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Best of Broadcast: Dr. Brown Talks with a Biblical and Semitic Scholar Who Has Lost His Faith

The Line of Fire / Dr. Michael Brown
The Truth Network Radio
August 1, 2022 4:00 pm

Best of Broadcast: Dr. Brown Talks with a Biblical and Semitic Scholar Who Has Lost His Faith

The Line of Fire / Dr. Michael Brown

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August 1, 2022 4:00 pm

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The following program is recorded content created by the Truth Network.

So what happens when a biblical scholar loses his faith? It's time for The Line of Fire with your host, activist, author, international speaker, and theologian, Dr. Michael Brown, your voice of moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution. Michael Brown is the director of the Coalition of Conscience and president of Fire School of Ministry. Get into The Line of Fire now by calling 866-34-TRUTH.

That's 866-34-TRUTH. Here again is Dr. Michael Brown. Friends, we're going to do something unique on The Line of Fire today, have an open, honest conversation, a raw conversation, in a sense a risky conversation for everyone involved, but one I believe is going to be very, very helpful in the long term. And I won't be taking calls, but I will be devoting, well, this show to a man that I've gotten to know online in a way because of our background and interaction.

We feel as though we're friends, but we've just talked online and via email. Dr. Josh Bowen, he graduated with his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2017, Ph.D. in Assyriology. So that's the study of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian, specialized in Sumerian literature, won some scholarships along the way previously, got his B.S. in religion from Liberty University, T.H.M. in Old Testament from Capital Bible Seminary, then his M.A. at Johns Hopkins, was a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, where he also gained an A.A. in avionics, but is no longer a believer, no longer a believer in God, in Jesus, in the Bible is God's Word, his most recent book, The Atheist Handbook to the Old Testament, Volume 1.

But Dr. Bowen is not hostile. We discussed, hey, let's come on the air and talk about, of course, your studies, how you lost your faith, how I went through very similar studies, my faith was strengthened, where are you at today, and just in our interaction, Josh has said, let's be candid and open. So Josh, thanks so much for joining us on the air today. I appreciate it very much. Oh, no, pleasure is all mine. Thank you for having me on.

Sure thing. So I discovered you, Josh, as the digital Hammurabi. I mean, that got my attention because my own studies and background and appreciating anyone that knows Akkadian well. And we were supposed to do a debate on slavery in the Old Testament. Slavery in the Old Testament. So what was your take on what actually came down when we did it? Yeah, it was very interesting because the way that it was built was supposed to be this knockdown, drag out, no-holds-barred.

And of course, nothing could be further from reality. I think it was probably one of the most pleasant online discussions that I've had about any topic, in particular about slavery in the Hebrew Bible. So actually, I caught a fair amount of flak because people say, you should have been more vicious, you know, you should have been more aggressive. And I don't really see a lot of benefit to that. So I think it was a great conversation.

Yeah. And it's funny, you know, someone like that's a believer on my side, they'll say, oh, yeah, you bested Dr. Bowen the debates. We didn't have a debate. We had a conversation and I was impressed by all the study you had done.

I thought you were just preparing for that debate, but obviously you're writing a whole book on it. And we ended up with agreement on a lot of points as we were going. But yeah, I felt the camaraderie towards you as we interacted and then subsequently said, hey, why not maybe come on the air and have an honest talk about your own journey? So you've made it clear to me that you want to be totally open.

Same here. If at any point I ask you a question, you don't want to go there, just say it's fine if you say so. But, you know, I want you to be as candid with me as possible and in total candor. And I don't mean this in any manipulative way, but just in my pledge to honesty, I really believe that God is at work in your life and that your faith is going to be restored. Now, you may expect me to say that as a believer, but I wouldn't just say it lightly. So right now, how would you categorize yourself? Agnostic? Atheist?

