to. or told their beliefs are wrong.

        Enjoy your day!

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        • I’m sorry I wasn’t clear, David, and that I didn’t address this point: you said, “By that argument, you are subject to Sharia and Sephartic laws. ” I’d be subject to it if it were true. But it’s not. My point is, the God of the Bible is true, so rejecting or accepting Him does no actually affect His existence or the truth of what He’s said. For instance, I can’t see the sun, It’s been behind the clouds all day. If I were to say, I think the sun left, it doesn’t mean it actually did leave. My belief one way or the other doesn’t affect the truth that the sun is still there.

          MY belief in God doesn’t cause Him to exist anymore than your disbelief causes Him to not exist. Consequently, whether you or I believe or not, we are both under God’s sovereign rule. More after I’ve read more of your comment.

          Becky

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          • The God of the “Bible” is the God worshiped by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In fact, each religion uses the “Old Testament”, it is actually the Tanakh. I assume you know the details so I won’t get into many details. If you didn’t know the information above, it is worth researching.

            So rejecting or claiming the God of the Torah and Koran does not exist does not actually affect His existence or the truth of what He’s said.

            Your comment comparing the Sun to the existence of God is faulty. Everyone can look into the sky and see that the sun is there. Even if there are clouds, we know someone in the next town or state over can observe the sun. No one can observe god.

            Just because you believe something, does not make it true. Just because you think your God is “Christian only” also does not make it true. Sure, you may think it is the truth, you may have faith it is the truth but as I have shown above, apparently several religions worship the same texts and god as you.

            Dave

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          • David, I know those looking on, must think we Christians are worshiping the same God that the Jews and Muslims worship. You say we use the same book, but that isn’t quite accurate. While other religions might say that Jesus was a good teacher, they do not accept Him as God. The do not believe He died for their sins, that by grace they can be reconciled to the Father through faith in His Son. This is the key belief of Christians. On top of that, Jesus Himself said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” That’s not something Jews and Muslims believe.

            I used the sun analogy, not as an illustration of the existence of God, but as an illustration that there are things that govern us regardless of our belief in them.

            I’ll say again, there is a point of departure between truth and error–the way things are, and the way things are not. If the God of the Bible is true, then what I am saying is true. If he is not, then salvation must be from some other source (or not needed at all). Which is it, is my question, because both can’t be true. I’d hope that each person would do a little study of the issue because it’s important.

            Becky

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          • Good day to you!
            I said “The God of the “Bible” is the God worshiped by Judaism, Christianity and Islam”. I didn’t say you used the same book. I said that the “Old Testament” is actually the Tanakh. I denoted that I figured you knew the details so I didn’t have to go into a long winded discussion about the differences. 🙂

            But it’s true, followers of Judaism and Islam do not believe Jesus was the Messiah but that does not mean they are not worshiping the same God. I can see how, as a Christian, you view Jesus/Triune as one, so of course you can argue that Jewish and Islamic people do not believe in “your God”. It can also be argued by others that Jesus was just a great teacher and did not have divinity… but that too will be too long winded to discuss here.

            “If the God of the Bible is true, then what I am saying is true….” or your other statement on “They can’t both be true” is the dilemma. What if the God of the OT is true but the God of the NT (or Jesus) was a ruse? (Just saying for the sake of argument). Maybe there is a little bit of truth (and a little it of ruse) in all of it. I think we can both agree that the original text is the “OT” but from the OT, three* different religions came to be. We also see that from the NT, many different sects came to be. Why is there so much disparity? (err diversity might be a better word) in the word of God?

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        • Point 2: “If you want to look at it that way, let’s get a group of 10 people from each religion to debate which religion is true.” Response: But truth, spiritual truth, isn’t determined by a debate or a vote.

          Point 3: Re. the afterlife, Christians know about the afterlife because Jesus rose from the dead. Did Mohammad? Abraham or Moses? How about the personalities behind the Eastern religions? I know of none.

          Point 4: the coherence and logic of Christianity vs. other worldviews. David, as far as I know atheism doesn’t deal with who am I, why am I here, what is my purpose, where am I going. Unless you say the answers are–an accidental bit of matter, no idea, no idea, annihilation. That just doesn’t match what the human spirit intuits. I could look at the other major religions if you like, but there are things none of them answer.

          Point 5: Being told we’re wrong. Ah, David, you seem to have forgotten that you have come to my site. I answered your questions to the best of my ability, and of course I hold to my beliefs since they are my beliefs. I can’t pretend that I think others are absolutely fine. But I also don’t feel compelled to talk to people who aren’t interested. When I am on sports fan sites, I talk about sports and when I am on writer sites I talk about writing.

          I’m glad you felt the freedom to voice your opinion here, but I hope you’ll also respect the fact that I can respond to you based on my beliefs. I’m not sure why you infer that as me “talking down” to you. Not my intention at all. I’m sorry if something I said came across as me not valuing your opinion. I think you’ve been interesting and have stated your views with clarity. You’re always welcome to challenge anything I write or to voice your reaction to it.

          Becky

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          • Point 2: “But truth, spiritual truth, isn’t determined by a debate or a vote.” That wasn’t my point. It was if you ask 10 different representatives of various religions, you will get 10 different answers. But you are perfectly fine with telling me your religion is the only true religion just based on your own faith and belief.

