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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The "Witness of the Spirit" and the "Burning in the Bosom"

In a previous post, I argued that evangelical apologists such as William Craig have a vested interest in interpeting the evidence to agree with their belief in a literal resurrection. Because of their prior faith commitment and because of their careers being tied to their stand on a literal resurrection, they cannot interpret the evidence in a way that would disconfirm their faith

My contention is further proven by this video clip interview of Craig

In the interview he is asked how Christians should handle intellectual doubts. In response he says that he knows Christianity is true because of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16--The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God). He says that even if the evidence points against his faith at some point, he knows the evidence must be invalid or misinterpreted because ultimately the inner witness of the Spirit trumps everything.So, he admits point blank that his mind is closed. Nothing can disconfirm his faith.

I fail to see how that is any different than the Mormon's burning in the bosom..

One of the foundations of Mormonism is its insistence that a person seek the truth by praying for a private, special revelation from the Holy Spirit.

"In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us through our feelings and thoughts... Heavenly Father will answer their prayers, typically through feelings of their hearts and thoughts in their minds." (Preach the Gospel, p. 39; this is the "2004 handbook utilized by the Mormon missionaries").

What they receive is sometimes called a burning in the bosom as a confirmation of truth. Mormons frequently appeal to James 1:5 for this, especially given that their founder, Joseph Smith, claimed that this was the verse and method he used for finding the truth. This is often accompanied by the insistence that one suspend judgment of his or her religion (even in the face of its historical and theological problems) until he or she has read the Book of Mormon and received, by prayer, a special revelation from the Holy Spirit of its truthfulness.

The Mormon knows his religion is true because the Holy Spirit has personally assured him. No amount of evidence against Mormonism can disconfirm this witness of the Spirit. I would like for Craig or some other Christian to tell me how that is any different from their position?

He would probably say: Well the Mormon's burning in the bosom is either Satanic in origin or its just imaginary. But wouldn't the Mormon say the exact same thing about the evangelical's witness of the Spirit?

Craig goes on to say in the video link that if doubts about evangelicalism arise, they come from Satan. So, I think my point in the previous post is just further confirmed. Evangelicals, like Craig, cannot be open-minded about the evidences for Christianity. They look at the evidence with their minds already made up. If the evidence causes them to doubt their Christianity, then they say the doubts are being put in their mind by Satan.

Craig may have two doctorates and be a learned philosopher, but when it comes right down to it, he is no different than the fundamentalist preacher who will stand in a pulpit today and proclaim: Jesus loves me this I know, because the Bible tells me so.


  1. Nothing can disconfirm Darwinian thinking either... You don't seem to realize that all of life is based on faith.

    There is a reason Christianity is the largest religion in the world. Christianity promotes the reality of love.

    No other religion including atheism promotes true, eternal unfailing love. This belongs to Christians alone

    In fact, you could know the love of God through faith. When you know the love of God, you never turn away from that which you know to be true.

    Christianity can be falsified though. It could be falsified if the body of Christ had been discovered. The evidence if overwhelming for the ressurection so we we would need overwhelming evidence that Christianity was not true which would be the body of Jesus.

    The godless worldview has no way of being falsified and appears to be a blind belief. If you really accepted the scientific method, you would also be an Christian since the hypothesis that Christ was the Son of God has been tested and confirmed.

    God Bless...

  2. Ken,

    I agree. All the apologetics is just for fun, basically, I guess, cause they aren't depending on the evidence. They are depending on a feeling.

    It really does come down to-they are sure, and they are smart enough to endlessly have an answer for any question that comes up.

    There are those, like myself, to whom all the arguments DO make a difference. People like me had doubts and confusion all along. All that's needed is to come across somebody you never heard of-for me-Christopher Hitchens-AND to be a reader, and the rest is history.

    I then went on to learn alot and discover many others like myself-very affirming. I realized I wasn't crazy after all. And I was in good company.

    I'll have to reread your story. It would be interesting to compare your experience with Craig's. I'd love to hear your comments on that. How you could and did get out after having a big investment in it all.

    I honestly cannot imagine having colleagues, etc., then changing your mind. I think it's great though. And honest and admirable.