Where do you put yourself? I mean, I think for the better part of the past two years, I've gone with the label agnostic, probably because I'm not a big philosophy guy, so I haven't really thought about it too terribly much. But, you know, somebody said, well, do you believe that there are any gods? And I said, well, no. And they said, well, I think you're an atheist. You should probably say that you're an atheist. So, I mean, I guess, you know, the bottom line is that I don't think that any gods exist, but I have no way of knowing that. So taking a position that definitely there is no god that exists, I think is outside of the realm of, well, honest possibility for me. So I would say that I haven't seen any evidence to support a belief in a deity, but that doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. So I guess technically I'm an agnostic atheist, maybe? Yeah, I understand, right?

So to be a thoroughly consistent atheist is an absolute statement that no deity exists, which would mean which would mean that there's no possibility that God could create everything and simply hide himself or whatever. So how do you look back at your past days as a Christian? What's your, as you think back to yourself, and we'll go through your history and try to understand that more, but just to get the broad, you know, snapshot now, do you kind of look back with pity, like who was that deluded guy? Or how could I have been so simplistic? Or it was sweet, just shame it wasn't real?

What would you say? I guess I miss it is probably the best way to describe it. And, you know, those that are listening that might be, you know, more skeptical or atheistic might not like that I say that, but they probably don't mind because I'm sure many of them feel the same way. You know, my faith was at the core of who I was for the better part of 26 years.

So, you know, that paradigm shift has been a fairly traumatic one, I would say. And no, I mean, I think I was working with, you know, doing the best with the material that I had. And I don't think that I was irrational for the things that I believed. And actually, I think that in a lot of these online discussions, I feel like I'm playing the part quite often of the, you know, let me straw man the Christian's position, because I think what they're saying theologically is fairly often quite consistent.

I don't agree with it, but I think it's more consistent maybe than, you know, people like to credit those theological positions. Right. And what would you say that you miss most about your past life? This probably sounds too simplistic, but I miss knowing the answers. And what I mean by that is, I miss knowing, and I told you this off air, you know, people know this, we lost our newborn son last July 9th, and, you know, that was probably one of the most difficult experiences that I've gone through, because I did it without my faith in Christ, and, you know, obviously it would have been intensely traumatic for anyone, believer, unbeliever, but, you know, not having at the end of the day that knowledge that I'm going to see Harry again. Sorry. No, please, please take your time, Josh. Sorry, I didn't expect that.

Sorry, that was incredibly difficult. So I think having that type of security and hope, that's what I miss. As I emailed you right before the show, I take this as a sacred entrustment, that here you are, you're an internet personality, you're not just a scholar, you know, working with a few students in a school, you've got websites and platforms and all that, and you're open about your journey and your current state of non-belief, and the fact that you feel towards me as a friend and willing to come on the air and to say be open, because I wasn't going to ask you some questions because I didn't want to betray a trust, so that you're this open to me as something very sacred, and here's what I want to say to you though, Josh, in the midst of this, and again, I think you know me well enough to know that I'm not trying to be manipulative, plus you've been through enough that you're not going to be manipulated, but here's the reality. The reality stands regardless of what you and I believe or don't believe, correct? In other words, our belief or lack thereof doesn't change reality, which means that my believing what I believe to be true and what used to believe true, you have the real possibility of being with Harry forever, and that's there.

In other words, he's gone from this world, and as I emailed you, I can't imagine I've never suffered the loss of a child, so I can't imagine that the trauma newborn, but you and your wife went through in that process, and yet at the same time, reality is what it is, and as far as I'm concerned, you know, he's in a place of unimaginable beauty, and there's the potential of you getting to join him again. Can I just ask this? Digital Hammurabi is you and your wife, Megan. You've since had twins, correct?

Yep, five total. Got it, got it. Feel free to tell me not to go there, but can you share, or would you like to share where your wife is in terms of processing all this in her life with you?

Yeah, sure. So Megan's a Christian, so she's an Anglican group in the UK, and so actually we go to an Episcopal church, at least we did before COVID. Yeah, I teach, you know, I help teach Sunday school, that sort of thing, so it was, I think, obviously incredibly difficult for her, but I think that I probably struggled in a different way from what she did, and, you know, to be clear, Megan is also an Assyriologist. You know, I met her at Johns Hopkins, so she's, you know, she's no dummy. She knows everything that I know, so. So amazingly, all right, so we've got to unpack this, friends, with my guest, Dr. Josh Bowen.

