Part 5

Discussion with Dr. Anthony Garrett, Part 5

----- Original Message -----

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: Steve Locks

Sent: 25 June 2000 13:51

Subject: Re: Let's keep going then...

At 10:27 PM 6/22/00 +0100, you wrote:

><< I never criticised you for your unbelief and would not do so. >>


>That is good and tolerant, but is there any chance God criticises me, and if

>so, would you approve of Him since you yourself don't criticise me?

God might well criticise you for it, but it is his job not mine - because

he knows your condition perfectly and I do not.

><< But it is also possible that you do understand the faith and simply

>dislike it - including particular passages from scripture. That would be

>your choice and responsibility. >>


>I see a big problem with this. As mentioned before, it is hardly likely that

>there are many Christians who "choose" to disbelieve in Christianity. It is

>such a common misperception that people "choose" to disbelieve, that it

>obviously requires more discussion.

>"Choosing" to disbelieve is not what is happening according to my research.

>If a person really thinks the evidence points to something being true or not

>then their belief is not a choice, it is a natural and unavoidable state of


I don't agree. You can find many people who deeply and sincerely believe

many things that are crazy in the face of much evidence. Hitler was not a

cynic - he really believed all that evil nonsense. Clearly such people

choose what they believe.


>Numbers 31:17-18 "Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept

>with a man, but save for yourself every girl who has never slept with a


>"Save (virgins) for yourself" hardly means something merciful to these

>warriors who have just been killing boys etc.

Those warriors were Hebrews, and therefore under divine instructions on how

to behave to women, which preclude rape.

>Dismemberment of pregnant women:

>Hosea 13:16 "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have

>rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones

>will be dashed to the ground, their women with child ripped open."

This is prophecy, not divine command - the two are quite distinct.

>"the Lord says ... kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and

>sheep, camel and ass" (1 Samuel 15:3) etc.

>Under what circumstances is a divine command to do this good? Do you believe

>2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is

>profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in

>righteousness"? Do you believe that the bible really is "God's word"? If so,

>why and how do you believe the bible God is good in the face of such


>How are divine commands to kill sucklings etc. good for instruction in


The passage you quote is certainly a divine command. And of course I

believe Timothy and the rest of scripture; I would have little right to

call myself a Christian otherwise. The Samuel passage is good for

instruction in righteousness because it shows what can happen to people who

misbehave towards God. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

(Proverbs). God's wrath and God's love toward sinful man need to be taken

together in teaching, however. (Anyone who thinks these are exclusive needs

to have childen!) As for God being good and ordering this slaughter,

remember that the Amalekites had behaved atrociously for a long time by the

time of their expunging; this was in an era when loyalty was to the tribe

and tribal deity so that there was no chance of individual repentance. And

God knew that any Amalekite who was good would be judged fairly at the end

of time.

after 65 years of Christianity, she

>said "Why I had no idea, I can't believe I have been worshipping this

>shit all my life." [....] The quote was 1 Samuel 15:2-3

><End Quote>

I note she didn't deny the truth of God's existence. If the bible is true

you should do what it says even if you worry about God's character. She was

being inconsistent. And even if she could not see a loving God in this

passage, she should have set it against those passages that do show a

loving God.

>To further illustrate the extent of the lack of moral insight of the bible,

>in Deuteronomy 22:20 etc. we are told that if a man marries a woman

My last reply to you was to contend about a verse of scripture you quoted,

concerning whether I am duty-bound to engage in discussion. (More below on

this!) You seem set to throw many more verses at me for comment, and I must

ask you to look at Christian commentaries on this sort of thing. Some do

duck the big questions and some commentaries are better than others, but

you will find Christian answers to these questions if you persist. I have

no idea whether those answers will satisfy you.

>I am not baiting you here, rather it is a serious question which may show

>that Christianity is more uncertain to Christians than they admit. Have you

>really nothing to say about why you have not given away all your money to

>the poor (Luke 18:22, surely you must have a reason), why "The Lord said to

>Joshua [...] 'you are to hamstring their horses.' " (Joshua 11:6), why "the

>Lord says ... kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep,

>camel and ass" (1 Samuel 15:3) etc.?

Samuel dealt with above. Joshua in broadly same category. Luke: first, you

don't know what I *have* done - talk about prejudging! Second, this is

advice to a rich man, and so is tailored to the rich who are likely to let

money become a stumbling block to them.

>>1 Peter 3:15 "... be ready always to give an answer to every man that

>>asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"


>I replied:

><< In context this clearly means: be ready to give in humility an exposition

>of the faith. That is not the same thing as debating whether it is true or

>not. I take my cue from scripture itself, which never debates whether God

>exists but rather speaks of God. >>


>Well, I initially enquired why you became a Christian and you refused to

>explain, which is your right (I am not condoning scripture). I know what

>your "hope" is, I wish to know the "reason" for it though. To explain why

>you have such "hope" is surely more accurate than interpreting this passage

>to mean "an exposition of the faith." To merely state what Christianity is

>claimed to be does not explain why somebody believes it to be true or why

>anyone else should believe it. A mere "exposition of the faith" turns

>Christian exegesis into a school R.E. lesson.

