February 18th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Facing death, a top pastor rethinks what it means to be Christian

Editor's Note: The short film accompanying this story, called "My Garden," comes from EdsStory.com. CNN.com is premiering the latest installment in the "Ed's Story" series.

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Ed Dobson is not afraid of dying. It’s the getting there that really scares him.

A former pastor, onetime Christian Right operative and an icon among religious leaders, Dobson has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When he was diagnosed, doctors gave him 3 to 5 years to live.

That was 11 years ago.

“I am a tad happy to be talking to you right now,” joked Dobson, whose voice has deteriorated since his preaching days, in a phone interview. Speaking with him feels like being exposed to a brief moment of clarity. He speaks slowly, but with an understated confidence and authority.

As pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a position he held for 18 years, Dobson would regularly preach to 5,000 people or more on Sundays. Back then, Dobson said he looked at himself as a man filled with lessons, proverbs and, most of all, answers.

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After retirement six years ago, the massive crowds went away.

“I went from 100 miles an hour to zero miles an hour overnight,” Dobson said. “That was a shock to my system.”

Dobson says the answers vanished with the crowds.

“I know that sounds a bit lame,” he said. “I know that that I should have all the answers, but the truth is, the more I live, the fewer answers I have.”

And yet the people Dobson comes in contact with – those who call him dad, husband and friend, or those who have read one of his 12 books and watched his short films, don’t agree with that assessment. To them, the last six years of Dobson’s life have led to a remarkable ability to put life into context. To them, Dobson is a man filled with lessons.

From 5,000 to 1

In the 1980s, Dobson rose to prominence as an executive at the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell's evangelical political organization, which had influence with the Ronald Reagan White House. Dobson’s rise continued when he accepted the pastorate at Calvary Church in 1987. He cut a national profile, with Moody Bible Institute naming him “Pastor of the Year” in 1993.

After being diagnosed with ALS, Dobson suddenly felt unsure of himself. At times, he said, he didn't want to get out of bed. After years of intense Bible study, Dobson said this is not how he thought he would react to news of his own mortality.

“I thought that if I knew I was going to die, I would really read the Bible and if I really was going to die, I would really pray,” Dobson said. “I found the opposite to be true. I could barely read the Bible and I had great difficulty praying. You get so overwhelmed with your circumstances, you lose perspective.”

Eventually, Dobson regained perspective. But feelings of listlessness led him to take his preaching to a more personal level. He now meets with congregants one-on-one. Sitting with them in their homes or offices, Dobson provides whatever help he can. “Most of the people I meet with have ALS and basically I listen," he said.

“When I meet with someone and look into their eyes, it is like I am looking into their soul,” Dobson said. “We are both broken, we are both on the journey and we are both fellow pilgrims.”

Going from 5,000 congregants to one at a time was a big change for Dobson, forcing him to reevaluate his job as a pastor. “I am trying to learn that one-on-one is just as important as speaking to thousands,” he said. “I reemphasize – I am trying to learn that.”

During his one-on-one meetings, Dobson says he remembers Adam and Eve being charged by God to work the Garden of Eden. For years Dobson’s garden was Calvary Church – the baptisms, weddings, the Sunday preaching.

“Whether it is preaching to 5000 or meeting one on one, I am trying to take care of the garden,” he said.

The wind knocked out

One way Dobson strove to tend the garden is by writing a book about dealing with serious illness. In 2007, he wrote “Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness.”

Dobson’s son Daniel read the book while deployed in Iraq. After returning home, Daniel made it his mission to turn the book’s stories into videos.

He pitched the idea to Steve Carr, the executive director of a faith-focused production company called Flannel. “When I met Ed, when he came to our office, something really spoke to me,” Carr said. “Not too long before that, I had been diagnosed with Leukemia.”

“I thought that this guy, he has been where I am right now and he has somehow mastered it,” Carr said.

So far, Flannel has released five Dobson films, available through the company's website. There are plans for two more. Though the films range in topic, from loss and forgiveness to healing and growth, all are centered on lessons Dobson learned through his battle with ALS. The videos toe the line between a dark look at a dying man's life and an uplifting glimpse at someone who exudes clarity.