By the way, his website, Digital Hammurabi, just like it sounds, if you can spell it, you get there, digitalhammurabi.com. So here's what's remarkable. We got a break, and then we'll come back and start to go through the history. Here you are identifying as an agnostic atheist, but helping teach Sunday school in an Episcopal church with your wife as a believer. She has gone through the exact same life experiences and losses that you have, and has read the exact same Bible with the exact same ancient New Eastern material, still has her faith.

You would love to have yours back, but don't feel that that's realistic. We've got a lot to talk about. Wow, Josh, thank you for being on the air with us.

We'll be right back. Friends, I'm speaking with, for the moment, former Christian, agnostic, atheist President Lee, Dr. Josh Bowen, and a seriologist. He and his wife head up the Digital Hammurabi website, digitalhammurabi.com. And hey, if you've ever wanted to learn Sumerian or something like that, they actually put out a book to do it.

His latest book, The Atheist Handbook to the Old Testament, volume one, but it's not meant to bash, be aggressive as much as to have honest discussion. And when I said at the outset of the broadcast that this could be risky, we agreed to do it. Risky on the one hand, and that here's Josh openly talking about his own life in front of multiplied thousands of listeners, viewers.

And here I am saying, go ahead, share your faith struggles and why you lost your faith with people and how's that going to affect them. But it's something we felt important to do. This is real life. You know, it's not just a conversation.

This is real life. So, Josh, thanks again for being on the air with us. Of course. So, okay, just to start with the beginning, were you raised in an Evangelical Christian home? Yeah, so, you know, my entire family was fundamentalist Evangelical Christians. You know, my grandfather was a licensed Baptist minister. You know, so I think that it's important probably to know, for everybody to know that I wasn't, I guess I hear a lot, you know, well, was he really saved?

Right? Was he, what did he really believe? And I think everybody should just go ahead and rest assured that I did. You know, I got saved when I was five or six. You know, I remember my grandfather sitting me down, my mother sitting me down and saying, look, you know, you understand these concepts now. You know, Jesus died for your sins.

And, you know, you do wrong things. And, you know, I mean, it was a very real conversation about, you know, if you die in your sin, hell awaits. So, you know, I mean, that aspect of my life, it wasn't, I think people use the terms religiosity, what is it, external religiosity and internal religiosity, that's not right, but, you know, this wasn't just an aspect of my life. My faith was who I was and made up the core of my being. And my entire family was very much the same way. So, right, so in other words, you point back to when you were five or six that you had, as a boy, a born-again experience, something like that, for lack of better terminology, quote, got saved then. So that was fact to you. That was as sure as the chair you were sitting in, that you were a follower of Jesus and the Bible was true.

That's how you grew up, right? Yeah, I mean, you know, I would say that, you know, again, six-year-olds, it's difficult to know exactly where in the developmental process they are, but, you know, things that I knew is that I sinned, right? I did wrong things.

Right. And that God was a perfect God that did no sin, and that He lived in heaven and, you know, wanted me to live there as well, but couldn't have anybody in heaven that had sinned, but that Jesus came and lived a perfect life Himself and died on the cross in order to pay the penalty for my sin and everybody else's. And all I had to do was trust that His, you know, what He did by dying on the cross actually paid the penalty for my sin and my, you know, I would have my sins forgiven. So that was, you know, that was the basic message that I understood. And of course, you know, that developed. We were in church every Sunday and every Wednesday, and, you know, of course, I, you know, I pastored a church for seven years, and as you said, I was a chaplain in the Air Force. Right, and you went to seminary.

So let me ask this. Tell me, share a memory, if you can with me, of what at that point seemed like an absolute miraculous answer to prayer. I'm not asking how you'd analyze it now, but at that stage in your life where there was no other possible explanation except that God answered your prayer or that God supernaturally intervened in your life.

You know, I don't mean you run out of gas, you're on the side of the road, and somebody drives by and says, hey, buddy, you need help. You know, I mean something that would be one of those things you memorialize, that you testify about. Not just I felt a certain thing, but something where there something where there was absolute, from your vantage point then, evidence of divine intervention.

