Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

I received the following blog comment this week, packed with statements that your kids are likely to hear (and possibly come to believe) about the nature of truth. I wanted to reply to the commenter right here in a blog post because I feel there is so much that is important for everyone to understand about what he is saying.

I’m going to include the full comment below so you can read it in its unbroken entirety, then I’ll break it down part-by-part. If you have older kids, I encourage you to read them this letter and use it as a discussion starter.

For context, this person is responding to an atheist who had commented on a post previously, and is encouraging him to stay strong in the midst of Christian claims.

 

You are really brave defending your stance against a bunch of evangelical Christians banging on you. I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

 My belief is rational to [a] certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective. I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”. Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which [sic] this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them. However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non-Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this. I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice. When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion. If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc., I will support his decision. I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers. I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean…

Keep your stance and keep searching truth…your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

 

My Response: An Open Letter to a Relativist

 

Dear Minh,

Thank you for being willing to honestly share your spiritual journey in the comments section of my blog. It’s clear that spirituality is an important topic for you, as it is for me. With that in mind, I’d like to respond to several of the points you make.

 

You said: I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

From what you’re saying here, it sounds like you are “agnostic” about what kind of God or higher power exists because you haven’t found anything pointing to that Being’s nature with absolute certainty. However, it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves about this desire for absolute certainty. There’s pretty much nothing in life we know with “absolute certainty.” For example, do you know with absolute certainty that you are a real person and that everything you experience is not just an illusion? No, but you have good reason to believe you really exist and you live accordingly. We claim to know things all the time that we can’t be absolutely certain about. When the preponderance of evidence points toward something being true, we go ahead and say we know it.

The question I would leave you to consider, therefore, is this: If you discovered that a preponderance of evidence pointed to a specific religion being the one true revelation of God to humans, would you accept it as truth? Or do you require a level of certainty that you don’t require of anything else in your life?

If you require a unique level of certainty in spiritual matters, then I would suggest perhaps you don’t want to find truth. If you are open to considering the weight of the evidence for the possible objective truth of a specific religion, then I would invite you to begin that investigation in earnest. If you would like to learn about the evidence for Christianity specifically, I will recommend a great starting book at the end of this letter.

 

You said: My belief is rational to certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective.

It sounds as though you are suggesting that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is a better way than an objective one, such as in Christianity. However, it’s important to realize (if that’s indeed what you are implying) that by claiming this, YOU are making an objective statement–that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is best for everyone! That’s a contradiction.

 

You said: I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”.

If you’re an agnostic theist, then you presumably don’t believe there are eternal consequences for your beliefs, so of course you will never say that. But what you are really saying here is that it’s wrong (and probably arrogant) for Christians to suggest to others that they have objective knowledge that beliefs have eternal consequences. Here’s the problem: What if Christianity is true? What if there are eternal consequences for what you believe? Would it be more loving for Christians to tell others about that, or to stay silent in the fear that the truth might bother you? Whether you believe Christianity is true or not, it’s not logical to suggest it’s a bad thing for Christians to warn other people about what they believe to be eternal consequences. When a person truly believes something horrible will happen to another person unless they warn them about it (think of someone about to get hit by a bus), the logical and loving action is to warn them. I would hope you would do the same if that were your belief.

 

You said: Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them.

We really need to stop here and better define the nature of intimidation; there is a huge difference between an intimidating delivery of a message, an intimidating message, and feeling intimidated.

If a Christian has gotten in your face, waving a Bible in the air and shouted angrily at you, “Jesus is the only way!” then they have delivered a message in an intimidating way. And I apologize if you have been the recipient of any such graceless delivery. That is not how Jesus would speak.

An intimidating message is one that is frightening in and of itself. Is the message that Jesus is the only way to God frightening? If so, I encourage you to really dig deep and understand why it would be frightening to you if there was really just one objective truth. The gospel is good news…Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to our wonderful Creator.

Finally, a person can feel intimidated even if someone does not deliver a message in an intimidating way and doesn’t even deliver an intimidating message. There is nothing inherently intimidating about saying that Jesus is the only way to God! But if, in response to that, you feel intimidated, then it’s worth digging within to understand why the notion of one objective truth is so challenging to you personally.

 

You said: However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this.

Minh, the test of truth should never be whether or not our lives are “pretty good.” A person can believe the world is flat (a wrong belief about reality) while having an amazing life from an earthly perspective. It’s not about survival and circumstances; it’s about having good reason to know that what you believe is an accurate picture of reality.

 

You said: I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice.

But why put so much trust in your feelings? Our feelings can’t be the final arbiter of truth. If I tell you I feel connected to Jesus as God’s son, who represents the only way to God, you wouldn’t believe I’m right. So there has to be something objective–evidence outside of your and my personal experiences–to help us determine what is actually true.

 

You said: When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion.

Why are empathy and compassion the most important values? Why are they “higher” in value or truth than whether or not God exists? If God doesn’t exist, and the world is only material, then there is no basis for objective morality; there is nothing morally good or bad because there is no moral authority. Empathy and compassion are morally equivalent to killing people if we are just molecules in motion. To be sure, I’m not suggesting that most atheists would ever think killing a person is OK. But, in a world with no God (a moral authority), at best you could say that killing people is not good in your opinion, and therefore you won’t do it. Atheists can be “good without God,” but they have no objective basis from which to call anything good. Similarly, if you don’t believe in a God who has revealed anything of His nature, you have no objective basis from which to refer to empathy and compassion as “higher” values.

 

You said: If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc, I will support his decision.

If by “support” you mean you will continue to love him dearly, regardless of what he believes, then I agree wholeheartedly. But if by “support” you mean you will accept whatever he believes as an equally valid picture of truth, then once again this is a contradiction. At the end of your whole comment, you advise fellow readers to not search for the truth of Christianity. Clearly, if your son believed Christianity is true, you would not feel that view is as valid as yours. Thus, you are willing to claim that at least some views are objectively wrong.

 

You said: I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers.

If you study where all these “rivers” are actually leading, you’ll see that they make logically incompatible truth claims; they aren’t even claiming to run to the same ocean. As a simple example, in Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah. He is simply a man. In Christianity, Jesus is the Messiah and is God Himself. These claims cannot both be true. They contradict each other and cannot point to the same truth.

 

You said: I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean.

If God exists, as you and I both believe, then you are correct: We are not the ones who decide which river is the best to reach the ocean. GOD IS! Ironically, by stating that you are not the one to decide what is best, so you therefore choose to believe that all paths are fine, you ARE making a claim of what is best. God, and God alone, determines which “river” flows to Him. The question is, has He revealed which river that is, and if so, which revelation is correct? Christians believe He has revealed that river as Jesus. We are not claiming to have decided that on your behalf, which I think is a misunderstanding that flows throughout your comment. We are simply claiming that the river that runs to God has already been decided by God and are sharing what we believe He has revealed.

 

You said: Keep your stance and keep searching truth, your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

After all you wrote about the equally valid paths to God, it’s hard not to see the irony in how you’re advising others to definitely not search for the truth of “these Christians.” Are all paths valid except Christianity? You champion relative, subjective truth, but in doing so, you are making an objective claim that all paths are equally valid (except, notably, Christianity).

The bottom line is this: Truth is not what we like the best, what makes us most comfortable, what costs us the least, or what makes us happiest. It’s what accurately matches reality. I encourage you to consider the actual evidence for the truth of various worldviews, including of course, Christianity. If you honestly and openly do so, I am confident you will see that there is good reason to believe that Christianity is the uniquely true revelation of God. An excellent book that examines this evidence from the perspective of a detective is Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.

 I wish you the best and hope that there is some food for thought here.

