As all true Christians on this list would agree, it is *hopeless* trying to explain a loving, intimate relationship with God in Christ, through the Spirit, to a non-Christian.
Edward: I experienced it, from the time I was raised a devout Catholic in my youth to the time I was “born again” as a high school sophomore — to nearly five years after I left college, when I began to doubt that what I was experiencing was a “relationship.” I know what a “relationship” is and it entails something called conversations. I donʼt have “relationships” via say, a book that was written years ago, and translated or interpreted rightly or wrongly by others, and which requires commentaries to “truly” understand. Neither do I have a “relationship” via interpreting literally everything that happens to me, good, bad, indifferent, prayers answered, prayers not answered, as being equal to a “relationship” — that is merely to list everything that happens to me, not to “have a relationship.”
I put “God” in parentheses because you said your prayers were answered [by “God” - implied], and that explained the success of your website. Though of course, there are countless websites on countless topics that receive lots of emails each day and probably not all of their owners attribute their large numbers of members or large number of “hits” directly to “God.” I do agree that your explanation fits you and your beliefs. However anyone with relative success in any field of endeavor and with other beliefs could claim the same. I could claim, via a list of synchronicities that led me out of the fold (like running into certain books and certain people, like Will Bagley and Robert Price, who never gave up on me, *smile*) And bumping into others of like mind, were all “hits” that make me believe “God” is something bigger and broader than the “God” I once believed in. In other words, your mention of “God answering your website prayers” does fit the scenario of being in church with fellow believers and rising to give a testimony, but how is it convincing to others of other denominations, other religions, or spiritual folks with no-religion, or agnostics and atheists?
Here is an example of an answer to prayer in the life of the founder of the Chinese Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor, that made a *big* impression on me when I bought the book (a biography written by Huddon Taylorʼs son Howard and his wife) in 1968, about a year and a half after my conversion.
Edward: I have read the story of “answered prayer” that you supplied, and of course, missionaries were receiving checks. Sometimes they came on time, sometimes they came in the nick of time, sometimes they came too late (but the lattermost stories donʼt get written up as much — take the story of the Christian who starred in Chariots of Fire and became a missionary in China right out of college and died at a young age of brain cancer). But the fact that Britain was perhaps the richest nation on earth at that time, 1850, means nothing to you? Wealthy countries send checks to their co-inhabitants and fellow religionists.
Here is another tagline quote on Danielʼs 70 weeks. Maybe Ed has the courage to accept my conditions (since significantly no non-Christian yet has), i.e. state publicly in advance that he would not beg the question by ruling out the supernatural, so that the objectively best explanation (naturalistic or supernaturalistic), i.e. that best fits all the facts, wins.
BTW, I am not necessarily claiming that I accept *everything* in these quotes about Danielʼs 70 seeks, but they provide valuable information that will help me when I come to writing up PE 22.214.171.124 section on fulfilled Biblical prophecy (e.g. Dan 9:24-27 and Mic 5:2) as a refutation of the philosophy of naturalism upon which the theory of evolution depends:
I have said that my opponents can quote from outside non-Christian sources critical of these two prophecies, as long as they own as theirs a *single* position of the source they are quoting. I see no point in debating a plethora of positions, none of which my opponents themselves believe.
Edward: “Courage” does not answer questions. And any full definition of “courage” must also include having the “courage” to let oneʼs doubts be doubts. Having the courage to live a life of true faith instead of constantly trying to spackle up every crack in the edifice of your list of beliefs with “proof texts,” and ad hoc spackle added to them whenever the “proof texting” gets a little “fuzzy.”
There is a Christian site dedicated to the Book of Daniel and its author has been cruising the web for quite a while trying to get a firm handle on the “69 weeks of years” prophecy. His latest conclusion is that “we canʼt all agree, at this time, on every specific detail involved in calculating a starting point for Danielʼs prophecy about the 69 weeks of years.” Here is a quotation from his website:
My conclusions about Danielʼs “69 weeks of years”. Perhaps we canʼt all agree, at this time, on every specific detail involved in calculating a starting point for Danielʼs prophecy about the 69 weeks of years. But, eventually, we might have additional information from archaeologists and historians to help pinpoint that starting point.
