Dialogue between a Christian Believer and a Non Believer by Robin Levin and Noelle Shepperd

Noelle Shepperd is a Christian and I’m a non-believer. In October of 2012 she contacted me on Face Book and we initiated a dialogue that continued for six or seven months. Noelle felt that “As believers, we have been commissioned to share His love and truth with all who will listen. I wanted to be obedient to God. I also hoped that Robin might find through something I said the key to a personal revelation of who God is and who He wants to be in her life, and in the lives of people everywhere.”
I warned her early on that “While I appreciate the great efforts you are going to in order to save what you consider to be a lost soul, I feel obligated to tell you that your chances are slim. If I haven’t seen the light in sixty-three years, it is unlikely that a miracle will happen.”
Nevertheless we continued our dialogue for months and covered a lot of interesting topics, religion, morality, evolution and natural selection versus creationism or intelligent design, and even Einstein’s view of God and the universe. Noelle, it turned out, has a Master’s degree in theology so she is well qualified to impart a solid understanding of the Christian world view, while I hold a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in anthropology and zoology and was a licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist and have more than a layman’s knowledge of evolution, genetics and other biological sciences.
In terms of the existence of God, I expressed the view that: “I would not be so arrogant as to deny the possibility. If there is a creation, it is at least somewhat reasonable to believe that there is a Creator. (Although it does raise the question of who created the Creator.) What I find difficult to swallow is the notion that this Creator, assuming He exists, is a loving and caring parent who takes a person interest in your welfare or mine or anyone else’s. You have only to read a newspaper, on any random day, to realize that the bus is out of control and that there is no one at the helm!”
Noelle responded: “When you say ‘You have only to read a newspaper on any random day to realize that the bus is out of control and that there is on one at the helm!” You are making a false assumption. Your underlying assumption is that if there is a God, then everything would be alright 100% of the time. In other words: God would have to right every wrong immediately, or God would not allow anyone to have free will. For when you have free will, that presupposes that people can actually make bad choices! And without free will, there can be no love. For instance, a man (or woman) tells you ‘my spouse loves me so much they would never leave me.’ And he or she shows you the spouse chained to the bed, literally). What kind of love is that? To have love you have to have free will. So tell me, if you were God, what would you do to stop the evil in the world? And then how do you overcome the obstacles associated with it?”
“God has demonstrated His love and caring to mankind in many, many ways throughout history. Most, however have willfully gone their own way, and ignored the provision He has made to know Him and be changed by Him, and have regrettably suffered the consequences. Jesus said ‘If you have known me, you have known the Father-I and my Father are one.’ We are told by a Jewish writer in the New Testament, ‘This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loves us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ But we have to acknowledge His gift and receive it, or it does no good. Without this piece of the puzzle, nothing else in life makes sense.”
This is Christianity in a nutshell, and I had a few problems with it. First there is the assumption of “free will”. I replied “The whole notion of free will has always been a paradox to me. We seem to have free will, but do we really? Most of our choices are strongly influenced by forces outside of our control such as society and family. Lincoln once said that if his father had stayed in Kentucky, and not brought his family to Indiana, he might have had no problem with slavery. Do you have any doubt that if you had been raised in a family of Muslims in Afghanistan that you would now be a devoted Muslim and would not leave your house unless covered by a burka?”
Another problem I had with it was the exclusivity of it. “There is the notion that good people go to heaven after they die, and bad people go to that other place. That would make a certain amount of sense, except that it’s certainly not that simple. What about the mentally ill who are incapable of discerning good from evil? Is it fair that they should be eternally punished for something they have no control over?
“Christianity posits that the only way a person may be ‘saved’ is to accept Jesus as his savior and plead that their sins may be forgiven-your life-line concept. It follows that anyone who does not accept Jesus as his or her savior, no matter how saintly or virtuous the person may be, will be damned in the afterlife. This includes all Jews, Muslims, pagans and non-believers, including yours truly. Naturally I find this notion uncharitable at best and downright obnoxious at worst.”
Noelle responded: “I completely understand the problem you have that ‘Christianity posits that the only way a person may be ‘saved’ is to accept Jesus as his savior and plead that their sins may be forgiven.’
“You are correct in saying that is what Christianity teaches. . .but it is not some rule made up by man because they liked it that way and wanted to impose their way of thinking and living on everyone else, it is based on what Jesus said. It comes down to who you believe Jesus is/was. This is really the basis upon which everything else about Christianity rests.”
In other words, it is a matter of faith.
In the final analysis, Noelle and I had to agree to disagree because, although each of us was arguing logically, we were arguing from different premises. She has faith, and I do not.
Dialogue Between a Christian Believer and a Non-Believer is available on Amazon. I believe that our discussion will give the reader a clear view of what Christian believers believe and at the same time of the thinking of non-believers. Such dialogues are very rare in our present extremely polarized society. I think that , although neither of us persuaded the other to their way of thinking, we at least demonstrated that two people with vastly differing world views could have a polite and civil conversation about these views.

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