 


For anyone wanting to better understand the nature of objective truth, whether or not all religions can point to the same truth, why Christians can claim to “know” Christianity is true, and how common sense and personal experience are or are not helpful in determining truth, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

29 Comments

  1. Kathleen on April 13, 2016 at 8:46 AM

    You go girl!!



  2. Julie on April 13, 2016 at 8:59 AM

    Thank you, Natasha, for your very thoughtful reply to Minh. Julie????



  3. Nadine on April 13, 2016 at 11:50 AM

    Awesome rebuttal.



  4. Minh on April 13, 2016 at 2:04 PM

    First of all, I didn’t purposefully come to your blog to be argumentative. Through google search, I found your specific post about secular family. I just sympathized with I,J for being choked on by a bunch of fundamentalist apologists. I simply voiced my support for him. I don’t “encourage him to stay strong in the midst of Christian claims”. I encourage him to be who he is in an environment where he is bullied to believe just like the rest. I know what it feels like to be a minority because I am one.

    “””If you discovered that a preponderance of evidence pointed to a specific religion being the one true revelation of God to humans, would you accept it as truth? Or do you require a level of certainty that you don’t require of anything else in your life?”””

    My connection with God is through contemplation and prayers. It is based on mystical experience. I cannot argue with you about scientific evidence. Because it is a mystical experience, it is beyond language that I can explain, not mentioning that English is my second language.

    “””It sounds as though you are suggesting that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is a better way than an objective one, such as in Christianity. However, it’s important to realize (if that’s indeed what you are implying) that by claiming this, YOU are making an objective statement–that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is best for everyone! That’s a contradiction.”””

    I simply say that my experience with God is personal and subjective for me, not everyone else. If you think that Christianity is an objective truth, that is your prerogative.

    “””If you’re an agnostic theist, then you presumably don’t believe there are eternal consequences for your beliefs, so of course you will never say that. But what you are really saying here is that it’s wrong (and probably arrogant) for Christians to suggest to others that they have objective knowledge that beliefs have eternal consequences. Here’s the problem: What if Christianity is true? What if there are eternal consequences for what you believe? Would it be more loving for Christians to tell others about that, or to stay silent in the fear that the truth might bother you? Whether you believe Christianity is true or not, it’s not logical to suggest it’s a bad thing for Christians to warn other people about what they believe to be eternal consequences. When a person truly believes something horrible will happen to another person unless they warn them about it (think of someone about to get hit by a bus), the logical and loving action is to warn them. I would hope you would do the same if that were your belief”””

    If I bring up a religious conversation, it is a fair game for Christians to talk about their beliefs. I used to have a Christian friend from Louisiana in my trigonometry class. When we had lunch one day, we were supposed to talk about a homework assignment he struggled with. When I was thinking about an explanation for the solution of a challenging problem that he was wrestling with, he asked me all of a sudden.

    Him: Do you work on Sunday?
    Me: Currently, no.
    Him: Do you want to go to church with me?
    Me: No, thanks. I’m not a Christian.
    Him: What do you believe?
    Me: I was raised a Buddhist. Now I am an agnostic theist. I believe in a higher power, but I don’t exactly know the nature of the divine.
    Him: Do you read the Bible?
    Me: Yes
    Him: What do you think about it?
    Me: I think it has certain wisdom that I can take for my spiritual journey, but I don’t believe it’s literally true.
    Him: You don’t believe it is infallible?
    Me: No.
    Him: But it is. You should believe in Jesus. Otherwise, you are going to spend your eternity in hell.
    Me: (silent)
    Him: What you are doing now is an abomination in God’s eyes. You need to be born again to be saved.
    Me: (silent)
    Him: (more preaching)
    Me: (silent until the end)

    Next day, I switched to a different class with the same instructor.

    And you think that it’s not arrogant and condescending for giving me a lecture about Christian faith like that?

    “””We really need to stop here and better define the nature of intimidation; there is a huge difference between an intimidating delivery of a message, an intimidating message, and feeling intimidated.

    If a Christian has gotten in your face, waving a Bible in the air and shouted angrily at you, “Jesus is the only way!” then they have delivered a message in an intimidating way. And I apologize if you have been the recipient of any such graceless delivery. That is not how Jesus would speak.

    An intimidating message is one that is frightening in and of itself. Is the message that Jesus is the only way to God frightening? If so, I encourage you to really dig deep and understand why it would be frightening to you if there was really just one objective truth. The gospel is good news…Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to our wonderful Creator.

    Finally, a person can feel intimidated even if someone does not deliver a message in an intimidating way and doesn’t even deliver an intimidating message. There is nothing inherently intimidating about saying that Jesus is the only way to God! But if, in response to that, you feel intimidated, then it’s worth digging within to understand why the notion of one objective truth is so challenging to you personally.”””

    I said Christians like to intimidate me which this “Jesus is the high way” tactic. I didn’t say I feel intimidated. I read the Bible from cover to cover. If I feel intimidated, I would vigorously argue with them to bolster my confidence. My spiritual journey is a mystical experience. It touches my soul with a deep level of serenity and gratitude. I don’t need validation from any Christian.

    “””But why put so much trust in your feelings? Our feelings can’t be the final arbiter of truth. If I tell you I feel connected to Jesus as God’s son, who represents the only way to God, you wouldn’t believe I’m right. So there has to be something objective–evidence outside of your and my personal experiences–to help us determine what is actually true.”””

    Yes, there has to be something objective evidence. I don’t believe it’s Christianity or any religion.

    “””If God exists, as you and I both believe, then you are correct: We are not the ones who decide which river is the best to reach the ocean. GOD IS! Ironically, by stating that you are not the one to decide what is best, so you therefore choose to believe that all paths are fine, you ARE making a claim of what is best. God, and God alone, determines which “river” flows to Him. The question is, has He revealed which river that is, and if so, which revelation is correct? Christians believe He has revealed that river as Jesus. We are not claiming to have decided that on your behalf, which I think is a misunderstanding that flows throughout your comment. We are simply claiming that the river that runs to God has already been decided by God and are sharing what we believe He has revealed.”””

    If you believe that God reveals himself in Jesus exclusively, keep your conviction with that belief. I simply don’t share that belief. I don’t make any claim which path is the right one. I simply say that I’m not the judge to decide which river is the correct way to reach the ocean.

    “””If by “support” you mean you will continue to love him dearly, regardless of what he believes, then I agree wholeheartedly. But if by “support” you mean you will accept whatever he believes as an equally valid picture of truth, then once again this is a contradiction. At the end of your whole comment, you advise fellow readers to not search for the truth of Christianity. Clearly, if your son believed Christianity is true, you would not feel that view is as valid as yours. Thus, you are willing to claim that at least some views are objectively wrong.”””

    If my son believes that there is only one true way to God and that is Christianity, I will support his decision to become a Christian. However, if he attempts to proselytize me, he loses my support.

    “””After all you wrote about the equally valid paths to God, it’s hard not to see the irony in how you’re advising others to definitely not search for the truth of “these Christians.” Are all paths valid except Christianity? You champion relative, subjective truth, but in doing so, you are making an objective claim that all paths are equally valid (except, notably, Christianity).”””

    I have Christian friends who sincerely believes in Jesus as savior. However, they admit that their beliefs are personal, and they acknowledge that other people have different paths to find God. Unlike fundamentalists, they don’t humiliate or demonize anyone’s faith.

    “””The bottom line is this: Truth is not what we like the best, what makes us most comfortable, what costs us the least, or what makes us happiest. It’s what accurately matches reality. I encourage you to consider the actual evidence for the truth of various worldviews, including of course, Christianity. If you honestly and openly do so, I am confident you will see that there is good reason to believe that Christianity is the uniquely true revelation of God. An excellent book that examines this evidence from the perspective of a detective is Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.”””