  3. Oh my goodness!! I'm back cause I watched the video clip! Made me exasperated!

    Ok, per Dr. Craig, if you are a Christian, and you have doubts, you are to understand that Satan is influencing your mind. It's not your own critical-thinking ability-a wonderful ability of your human brain-no, it's the DEVIL! Poor you! Forces of good and evil are fighting it out in your little head!!

    Wouldn't this be like if you had joined a cult, then started to have doubts. Then the cult leader would tell you that those thoughts were from Satan. They would tell you that your parents and friends were being used by Satan to steal you from the truth.

    So you can never trust your own good sense. I truly hate the "no-way-out" box they try to keep your mind in!!!

  4. One more thing, then I'll stop. This thing of the Holy Spirit needing HELP from your praying and reading your Bible. That is so ridiculous to me. It sure doesn't make him sound all that powerful.
    Also the sight of a grown man sitting there talking about the devil seemed quite silly.

    Ok, rant over.

  5. Ken, superb as always. This has to be a chapter in your book -- which I hope you are writing !
    When I read you, I wish you and Luke, over at "Common Sense Atheism" would join strength in publishing something. You are both good writers with different skill sets.

    The inner witness of the Holy Spirit (or "I just know it") is everyone's main argument. The other rhetorical style I run into most often is that when an argument is about to be shown false, they quickly run to other controversies and never finish admitting to their mistakes to themselves.

    The Japanese have a word for those kinds of reasons that you plan on running from anyway, they are called "Fart-Logic", believe it or not.

  6. Suppose Craig were trying to convert a Muslim who had the same "doubts are from Satan" belief? As soon as Craig's apologetics would start making inroads, the Muslim would conclude that Satan was messing with his mind -- an immediate objectivity shutdown. How would Craig overcome such a dynamic? Would he urge the Muslim to ignore those fears and be totally objective, or what? How could he without being a rank hypocrite??

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  8. Here are two miracles:

    1. Jesus Arose From the Dead.

    2. St. Raymond of Penyafort Had a Sailing Cloak.

    Here is the account of St. Raymond and the sinful prince / king:
    This prince was an accomplished soldier and statesman, and a sincere lover of religion, but his great qualities were sullied by a base passion for women. He received the admonitions of the saint with respect, and promised amendment of life, and a faithful compliance with the saint's injunctions in every particular; but without effect. St.Raymund, upon discovering that he entertained a lady at his court with whom he was suspected to have criminal conversation, made the strongest instances to have her dismissed, which the king promised should be done, but postponed the execution. The saint, dissatisfied with the delay, begged leave to retire to his convent at Barcelona. The king not only refused him leave, but threatened to punish with death any person that should undertake to convey him out of the island. The saint, full of confidence in God, said to his companion, "A king of the earth endeavors to deprive us of the means of retiring; but the King of heaven will supply them." He then walked boldly to the waters, spread his cloak upon them, tied up one corner of it to a staff for a sail, and having made the sign of the cross, stepped upon it without fear, while his timorous companion stood trembling and wondering on the shore. On this new kind of vessel the saint was wafted with such rapidity, that in six hours he reached the harbor of Barcelona, sixty leagues distant from Majorca. Those who saw him arrive in this manner met him with acclamations. But he, gathering up his cloak dry, put it on, stole through the crowd, and entered his monastery. A chapel and a tower, built on the place where he landed, have transmitted the memory of this miracle to posterity. This relation is taken from the bull of his canonization, and the earliest historians of his life. The king became a sincere convert, and governed his conscience, and even his kingdoms, by the advice of St. Raymund from that time till the death of the saint.

    Both miracles are venerated by honest sincere Christian faith as having factually happened.

    A. Form the view of an outsider: How does a non-Christian tell which of the above miracles (if any) are factually true? Why are both stories not just recorded examples wishful thinking?