Yeah, I guess the, so there are two quandaries with this. One is I have MS, and MS makes it very difficult for me to remember things from my past, unfortunately, so in particular if I, if it's sort of an on-the-spot thing, but maybe more to the point, because I didn't grow up like in a more charismatic setting, the idea of like the overt miraculous was something, you know, something that we didn't believe in, in the sense that, you know, things like speaking in tongues or, you know, these types of divine healings that were in that sort of overt miraculous sense. What I would say, though, is that God's providence was everywhere in my life. So what I mean by that is, you know, you say, yeah, I think you said like you couldn't find a parking spot or something, but that was, that was God in my life. So I remember when I was in the Air Force, for example, I really wanted to, I really wanted to do the right thing as much as humanly possible, and that included driving the speed limit.

And what I mean by that is if it's 35, going 35, not going 36. And I remember thinking to myself on any number of occasions, driving to work and thinking, oh my gosh, I'm going to be late, and thinking, Lord, I want to do the right thing here, so I'm going to obey you, I'm going to do your will, and I'm going to, and you are going to somehow provide for me to get there. And I always remember getting there on time, and I attributed that directly in every case to God's direct intervention. So while that wouldn't be something, that would be, you know, some sort of, well, I mean, I guess it was enough that I, it's a landmark that I remember. Right, because it was, it happened enough. And today you just attributed to, hey, you got there on time.

What's the big deal? Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think probably a lot of what I would say is I had a lot of confirmation bias. That's how I would explain that. Right, right. And just when I looked at your bio and I saw you went to Capital Bible Seminary, which is non-charismatic, and maybe in some publications from professors that would be anti-charismatic, it struck me.

So just, I'll give you a little example. I was meeting with two colleagues yesterday, and one of them was preaching this past Sunday at a local church and felt he was to preach on fasting as the breakthrough for liberty. It was a freedom series, and he felt he was supposed to preach on it, but he didn't want to because he didn't want to be accountable for fasting. And, you know, and if he's going to if he's going to tell others to do it, he knew God was calling him to do it. So he was meeting with someone else. He's on this person's board in another state a few days ago, and they get into a conversation, and my friend says he was preaching this Sunday. And the other guy says to him, gives him the title of the message he was going to preach, the exact title, the exact words of it.

So that was his confirmation to do it. Now, I could give you hundreds, hundreds, hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of stories like that, but then up the ante, like two, three, four, five, ten times more dramatic. That's the world I've lived in for 49 years, and in the midst of praying for people and seeing them die and hardship and different, you know, which we all live in a fallen world.

But I was curious to know that. So you never had an experience like that or an answer to that, or an answer to prayer. You lay hands on someone, and they went back to the doctor, and the doctor's stunned. There's no explanation. The tumor was here. It's gone now.

We have no explanation for it. So that was not part of your world. That's right, yeah. I mean, we would have, and I suspect some of that is also confirmation bias, right? Because, you know, if you're familiar with, like, Thomas Edgar, who's written about, like... Yeah, I really differed with his charismatic leadership. Very strongly, yeah. With all respect to him, yeah, deeply. Yeah, brilliant, brilliant man.

But yeah, I mean, I'm sure. And of course, you know, so having that going into the text, thinking, okay, you know, here's First Corinthians, 13 tongues, you know, that's it. So now for today's church, and when you, I think when you walk into the study, you know, the textual study with that conclusion already in mind, it's very, I think it's very easy to explain those types of things, at least to yourself. Interesting story, though, when I was pastoring that church out in Virginia, the senior pastor was very much a, you know, a sensationalist, and I remember they asked me in the Sunday evening, you know, service, like a Bible study sort of thing, for several weeks to teach on, you know, speaking in tongues. And of course, what they wanted was a very strong stance, you know, lots of good evidence from the Bible against it. And I remember at the end, you know, walking through all the data and saying, all right, look, in the end, like, I don't think that tongues are for today's church, but I mean, you can't say that from the text. Yeah.