    This author is a white man. He grew up in America, where 75% of population are Christians. He may or may not believe in Christianity, but he was exposed to it to large extend. It’s not a surprise that he may find his way back to Christianity when whatever evidence shows. This is just a confirmation bias. I don’t buy it.

    If a Hindu born and raised in India, a Buddhist born and raised in Vietnam, a Muslim born and raised in Turkey, a Jew born and raised in Israel, an Odin-worshiper born and raised in Iceland find Jesus revealing himself through whatever means, I may consider their claims to be more reliable. Or in my case, I read the sermon on the mount and practice what Jesus taught. I have yet received any revelation from God that I need to accept Jesus as savior.

    J. Warner Wallace simply exercises his privilege in a predominant white, heterosexual, Christian environment. If he grew up in India, China, or Norway and was exposed with Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Norse mythology to a large extent, I bet he may write a book to validate those religions.



    • Natasha Crain on April 13, 2016 at 2:30 PM

      Hi Minh,

      Thank you for your comment. I didn’t take it that you were trying to be “argumentative.” You left a response and I decided to share my reply here on the blog – to engage thoughtfully with what you said.

      Much of what you said in response here repeats similar claims as in your original comment so I won’t do another point-by-point follow up (my earlier points still apply). But I will say that J. Warner Wallace is actually a former atheist, so it is hardly “confirmation bias.” He thoroughly investigated whether or not we can trust the claims of the New Testament, from a detective’s perspective. If spiritual matters are truly important to you (as you suggest), then it’s hardly a valid reason to not read what someone wrote just because they are a white male. If you would prefer to read something from someone with an Eastern background, however, you should look at the writings of Ravi Zacharias. He is from India. Here is a book you may be interested in from him: http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Among-Other-Gods-Christian/dp/0849943272/

      The last thing I would say is that God loves every human, and sent Jesus to reveal Himself to all people. While there are minorities demographically, there are no minorities with God. You are loved as much as anyone else, no matter how marginalized someone may have made you feel. I’m sorry if the delivery of God’s message from some Christians has been less than graceful. But that doesn’t necessarily discredit the validity of the message itself. Study the evidence for the truth of various religions directly. If the evidence points to the New Testament of the Bible being reliable historical documents, and there truly being a supernatural resurrection, then Jesus was who He said He was (God) and God HAS revealed Himself to you already…through the Bible.

      I truly wish you the best in your spiritual journey and hope you will understand I’m taking the time to write out of wanting to share God’s love for you.



    • Ben on January 25, 2017 at 9:54 PM

      Minh,
      I know how difficult it is to express a different worldview among people who disagree with you. It takes courage to do so (even more courage to do so not online). Thank you for your willingness to do so. I don’t think a person’s gender or race should have any bearing on whether or not what they’re saying is factually true. Their claims should be judged based on their validity and merit. Natasha already mentioned Ravi Zacharias I’ll give you a few others from varying backgrounds.

      Christopher Yuan: Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God.
      http://www.christopheryuan.com/mobile/index.html

      Nabeel Qureshi: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, and No God But One—Allah or Jesus.

      Rosaria Butterfield: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

      In conclusion Minh, you stated “I read the Bible from cover to cover” and “If you believe that God reveals himself in Jesus exclusively, keep your conviction with that belief. I simply don’t share that belief. I don’t make any claim which path is the right one. I simply say that I’m not the judge to decide which river is the correct way to reach the ocean.”
      I wanted to point out “Christians” DON’T claim that there is only one path to God. Your not mistaken I said that isn’t what “Christians” claim, and maybe Im spliting hairs but when a “Christian” says Jesus is the only way they are simply restating the claims Jesus made about himself. “Jesus said many, many things about who He was — He said that He is the Son of God (Matthew 16:16-17), that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), and that the Father is the One who sent Him (John 5:37). He also announced that He did not come to be served, but to serve and that He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He came as a substitute payment in behalf of humanity. He agreed with His accusers when they called Him “King of the Jews.” His “I am” statements from the book of John reveal that He claimed to be the Good Shepherd who loves the sheep (John 10:11), the Bread of Life who can prevent hunger (John 6:48), and the True Vine who abides in us as we abide in Him (John 15:1). Jesus also said He was the Door to Heaven (John 10:9), and in John 14:6, He expanded on that thought: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but though Me.” That statement has caused many people to back away, thinking, What a bigoted, egotistical statement! How narrow-minded to think that the only way to Heaven is through the person of Jesus Christ. And yet, this man called Jesus is exactly who He says He is. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life. He’s the way, the truth, and the very life itself. Now, if you believe all the other things Jesus said, but decide He can’t be the only way to Heaven, then you are saying He told partial truths or lies. You can’t have it both ways. Either Jesus is who He says He is, or He is not. So you cannot say, “Jesus is a good man, a wonderful teacher, an effective preacher, a great healer, philosopher, and humanitarian, BUT…” Whenever your belief in Christ’s validity has caveats, you make Him a liar. When it comes to all that He said about Himself, either He is a counterfeit and a fraud, or He is exactly who He says He is—the eternal Son of the living God, the Savior of the world, and the One who will some day judge each one of us.”

      Minh, I wish you well on your spiritual quest and as you journey keep in mind the very nature of Truth IS exclusive, it excludes that which is False.



  5. Joel on April 13, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    Someone in your class bungling their evangelism doesn’t support or invalidate the veracity of Christian doctrine. Christian doctrine is either true or it’s not. Jesus claimed that His message was for all the world and to be either received or rejected.

    And regarding your comments on Mr
    Wallace, I suggest you familiarize yourself with Ravi Zacharias.



    • Minh on April 13, 2016 at 4:44 PM

      “””Zacharias was born in Madras, India. He claims descent from a woman of the Nambudiri Brahmin caste and a Christian man of the Boatman caste. His mother was from Madras while his father was from Kerala. He grew up in Delhi.[8] According to Zacharias, before her marriage, Swiss German missionaries had spoken to his Brahmin ancestor about Christianity and she had converted and had been made an outcast by her Brahmin family and community. Zacharias grew up in a nominal Anglican household,[8] and says that he was an atheist until the age of 17 when he tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. While in the hospital, a local Christian worker brought him a Bible and told his mother to read to him from John 14. Zacharias says that it was John 14:19 that touched him and meant to him as the defining paradigm: “Because I live, you also will live.” He said that he thought, “This may be my only hope: A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of Life.” and that he committed his life to Christ praying, “Jesus if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it. Please get me out of this hospital bed well, and I promise I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth.”[8] In 1966 Zacharias emigrated with his family to Canada, earning his undergraduate degree from the Ontario Bible College in 1972 (now Tyndale University College & Seminary) and his M.Div. from Trinity International University.”””

      He grew up in an Anglican household, so he was largely exposed to Christianity. It’s not like he was a complete stranger to the religion. I was raised a Buddhist until I was 9 years old. My family moved to a Catholic neighborhood and lived there for 9 years before we migrated to America. A Catholic neighbor’s kid used to give me a copy of the Bible as a gift. So it’s not like I don’t know anything about Christianity. Nevertheless, I’m still not convinced about Christian claims.

      Anyway, thank you very much, Natasha. I like the fact that you have a conviction and you are honest.

      If I encounter you in person, I may not feel comfortable enough to be your friend, but I will perhaps safe being your neighbor. The experience I describe is just one of many I encountered. I have zero positive experience with American evangelical Christians.

      I have several colleagues and classmates who are immigrants and become born again Christians. I know this only because we talk about our experience as immigrants and how we end up in this nation. None of them never ever even attempt to convert me.