"My Garden," the most recent title in the series, centers on Ed’s struggle to deal with ending his preaching career.

Dobson talks about the films as if they are his swan song, his last words of encouragement to a group of supporters he has inspired for decades.

“My desire is that people who have had the air knocked out of them, whether divorce or losing a loved one or illness, that they will get a sense of hope by watching the films,” he said.

Surviving (with help)

The series’ first short film opens with Dobson explaining what it was like to be told he had ALS. After lying in bed, Dobson gets in the shower, brushes his teeth and starts the day. Even he would admit, however, it is not that easy.

Dobson has lost much of the function in his hands and is seen struggling to brush his teeth, his frail body using two hands on the small brush. Though he is able to do a lot, including drive, Dobson wouldn’t be able to make it on his own, a fact he is keenly aware of when about when describing his wife, Lorna.

“She is my right hand, my left hand, my left foot, my right foot, my heart and my brain,” Dobson said. “Without her, it would be impossible to go on.”

Standing in the kitchen in one video, Lorna helps puts Ed’s belt and gloves on. The two don’t speak on camera, but their love is obvious.

“Our love has grown each year of marriage,” Lorna said. “I didn’t want to just wither in the sorrow of how our life was changing. It took a while to get used to what our life was going to be like but I realized that I needed to be more available to him.”

Dobson says he is also more available to her.

“I am no longer a preacher,” said Dobson. “Today, I would say I am a Jesus follower. Period.”

Lorna said she continues to learn from her husband. Throughout their life together, she said she learned by being in church with him, by raising three kids together and by loving one another.

The last 11 years, however, their love has changed. Dobson's illness has taught her to focus on the important things, she said, primarily their kids and five grandkids.

After tending the garden for decades, Dobson is now being tended himself, largely by Lorna. “ALS forced me into a situation where I grew in understanding of what it means to obey Jesus,” Dobson said in the latest film.

“It took me quite a while to find an alternative purpose," he said. "But the good news is out there – there is a purpose for everyone.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Death • United States

soundoff (3,195 Responses)
  1. God

    If you believe any the stories about me in ancient books then I have a bridge I can sell ya...

    Seriously, I can sell it to you. It's mine. Like everything else.

    Are you listening to me, Helen!?

    February 21, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  2. Nothing in Science could defy the will of God.

    "When he was diagnosed, doctors gave him 3 to 5 years to live.

    That was 11 years ago."


    February 21, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • sam stone

      See what? That the doctors were wrong? How does this anything to do with "the will of god"?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Nothing in Science could defy the will of God.

      Simple, It's He who gave, only He knows when.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • God

      The Lockerbie Bomber was only supposed to live 1 year and he is going to live for another 20 and he's a Muslim.

      Guess that proves... NOTHING!

      February 21, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • sATanHEISTS

      Who said that ( The Lockerbie Bomber) he has only 1 year to live?

      And how it proves nothing?

      February 21, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • ashrakay

      If he lived 11 years without medical attention, I'd be impressed. Christians have to choose: god of the bible, or science. God of the bible, says that if you have enough faith, you can do anything. So physician... heal thyself. Stop going to doctors for antibiotics. Stop using technology. If you had the moral conviction and integrity of the Amisch, we'd leave you alone. Go back to believing diseases are sent by god, and pray them away while you quietly wait for the rapture. If you're going to have one bronze age belief, you might as well embrace them all.

      February 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  3. Plug1

    Real Islam is the answer sir. Not those lies they show on the news in the west.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Wes

      Where's the proof that your religion is somehow right when everyone else's is wrong? You DO realize that Islam is based off of Judaism too right? And you also realize that you believe in the same God as both Christians and Jews don't you?

      February 21, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • reason

      Islam is the one true religion, because it says so in the Quran.
      Judaism is the one true religion, because it says so in the Torah.
      Christianity is the one true religion, because it says so in the Bible.
      And so on.

      Meanwhile, there is no rational basis to believe in any of them.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  4. Linda

    I'll be praying for brother Dobson, and for all of those lost souls here who are still living in darkness. I believe it was Donald Stamps (?) who once said, "If there's anything I've learned from history, it is that no one ever learns from history". And this couldn't be more true as we listen to each new generation of those who oppose God.

