Part 7

Discussion with Dr. Anthony Garrett, Part 7

The following 3 emails arrived together:-

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

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: Steve Locks

Sent: 04 July 2000 16:38

Subject: Re: [1] Re: Let's keep going then...

At 10:49 PM 7/2/00 +0100, you wrote:

>At parenting classes we were advised to

>stand back and cool off if we ever felt our emotions turning to anger

>with our children. Anger is a weakness in a loving relationship. So

>much so worse for a "divine parent."

I don't have to agree with the people giving the class you attended. You

are entitled to feel angry with your children in some circumstances; to sy

their misbehaviour is all your fault is to deny their own personalities.

But how or whether you show that anger is important, and certainly never in

an uncontrolled fashion.

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

>>it, would you want to be a Christian?

><< Of course not. >>


>Then answer my questions. If they are truly unanswerable then you may

>start to see that Christianity is false in its divine claims.

I guard my time, and as explained am not under any Christian duty to answer

all your questions. I look to deepen rather than widen this discussion, and

if I do not anwer many of your latest points including some that are new it

is because of this.

Think about

>what I am saying and take me completely seriously. Do not assume I

>do not understand, or am being maliciously hostile, but give me some

>credit as another human being. Do not automatically see me as somebody

>fit for damnation. I have been criticised in the past for not asking

>Christians enough

You are certainly making up for it now! I do NOT automatically see you as

fit only for damnation and never said so.

Best wishes

Anthony Garrett

Managing Editor,


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

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: Steve Locks

Sent: 04 July 2000 16:45

Subject: Re: [2] Tertullian and Christian love

At 10:52 PM 7/2/00 +0100, you wrote:

><< it wasn't Origen who reported the pagan comment "see how these

>Christians love each other" in fulfilment of John 13:34-5, as I erroneously

>said, but Tertullian. >>


>Let's see an early church view via Tertullian's Christian love:-


>"Ah! The broad magnificence of that scene! How shall I laugh and be glad and

>exult when I see these wise philosophers, who teach that the gods are

>indifferent and men soulless, roasting and browning before their own

>disciples in hell."

>[Tertullian (c. 160 - c. 220), "De Spectaculis"]

I am using Tertullian simply as the reporter of a comment that fulfilled

scripture. He got a lot else wrong, as you see.

>The idea that the early church was harmonious is a fiction.

I didn't claim that; you can see from Paul's letters, and from Jesus'

letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation, that plenty of

correction was needed. Then Greek philosophy invaded its Hebrew mindset, a

disaster that has continued to the present. Trendy professors of theology

in this century have not helped.

Best wishes

Anthony Garrett

Managing Editor,


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

From: Dr Anthony Garrett

To: Steve Locks

Sent: 04 July 2000 16:59

Subject: Re: [4] Re: your testimony

At 11:29 PM 7/2/00 +0100, you wrote:

>If you claim God loves me, and he will send me to hell, then at least one of

>your claims is false. That which both is and is not something does not

>exist. That is logic.

Agreed. God hates not just sin but the sinner; that is in the scriptures,

and I can find it for you. My sin is my problem, your sin is yours, and the

question is not whether you like what the bible says but whether you

believe it is true. Decide that and THEN dicide what to do in the light of

your belief. And please don't rip scriptural quotes out of context. You can

do that from any book to show apparent self-contradictions when the real

message runs deeper.

><< 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. >>


>Again, once before you claimed that it is not intellectual argument that

>converts people, << just as people don't deconvert because of intellectual

>argument, neither do they convert. >> whereas here you say Pawson converted

>you to hell-belief by arguing you to a standstill.

Not a contradiction - Pawson changed my opinion about hell, once I was a

Christian, by exegetical argument. But he didn't convert me by exegetical

argument. By conversion I mean belief/unbelief in Jesus as Christ, not

points of doctrine, however important.

>If Pawson talked you into hell-belief, then in my opinion you don't believe

>in a god, you have been talked into believing in a devil. You even had to

>shout "unconditional" in capitals, as if you are uneasy, or as if a humane

>part inside recognises that it is a weak and wicked argument so you have to

>shout it to make effect! No humanist would have been convinced by arguments

>for torture, the only way that Pawson could have talked you into hell-belief

>is by using appeals to biblical interpretation. It is circular argument to

>use the bible to prove the bible.