And of course, the senior pastor said, no, you can. Yeah. Well, again, that's, listen, I believe there's honesty and integrity. I got a break here. So honesty and integrity in the midst of your journey, and it's honesty and integrity that'll bring you back to faith. And I've shared that with you. Again, I don't say any of this to be manipulative, but just as you're being honest, I'm being honest. Okay, we come back, let me ask the questions. How is it that you lost your faith?

What was the process, key reasons? We'll go from there. It's The Line of Fire with your host, Dr. Michael Brown. Get into The Line of Fire now by calling 866-34-TRUTH. Here again is Dr. Michael Brown. Thanks for joining us for a very special interview with Dr. Josh Bowen. He is a trained seriologist, holds a PhD in serology from Johns Hopkins University.

So that's a serious university, a serious degree. He and his wife, Megan Lewis, host digitalhammurabi.com, fascinating website for ancient Near Eastern studies. And one that reflects Megan as a Christian and her husband, Josh, with us now is a former Christian who currently identifies as an agnostic atheist. And Josh, we've been talking some about your background, but haven't gone into the key time where you began to lose your faith. And again, for those just tuning in or joining us by radio now, Josh is not an angry atheist trying to discourage people from believing, as said very candidly, he'd love to get his faith back.

Obviously, the question is what stands in the way of that. So Josh, we can't, in the scope of the broadcast, get into the full detail to do justice to everything in your own journey. But the short version of it, at what point in life you were pastoring, going on with advanced studies, similar to what, you know, I was in ministry and I was getting my PhD in your Eastern languages, so similar journey, studying with all secular scholars, plus had all the rabbis telling me I was wrong.

At what point did you begin to strongly question what you believed and what were the key factors behind that? Yeah, so, you know, at Capital Bible Seminary, I did their six-year program, so for the last two years that I was there, I was teaching Hebrew at the satellite campus, just outside of D.C. And, you know, I remember I got accepted into Johns Hopkins, which I was absolutely floored I would have expected sooner to get into NASA and into their program. But I remember having a conversation with the dean, you know, just before classes ended in the Hebrew class that I was teaching. And I tell this story a lot, actually. The dean said to me, you know, look, you're going to Johns Hopkins.

It's a pretty liberal school. Are you ready? And I held, I had my Biblia Hebraica Stuttgart-Gensia in my hand, and I'm sorry, my three-year-old has just walked in. Can you go find mommy, buddy?

Love you. And I held it up and I said, I'm going into the lion's den, but I'm going to win souls for Christ. And that was my mission.

You know, besides getting an education. And I remember going in and I... And Josh, what year is this? This is 2009. 2009. Okay, thanks.

Yeah. And, you know, because I was a fundamentalist Christian, I didn't really spend a lot of time worrying about things like apologetics, because it wasn't a big thing for me. I sort of presupposed things about the text, inerrancy, and I mean, I could defend that, but it wasn't really a big deal to me. And from a historical standpoint, I knew what history was, because I had the Bible, right? I had the Hebrew Bible.

And so getting into deep historical things and trying to learn about the engineering, it wasn't really on my radar. So when I got to Hopkins and was confronted sort of full on, I had focused throughout my seminary education on the languages. The languages, that's what I did. So, you know, Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic and Akkadian and Ugaritic and Syriac, blah, blah, blah.

That's what I focused in on, because I wanted to be able to handle the text. So then going in and reading Akkadian literary texts, reading Sumerian literary texts, looking at how the Hebrew Bible utilizes other ancient Near Eastern mythologies. And at the same time, you know, being confronted with things like the history of the Philistines, or the history of the Canaanites, and seeing how that didn't line up with the Hebrew Bible, made it very difficult for me very, very quickly to hold on to my inerrantist, divinely inspired position on the Bible. And once that happened, because it was sort of a key tenet of my faith, you know, the inerrancy of the text and the historicity of the text, it all fell apart pretty quickly.