            Point 3: Resurrection is your belief but if you want me to counter it “in Ancient Greek thinking, the connection between postmortem disappearance and apotheosis was strong and there are numerous examples of individuals conspiring, before their deaths, to have their remains hidden in order to promote their postmortem venerations.”
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empty_tomb

            Point 4: As long as human’s have roamed the earth, there have always been people who believe in god and those who do not. I’ve never had an issue with these questions. “Why am I here” is interesting. I’m here due to the reproductive system. “Why are we here” would be a better question. You can say “God put me here” and I could answer the question by saying “that’s an interesting question” and could offer you my philosophy on the matter but can tell you that I don’t accept that if we can’t answer something “God did it”. (God of the Gaps)

            Part 5: I thought you posted this message, on a public blog, using the Atheism tag, with the ability to reply to the post because you welcomed discussion? Perhaps some feedback?

            Dave

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          • Point 2: Dave, what I am “perfectly fine with” is not at issue. I explained more in my other comment today, but things in opposition simply both can’t be true. Because Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and I believe Him, then I can’t turn around and say, But your way might be a good way too. Christ’s claims about Himself make our “religion” unique. That being said, I hardly think you’ll find a Muslim who would say the Jews are just as right in their worship as those who follow Islam. Buddhists also believe they understand something that other people don’t. So exclusivity is not the part that is unique to Christians. But clearly all the religions claiming exclusivity can’t simultaneously be right.

            Point 3: Resurrection is my belief, but that’s because a) it was part of the prophecy, though no one was actually looking for it to happen; b) there were multiple “sightings” of the resurrected Jesus and as many as 500 eyewitnesses; c) while Christianity was spreading, Rome could have stopped it by simply producing Jesus’s body; d) if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, contemporaries could have claimed otherwise, but there is no such record that they did; e) in contrast, four separate writers recorded Jesus’s resurrection (and later these books were accepted by Christians as “gospels” and included with other Scripture into what became the Bible). In other words, there’s sufficient evidence to convince me that Jesus did in fact come back to life, not in a body that would die again, but in a body like we will have one day.

            Point 4: I don’t remember the questions I posed, but one of them I intended to deal with the question of purpose. So yes why, or perhaps more accurately, how are we here, but also for what purpose do we exist? These are not “God did it” kinds of questions.

            Part 5: this is a public blog and I’m happy to have anyone who’s interested in the topic comment, so I do welcome discussion and feedback. I thought it was a given that I could also respond.

            Hope you continue to feel this is a place where you have freedom to chime in whenever you wish.

            Becky

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          • Point 2: So we agree. Every religion will claim that their narrative is correct and true. You state your religion is true because of what Jesus said and you believe him. And true, I don’t expect to find anyone of one religion who believes the other to be true… if that was the case, they would likely convert 🙂

            Where we disagree is what the “truth” is. In part, I addressed that in the earlier message today. The Jewish Bible is the corner stone of Christianity and Islam. Christianity itself has branched off in a multitude of sects. The Catholic church is said to be the true church of Jesus but that doesn’t stop Protestants (and many others) from believing they are the one true church. What’s the truth? While you may feel Jesus is God, there are many other religions that do not believe this…. which brings us to….

            Point 3: Historians differ. In fact, no historians at the time reported any of this! In fact, there was a bit of Christian interpolation in Josephus “Antiquities”. If it was true, why would there be a need to insert Jesus’s “divinity” into history book? It was also common at the time to remove bodies from tombs to show divinity. Four separate Gospels that differ slightly in their stories…. and again, if there was a conspiracy to show divinity, it wouldn’t just stop at Empty Tombs, Editing Books or Writing about it.

            Point 4: Purpose… There is no evidence of a higher purpose. That’s not to say life has no purpose. Purpose is really up to the individual to determine. I’m sure some religious people believe that their purpose is to serve god. As I get older, I find it a useful purpose to make the lives of the people around me better. I suppose it’s slightly a greedy venture, lol, by making the lives of the people around me happier, the world around me becomes a happier place.

            Point 5 (I think): I understand that you are Christian and that what you write is what you believe and is the truth to you. My view is what we think the truth is today, can change with a new discovery tomorrow. Back to Purpose 4, Researching, learning and discovering 🙂

            Enjoy your evening.

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          • David, you said “So we agree. Every religion will claim that their narrative is correct and true.” Do you Think your beliefs are correct and true? Of course. If you or I or anyone else thought our beliefs were not true, we wouldn’t hold to them.

            I think I said I believe the truth of Christianity because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because no other religion has a living savior. But I do also believe what the Bible records–which include some words that Christ spoke.

            To set the record straight, the Jewish scriptures are not the cornerstone of Islam. They are only part of the cornerstone of Christianity. The different denominations of Christianity exist only because of differences in peripheral things. We agree on the fundamentals–that God sent His Son Jesus to die for the world so that those who believe in His name will have eternal life; that Jesus rose from the dead; that He will one day return. There are other points, but that’s the essence and we all agree. Anyone who doesn’t is in a false religion or is a false teacher.

            History can be falsified, but there are also multiple ways to verify the truth of something. I did a post on this a couple years ago. You might want to check out History And Knowing The Bible Is True.

            As far as people conspiring about the resurrection, we’re talking about someone who was publicly executed that showed up multiple times in front of various numbers of people, including one group that numbered around 500. So, no, conspiracy is not logical in this instance.

            As far as higher purpose is concerned, how do you know there’s no higher purpose, David? Who told you or how did you decide? The point is, you saying this is not substantive.

            Ironic, David, that if what I believe is truth contradicts what you believe is truth, one of us doesn’t have truth. How do you determine which it is?

            Best to you.

            Becky

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