Of course it is. Why ever did you think I meant otherwise? These are

matters of FAITH. And yes, I do believe Satan is real. He and his character

are spoken of in scripture, after all.

>The wholly Christian perspective as you present it is not one of attempting

>to understand, or love, but fitting a real human in a moment of enormous

>upheaval in life into a dogmatic world view. This shows absolutely no

>attempt to drop Christian arrogance and look at what is going on without


It is impossible to look at any situation without applying your prior

beliefs to it. I regret that the Christians you knew did not really listen

to you, though.

><< They certainly have a right to quote those words of Jesus to

>each other - but not to you. >>


>If they have anything unkind to say, then they should say it to my face!

It is not unkind! Do you deny that comments about third parties should

sometimes be kept private? Do you want think all your personal gossip

should be posted on the Net...?

Best wishes

Anthony Garrett

Managing Editor,


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I replied as follows:-

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

From: Steve Locks

To: Dr Anthony Garrett

Sent: 08 July 2000 19:22

Subject: Decorum

Dear Anthony,

I saw the following decorum guidelines recently - the original can be found

via the discussion starting at

<< 1: Most importantly, never write to someone who doesn't want to be part

of a debate. Someone's personal views are sacred to them, and if they do

not want to change them, we have no right to force such a change. If we did,

we'd be no better than a fundamentalist sect. >>

I always feel guilty of this one (to some extent), and have asked a few

times if you want me to stop, but you have assured me it's okay to write. As

I said I am interested to see where (if anywhere) our discussion can go. I'm

sure if we reached stalemate then we will both loose interest. Nevertheless,

I wouldn't go into so much detail if I wasn't also writing these posts for

my website. I want my readers to be able to see the quality of some of the

arguments from both sides.

<< 2: Always be courteous and open to new ideas, never insult people since

it only hurts and angers. >>

I'm know I've insulted you! I don't think however that conservative

Christians realise what an insult hell is. You said << I do NOT

automatically see you as fit only for damnation and never said

so. >> I don't understand your comment here. You frequently refer

to scripture as something you "of course" believe in. Since Mark

16:16 says "... he that believeth not shall be damned" and John

15:6 says "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth... and men

gather them into the fire, and they are burned" I assumed you

believed it. What is your position on this? If it is not that non-believers

shall be dammed than I have prejudged you for which I am sorry. It would

also seem that you are not making your position on scripture very clear.

<< 3: Be truthful, never invent "facts" to win an argument. If your opponent

does, call him or her on it and if she or he apologizes, drop it. >>

I have not knowingly invented anything and I have apologised when I think

I've overstepped the decorum mark. I am careful to check my sources and

think them through. Speaking of which, I got one URL wrong last time (one of

my own). My "Resurrection link" should have been

<< 4: Do not try to "win" your opponent over. Be happy if you can make him

or her think. In the religion-no religion debate, making both sides think is

the most important step. >>

I do not know how one can debate without some form of attempting to

put forward persuasive argument! Even if we do not make each other

think, we can at least learn a little about how, or at least what, each

other think, which should be valuable.

<< 5: Try to follow the rules of a debate: stay on the subject, answer

direct questions if possible and try to be as honest in your opinions as

you can. >>

This is where I feel you fail as there are many direct questions you are not

answering. I agree though that you have no duty to answer me particularly.

Whether one should ask harder questions of oneself is another matter. Also

whether you have no Christian duty to answer hard questions is debatable. 1

Thessalonians 5:21 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" and

1 Peter 3:15.

Nevertheless, I wrote to you initially (and said I wouldn't debate, but

things evolved from there...). I can but try to elicit answers, but if

Christians evade tough questions, then at least you may appreciate

a little of one of the reasons why people leave Christianity and how

poor the response is likely to be when doubters attempt to find

Christian answers to the really tough questions.