    For him who insinuated the Bible is just an ancient artifact with meaning lost in translation; there's a huge difference between a book which has been translated into different languages so all can read it and one that has been re-interpreted many times. The Bible is the most scrutinized book there ever was...and it has been supernaturally preseved. You don't have to take my word for it, read it or study it thoroughly enough (a daunting task but many have done it) for yourself and you will see what the millions of Christians are talking about regarding it's purity.

    The Bible is a love story...it is God's plan of redemption for the human race, as it is going on throughout history. There is a God and he is real. To entertain this idea is more than some can handle, because of our tendendy to elevate ourselves. It's true, whether you believe in it or not.

    It's very hard to convince anyone of this in a couple of paragraphs while talking to firm skeptics, but the Bible is more than a book...it is God's word to mankind. In a sense it is supernatural in and of itself, and I would encourage all to read it cover to cover and see what you think. If you are afraid that a concept has been blurred or wrongly "translated" because it's been around for so long, then all you need to do is read on for a while. God has explained his word and each concept many different ways and repeated each in different parts of the Bible, over and over.

    As human beings become smarter, and as we back up our conclusions with science, many of the brightest most learned young scientists have come to the conclusion it is mathmatically impossible for there not to be a God. I think God might find this amusing, if he has a sense of humor ; )

    I pray that every one of you will find their way to the love that surpasses understanding and to eternal life through Christ Jesus.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • edwardo

      Spoken like a true kool-aid drinker.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • sam stone

      "And this couldn't be more true as we listen to each new generation of those who oppose God."

      Or each person that thinks they speak for God

      February 21, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Bob

      Yeah, Linda, and we know all that prayer has ever caused to happen: nothing, ever. Stop wasting your time on your Christian fairy tales already and get with the modern world.

      As for following your bible, since you ramble on about it, note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes your sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Please, stop referencing that Christian book of nasty, AKA the bible, as a guide to, well, anything.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Be free of religion in 2012.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Bob's on about goats again. Someone please tell him his goats are safe.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • miscreantsall

      Sorry, but you are so ignorant.

      I have read and studied the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. Yes there is verifiable information, history, events, etc. in the Bible BUT, the Bible has NOT been divinely preserved. I do not know where you got that and I must call you a LIAR for saying that.

      The Bible may have originally been divinely "inspired" but MAN and TIME has destroyed most of the original text, intent and meaning.

      There is not one Bible translation (except MAYBE…..believe it or not…..the Jehovah's Witnesses version) on the globe that has escaped manipulation by man…………not one!!!!!!!!!!!!

      The truly spiritual (not religious) would have the ability and wisdom to "glean" much of the important values and lessons of the bible and disregard the didactic minutia as irrelevant.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • jimtanker

      You have NO evidence that your god even exists, let alone that your bible is "divinely inspired".

      Yes there are events in the bible that happened in real life but I have read many other works of fiction that have real events in them. That does not mean that they are real either.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Thank you,Linda for your post. The truth of words written in it will never change, regardless of man's opinions. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God's word will stand forever. Time will tell all things, and in just a few years, maybe few decades, those who ridicule now those who know the Lord will be CONVINCED!
      We know in what days we're living in, by the signs of the times, and specifically by the corruption of the human character of our days, which we will see even more as time passes, and about which it was written in Scriptures of 2Timothy 3, among others. And people on blogs as one here only confirm what was written in them!

      God bless and keep you, friend!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Oh, PRISM 1234! There have been people in every generation since Jesus's supposed death saying that the times they were living in were surely the last due to irrefutable "signs", and there will likely be many generations repeating these same opinions until people finally get tired waiting.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Sorry, Yeah, but you obviously don't see things the way they are! It takes the eyes of the Spirit to see and discern what is really happening. Those who don't know the Lord and have not been born of His Spirit can not see.
      BTW, I left you a post on page 26 in response to yours. No hard feelings 🙂
      Good day to you!

      February 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  5. reason

    According to Pew Research the more people know about religion the less likely they are to believe.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      And the average atheist tends to know more about religion than the average believer.