      American evangelical Christians are completely opposite. When I say American, I refer to people who were born and grew up in the States, not just Caucasians. These Christians are the ones I really don’t want to be around. ALL of them, if not aggressive like the guy in my post, always find a way to sneak proselytization in a conversation even though I never initiate any religious discussion.

      When I trust someone enough to be their friend, I expose myself completely. As a result, I make myself emotionally vulnerable. Whenever I am sad or heartbroken, these American Christians always take advantage of the situation to preach although they already know I’m not interest in talking about religion. They may not be as aggressive as the guy in my math class, but I feel disrespected and hurt when they use the moment I am vulnerable to advance their religious agenda. They knew that faith is personal to me and I have no interest in bible study or religious debate, yet they gave me books from apologists on my birthday and Valentine.

      The conversation with the trigonometry classmate was my last straw with Christians. That was when I said I wouldn’t put up with these people any more. Friendship with American Christians is such a pain for me. They absolutely have no respect for anyone different from them, both on the media and real life.

      Having said that, I don’t want you or any American Christians to give up religious conviction. I would rather encounter honest enemies than false friends. Honest discussion like this helps me screen out who I can trust to be my friend and who I should take caution to be my neighbor.



      • Martin on April 14, 2016 at 7:27 AM

        Minh,

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. I find them to be very interesting and I think you raise some good questions. I want to share some observations and a question. Please know that I am not trying to change your mind. I like to see how people think. Feel free to ask me any questions as well.

        Impressive research, by the way, on Ravi Zacharias. I think you go a long way towards making the case that people who have never heard of Christianity, and have been raised in, for example, atheist or Hindu cultures, with no inherent bias or even compatibility with Christianity can have a vastly different outlook on life.

        Another good point you make is that people tend to minimize the impact of race, ethnicity and culture when it comes to Christianity. With God and Jesus portrayed as White, American/European global cultural dominance, and generally having no recent or continuing history of oppression and marginalization, one can argue that it is small wonder that people in America or Europe convert to Christianity. What if one’s only familiarity with Christianity is through oppression? What if the only Christians we see tend to diminish non-European histories and peoples? It’s difficult to ignore that Christians of a privileged class often seem to miss the often life and death struggle of people who are cultural and ethnic minorities.

        However, I do have one question about one point you make. Despite the (arguable) truth of what I just mentioned, help me understand how that is at all related to whether Christianity is true. For example, I was raised in America so I am biased towards, scientific explanations for much of reality (gravity, germs can cause diseases, the earth orbits the sun, etc…). However, my biases and privileged access to education compared to the rest of the world has nothing to do with whether or not it is true that the earth is generally round and orbits the sun. My relatives in Cameroon, for example, can say that my easy access to education, books, the internet and schools, and my relative wealth compared to them is the basis for my belief in, for example, the fact that humans have, for example, DNA or genetic information in our cells. However true their description of my status and biases compared to them is, it would have nothing to do with whether humans do have cells with DNA and genetic information.

        So for Christianity, no matter the leanings of J. Warner Wallace or Ravi Zacharias, the question is this: is it true? Just like for my relatives, no matter the fact that I have more than them, I have had science stuffed down my throat since being a child, and I am thus biased towards. The question is this: does the earth orbit the sun or not. So, help me understand how someone’s biases are related to whether what they believe is true or not.

        Finally, I definitely understand what you are saying about people approaching you with an agenda. You can tell when someone cares about you for real, versus they are not truly concerned about you but simply seek your philosophical agreement. One thing I like about the person of Jesus the Christ is that you can tell he truly cared about people and loved them. What I find fascinating is how he was always prodding people to truly love others as yourself. When you love someone, you really care about who they are, their life, their struggles, their ups and downs. You care about where they are strong or weak, what they need to improve upon and what they are doing great. You offer yourself for their growth. Just a thought.



        • Minh on April 14, 2016 at 11:09 PM

          Hello Martin,

          I will give you a comprehensive answer. However, I have to say this first. I’m not interested in arguing or proving who’s right, who’s not. I happened to find the article Natasha responded to secular parenting without paying attention to the link. At first, I didn’t know this is a sacred place for Christian moms to discuss biblical parenting. I simply wanted to voice my support for I, J because he seemed to be choked by many American evangelical Christians in Natasha’s post.

          Living in the States for 13 years and dealing with various Christians, this is my classification of them:

          1/ Progressive Christians: These people believe in God without emphasis too much on Jesus’ divinity. To them, religion of Jesus is more important than religion about Jesus. They generally don’t pay attention to what other people believe.

          2/ Protestant Christians: The people in this group believe in Jesus as personal savior. They follow Martin Luther’s doctrine that salvation bases on God’s grace and acceptance of Jesus’s atonement. They believe Jesus is the only way to God, and they are content with that. They never try to cramp their beliefs on anyone else, and they don’t take advantage of people’s situation to evangelize.

          I have friends in these two groups. We deeply gain respect for each other.

          3/ Fundamentalist Christians: I guess I don’t need to explain much. Pat Robertson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tony Perkin, and others that I don’t know. These people seek to control everyone’s life through legislation. Worst of all, they want to apply the heinous laws from the Torah to people who are not straight, don’t conform to gender role, and have different religions.

          I still have some respect for fundamentalist Christians because they are honest with their beliefs and they put them out there. They don’t play games; hence, I know who I am dealing with, and I can protect myself.

          4/ American evangelical Christians: These people are the most insidious and deceitful Christians I have ever encountered. Dealing with them is just as miserable as living around communists in Vietnam. Their actions and their words don’t ever match. I specifically say “American evangelical Christians” because the ones who made me grieve have been Americans. Immigrants who are evangelical Christians never do that to me. At least, not yet.

          The insidious act these Christians commit is that they always say nice thing to me and appear to respect who I am. Nevertheless, when I was emotionally vulnerable, when I struggle with my love life and my career, when I am grieving, they discreetly find a way to evangelize me although I explicitly say that I’m not interested.

          Instead of listening to my struggle, they say “Come to Jesus. You will have peace.”
          Instead of consoling me when I have relationship issue, they say “Commit to biblical marriage. Be straight. You will find happiness.”
          When I celebrate Valentine with my boyfriend, they give me “Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage” as a gift.
          When my animal patients passed away, instead of hearing how I feel about them, they say “Don’t be so sad. They are not made in God’s image like us. In Genesis 1, God said ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Only us humans have souls.”
          On my birthday, instead of simply having a nice dinner with me, they gave me books from apologists William Lane Craig and Sean McDowell.

          I have to lay it all out because you say “Please know that I am not trying to change your mind”. I have heard this exact statement over and over from American evangelical Christians. You can be vigorous asking me questions. I’ll do my best to answer you. You don’t have play nice with me. Although I am an American citizen now, I’m not American. I don’t do political correctness. At least, not in an open discussion. Being politically correct made me have to be silent with American evangelical Christians’ mini sermons although I was struggling with my personal issues. Of course when you ask me questions considering the environment we are in, I know what your intention is. I won’t be offended since we are not friends.

          “”” Despite the (arguable) truth of what I just mentioned, help me understand how that is at all related to whether Christianity is true”””

          My mind is not a blank slate. My beliefs don’t simply pop up from nowhere. These are what my birth religion, Buddhism, taught me:

          1/ Don’t kill sentient beings.
          2/ Practice meditation.
          3/ Living simply
          4/ Be compassionate
          5/ Don’t consume alcohol
          6/ Learn to let go of people’s mistakes and my own to free my mind

          And some other things. These are just my highlights. Like many Vietnamese kids, I grew out of Buddhism and explored other religious traditions out of curiosity. There was a period I visited a few churches from different denominations. I found nothing interesting but bizarre beliefs. Although I learned about Christianity when I lived in a Catholic neighborhood, my real interest in the Bible happened when I visited Unitarian Universalist church. I learned about religion of Jesus, not religion about Jesus there. That experience inspired me to read the Bible from cover to cover. Things that don’t make sense never get into my brain. I remember many positive teachings in Ecclesiastes, Sermon on the mount, Book of James, some of Paul’s letters. I also read some teachings from Dessert Fathers and Mothers, a few legends about patron Saints, Jewish midrash stories, some Ba’hai’s teachings, and Neale Donald Walsch’s conversations with God .