<< 6: Never, ever try to deliberately "hurt" anyone. I have had several

opportunities to strike a real low blow on someone after telling me about

their personal experiences of Jesus, etc. Resist the temptation and just

state your opinion and why you don't think your opponent's argument is

valid. >>

I have not tried to do this hurting but have attempted to show why I find

some arguments invalid. I have opened up about some of my inner feelings on

my website and in emails and you have been very good about them for which I

thank you. I don't think I've gleaned much about yours though so far,

despite your claim that you wish to deepen the discussion. So even if I had

bad intentions I haven't had the opportunity! I also previously explained

that when discussing with my old home-group leader about why I had to leave,

I stopped when it became apparent I could hurt his feelings. This is much

more difficult by email/letters as the human contact is minimal. Writing has

significant pros though, as people are surprisingly open online and we have

the opportunity (admittedly not always taken) to take time to think things

through before opening our mouths with the first daft thing that pops up!

You said, << I look to deepen rather than widen this discussion >>. How can

you deepen the discussion if you won't answer hard questions? Rather I get

the impression that you are evading what may trouble your beliefs.

Nevertheless, if you have something you consider deep then if you really do

want to widen this discussion, then write to me about it. Bare in mind

though that you admitted that if Christianity was false in its divine claims

then you would not want to be a Christian. If you will not tackle the hard

questions, then how could you ever find that out?

You accused me of ripping scripture out of context. In what context is

infanticide right? (Leviticus 26:22, Numbers 31:17-18, Ezekial 9:4-6, Judges

21:10-12, 1 Samuel 15:3,7-8). In what context is it right for God to kill

David's baby and arrange for his wives to be raped for a crime only David

had committed (2 Samuel, chapter 12)? In what context is it right to stone a

newly-wed woman for not being a virgin (and why omit any commands to stone

non-virgin bridegrooms)? In what context does Jeremiah 3:12 sit harmoniously

with Jeremiah 17:4? (There are plenty more like this). Since you castigated

me for ripping scripture out of context then you must know what this context

is, unless this is just wishful thinking that it all makes sense "in

context." Why do you feel so sure that you can reject the possibility that

this is not good, sensible or divine?

<< 7: In the words of Ingersoll, "Man or woman are the highest titles that

can be bestowed a person." Remember this, your opponent may have a

differing view than you but in the end he or she is a human and is worth

no less, nor more than yourself. >>

Which is why I can't fathom your condoning of hell.

You wrote:

<< the question is not whether you like what the bible says but whether you

believe it is true. Decide that... >>

You still think that people decide to disbelieve in Christianity!!

You wrote:

<< These are matters of FAITH. >>

Then why have faith in what the bible says rather than one of the many other

religious books?

You wrote:

<< I regret that the Christians you knew did not really listen to you >>

Are you really listening to me? You replied the next day to my 4 long

emails and, judging from the time in the headers, whilst at work when

you shouldn't have had the time (correct me if you are on holiday.) Such

a rapid and perfunctory response doesn't convince me that you are

really listening to me either. If you didn't have time then why not leave a

response for weeks, months or longer? Immediate replies in religious

debate are usually emotive and not well thought out. This is what I said

near the beginning of our exchanges, "The possibility that we have

truly discovered something is not acceptable to Christians and so they

are not really listening from the start."

How carefully could you have read and thought what I wrote in the time

between my 4 long emails and your response? You said you do not mind the

length or frequency of my emails and also say that you ponder all questions

and yet refuse to tell me what you have pondered about mine. If you are

finding me a mere annoyance then let me know and I'll go away, but please

don't say you don't mind me writing and then brush off hard work with

perfunctory remarks.

<< Do you deny that comments about third parties should

sometimes be kept private? >>

If they are slandering people then the victims of this slander should be

given a chance to respond.

<< Do you want think all your personal gossip should be posted on the

Net...? >>

Much already has been! Anyway, the point is I do not find it admirable if

people shore each other up in their mutual beliefs and condemnation of

others without having the grace or charity to find out what is really going

on. That is one of my reasons I do not admire faith.

I'm getting fed up with debate. I wish it was just possible to examine the

hard questions honestly and openly without aggressive gainsaying. Why take

sides? Who wants to know anything other than what's true?

Best wishes,



Leaving Christianity:

The conversation continues here.