    B. How does one Christian faith (Catholicism) know historical truth by faith; while another Christian faith (Protestantism) knows the same historical truth to be a pious religious fraud? {How can Protestants attack with faith miracles (which Catholics believe to be true) as pious lies (St. Raymond via Negative Criticism), but immediately reverse themselves and claim to know historical truth with the same faith (Jesus’ Resurrection via Positive Criticism)?}

  9. A more pressing question would be: Why did the Spirit tell the author of the Epistle of Jude that the Book Of Enoch was true in that he quotes from it:

    But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 9

    And yet, this same Christian Holy Spirit tells Dr. Craig that the Book of Enoch is not true because it was not Canonized?

  10. "Holy Ghost will teach us through our feelings and thoughts..."
    So will PCP.

  11. Lynn, what you described is quite common in evangelical Christianity in terms of doubt. Even after realizing it is all bs, you still sit there and linger on thoughts of what if. I know because I come from that background, it is a real fear and one that gets better everyday but will always be there in my life. This is why I understand when people like Dawkins say that it is child abuse.

  12. BeamStalk,

    "You still sit there and linger on thoughts of what if." That is exactly right. You still hang around, because the whole thing is so ingrained from early childhood. There IS fear, and it IS child abuse. And you keep waiting for that JOY you are SUPPOSED to be feeling.

    I, too, am getting better, but I think you are correct that it will always be with us.

  13. As an evangelical, I am appalled by Dr. Craig's response. No wonder Ken equated the witness of the Holy Spirit with burning in the bosom. As presented, they are identical. A Christian can no more depend on how he "feels" about faith and any accompanying questions than a overly intoxicated man can "feel" he can drive home. Both thinking processes are erroneously based on the perceived conditions of the moment rather than on solid facts and reasoning.

    I'm equally shocked that Dr. Craig would so downplay reasoning and rational thought. The post-apostolic church did just the opposite. The church fathers (before Nicea) reasoned with gnostics, rulers, leaders, and anyone else who would listen of the validity of the gospel message based on the content of the message and the evidence of changed lives. The latter could be used of any philosophy, I freely grant, but that was secondary to the former argument concerning the truth of the Scriptures faithfully witnessed and documented, then passed on to later generations.

  14. Steve Bricker,

    As a former Christian, now agnostic, I was very interested in your comment above. It heartens me to see a Christian who can also see the weakness of Dr. Craig's basically saying "I just know." He'd get much more respect by saying "I'm convinced by the evidence that the Bible is true."

    You are quite right-feelings come and go. I learned that from Dr. James Dobson. He wrote a book "Emotions-can you trust them?" I never had the feeling-or if I sorta did now and then-it went away pretty quickly. I did not trust my emotions and had to resort to taking it all on pure faith-couldn't depend on a feeling.

    I also wonder about the emotions displayed on Sunday morning. Are they evidence of "the Spirit moving" or brought about by the music, etc.?

  15. A Word of Wisdom and Caution Here:

    Just be sure that your Burning in the Bosom is not indigestion. (After all, the Bible believes people think with a muscle called the heart and not their brains; but then the Bible is full of miracles too.)

  16. Feelings. They can be a good source of information but they are not the best source because feelings change. I learned this as a child when the nuns at my Catholic school told me that my father was going to burn in hell because he was not a Catholic. I felt fear and shame that my father wasn’t Catholic. I felt skeptical about the stories the nuns and priests told. I was curious and secretly proud that my father wasn’t swayed by public opinion. I tried to get him to pray rosaries and tell him all about God but he wasn’t really interested in religion. But he was kind and generous. He gave what he could to those who needed it and if he didn’t have the money he helped all the neighbors with chores. He honored his parents. I never heard a vulgar word from his mouth nor a word of gossip. He always judged people to the side of merit. He taught honesty by example. He was a humble man.

    In our church there were plenty of people who committed venial and mortal sins. Maybe they confessed them and were forgiven but I couldn’t figure out how God could choose those people over my father. I felt that God wasn't fair.

    I left the Catholic church and religion behind. Many years later I decided that I should find out for myself what was in the bible. Just because I didn’t like something didn’t make it not true. So I started over with many different denominations and bible studies. I had to consult a rabbi too because I found some interesting discrepancies and no one in Christianity would address my questions. I went to Torah study. I learned Hebrew. I am an equal opportunity checker outer.