      I like this analogy: The people who really know what goes on in slaughterhouses are either the folks who make their money off of selling meat, or vegans who are repulsed by it. Clergy work at the slaughterhouses and atheists are the vegans trying to inform the public about what they're sheltered from seeing.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  6. Ben Moushon

    Reblogged this on Thinking & Driving.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  7. David

    In his suffering he keeps his faith and finds his true ministry. His story is one of victory. What an amazing man!

    February 21, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • edwardo

      Yes, another successful fairy tale salesman. And there are so few!! yeh, right.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  8. Joseph maembe

    i thank God for you are life...!for his love never change!
    please may you consider to pay visit Synagogue church of all nation(scoan) located in Nigeria..please

    February 21, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • sap

      Is there an address we can wire our money to?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  9. moonster

    very poignant.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:18 am |
  10. manofgod

    Do not join a church that is Mormon or Jehovah Witness. I don't endorse Catholicism , but you would be a lot better off in a Catholic Church than the other 2 I mentioned.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • sam stone

      ....or you could ignore all churches and texts and decide for yourself what god is or isn't

      February 21, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • Prov

      This is the very reason we read and study. Anyone can make true and false statements about God (and they do), but without reading and studying how will we know the truth. If you want to know something–study it.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      A lot of people, myself included, have studied the heck out of God and became atheists because of it. If you want people to remain faithful perhaps it's best you advise them not to study the subject too much, eh?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • sam stone

      Prov: That implies that words written, edited and translated by man represent the mind of God.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Steve

      Oh Yeah –

      Are you suggesting you have studied more than the theologians that still believe? Perhaps you are smarter than the infinite handful of doctors, scientists, lawyers, professors, etc. that have relationships with God? Although, my skepticism tells me that's not true.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      You can lay out your supposed list of educated, intelligent believers, and I don't doubt that plenty of intelligent people still have personal cause to believe, but can they offer an intelligent argument outside of their personal experience, one based on the 'facts' of the Bible, history, psychology, science, and so forth, that would remove all doubt in others?

      I had a professor once who swore that he had met a ghost while staying at a hotel. I don't doubt that he believes this, but I'm still inclined to be skeptical. I know enough about how easily our perceptions can be false, and how easily our minds can be fooled to just assume that what we think we experience is exactly what actually happens.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • just sayin

      Job 42 : 5 "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you."
      Seeking God is a good ambition, finding God is a life changing goal. Find and speak with God in prayer every day. Prayer really does change things.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      just sayin
      So, if you dedicate your life to trying to accept God's existence as true, you will eventually convince yourself that it is? And you don't see any flaw in this plan?

      February 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  11. RGZ

    Rev. Dobson's story is very moving and meaningful. He simply manifests the love of God in his life, in this world, at this very moment. That is the true meaning of Christ's work–very simple, very easy.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Very simple, very easy, but still bogged down in a strict adherence to some ancient morals that are hopelessly out of place in our modern, enlightened society.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • edwardo

      Yes, what a great plan god had for his life. To condemn others, then give him a dreadful disease, until he suffers and dies. This guy abused the down-trodden, and treated gays like animals. He won't be missed by me, so hopefully, Christ is waiting for him. Wonder what god's next plan is for him? Another disease? Another tyrant somewhere else in the universe?

      February 21, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  12. Kris

    The conundrum for me is that life is too complex to have evolved from "nothing" and the universe has just enough order to appear to have been designed.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • sam stone

      kris: does a creator necessarily mean a "god"?

      February 21, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      And yet, you seem to have no difficulty with the conundrum of how something as complex as a God being could have ALWAYS EXISTED, didn't even come from "nothing", then created the whole universe and all life in it from "nothing", but still supposedly has the time to fuss about who people choose to marry?

      You're right, the universe has just enough order to appear to have been designed, with the emphasis on the word "appear." With just a little imagination humans have conceived of thousands of universes that would be far better designed. Ones without so much empty space, and ones with more populated planets even in our own solar system, and more ecosystems for humans on our own. In the scale of things, so far, the grand design of the Creator has managed to put a bit of life on one tiny part of one grain of sand relative to our solar system. Whoopie for Him!