Got it, got it. And what's interesting, on my end, and, you know, we said we'd exchange stories, the moment I came to faith and was dramatically set free from drugs and all that, my dad said, Michael, I'm glad you're off drugs, but we're Jews, we don't believe this, so he brought me to be the local rabbi. So I got challenged on Messianic prophecy and New Testament interpretation, the Old Testament, you know, oral tradition, all these things. As a matter of fact, oral tradition, all these things, out of the gate as a brand new believer. But I had experienced Jesus in my life so dramatically, so incredibly, and I was so intimate with God in prayer and experiencing him that the questions really troubled me. But I also had this deep experience with God, so I just thought, okay, I've got to find the truth. Wherever it leads, I've got to follow the truth, because I know God's on the side of truth. And if it means renouncing Jesus and being a traditional Jew, because those were the options then, it wasn't atheism, or following Jesus and being rejected by the Jewish community, I have to follow the truth.

Then I started college, and my very first class is an ancient history class, and it's taught by an Assyriologist who despised being with freshmen, written a 700-page dissertation for like Brooklyn College or something on some obscure Assyriological issue, and he's attacking the Bible's historicity from day—so I got hit by this like out of the gate, you know, 16, 17, 18, and went through the crisis, but the strength for me was I had this intimacy with God. I would pray and commune with him and see him working in my life, so I would have to be an another irrationalist to reject the reality of God in my life, yet the questions were massive questions, challenging deep questions that I thought, okay, I'm going to check out every question—and I did it for years—as if my faith could be unreal. In other words, I thought that's the only way to have intellectual integrity.

If I look for an answer, I can come up with a cheap answer. So I'm determined to follow truth. So would you say—and again, I'm not doubting the sincerity of your faith when you went in, and as far as everything you knew, you were saved as a saved person could be, and if there was a believer on the planet, you were a believer. I'm not doubting that, not trying to recreate past reality, but is there any aspect of your faith being primarily intellectual? I don't mean only, because you've made clear what you believed, but primarily intellectual so that when that pillar went, there was no other pillar to stand on?

I don't think so, and of course, you know, knowing those sorts of things, I think, is difficult. The reason that I say I don't think so is because initially, certainly during my childhood and teenage years, I didn't really have a lot of interest in studying down into theological issues or getting into—even into college and seminary—getting into philosophical defenses, cosmological argument, those sorts of things, or arguing about historical veracity of the biblical text wasn't on my radar at all, because I knew Jesus Christ as my personal savior. And again, while you and I probably had different experiences that we would categorize as God working in our lives, those experiences were nevertheless just as real to me. And I'll tell you about one aspect of this that was sort of the final nail in the coffin for me when it came to my faith. I had a friend from seminary named Mark, and Mark—I had a real tough time at Hopkins because I was away from my wife and my kids, and he would come up every Thursday and drive me out to Uno's Pizza, and we would have pizza, and we'd talk, and we'd walk around this big parking lot, and we'd just talk about Christianity, talk about the faith, talk about what I was studying. And when, at the end of that first semester, I lost my faith, he kept with me for another year and a half, and we'd go out every week and talk about these things.

Because I left kicking and screaming, because it was the last thing on earth that I wanted, but I really didn't. But I remember, like, I would drive in the car, and I would pray, and you know that feeling that you get when you pray, where you just start to communicate with God. I mean, it's what that fellowship feeling of—yeah, fellowship, yep. But I remember about a year and a half, two years after, I still was praying, because again, I was hoping to have it somehow come up with, like, a back door that I could say, oh no, this all does make sense. And I remember praying one day driving, and I didn't feel it at all.

And it scared me, actually. I didn't feel that connection with the Holy Spirit any longer. And from then on, and I would periodically pray to see if it was just a fluke, and I didn't feel that connection any longer. And, you know, can we attribute that to other things?

Sure. But to me, that was a very strong and difficult, honestly, thing to experience, that loss of divine spiritual connection. But you would love to have it back, though.

I would. I mean, I think my life would be a lot easier. I mean, and of course, you know, like, my mother prays for me every day, and she tells me that. I know that my, I have a lot of family down in North Carolina, they pray for me every day.

I get it. And it would be really nice to go back to, I don't know, a security and a surety that I don't have now. Well, Josh, you know, again, got a break, and I've got a couple more questions to ask.