    I felt shock to find out that in Judaism you don’t need to be Jewish to go to heaven. I liked that the rabbis answered my every question and questions were encouraged. Once I was challenged with, “There is a deeper question that you are missing.” I like to think about Abraham who came to the conclusion on his own that there must be one source of everything. I have so many friends - Christians and Jews (sorry, I don’t know any Muslims) who left religion for all of the reasons mentioned by Dr. Pulliam and everyone writing in this blog. My question is, “What do you do when you still have a heart for God?”

  17. Emet,

    Thanks for sharing. You ask: "what do you do when you still have a heart for God"? Well, I think every individual has to make up their own mind. In my case, I came to the conclusion that "my heart for God" was really just a delusion. Not much different than a child's imaginary friend.

  18. Steve,

    Thanks for your comments. Are you a presuppositionalist when it comes to apologetics? Or do you use some other method?


  19. Ken,

    Well, I just use whatever makes sense. I do presuppose there is a God and the Bible is his revealed word, but there is good argumentation from nature and experience as well. Does that help?

  20. Ken,

    The comments posted here in Chinese are nothing but web links to Chinese sex sites. It adds nothing to the discussion here.


  21. Ken,

    I was wondering how you would explain visions. There are people (not on hallucinogenic substances) who have a vision of Christ or angels as part of their conversion experience.

    I'm asking as a former believer of over 20 years. In a nutshell, when I prayed with my eyes closed, to god that I was confused about this Jesus stuff, I saw a vision of Jesus and he told me to follow him and that everything would be okay. I said in my heart "yes" and heard angels singing. It was a very emotion experience for me. This happened at a Catholic Charismatic renewal prayer meeting back in the early 1970s. I am from a secular Jewish background and had no knowledge about what the bible said about angels rejoicing over every sinner who repents. When I tell other christianfolk that I gave up the faith, those who know that I had a vision as part of my conversion experience, ask me how I would explain that away.

    I know the mind works in odd ways, and was wondering what your spin is on said experience.

    Thank you,

  22. Robyn,

    What did Jesus look like in your vision? If he looked like the Jesus in the artwork from Leonardo Da Vinci or any of the modern day illustrations, then I would have to question your experience. I would say that your vision was brought on by the power of suggestion and desire. I was raised Catholic and my picture of Jesus is the one from the life size sculpture of Jesus on the cross that was above the alter in the church.

    The bible says that the Almighty is not a man, nor a son of man (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Hosea 11:9). The idea that mankind should worship a human being is diametrically opposed to what the bible clearly says in Deuteronomy 4:15-20. “You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman ...”
    Shouldn’t there be an asterisk after the word man, that says, “the exception is in 1500 years I am going to impregnate a virgin with a god/man/son and him you can worship”?

    The idea that the Almighty is spiritual and not physical was a very difficult idea to accept in the ancient world. The Jewish people even had great difficulty with this belief. They were constantly exhorted by the prophets to return to the proper service of the Almighty and to get rid of any forms of idiolatry. It is in our nature to want to make an image, to help concretize a concept, but the Almighty said not to do this otherwise you will become confused.

    Joseph Smith also had a vision and convinced millions of people to follow his version of Christianity. Muhammad also had a vision and formed a new world religion. There are other men who have had visions such as David Koresh. All subsequent religious claims must be compared to the original.

    What was it about Judaism that you rejected it?

  23. Emet,

    Thank you for your well-written response to my post. What you say makes sense insofar as explaining away one's visions and how they are all relative, not to be considered an absolute. As you pointed out, history shows what happens when one claims their vision to be "the" absolute for all to follow.

    I can't say that I outright rejected Judaism, just that for a period of time I believed in Jesus. I was never a religious Jew that I felt like I was rejecting Judaism per se. My Judaism was more of being a cultural Jew, observing holidays and the associated traditions. I consider myself a secular Jew, leaning towards the humanistic spectrum.


  24. Damsel,

    If you are still looking at this thread, I would recommend a book I am currently reading: Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today by Philip Wiebe. He has done a very thorough study of this phenomena.

  25. Hi Ken,

    Thank you, I finally read your post here. You certainly have a wealth of information on your blog! So much to digest, so much to think about!