          Later, I realize that my “new” belief about God is nothing new. It simply resonates to my childhood experience with Buddhism except that the teachings in latter traditions are more concise and straight to the point. My every spiritual practice (contemplating on some stories or passages, prayers, expressing my gratitude to God, minimalist shopping, helping one person at a time, reading in quietness without TV interference, devoting myself to my boyfriend, etc.) that helps me be in serene and grateful mindset has the influence of Buddhism.

          This may not answer your question to your satisfaction. Generally, the truth in Christianity that American evangelical Christians imply is about Jesus’ resurrection and doctrine of blood sacrifice for atonement. This doctrine is totally strange to me. It’s not like I can will myself into believing it. My “bias” in my spiritual practice comes from Buddhism. If I grew up in a Catholic or Protestant household, I would probably become a full on Christian at this point of my life.

          “””So for Christianity, no matter the leanings of J. Warner Wallace or Ravi Zacharias, the question is this: is it true? Just like for my relatives, no matter the fact that I have more than them, I have had science stuffed down my throat since being a child, and I am thus biased towards. The question is this: does the earth orbit the sun or not. So, help me understand how someone’s biases are related to whether what they believe is true or not.”””

          I cannot help you with this. That is how I see it. Unless you are in my shoes, you will never understand why I am the way I am. Moreover, God/Goddess/Great Spirit/Higher Power can only be seen through the spiritual lens in my opinion. Your lenses and mine are not the same based on our cultural differences. I didn’t have any concept about salvation although I lived in a Catholic neighborhood. No body in the neighborhood told me. It may be different if I was born in a Protestant town.

          Albert Einstein, or someone who distributes to him, said that “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism”.

          I’m not convinced about this claim any more than Jesus is God claim. Just because I was born and raised as a Buddhist doesn’t mean my religion has more merit than any other faith.

          “””Finally, I definitely understand what you are saying about people approaching you with an agenda. You can tell when someone cares about you for real, versus they are not truly concerned about you but simply seek your philosophical agreement. One thing I like about the person of Jesus the Christ is that you can tell he truly cared about people and loved them. What I find fascinating is how he was always prodding people to truly love others as yourself. When you love someone, you really care about who they are, their life, their struggles, their ups and downs. You care about where they are strong or weak, what they need to improve upon and what they are doing great. You offer yourself for their growth. Just a thought.”””

          Not a single American evangelical Christian cares about who I am. They are nice simply because they want to gain my trust so that they can bring me to believe in Jesus.

          I don’t need philosophical agreement with anyone. My spiritual practice enhances my connection with God, but it may not work for other people. I only want respect. American evangelical Christians don’t know what respect is. They don’t even give me a personal space. They intrude whenever my guard goes down. I want to be around people whom I don’t have to be cautious of when they are going to intrude my spiritual system.

          I’m sure that American evangelical Christians believe that they love me. It’s just that they prefer to love me the way they want instead of loving me the way I feel right. I am all right having some exchange about spirituality with them online if I’m in the mood. However, I will never ever be their friend in real life. I believe that it’s a divine plan my family immigrated in California. Here a majority of people don’t tolerate me. They completely accept me and encourage me to be my true self. Unfortunately, once in a while, I still encounter wolf in sheep clothing American evangelical Christians. However, I’m still grateful to God for placing me in California, not in Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, etc. I know that I won’t be able to live in peace with those Christians.



          • Martin on April 15, 2016 at 6:22 AM

            Minh,

            Thanks for answering my questions and responding with a very thoughtful response.

            Martin



      • Elizabeth on April 14, 2016 at 7:43 PM

        Hi Minh,

        I read your comments last night and I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. So, I thought I would send along a few more reading recommendations for you, if you might be interested. I would encourage you to check out Dr. Rosaria Butterfield (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/my-train-wreck-conversion.html) as well as the stories on Voice of the Martyrs. http://www.persecution.com/public/pray.aspx

        I’m hoping they might resonate with you.

        Thank you for being so respectful in your comments, even when you disagree with Christianity. It’s clear that your heart cares deeply for other people, otherwise, you wouldn’t have posted your original comment that was meant to be supportive!

        I’m so sorry that other Christians have been so flawed in their interactions with you. I will pray that the Lord will bring people into your life that might alter how you perceive of us.

        Take care,
        Elizabeth



        • Minh on April 15, 2016 at 12:21 AM

          Thank you for your intention, Elizabeth.

          Like American evangelical Christians, you just don’t get it. My situation and Rosaria’s situation are not the same. I’m not a mess. I’m not against Christians. I don’t mock them, nor do I make fun of the Bible. In fact, I do find some inspirations in the Bible. I never have to fight the concept of salvation in Christianity. It simply doesn’t make sense to me. I have struggled some hardships in my life, but my life is not a wrecked. I’m very content with my relationship with God, just not the same way Christians feel. At the moment, my love life is wonderful. Being gay is who I am. My connection with the higher power has nothing to do with my sexuality.

          I don’t do politics. I’m not an intellectual rationalist. My connection with God is mystical and is not a subject for debate. It’s personal and only works for me.

          By the way, Rosaria Butterfield is a Caucasian American. She was definitely exposed to Christianity in some way. Her conversion is simply a confirmation bias.

          Once again, you have proven that American Evangelical Christians are the type of people I don’t want to be around or become a friend with. Sooner or later, they will find a way to change me. True friends don’t do that.

          I’m not saying this because I’m upset. This is a public discussion. I’m fine with whatever you provide to “help me find a way to Jesus”. In real life, I will definitely run away from you.

          If you are thinking about apologizing me, don’t bother. I don’t need your apology for offending me because I’m not offended. I hope you keep being honest with your conviction. At the end of the day, both you and I cannot please everyone. We have to live with our moral conviction. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Although I have encountered American evangelical Christians like you once in a while, I’m still grateful for the fact that I’m living in California, not the midwest, not the south. Everyday is a blessing, and I’m content with what I am having. If you think that you can change me with an article filled with confirmation bias, you will need to do much much better than that.



          • Elizabeth on April 16, 2016 at 10:09 AM

            Hey Minh,

            You said that you would only be willing to read something that met the following criteria: “If a Hindu born and raised in India, a Buddhist born and raised in Vietnam, a Muslim born and raised in Turkey, a Jew born and raised in Israel, an Odin-worshiper born and raised in Iceland find Jesus revealing himself through whatever means, I may consider their claims to be more reliable.”

            The people of Voice of Martyrs are just that – they grew up in countries where Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Communism, etc. are the predominant belief system. They had minimal childhood exposure to Christianity and came to believe the claims of Christianity in the face of violence, torture, rape, imprisonment, estrangement from friends and family, etc. There are people around the world who give up everything for Jesus that don’t just come to the faith because they were born in the US or Europe and they have some minimal exposure to it as a child.

            You said you wouldn’t read J. Warner Wallace because he grew up white, male, and heterosexual; I provided Dr. Butterfield because she is female, same-sex attracted, and was raised an atheist and knows what it’s like to feel marginalized. She left a successful career, friends, family, a lover, a life of relative ease and comfort, etc. for Jesus. It makes no sense whatsoever from a relativist/”all rivers” standpoint.