I wish we had hours and hours, but of course, you and I can communicate anytime, and hopefully we will. But I just have such a feeling in my heart. Again, I'm not trying to be manipulative. Plus, you're not going to be manipulated, as I've said, but I really feel God's at work, and that prayers are being answered. And please hear me, it's not so there be, this trophy, man who became atheist comes, I could care less about that, couldn't care less about that, to be grammatically correct. I just care about Josh as a person, as a human being, that's willing to be this open and raw before all these strangers. So when we come back, I want to ask you about, since your wife knows the exact same material, the same historical issues, all that, where that's gone in terms of, you know, others feel there are answers to things that have troubled you, and then a couple more questions while we have time. We'll be right back. So all of you watching, listening, please do pray for God's very best for Josh, for the fullness of life to flood his life, and for dreams greater than he can imagine to become true and real in his life.

The website digitalhammurabi.com, that's Josh and his wife, Megan. So Josh, along the way, and again, we've got like 12 minutes, so try to pack in everything that we can, but along the way in your studies, you probably encountered brilliant ancient Near Eastern scholars, Semitic scholars, biblical scholars that are still believers, like me, I don't mean a brilliant scholar, but I mean believers like me, right? You know, I'm good friends with academically Dr. Richard Averbeck, you know, top Sumerologist at Trinity, colleague, one of his colleagues, James Hoffmeyer, great Egyptologist, you know, one of the premier Egyptologists with his third intermediate period book, Kenneth Kitchen, he's written amazing books on the reliability of the Old Testament and things. And your wife, Megan, is an Assyriologist, so she knows the apparent problems, contradictions, historical difficulties.

Do those answers leave you cold, satisfy her, but leave you cold? I think at the end of the day, maybe a good way to answer this is to talk about a pattern that I see. I see it in Megan and I see it in another really good friend of mine that also went through Hopkins with me, who's at a Tyndale right now doing research work. And I remember having conversations with both of them and basically saying, look, you know, why is it, how do you know? The question that I always ask is, how do you know, one, that there is a God, and two, that the God that you believe in is an Enki, right? Like, how do you justify that?

And I always pick Enki for some reason, I have no idea why. But the answer that I get consistently, and there are others, obviously, that I ask that sort of question too, is that I can't, I can't objectively prove that to you, right? But I've had an experience with the risen Lord, and I continue to have experiences with Jesus Christ. And that subjective experience, while, you know, not something that would hold up in a court of law, is so real to me. I mean, I remember my friend Caleb said this to me. It's so real to me that I know Jesus Christ has saved me from my sins.

Like, I know the Son is going to come up tomorrow. And I remember that feeling, right? I would have said the exact same thing. I think the difference is that both Megan and Caleb, and another good friend of mine is down at University of Texas, Austin, who's studying ancient Near Eastern law, all even, you know, I mean, those two evangelicals, Megan and Piscopalian, they have had time to, it was, it was a process that was much slower for them, and they were able to, I think, take in the information, think it through, and come up with reasonable responses inside of them, to be able to say, I can make sense of that.

For me, it was, it was very, very fast process, because it came in me sort of all at once. And it was so much that I took a complete step back from faith as a whole, and viewed it, I think, as objectively as I could, and came to the conclusion that could this be, you know, could there be spiritual rationalizations for this? Yes, but I don't think that's likely.

And I think that they would say it is likely. I think that's the fundamental difference. Got it. Yeah, right. So you got the wind knocked out of you and can't find the rational, logical reason to get it back. I mean, I'm oversimplifying.

Right, that's good. Yeah, I mean, if you asked me the question, I would tell you, well, the God who saved me, as I understood it, was the God of that Bible, and has confirmed that in my experience for the last 50, you know, just going on 50 years now. And when I go back to the God of that Bible and see him, for example, the broad strokes, and we could debate little things, but lay out the history of the Jewish people in advance, scattered yet preserved, brought back to the land, Jerusalem as center of world controversy, you know, how did they get that right?