      February 21, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Believer

      O yeah
      Look at a chair. No rational human being would say that that chair just randomly appeared out of nothing, how much more complex is a single cell. How is it rational to think a chair must have had a designer, but its idi.otic to think a cell had to have one?
      Also the reason why we are ok with God always existing is because he created matter space and time. If God was boud by the rules of time and space he wouldnt be much of a God.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • edwardo

      @believer – It begs the age old question... WHO DESIGNED THE DESIGNER??? Your theory has a huge hole in it.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, "This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!" This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."
      – Douglas Adams

      February 21, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      When you can show me herds of chairs breeding baby chairs in the wild then your analogy will start to make some sense. Oh, and the same thing applies to any pocket watches you might stumble across on the beach. Inanimate things don't self-replicate like living things, and don't adapt to their environments like living things.

      So, it's OK to imagine a God not being bound by the present laws of time and space, but it's somehow impossible that this same argument might apply to conditions prior to the creation of time and space after the Big Bang? Interesting!

      February 21, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Johnnyfi

      Oh @edwardo, you are missing something. To say that the Creator created earth and people and such doesn't mean we need to prove who created Him? Part of real intelligence is admitting there are things you can't explain. We know the earth was created somehow. You can have a debate on how old the earth is, whether dinosaurs walked with Adam and Eve or any people for that matter, etc., but you can't have an honest debate about the origins of life without creationism. It's like debating yourself. Science is afraid of the debate because in the end, it can't explain everything neatly in evolution. It simply can't. And before you go off trying to discredit me or say I'm somehow not "enlightened", I have a MS in Engineering and have studied science and have a strong understanding of how scientific proof works. I also have a genius level IQ. The argument that I must somehow be dumb to buy into anything but evolution simply won't hold.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      "Part of real intelligence is admitting there are things you can't explain."
      And science readily admits that, yes? That there are things that we cannot YET explain, which is not to say that we will never be able to explain them for who can intelligently make such a claim? They use to say that we would never be able to deduce the chemical compositions of distant stars and now we can, for instance. It's the people who rely on faith who are not content to wait for the answers, and choose an ancient speculation that seems less and less likely with every new discovery.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  13. kakobya


    February 21, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • tallulah13

      Who exactly are you talking about, and exactly what miracles?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • edwardo

      So why isn't your healer, healing his beloved disciple? I'm sure prayers have gone up. Guess the answer is no. So, why pray? If the answer is either yes or no to your prayers, you could get the same yes or no answer...without praying at all.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      If you step back and look at how many things occur pretty much as you'd expect them to and how many things just go spectacularly wrong you'd expect some thing to go your way naturally, wouldn't you? There are no miracles; just better than average results that are over emphasized by the media and folks who believe in miracles.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  14. kakobya

    Given five years to die,he still lives,we thank JESUS

    February 21, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • sam stone

      how about all the kids that starved to death today? do you thank JESUS for that, too?

      February 21, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • Prov

      Sam: Kids died and were slaughtered in the Bible too–no news flash. Now it is up you to find out what really happens to little ones when they die.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • edwardo

      YOU can thank Jesus for it. I could could certainly care less !! Who is the "we" in your statement?

      February 21, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • sam stone

      Prov: You are assuming that this KNOWLEDGE is available to man

      February 21, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Magic Johnson is still alive as well, not yet having progressed to full blown AIDS.
      At least he readily admits that GlaxoSmithKline is to thank and not Jesus.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Qwacky Doc.

      Doc you said: "At least he readily admits that GlaxoSmithKline is to thank and not Jesus."

      Unless you can give her a link in which Magic Johnson actually says that, you are bound to be branded sa "bald-faced liar".

      February 21, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  15. Reality

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    February 21, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Standing Up

      If Jesus' body was still there after his disciples told everyone that he'd risen from the dead, don't you think the authorities, who would be desperate to dispel this idea and the dangerous (to them) religious fallout that was sure to ensue, wouldn't they do anything to produce said body? Instead, his resurrection was witnessed by hundreds and hundreds of people. The men who were hiding in terror of the authorities made a complete turnaround and suddenly were risking death daily, preaching the gospel. What would make so many men make such a huge and unanimous reversal, knowing what the response would be from the people who'd already killed Jesus? Possibly seeing the truth of what he'd been preaching?? Seeing a man they'd watched be executed come back to life could certainly have an impact like that.

