I have recorded here a conversation that I have had online. I don't know if this approach is more effective or not. It does spur less confrontation and more conversation than espousing the Cosmological Argument, the Fine Tuning Argument, the Presuppositional argument, etc. Anyway, here is the conversation.
Why believe in the Christian God?
Because the kingdom-vision that Jesus shares is a world worth living for.
It requires divine intervention to achieve, though, right? If so, then you're basically saying you believe because Jesus promised to give you something. And part of what you believe is that Jesus has the power and inclination to follow through on this promise.
While someone promising you something is evidence for their ability and inclination to give it to you, it's not nearly as much as would be required for believing in a god.
I absolutely didn't say it is about Jesus giving me something. I'm saying it's about the world Jesus wants to bring about. There is a big shift in Christianity right now, away from heaven-centered in the future to kingdom-centered in the now.
If there were no afterlife, I would still want to live my life by the principles Jesus taught. They are the best principles to live one's life by.
I know that this is all completely subjective, but the more objective approaches to apologetics didn't work for you.
You asked, "It requires divine intervention to achieve, though, right?" Well, if there is a God who was all-powerful and forcing His will is what He wanted, then it would already be achieved. Either He is not all-powerful or His will is something other than forcing us to be His automatons. So I believe it requires our sweat, our planning, our passion, and our sacrifice to make it happen. Now, I believe in God, so I believe He will prompt, encourage, and strengthen. But it doesn't happen without those who claim to believe in the kingdom-vision of Jesus actually doing something about it.
NB (my comments that he is replying to in quotes):
"I absolutely didn't say it is about Jesus giving me something."
He said he'd do something that you think is desirable or a good idea. Not exactly giving you something, but close enough not to affect my criticism.
"If there were no afterlife, I would still want to live my life by the principles Jesus taught. They are the best principles to live one's life by."I can agree with someone's recommendations without thinking their other claims are true. If the extent of your religious belief is believing that Jesus' recommendations are good and worth following, then this criticism doesn't apply to you -- you have the recommendations, you agree with them, end of story. But if you think "love your neighbor as yourself" and "sell everything and give the money to the poor" are good commands and take that as evidence that the Son of Man is coming in his glory...well, I need to see how they count as evidence, and I don't.
"That's completely subjective, but the more objective approaches to apologetics didn't work for you."If you had said that Jesus had appeared to you in a dream and that's why you believed, that would be much different. It would be real evidence for Jesus existing. Then we could argue about whether it's sufficient evidence, but at least it would be on the right track.
You're saying it would be nice if his promises came true, so you believe that they will. It would be nice if I could retire tomorrow to a Norwegian farm and ride unicorns all day, but I can't. It would be nice if I were an able-bodied and sane person -- and I am. How nice something is has very little correlation to whether it is real.
I'm not worried about his promises coming true. Christianity is about self-surrender and service; not about what I can get out of it.
So what is this kingdom-vision that Jesus shared that you find worth living for? Is it just self-surrender and service that you're enacting today?
Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love your neighbor. That's the core of it. But it's a message of loving one's enemies. It's a message of love toward others that goes so far as to live sacrificially. It's a message of forgiveness, even when we don't want to. It's a message of loyalty to this message over one's earthly citizenship. It's a message to genuinely help the poor. It's as radical today, when actually lived, as it was when Jesus shared it. The problem is, it isn't actually lived all that much.
All too often, the church has forgotten to live like Jesus and substituted belief statements in the place of surrendering to Jesus' kingship. Now, I do understand that belief is important, but the purpose of belief is to empower us to live like Him, not to make us comfortable while we avoid living like Him.
Obviously, God is the sticking point here. But what if we understood that we love God by loving our neighbor. That was Martin Luther's take on it. As a skeptic, you can even experience what it's like to follow Jesus' teachings without actually believing in God. This way, you can see for yourself, whether His teachings are the best life to live.
It seems like you're offering reasons to follow particular commandments but avoiding discussion of whether the ancilliary claims of godhood and immanent apocalypse and so forth are true. Are you simply not concerned with the veracity of these claims?
I take a backwards approach to believing in those claims because typical apologetics isn't working. I have yet to meet anyone who started believing because of a good, apologetical argument.
The only thing that is provable adequately for a scientific mind is that we have a book that contains the story of a man who claims to be God come to earth. That's it.
We can postulate whether these writings were made up by later authors or not. We can argue whether there is a God. But we can't prove any of that.
Many events that have happened in the past can be believed with a fair degree of certainty. But other events, for some, cannot be believed.
For example, some don't believe man went to the moon because man can't go to the moon. It's circular logic, but it is the approach most of us take toward history. We interpret history through the lenses of our present-day experience.
Believing that man went to the moon is contingent on believing that going to the moon is possible. I remember when I was in Liberia earlier this year, the people there thought the story of Americans going to the moon was a really funny, ficitional story that Americans told. To them, being on the moon is impossible. For a scientist at NASA, it's just a matter of having enough resources. Belief that man could reach the moon is much easier for a NASA scientist than it is for a Liberian who has never even flown.
So why waste time arguing things we can't prove? Why spend time arguing about whether there is a God, whether He used evolution or not in creation, whether Jesus really existed? All these arguments are impossible to prove to someone who believes that they aren't possible.
One doesn't prove themselves into following Jesus. One surrenders their life into following Jesus.
The idea that I am postulating is that this God-man, Jesus, claimed to teach the best way to live. This is something we can actually experiment with unlike the historical propositions that some find debatable.
I admit that this all becomes very subjective because how do we measure whether our way to live is the best. What is the measurement used for "best?"
The only thing I can suggest is that you take a trial run. Live the life that Jesus teaches you to live. See if it is actually best. Test it out yourself. Be scientific about it.
None of it can be proven for others. But you can actually test the proposition out yourself. Your life can be the lab; your experience can be your proof.
You say that I am "offering reasons to follow particular commandments but avoiding discussion of whether the ancilliary claims of godhood and immanent apocalypse and so forth are true" and ask, "Are you simply not concerned with the veracity of these claims?"
I think the veracity of these claims is unprovable through debate. Not that I believe the claims are false, but I don't think the Christian life works that way. The evidence of our faith should be our love. That life lived should be a magnet toward Jesus. But it's not. Not because of the teachings of Jesus but because we are actually failures at living the life we claim to want to live. Christians live in this dichotomy between forgiveness for our failures and hope for the actualization of Jesus' vision for our life and the world around us.
But here's the thing. You can try out the life Jesus wants you to live. You can then conclude whether that life leads to a better life or not. If you decide that the life that the teachings of the supposed God-man are valid, then you can wrestle with whether He is actually God and such.