            You had pretty specific criteria in what you were willing to read but when I provided some, you implied that I stood for everything that’s wrong with Evangelical Christians. That is kind of like saying you only want to eat hamburgers and then upbraiding the cashier when she gives you what you ordered.

            I’m not upset either, for the record. 🙂 Just pointing out that while you say you would be willing to explore something only if it meets certain criteria, you really aren’t. And that’s certainly ok because it’s just an example of you exercising your God-given free will!

            I do still care about you and wish you the best on your spiritual journey.

            Take care,
            Elizabeth



      • Jane on February 18, 2018 at 3:40 PM

        I just have one comment. If Ravi’s exposure to Christianity makes you disregard his faith, how do you explain his grandmother. Or how do you explain the very first Christian’s that came from Jewish backgrounds or gentiles that came from various religious beliefs. They were certainly not predisposed to Christianity. Christianity spread like wildfire under extreme persecution. That in itself does not prove it’s truth but it is not an adequate excuse for disregarding their conversions.



  6. […] Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist: http://christianmomthoughts.com//is-spiritual-truth-a-matter-of-opinion-an-open-letter-to-a-relativis… […]



  7. Minh on April 17, 2016 at 8:23 AM

    Like I said, you just don’t get it, Elizabeth

    “””You had pretty specific criteria in what you were willing to read but when I provided some, you implied that I stood for everything that’s wrong with Evangelical Christians. That is kind of like saying you only want to eat hamburgers and then upbraiding the cashier when she gives you what you ordered”””

    First of all, I don’t remember saying that I’m open minded to all criteria. I have bias, and I’m not ashamed of admitting that.

    You can think whatever you want about my implication. I won’t waste my time arguing with you. My experience with American evangelical Christians was nothing but negativity. I’m very specific about these people. They are the ones who constantly shove their belief in my mind in a kind and loving way, just like you do. I will take a risk to believe that you will not do this to me if we are friends in real life. But every single American evangelical Christian who used to be my friends did that to me. They are insidious because they take advantage of the time when I was emotionally vulnerable to witness Jesus in my throat. They did that in a nice, sugar coating way that I couldn’t even say anything back. I already had a lot in my mind at that time to put up with such people. However, since you are already a Caucasian, heterosexual, and evangelical Christian person, you will never understand what I was through.

    Like I said, I have immigrant friends who are also born again Christians. They understand what being minority feels like, what being different feels like, how respect should be honored. So far, none of them ever try to evangelize me. Only American evangelical Christians, who are living in privilege, do that.

    Finally, you already know that I’m not an atheist. I don’t around encourage people to go against Christianity. My opinion about American evangelical Christians is my own. I don’t spread it to other people. I have a happy relationship with God and my boyfriend. My life is nothing like Rosaria.

    What you did is the reason I don’t want an American evangelical Christian friend. When a friend knows that I am a happily gay man who has his own way to the divine, I don’t need a second guess to figure out why he would give me a story about a non Christian person who changes his sexual orientation and his former faith. That is what you did, Elizabeth.

    However, just like I said, you simply don’t understand because you live a privilege life as an American evangelical Christian.



  8. Joanna on April 18, 2016 at 3:40 PM

    I think you dissected this very well. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! I love the part where you question why we put so much trust in our feelings. That was very convicting! Sometimes I *feel* so distant from God, even though He dwells in me (the Holy Spirit). So I can’t trust my feelings when the Truth of God’s word clearly states that I am never alone when I’m feeling alone.



  9. Martin on April 19, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    @Elizabeth, @Natasha, and anyone else 🙂

    First, good questions and dialog from both of you. I have learned alot.

    One thing I have learned from our discussion in this blog post is that for some individuals the powerful emotional dimensions to their experiences are all that matters. They are not able to really engage, in any significant way, the concept of objective versus subjective truth. Truth is not about reality independent of beliefs (e.g. the earth revolving around the sun, it is wrong to kill babies for fun), rather truth for many is totally subjective. Of course, this is to a point. Nobody is subjective or a relativist when it comes to, for example, reading the medicine bottle. It’s funny how the relativists’ “personal truth” tends to always line up with the pharmacist’s own truth when it comes, for example, to the toxic consequences of too much acetaminophen. The question is, how do we help people understand objective vs. subjective realities? (@Natasha, your book does this, right?)

    I also think Minh brings up a good point about being able to understand someone’s experience, being empathetic and being genuine. It is clear that his negative experiences with Christians have substantially impacted him. I think this is why Jesus always led with genuine love whether or not the people accepted what he said. He truly cared about them. That genuine love and care looks different from simply trying to convince someone of a certain position. Ravi Zacharias said we should always answer not just the question, but the person as well. One take away for me and my ministry, is the importance of truly, genuinely loving the person – even if we don’t agree. We must never sacrifice the gospel and righteousness.

    Another good thing that all of us should be aware of is that some of the thoughts expressed in Minh’s responses are increasingly being reflected in this country. People from non-European origins are increasingly seeing Christianity as another form of cultural imperialism, and simply extending the psychological colonization of oppressed peoples. Christianity is increasingly being seen as an opiate meant to distract people from engaging in the hard work necessary to improve their conditions and fight injustice. I am constantly in discussion with such individuals. Thankfully, being that Jesus never advocated oppression, I often resort to asking them to show me where the words of Christ justified slavery, oppression, etc… In any event, we as Christians need to be mindful of these currents because they raise good, tough questions that deserve a thoughtful response, and they also help us understand the world that Christ asked us to reach. Sadly, for many, once Christianity is associated with domination and oppression, it’s hard work to get people to understand that the love of God in Christ Jesus is the very basis that we have to fight against injustice and oppression. It is our objective indisputable and inherent worth and value as humans bestowed upon us by God, and demonstrated in Christ, that under gird any notion of rights, justice, etc… If we do not have objective worth, then we are just molecules in motion.

    One thing we as apologists should think about, is how to further extend apologetics’ reach to engage with admittedly sensitive and potentially explosive issues (race, sexism, etc…). I think we have rightfully taken on scientists and historians when they have attacked the faith. We have rightfully addressed some of the larger cultural questions. However, I think that if we are to be effective throughout large swaths of society, we are going to have to pray, study, then carefully but confidently wade into these explosive divisive issues. Why? Satan is taking full advantage of our relative absence in these areas to paint Christians as cultural imperialists, apathetic, or, worse, complicit. It’s truly hard, and it’s a minefield indeed. No question about it. However, we are called to seek and save the lost.

    At any rate, any thoughts from anyone about this discussion and what we have learned and any take-aways that any of us can use as individuals and in our ministries?



