My conversations with Eva Marie

From evamarie Thu Apr 15 00:14:41 1999
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 22:51:34 -0500
From: eva
To: Reverend Jan
Subject: Re: your mail

Hi Jan,

How are you? I was pleased to receive your prompt response to my last e-mail, in fact, I've so enjoyed our correspondence that frankly I have been checking daily to see if you have replied. You are obviously quite intelligent, and although we differ in our "philosophies" I nevertheless am impressed by your vast knowledge and ability to counter my arguments.

Personally, I think there are at least two different "classes" of Jews: cultural Jews (of which I am one, since my grandmother was Jewish, and by tradition the culture is passed on through the mother's side), and religious Jews (who can, of course, be further differentiated). However, call your congregation what you will; but anyone who accepts Christ's divinity is, by definition, a Christian.

I was clued in to the possibility that you were of Jewish decent by your use of the Hebrew term for God in a previous e-mail. Yes, you are correct that I am a Christian by definition. I do have a deep love and respect for Jewish history and traditions, though, which is the reason why I have chosen to worship in a Messianic congregation. Having my cake and eating it too, so to speak. :)

... never mind that they themselves derived many of their myths from other religions...

I am currently in the process of studying the history of the Jewish faith, and in the several books I am reading, the authors have apparently chosen to cite the saga of Abraham as the origin of the faith, so I am not (as yet) familiar with this fact. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

Erm, if you are a "true" Christian (by implication, one who believes that in order to go to heaven/be saved, one *must* accept Jesus as one's saviour or else be eternally damned) -- and it really sounds like you are one -- then aren't you also bound to accept the bible as absolute truth, including the verse about no one going to the Father but by [Jesus]? By default, this position states that *no* other religion is correct, all the rest are wrong. Call it a clarification or a nit-pick; I'm curious as to your actual stance here.

Jan, I at one time, wondered just this same thing. In my previous e-mail, I mentioned that (one) of the ways in which God speaks to us is through our prayers and "thoughts" which occur to us, in the form of a revelation . In other words, as an answer to what we previously had not considered or had prior knowledge of. I reasoned that if God were a God of love and total "fairness", how could people of other faiths be condemned for eternity through a lack of knowledge of Jesus; those who otherwise believed in a creator and were loving and obedient to him. So, I put forth this question to God, in the form of prayer, not really expecting an answer. Surprising enough, I did receive a revelation almost immediately, and this was it.

As you know, the Jews of old practiced blood sacrifice as atonement for their sins. This was acceptable to God in those ancient times. When Christ was born, and subsequently died on the cross, he assumed the permanent role of blood sacrifice in atonement for our sins. Thus, no further need for animal sacrifice was required. As you probably know through your Christian friend, the just punishment for our sins was taken on in the person of Christ. My belief (and the answer that I received through prayer) is that when we die and stand in God's presence, Christ stands with us as our mediator. If we have accepted Christ, our atonement is realized through him by this blood sacrifice. We are judged blameless via this blood sacrifice. For others, they will stand in judgement as well, but will be judged by their own merits, according to their deeds, which is the current belief held by the Jews. A much trickier situation to be in, as how many people can say that they have led exemplary lives? I have often wondered why the Jewish people do not accept Christ, based upon their own ancient blood sacrifice belief of atonement of sins, as this was a necessary practice of their faith in the days of old.

I believe that if I were someone in search of the truth, I would examine all faiths and their histories, and use my intelligence and my (limited) knowledge of the character of God to determine what appears to be the most logical. I do believe other factors are taken into consideration as well, the main one being a person's motivation behind their actions. A lot of so called sin is actually a manifestation of poor judgement, human weakness, etc. We are all fallible, but I believe God knows our heart. So , in the end, I believe that those not knowing of Christ will be judged by their "hearts", and what their true motives were, not necessarily their faults. I do believe people of other faiths will get to heaven.

The part about "no one comes to the father except through me" is another :) question I wondered about, and actually put this to my husband only a few weeds ago. His reply was this: God is all holy, and therefore cannot be in the presence of evil. (Recall the "Holy of Holies" in the Torah, of which only the high priest could enter after a blood sacrifice had been made?) We can approach God through Christ as he is blameless, so when we go to God through Christ, God only "sees" the good, and not the evil. By the way, I do believe in hell. Hell is eternal existence void of the presence of God. It's total isolation. Now that is definitely a depressing destination.