OK, I would go on from the basics of the faith to show how well it makes

sense of the world, perhaps along the lines of CS Lewis' "Mere

Christianity" if the questioner were a thinker.

But if that questioner showed he was hostile to the faith, I should ponder

scriptural parables about stony ground, and advice about shaking the dust

off my feet and moving on, rather than staying to debate at great length.

>If Christianity is false in its divine claims, and truth lies outside of it,

>would you want to be a Christian?

Of course not.

For my part, if Christianity (or another

>religion) is true then I would want to follow that true path. Before anyone

>asks me to make the "sinners prayer" remember that I, and others, have

>spent a lot of time doing such things in our pasts and that until we have

>any reason to suspect that Christianity is the true religion we also have

>to pray to all the other gods we don't believe in. Even if I work through

>all the possible gods and religions alphabetically, (Aeolus, Aether, Aethon,

>Aglaia, Allah, Amphitrite, Ananke, Anteros, Apatis, Apeliotes, Aphrodite,

>Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Asclepius, Astraea, Astraeus, Ate, Athena, Atlas,

>Atropos, Aura, Baal, Bacchus, Bia, Boreas, Caliope, Carpo, Chaos, Charis,

>Charites, Charon, Chloris etc. etc. ) it may still be a while before

>reaching the Christian bible god. I don't think Christianity would be of

>special interest to me if it wasn't in my culture and personal past.

That is your problem not mine!

>A great deal of what I ask goes unanswered in your replies.

I seize on the points that I judge most important, otherwise this dialogue

would be unmanageable, at least by me.

> The "truth of Christianity" has largely been

>maintained by powerful churches and religious states with ruthless

>persecution and murder of heretics.

Sadly this is true. The New Testament/Early Church model was of each

congregation of voluntary believers having several "episkopoi" for

spiritual direction, several "diakonoi" to help with the administration,

but no hierarchy between that congregation and Jesus Christ. (No priests,

in particular.) That model got lost when Constantine declared Christianity

the established religion of the Roman Empire, with the disastrous

consequences you mention. All of which result from FAILING to keep faithful

to the word of God.

>The problem is different interpretations of so-called "clear" bible

>passages. There are many different interpretations of "who Jesus says

>he is" and much else besides. Hence the different Christian sects and

>denominations, heretics and inquisitions etc. and even unbelievers.

>Those Christians you disagree with, you may claim are unscriptural.

>They will also claim you don't understand. Remember not to call anyone

>"foolish" though.

Regarding differing interpretations, I couldn't have put it better myself.

My own view is that the Old Testament does not need interpretation, but it

provides the context for interpreting the New. The New Testament has for

too long been seen through Greek eyes, not Hebrew ones, because of the

history of Europe.

>>It worries me to hear you say:

>><< For a Christian to apologise for his faith is misguided, and also

>>dangerous, for Jesus gave a warning to believers who act ashamed of him. >>

>>Are you afraid of what might happen to you, what Jesus might do to you or

>>not give you if you ask questions?


>I replied:

><< ???? He warned about apologising for him, not about asking questions. >>


>It still looks to me that some Christians are worried Jesus is going to hurt

>them if they do something he disapproves of. You said << to ignore what

>Jesus says ... is dangerous >> So what are you afraid of if you ignore "what

>Jesus says" ?

>Could you explain what you mean here by "apologising?"

Behaving like they are ashamed of him. It is right for Christians to worry

about their actions for which they are accountable to God and will be

judged on.

Best wishes


And with the above email I also recieved this...

----- Original Message -----

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: ""

Sent: 25 June 2000 17:21

Steve: you are setting great store by intellectual discussion of faith. I

do not wish to minimise its importance in any way - I think for a living -

but intellect is not the only part of a person, as anyone who has fallen in

love will realise. Any religion will have to appeal to the whole person,

and be as good a religion for the unintelligent as the intelligent. So

there is more to it than debate, which is why I am less motivated to debate

than you are.

Best wishes


----- Original Message -----

From: Steve Locks

To: Dr Anthony Garrett

Sent: 24 June 2000 22:18

Subject: Re:

Dear Anthony,

I received both your latest emails. I have already discussed at some length that I agree with your point below. Religion does indeed have to appeal to the whole person if it is to be worth anything really meaningful and a deconversion would not have lasted for me if a lack of religion brought less to life. I would have instead moved to a Christian life lived in deeper mystery whilst also being something that didn't make much intellectual and many other kinds of sense to me if I truly found that as Thomas Merton said "by denying God we are denying ourselves." I would have been forced (and even happy) to be a confused Christian, convinced that I was missing something without it. I would not have believed real, "deep-life" existed outside of Christianity.