    • Andrea E. S. on April 29, 2016 at 2:51 PM

      Martin,
      My heart’s desire is to show love and sincerity to people who are ticked off at American Christians. These are the kind of people who want to engage me in philosophical discussions that tend to get lost on me, because I am not a philosophical thinker. For this simple reason, my emotions get entangled and anger arises. I think this is true of many American Christians because many of us grew up in church, never leaving it’s comforts and learning to minister to the world. We were taught to minister, but we weren’t taught how. Or we were taught the wrong way t ok minister. I don’t believe how I grew up is true Christianity. The building is not the church, it is the people. I’ve had a Holy Spirit moment on Easter Sunday, this year, in which I was called by love to God, and not guilt. This all happened before I walked into a church that day, after rejecting the church for many years. I can’t explain it, but it was a God moment and I am thankful and so very blessed that this happened!! I’ve lived so long under an oppressive “Christianity” that I tend to get that mixed up with what I feel God brought to me….peace and love…on Easter. So I get locked in my old ways of arguing and getting frustrated with these types of arguments. I’d much rather be reaching with love. And that word “proselytizing” gets thrown in so often when, really, it’s the athiest or non-believer who started the conversation. Frustrating. Martin, I’m asking YOU directly, if you have any suggestions for me as a believer, who wants to minister and learn when to stop and when to begin these conversations. I’d also like to know how people like Minh could see me caring, showing Jesus love in a non intrusive way and invested in their friendship manner. I have HUGE empathy. I always have. And then, where do you go from there? When is the right time to share without them feeling I’ve only cared in order to convert?? And I don’t understand why I draw the philosophical types, but maybe the Holy Spirit is asking me to speak when I don’t want to be drawn into arguments. I cannot remain passive. I cannot keep my mouth shut about Jesus. Is arguing even what I’m supposed to do, when I am drawn in? It’s like I get baited. I know without a doubt that Jesus is the only path to God. Your suggestions would mean a lot to me. I think you’ve leaned into the conversation with some very good points. I don’t even follow this Blogger (no offense, someone posted your blog to Facebook and your kindness/wisdom in your answers is wonderful!!). I’m like a sponge. I need answers. Whatever you can share, I thank you in advance!
      And Minh…wow…you’ve made some excellent points. I’m sorry that Christians came to you in a thoughtless manner. I would rather bring you a gift and a cake, than a book that you did not ask for. As for animals, God created animals. I don’t believe they are nothing compared to humans. Grief is grief!! I have animals that are pets and they probably understand the creator better than I do! God has mentioned and used animals many times in the scriptures. I’d rather grieve with you, than shove a scripture at you! And you, being gay….this is not for me to point fingers and judge you! Many American Christians have this concept of they suddenly stopped doing things the Bible taught them not to do and when they fail, they hide it. Horrifying. Minh, I go against scripture many times. I’m learning that Jesus loves me the way I am. As a Christian, I believe in the reality that none of us are following God’s commands of our own desires. However, there is a part of God, the Holy Spirit, who helps us with continual mess ups according to God’s commands. We learn and we grow. We change if we are true followers of God, but we are not perfect, Minh!! I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve been a hypocrite, a liar, an adulterer, etc. and I still keep on doing wrong. I still offend people. I still hurt people’s feelings. I still act the fool, the hypocrite, when I am around people who are very different from me! But GOD loves us. We can change, and we do. But only if we aren’t hiding these things from God and asking his help. I ask his help every time I walk into Walmart. I ask his help every time I get tempted to join in gossip and slander. I ask his help every day. Minh, there are Christians dying in other countries for their faith. They were not raised Christian. The fact that you jumped onto a blog with your thoughts tells me you are a thinker and you want to understand. Keep thinking. Keep asking. And the God you are connected with, you are right! You are his creation…you are very connected. If he can bring you to feel connected, he can also tell you what absolute truth is. Have you asked him to give you absolute truth about faith, religion, and knowledge about who he really is? Minh, know that you are loved beyond belief by the Creator. You are an intelligent guy with a gift of amazing intellect. What an amazing person you must be to be reading up and studying all types of religions and books. And some of those books, you didn’t even want. You really do have empathy. Even if we don’t agree, you are kind with your words and you are thoughtful in your manner. I see you still searching for answers. Don’t stop searching. Speak to the Creator of the universe and ask for him to show you truth.
      Thank you all for sharing here. I’m always amazed at how I find myself in these conversations when I’m not a huge intellectual.
      Martin, thanks in advance for any suggestions you can share!!



      • Martin on May 1, 2016 at 7:28 PM

        @Andrea E. S.

        Thanks for your insights. Your genuineness is truly encouraging and reminds me of reading the Psalms. Pray for me as I pray for you.

        You ask a truly great question. I can’t say that I have a definitive answer but I do have some thoughts.

        Looking at the example of Christ and what the Bible teaches, I think the way to truly show someone genuine Christ-like love is to actually care about them and love them regardless of whether or not they accept Christ. If you love someone, you truly care about them regardless. What are their needs, are they lonely, hungry, facing family issues or challenges at work? True love exists no matter what. However, true love does not mean we agree with everything someone does or support them in everything they do. Nor does it mean that we lower the standards. I have noticed that during human relationships, all types of things come up from time to time, faith, religion, politics, etc… Those present natural opportunities to share points of views rooted in God’s word. Plus, reading the Bible and looking at Jesus’ example, you see that sometimes Jesus was direct, sometimes he was indirect, but always caring. Notice how he approached the woman at the well. He could have really turned the screws on her, but chose not to. Other times he was more direct. It’s just like any other issue with our friends, sometimes we are very direct with them on an issue, other times we are indirect, because we truly care.

        Ultimately, the Bible asks that people should know who we are as Christians due to our love. Love for God, love for each other, and love for our fellow humans. That love should be manifested in the fact that even if we disagree with them – and they know that we do – they can count on us to be there for them, care about them, help them out and be there for them. In the Bible, James said that we should not send someone away hungry with just words of encouragement. The Bible asks us to fight injustice, take care of widows and orphans and tend to the “least of these”. What can we do for strippers, prostitutes, drug dealers and gang members? How can we be there for families in Flint or Appalachia? Do they need a ride to work, help finding a job, help with their children, advice on how to deal with a tragic loss, are they in jail or going to prison, is their health failing? Let’s jump in and show that we care – even if they never join the faith, they will always be able to say that “…no matter what, that Christian showed me love”.

        Those are some of my thoughts.



      • Minh on May 1, 2016 at 11:57 PM

        “””Minh…wow…you’ve made some excellent points. I’m sorry that Christians came to you in a thoughtless manner. I would rather bring you a gift and a cake, than a book that you did not ask for.”””
        Actually, I don’t mind proselytization although I’m not interested in religious debates. The moment I know someone is a Christian, I keep my distance until I know which side he/she chooses: humanity or belief. If a person is a Christian before he is a person, I try not to be too close to him. I know this is harsh, and I admit that I have my prejudice. I read the bible, too. I know what it says about making people accept Jesus. I know that even my Protestant friends have desire to witness to me, but they choose to be silent because they respect my spiritual identity and they value our friendship over their belief.

        Fundamentalist Christians and American evangelical Christians have zero respect for anyone else who doesn’t share their belief. The only difference is that fundamentalists witness to people’s faces while the latter do it behind people’s back when people are vulnerable. This is the reason I despise every one of them.

        “””As for animals, God created animals. I don’t believe they are nothing compared to humans. Grief is grief!! I have animals that are pets and they probably understand the creator better than I do! God has mentioned and used animals many times in the scriptures. I’d rather grieve with you, than shove a scripture at you!”””

        Honestly, they thought that they wanted to help me to be closer to their savior. I understand that it’s the nature of Christianity to spread good news, and Christians have obligation to do that. However, they have to understand that there is right time and right place to do that. This is why it’s so difficult to be around American evangelical Christians. Their mind is clouded with the idea of how to save my soul. They simply don’t have any empathy to understand people who don’t share their Christian worldview.

        “””And you, being gay….this is not for me to point fingers and judge you! Many American Christians have this concept of they suddenly stopped doing things the Bible taught them not to do and when they fail, they hide it.”””

        I’m fine with Christians judging me. As long as they are honest, I am all right with them expressing their opinions. However, they should do it in front of my face when I’m capable of hearing it and defending myself. American evangelical Christians enjoy talking about my sexual orientation when I’m emotionally vulnerable and they know that I can’t say anything back. That is insidious even though they talk with a nice sweet tone with sugar coating words.