You may think as much, but I would say that English suffers from a lack of words in that regard. Your faith is very different from mine: yours is faith without proof by definition, and is not subject to question; whereas mine is based on the observation of what *exists* as we know it. Religion is the study of what cannot be said to exist -- that which is super-natural, or beyond nature. And incidentally, since you are the one making the claim -- that God exists -- you are the one who is required to furnish proof. The burden of proof is always on the person making the positive claim.

I believe Jesus was the proof. He rose from the dead. (I can't wait to hear your rebuttal:))) This is recorded as history, by witnesses, of which there were approximately five hundred.

Now you may argue that these were unreliable witnesses fabricating a story to support their religion. If you recall history at the time of Christ, "Christianity" was an extremely dangerous "cult" in which one could become a member. The danger , of course, was death, and many people did meet with horrible deaths as a result of this conviction. In fact, Christ's disciples all suffered torture and death because of their refusal to deny their faith . ( beheadings, crucifixions, etc, with the exception of John who was exiled to the island of Pathmos)

Now, Jan, while it is true that throughout history many people have chosen to die for their beliefs, there is one big differences here. The apostles, and other followers of Christ, didn't die for a belief, they died for what they actually WITNESSED. It stands to reason , that upon pain of death, one could recant a belief, especially if that person witnessed nothing and knew, in fact, that this was in actuality, a LIE in the first place . But no one dies for what they know is a LIE. They actually SAW the risen Christ and , therefore could not deny it. Neither did they fear death, as they knew that there was life after death, after having seen the risen Christ.

Another argument for the validity of this claim is this. There was a vast number of new testaments in circulation just a short period after the death of Christ. (I don't recall the exact date, but I do have it recorded in my library and could look it up if you need to know). The reason we know this to be true is we have actual copies which have been preserved. Now , what might this tell you, especially in light of the fact that during this time period books were painstakingly copied by hand? It tells me that these people felt that these events were extremely important and the word needed to get out. If these events were false, there were enough copies in circulation that someone would have surely stated that the facts were simply not true, especially since the people reading the books were alive during the time the events occurred. Also, less than a hundred years later, there were hundreds and hundreds of scholars commentating on these books , which indicated the books were widely circulated, accepted, and in fact, being commentated upon.

Also, another test of the validity of Christ's followers claims is this...motivation. These people were basically uneducated, poor. If they knew Christ had not actually risen from the dead, what would be their motivation for perpetrating this lie? If your recall the scriptural account, after Christ's crucifixion, they were terrified. In hiding. Peter denied Christ three times in order to avoid being arrested and suffering a similar fate. Crucifixion was a humiliating form of death, and the apostles, who believed that Christ was going to be a "military" Messiah for the Jews, scattered in fear. They believed that their sole purpose was defeated by Christ's death. But as you know, something drastically changed. They did a complete turn around, boldly (even with the threat of death) proclaiming the gospel of Christ. What happened was this .... they witnessed the risen Christ. What else could have explained their remarkable turnaround in behavior? What would they have had to gain otherwise? Certainly nothing , as they were "marked" men, so to speak.

Personally, I find meaning in learning, the appreciation of what is beautiful (I'll get to this later, don't answer this one yet :), and the possibilities of the future. Education, incidentally, is never finished -- you can learn as much as you like, but there's always more to quest for.

I quite agree with you here, Jan.

Yes, in many cases it does. However, there is a phrase that happiness lies not in having what one wants, but in wanting what one has, and I do my best to live by that.

You're very wise. We are by nature, I'm afraid, never quite content with what we have. Of course, as a believer I would say that this restless is a need instilled by God in order for us to seek him out. :

Oh, believe me, I did. I had a few one-night-stands, hoping that the endorphins would cheer me up; never tried drugs or alcohol, because the biologist in me simply wouldn't allow it; did drown myself in music and schoolwork, but eventually was deep enough that my friend's faith seemed like the only answer (my friend being a born-again, Fundamentalist type). I wouldn't say (and if I did, I apologize for mis-speaking) that God was *logical* at that point; it was just the option of last resort for me.

You are not alone, Jan. :) Unfortunately, many people seek God out as a last resort, and when their situation changes, so does their connection to him. You should try sometime seeking him out when all is going well and see what happens, even if just as a lark:)

Once I had gotten over that depression, I also recovered my reason (no offense intended; that was just the way it seemed to me). It helped that I had also started bible study; reading the bible was, for me, the quickest route back to atheism, for reasons I'll go into later.