And I do believe broad strokes of messianic prophecy, you know, this one, you know, obscure Jew rejected by his people becomes the light of the whole world. You know, you can't create those things. And then, you know, for me, because I'm not a philosopher or a scientist, the other things are important but secondary, you know, be it, you know, cosmological arguments or the question of DNA and all of that. So that brings further intellectual confirmation, but I'm not going to argue there. I mean, look, I could start quoting to Inouye Elishla and the Buddhist Shamalu, you know, and then I'll end after a few lines, and you'll keep going for the next 20 and give me the morphological breakdown because you've stayed in hysteria and I haven't. So the same with science.

I can give you my basic little scientific argument, but if you're a scientist, you push back. But for me, it's that the God of the Bible is the one who purportedly saved me. And having been around the world, worked with former Hindus, former Muslims, all these where Jesus revealed himself as over these other gods or deities or powers. And then I see the history of Scripture.

Being a Jew, too, that factors in, you know, the whole enigma of the Jew and even the inability to explain Jewish history without God in a certain way, as difficult as it is. That all points me back to Scripture. So last question.

By the way, I emailed you my phone number so we can freely interact without the limitations of this. But if you can answer this in two minutes or less, being consistent with your current mentality and mindset, is there any purpose, meaning, destiny of any kind in life or is it basically all random and whatever you make it to be and that's it? Yeah, this is probably outside of security, of knowing what's coming in the afterlife.

This is probably the other thing that I struggle with more than anything. And so I would say no and nothing more than what I create. And I think because of that, what probably bothers me the most about this is that because I can't know for certain any of these things, in my opinion, it doesn't seem like I can know anything for certain, that what if I'm wrong?

That's the question that always creeps up. And if that's the case, am I robbing my children of this purpose? Am I robbing my children of this future hope? And I guess what I would say is, given what I believed, given the faith that I had, and knowing the God that I served, if in fact these things are true, I think God is perfectly capable of sidestepping me and providing for my family in spite of me, I suppose. But that doesn't alleviate the emptiness, I guess, that still I struggle with, to be candid.

Hey Josh, now I'm the one having a bit of a hard time here. If something just starts to spark in your heart again, I know part of this was intellectual, but then it's been emotional, and that time you prayed and you felt the Holy Spirit wasn't there, and it continued that sense of absence. If something begins to spark in your heart, I'm talking about totally privately, I don't mean anything public, but you may have to tell your wife, but if something, just a ray of hope, something began to spark, are you willing to just raise that flag a little? Like, all right, could it be?

Is it possible? You know, some people don't want to get hurt again, and I don't want to deceive myself, and so they have all these walls up, which I can understand. But if something, an old pole, something that would relate to God, began to rise up in you, are you willing to allow hope of the possibility of God being real to rise up in your life again?

No, not only willing. I hope that happens. I hope that happens. Wonderful. You know, Ascentia Has God Failed You, the book that I wrote, you're not going to read anything in it that you don't know, haven't heard on a certain level, but I wrote it, I didn't write it thinking of you, but I wrote it for people exactly like you, that have lost their faith, but would love to come back, but refuse to deceive themselves or create some kind of, you know, comforting reality. And you know, Josh, when you openly shared movingly about the pain of the loss of your newborn a little over a year ago, for you and Megan, I looked up after the segment at two young men that produced the show, you know, through the glass of the other side of the window here, and it so happened that the director of our ministry, Cindy, was standing there, and I was with her and her husband right after they lost their 13-year-old son in an absolute freak accident. They had two wonderful godly boys, he was the younger 13, an absolute, I mean, a complete freak accident, but under the oversight of a safety freak, safety fanatic, and I flew up to be with them.

I prayed that God would raise their child from death, I mean, went for it everywhere we knew how, of course, didn't happen, but I remember at the wake that Cindy and her husband Gary, they're both on our team, were comforting the people, coming to comfort them, and I remember looking at that saying, this is absolutely unreal, and I looked up and she was smiling at me right after that, knowing the hope of eternal life. So Josh, thanks for coming on. We are amazingly out of time, but I really do care for you as a friend. I know you have that sense of friendship towards me. We've opened our hearts, and I'm really praying, Josh, that God's going to do some even today, again, not to put a suggestion in your mind, but even today, may a spark of faith rise. Let's pray for Josh. Another program powered by the Truth Network.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-17 19:42:52 / 2023-03-17 20:00:59 / 18

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