Meanwhile, the skeptic Richard Carrier [M.Phil. Ancient History, Columbia University (2000), I believe he is going for his Ph.D.] wrote an essay in 1999 that discussed Danielʼs “seventy weeks” and he argued that the prophecy does not fit Jesus to the year, since the prophecy does not fall within the known reign of Pilate [see his footnotes]
To echo your own concerns above, neither do I want to debate a variety of ad hoc hypotheses invented by inerrantists in a vain effort to try and remove all questions concerning “prophetic fulfillment.” There are alleged “prophecies” galore in the Bible, some of which raise the most obvious prima facia questions and that require a premium amount of “wiggling” by inerrantists in order to “prove.” Others seem like they have a much better chance of being used to “prove” something to non-Christians or Jews. Still others fall in the middle.
I will say this however, if you want to study history, study history, donʼt just pluck a few “Bible proof texts” out of the Bible and think you have plucked out all the plums, and so you can then toss away all the rest of the questions related to history, the book of Daniel, man, God, etc. I was involved with a debate over the historicity of the Book of Daniel that took place over the years 1997-2001. An evangelical friend, Everette Hatcher, had read my book, Leaving the Fold, and wrote me soon after my book was published in 1995. We kept in touch via snail mail. He had grown disillusioned with some of the so-called quotations of Americaʼs “Christian” Fathers that Barton was citing, but Everette continued to believe in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. (I believe he still does.) Everette got into a debate with Farrell Till on the historicity of the book of Daniel, and since Everette knew that I knew Till, he sent me copies of his debate as well as copies of letters that Everette recʼd from theologians on the topic of the historicity of Daniel, some were conservative scholars, some were moderate. Everetteʼs debate with Till took place from 1997 to 2002 and is on the internet. I have a file of letters from Everette and some letters I also wrote him on the topic. (My own doubts were not overturned.)
If there is one thing that I learned via the debate, it was the name of ostensibly the worldʼs greatest living Daniel scholar: John Joseph Collins, whose works include:
The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception (2-Volume Set) by John Joseph Collins (Editor), Peter W. Flint (Editor) (Hardcover - June 2001)
Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible) by John Joseph Collins, et al (Hardcover - June 1994)
Amazon Reviewer: This book is massive, but justifies its size by giving a thorough and comprehensive survey of one of the strangest and most incomprehensible books of the Bible. It covers every aspect that would interest the diligent Bible scholar. Beginners will find it very tough going! Collins believes that Daniel himself had no hand in writing the book, but that it was the product of the age of the Maccabean struggle. However, he presents all the evidence and arguments fully, being fair to those of a more conservative viewpoint. What you will not find in this book is an attempt to show that Daniel was successfully predicting events in the 20th century or even further in the future.
Daniel: With an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature (Forms of the Old Testament Literature, Vol 20) by John Joseph Collins, et al (Paperback - December 1984)
The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel (Harvard Semitic Monographs, No. 16) by John Joseph Collins
Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age (Old Testament Library) by John Joseph Collins (Hardcover - October 1997)
The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism: Apocalypticism in the Modern Period and the Contemporary Age by Stephen J. Stein (Editor), John Joseph Collins
Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls by John Joseph Collins (Paperback - September 1997)
The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (The Biblical Resource Series) by John Joseph Collins (Paperback - April 1998)
Seers, Sybils, and Sages in Hellenistic-Roman Judaism (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, V. 54)by John Joseph Collins, Florentino Garcia Martinez (Paperback - December 2001)
More on Everette Hatcherʼs and Farrell Tillʼs articles on the question of the historicity of the book of Daniel.
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