I see that you made a connection to your mental state at the time as being somewhat irrational, and therefore, your actions at the time, mainly seeking God , a product of your irrational thought processes . You did recover...perhaps God truly was there for you and aided you in your recovery, is this possible, Jan?

Indeed, I had another bout in the fall of 1997, and went to counseling instead of church :) Cleared it up a lot faster, helped me deal with the underlying issues (which had not been resolved the first time), and no side effect like alienating everyone I know...

Did seeking God alienate you from people? Would friends or family alienate you based upon a belief you had (at the time)?

My family has a genetic tendency towards depression, I now know; my mother has had it, with very bad episodes at times, as have my brother and sister. I hope that my kids manage to avoid it, but at least now I know how I will be able to help them if they don't.

Yes, my husbands suffers from mild bouts with it, and so did his mother. My own father "contracted" schizophrenia in his forties, and his mother was chronically depressed, so Jan you have my complete understanding and sympathy here.

I beg to differ. I have no spiritual component (if that is undifferentiable from religious experience) and yet I am contented.

Jan, Jan, you love sunrises/sunsets, music, learning and think you have no spiritual I beg to differ:)) You just don't believe in God. Today. Maybe this will change sometime in your life, maybe not.

(However, if you support a broader definition of spirituality which includes the appreciation of the ephemeral, then colour me spiritual :)

As above, consider yourself spiritual. You are British? (colour?)

Didn't you say that you had a degree in biology and an "advanced degree" in biophysics? I can't quite understand why a person of such education would become a model...

Actually, I didn't become a model as a career choice. I sort of "fell into it" for a period of time when I was living in New York City, trying to pay the rent. At that time, I had not completed my education, but only took a break from in, in order to experience "life". I still do a bit of it on the side (the photos were taken at a shoot in July) just for a few extra bucks. I actually hate it, but the money is too attractive to turn down.

Material possessions offer no spiritual component except for the reactions they might provoke in the possessor. I get a lot of meaning from playing my violin, listening to my CDs, and reading my books... not to mention learning by using the computer, the television, and my friends and associates. That's been enough for me so far :)

I agree, and I as well , find satisfaction in such things. Perhaps it is just me, but I tire easily of them. They provide momentary pleasures, but no real inner peace.

Jan, you mentioned that you "became religious". I am not quite certain what you mean here? Had you asked Jesus into your life?

I had. I meant it will all of my heart and, as I thought then, my soul.

This has been, by far, the most disturbing thing you have written. As I truly believe God is a God of his word, I don't believe you to be a true atheist. From all you have written, even through your arguments, I sense someone who really does desire to know whether or not God exists. You are a seeker. I am not trying to be presumptuous here Jan. Perhaps at the time you were disillusioned, angry, skeptical, disheartened, impatient , who knows. I don't think for a minute God has let you down. In fact, for some reason, I have felt compelled to pray for you, and have every day since we started writing. I hope you don't mind. I just have a feeling something will happen and God will make his presence known to you.

Are you suggesting that my experience was not a genuine one because I did not have this feeling, or that I did not truly *mean* it when I asked Jesus into my life? I have to say I am somewhat offended if this is what you are suggesting, as there was nothing at the time that I wanted more than to have Jesus as my savior and in my life. Really and truly.

I am sorry Jan, I can't give you an answer. I wish I could, really. It is different with different people. Your life isn't over yet.

Hope I didn't go on too long; some things just sounded like they needed more explanation. I would recommend checking out the rest of my site (at least a bit of a browse on the Essays page) before you decide to write back; a lot of the same material is covered there. Actually, I was wondering if I could include our correspondence in that section; this is the most thought-provoking argument I've had in a while, and it has helped me clarify a few ideas, which I'd like to share. I'd be happy to either post or eliminate your name, which ever would be your preference; otherwise, I'll probably just try to write it up separately. Please let me know either way

Jan, I have to end here, as it is rather late. I will get back to you with the remainder of my e-mail response soon. Yes:) I would not mind if you posted the correspondence, thank you, that is rather flattering, although I know its because you feel I have presented a weaker argument:)) I would love to see a wedding are intelligent and sincere, and that is certainly "evidence" of great beauty to me. I will read all that is contained in your website this weekend. Hope much beauty and peace crosses your path this weekend Jan. Until next time...your "American" friend....Eva

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