        “””As a Christian, I believe in the reality that none of us are following God’s commands of our own desires. However, there is a part of God, the Holy Spirit, who helps us with continual mess ups according to God’s commands. We learn and we grow. We change if we are true followers of God, but we are not perfect, Minh!! I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve been a hypocrite, a liar, an adulterer, etc. and I still keep on doing wrong. I still offend people. I still hurt people’s feelings. I still act the fool, the hypocrite, when I am around people who are very different from me! But GOD loves us. We can change, and we do. But only if we aren’t hiding these things from God and asking his help. I ask his help every time I walk into Walmart. I ask his help every time I get tempted to join in gossip and slander. I ask his help every day.”””

        I’m not sure what advice you want to give me.

        “””Minh, there are Christians dying in other countries for their faith. They were not raised Christian.”””

        People of other faiths are also dying because of their convictions. I don’t know what you are trying to prove to me.

        “””The fact that you jumped onto a blog with your thoughts tells me you are a thinker and you want to understand.”””

        Actually, I came to this site by accident. I was lead right where I saw a bunch of American evangelical Christians corner an atheist over secular parenting. I didn’t know this is a Christian parenting site at first. If I was more aware, I wouldn’t bother with all these replies. As I said, religious debates do not interest me. I only answer questions directed at me.

        I don’t need to understand Christians any more than I understand my hands have ten fingers. Living in the States since 2003, I am around enough Christians to know their nature.

        “””Keep thinking. Keep asking. And the God you are connected with, you are right! You are his creation…you are very connected. If he can bring you to feel connected, he can also tell you what absolute truth is. Have you asked him to give you absolute truth about faith, religion, and knowledge about who he really is?”””

        No, I haven’t. He or she is real enough to me that I don’t need to be absolutely certain about this nature. My relationship with God is mystical, not based on a book. Unlike American evangelical Christians, I don’t claim to know God’s true nature. Maybe they are right, and I’m wrong. I will find out when I no longer exist on this earth. I’m living with spiritual gifts I have been receiving from him, and I’m content with my relationship with him.

        “”” Minh, know that you are loved beyond belief by the Creator. You are an intelligent guy with a gift of amazing intellect. What an amazing person you must be to be reading up and studying all types of religions and books. And some of those books, you didn’t even want. “””

        Thank you. I’m not as intelligent or intellectual as you think I am. When I deal with spirituality, romance, and other types of relationship, my heart speaks more than my head.

        “””You really do have empathy. Even if we don’t agree, you are kind with your words and you are thoughtful in your manner. I see you still searching for answers. Don’t stop searching. Speak to the Creator of the universe and ask for him to show you truth.”””

        Thank you for your compliment. I don’t think I’m kind with my words. I’m not American. I’m Vietnamese. I was taught that action speaks louder than words and saving one life has more worth than building many temples. Words are empty; hence, I don’t do political correctness. Unfortunately, American evangelical Christians are kind with their words, but they attempt to stab me behind my back too many times. This doesn’t just stop with personal relationship. They want to control the White House to oppress people like me.



  10. […] Christian apologists (people who make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity) often emphasize the need to understand the difference between objective and subjective truth. Objective truth is a proposition which is true for all people, regardless of our opinions (“It’s snowing outside”). Subjective truth is a proposition which can be true for some but not others (“Snow is beautiful”). Apologists have focused on this distinction because many people today claim that nothing is objectively true. Such a claim is important when discussing Christianity because Christianity assumes objective truth exists—that Jesus is the one and only truth for everyone and it’s not up to individuals to find whatever path to God they want. […]



  11. […] Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist– Natash Crain […]



  12. Shelly on May 21, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    Another awesome post. I will be sharing this with my teenage daughter and my son who is in college.



  13. […] By Natasha Crain […]



  14. Donna Walker on October 8, 2017 at 6:11 PM

    I just came across your post since The Poached Egg put the link on fb today. EXCELLENT article and thoughtful & loving response to Minh. My husband is teaching an apolo class at our church (using the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist). We plan to print out your exchange with Minh. It is a beautiful example of how to lovingly respond to a skeptic. Thank you so much for this blog. P.S. We sat in your session @ rethink last month.



  15. Margie on January 21, 2018 at 5:38 PM

    An interesting exchange for certain. I never do well with online forums – usually everyone decides to dogpile on me for a comment I never considered to be offensive or controversial. Adding to that I have a highly unattractive personality which tends to repel people. (wish I could change that, but I seem stuck with who I am) And lastly, I don’t like to be wrong ever, and that usually makes me a cautious person who gets defensive. But here goes.

    I hear Minh asking for us to understand his culture, which admittedly is foreign to me. I’d like to share what it looks like inside the culture he finds repulsive – my culture of origin, for some clarity and insight as to why we are as we are.

    I grew up on a farm in the rural Midwest sixty years ago. It was a fairly homogenous culture, but until recently many cultures around the world were fairly homogenous with little understanding of people from other places. That’s how it was. Most of us in that area were English/German/Western European descendants of the original settlers in the area. That blend of ethnicities also dictated the religious composition of the area. There were many Methodists (from the English) many Lutherans (from the Germans) and a wide mix other Protestant denominations with a very small Catholic population thrown in. For the most part, we all respected each others’ denominations and knew that the teachings of the Bible were universally taught. Most of the differences were in the way the churches were organized and were superficial, with cooperation between churches common, allowing for free flow of ideas and standards. Sadly to say, some of these churches have backed away from Martin Luther’s solo scriputra doctrine (the Bible alone) in recent years. That is one point I DO NOT yield on.

    Although not everyone went to church, all were at least exposed to the Bible and the teachings and person of Jesus. Point one is that we never had to explain those things because they were culturally understood. We often still do not know how to connect with people who don’t share that. It is outside our scope of experience and is something that can only be learned, usually through intentionally seeking out that learning.

    Although many of my community went to church, for some it was an obligation, a duty. For others, it was something that was expected or done to make you an upstanding person in the community. And for others, it was a habit that was supposed to make you a better person. As you can see, none of these have much to do with a spiritual connection to God. Point two is that people may go to church, but have little spirituality.

    Sometimes in our rush of excitement or our clumsiness or our limited understanding, we bungle it all quite badly. I at one time was very much your math classmate, who could have grown up much as I did except I would have stopped before the abomination comment. That was cuttingly cruel. I shared Jesus with you because I cared about you. But my bungling seemed to do more with repelling people from the Gospel instead of drawing people to Jesus. While others seem to have good success with sharing their faith in a desirable way, I and my unlovely personality seem to do better waiting until asked. If some of you reading this have tips on how a person with an unlovely personality can do better sharing their faith, please tell me. I stink at that.

    As a parting thought, one day I was eating lunch with my Chinese American coworker and my Hindu Indian coworker. The subject of religions came up and I chose to listen and learn. I said very little and they didn’t ask me anything. I don’t know what they assumed I was as I had said nothing to either of them about my faith. They both concluded that their religious choices and beliefs were the ones they grew up with and that most people tended to stay with the religion they were raised with. In their observation, religious preferences were often made with emotion and familiarity, not logic.



    • Margie on January 22, 2018 at 2:22 PM

      In my editing and not-computer-native awkwardness, I lost this section but if I remember what I wanted to say it was this. For those of us growing up in that environment, for whom faith was no longer a set of rules to follow to please God or a duty or to look good to other people, but who loved God with our hearts, minds and souls, our faith in Jesus was our most precious treasure. My third and most important point is this: Because we cared about you, we wanted to share how to find that most precious treasure for yourself. It wasn’t because we thought that we were better than you – we were painfully aware of our own failures and shortcomings. It wasn’t because we wanted brownie points or badges for works. Our works do not make us more deserving in God’s eyes or earn us special favor with Him. This faith is not a “white man’s” thing. It is for all people.