However, for all the enormity and extent of my Christian feelings etc., deconversion bought far more as you will see if you ever read my website. This all encompassing nature of religion was the major consideration when I was having doubts about Christianity and the one thing that kept me hanging on for so long. However, it astonished me to find that a far better and really good, loving and spiritually enriching life was a reflective life outside of Christianity.

I really would encourage you to read my story at

It is so relevant here that you can almost think of it as written for you, if you like.

I would love to discuss this further as it gets to the heart of the matter, the rest of our conversation being "as straw" (quoting Thomas Aquinas again). However, I was wondering why you sent a second email so quickly. I have much to say to your other email, but I will reserve it for my site rather than send it to you if you are telling me here that you prefer me not to write to you anymore.

I think that would be a shame, after so much having been said, but I do not wish to harass you if you wish me to go away.

So please let me know if you wish to continue hearing from me.

Otherwise, goodbye and good luck - you know how to find my further writings if you're curious.




Leaving Christianity:

But it turned out Dr. Garrett did want to carry on our conversation....

----- Original Message -----

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: Steve Locks

Sent: 25 June 2000 22:27

Subject: Re:

At 10:18 PM 6/24/00 +0100, you wrote:

>I really would encourage you to read my story at

It is so relevant here that you can almost think of it as written for you,

if you like.

Yes I shall do this - clearly it is directly relevant to our e-relationship


>I would love to discuss this further as it gets to the heart of the

matter, the rest of our conversation being "as straw" (quoting Thomas

Aquinas again). However, I was wondering why you sent a second email so

quickly. I have much to say to your other email, but I will reserve it for

my site rather than send it to you if you are telling me here that you

prefer me not to write to you anymore.

I sent the second e-mail because I meant to put what it said in the first

but accidentally left it out. I have never minded the length or frequency

of any of your e-mails, and when I reply it is my choice so you should not

feel no concern about any cost in effort or time to me. I have simply been

at pains to warn you that I cannot guarantee to read all you recommend,

take up all your points, or reply at comparable length!

Best wishes


So Dr. Garrett read my deconversion story and replied as follows...

----- Original Message -----

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: Steve Locks

Sent: 25 June 2000 23:15

Subject: your testimony

Hi Steve, some comments on your testimony. Incidentally I too love the

Brahms German Requiem. Was it the incredible "Denn Alles Fleisch" that

reached out to you?

The New Testament/early church view is that the Christian community is a

community of love, and living within that community assists you in loving

non-Christians you meet. I regret that the church has often diverged from

that position. But it was there in those early days; and, just as John's

gospel reports it would be, it was visible to non-believers, for Origen

reported the comment "See how these Christians love each other".

Your attitude to life after death and to hell appears to be that the truth

or falsity of these things is determined by whether or not you like them.

That is called wish-fulfilment, and is not logic. Whether or not they are

compatible with a loving God has nothing to do with it. That is certainly

an important issue, but a completely different one.

Incidentally I am an ex-universalist Christian who changed to the

traditional view, much against my desire, after being argued to a

standstill by the exegesis in the book "The Road To Hell" by David Pawson.

I now think, concerning hell and a God of love, that (1) we learn what

agape-love is from God, and we cannot define agape-love and then define God

afterwards; (2) Christians who speak of a God of UNCONDITIONAL love are

being unscriptural.

Like Pawson I describe myself as a charismatic evangelical. There is

nothing in the New Testament that suggests the gifts of the Holy Spirit

should die out after the apostolic era, so they should be accessible today

- as indeed they are. (I believe they disappeared for centuries as God's

response to the divergence of the church from New Testament principles

following Christianity becoming the religion of state of the Roman Empire.)

But in non-evangelical churches there is the risk that such things will be

misunderstood, while in evangelical churches they are too often be

dismissed as excesses.

Certainly non-Christians can have deep spiritual experiences. It is wrong

to deny that. The question is how they are to be interpreted.

You say:

<<when I told my Christian friends they were only interested in finding out

where I had gone wrong. The chance that I had honestly discovered something

was not admitted as a possibility. Apparently I caused a stir and comments

like "Jesus predicted that some would fall by the wayside".>>

I am glad that they viewed what happened to you wholly from the Christian

perspective. They certainly have a right to quote those words of Jesus to

each other - but not to you. I do not know what their attitude to you was,

but often when this happens it is not what it should be, which is sadness

and prayer rather than condemnation.

You ask:

>What is most primordial for a Christian? Is it love and truth, or is it


Surely you must know the answer to this - none of the above, it is belief

that Jesus is Christ with all that entails for the believer in him.

Best wishes


The conversation continues here.