      Seek and you will find God. And you will know the truth.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Jim

      @Standing Up.
      You seem to forget that the gospels were written at least three *decades* after Jesus' death. With the average life span for rural peasants in the 1st century about 40 years, the odds are that most of Jesus' followers were dead and decayed by then. The gospel authors could have made up any stories they wanted and there would be no one around to check. Further, questioning the written words being spread by respectable people is something the 1st century jews would *not* have done (see works by Bruce Malina). Don't forget that the gospels were written during and after the First Jewish–Roman War and there was no Jewish leadershp, but rather scattered groups all of which who were all fighting for control and all of which who were claiming the others were heretics. Why would anyone believe claims by the other groups?

      "witnessed by hundreds and hundreds of people"?
      Uh no....we have stories written three **decades** later that this was the case. However, we have no evidence that the gospels were written by people who actually witnessed the events. In fact, two wewre certainly not (Luke and Mark). They are anonymous works and the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were added to the books long after they were already in circulation.

      "The men who were hiding in terror of the authorities..." Uh, no... At first, the Christians were an insignificant group and the jewish leadership could not have cared less. The real wide-spread persecution started at least 100 years later by the Romans because the Christians refused to give offerings to the Roman gods and not because they were Christians. One exception was Nero who blamed the Christians for the fire he himself set, but that was just because he needed a scapegoat and not a direct persecution of the Christians. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support your claim that they were "hiding in terror of the authorities". Please do read a book from time to time.

      "suddenly were risking death daily, " What a load of crap!!! If either the jewish leaders or the Romans had wanted to wipe out a small group of fanatics, they would have. The early christians were of absolutely no significance to either the jewish leaders or the Romans.

      "What would make so many men make such a huge and unanimous reversal, knowing what the response would be from the people who'd already killed Jesus?"
      Unamimous? You seem to use words differently than most people. "Response"? Jesus was executed for his individual acts of violence in the temple and blasphemy. There were dozens of preachers like Jesus roaming around Judea. The Jewish leaders who not have bothered with another heretical group unless they became a violent and destructive like Jesus had.

      The Christians in the first few decades were generally ingored. There were dozens of sects, so why would the jewish leadership bother with one of many? Jesus was a troublemaker, (remember the incident in the Temple?) so he was "removed" because of that and **not** because a small group of a couple hundred people that were of no interest.

      New Testament scholars such as Daniel Wallace and Darrell Bock have already admitted that the gospels writers added things to their stories. (e.g the long ending of Mark) We also see other things added later (e.g pericope adulterae, comma johanneum). Christian apologist writers such as John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs admit that the gospels writers were biased and included those things that supported the point they were trying to make. It is a logical conclusion that there were many addition, ommissions and embellishment to the gospels. Basing your entire worldview on something you claim is 100% reliable and is demonstrably *not* is irrational.

      "The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic." - William Lane Craig

      February 21, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Bizarre


      Excellent post - thank you. I hope that you can do more of them like it.

      And thanks @Reality too.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  16. James Gordon Wolfe

    One never knows how he's going to face death until he does. I pray that when my time comes I can face it courageously. As a fellow Christian I agree with him: the message is out there and there is a purpose for everyone. On top of that, Christians are promised that they will glorify God in death.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • edwardo

      If you're truly a believer, you have to have courage to face death? Really?? I mean... I'd be happy to die today, knowing eternal bliss awaited me when I'm dead. So, why not just get it over with today? JUMP JUMP JUMP

      February 21, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • sam stone

      "On top of that, Christians are promised that they will glorify God in death."

      If they truly believed that promise, why do we not see a mass exodus of those glorifying God in death? What are they waiting for?

      February 21, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  17. TG

    It should be noted that despite preaching to large audiences for many years, yet he has never grasped what God's kingdom is (not even mentioning it) that Jesus taught his disciples to pray for.(Matt 6:9, 10) His genuine disciples were charged with the commission to "go therefore and make disciples of peoples of all the nations....teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you."(Matt 28:19, 20)

    Jesus stated what should be taught, that "this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations and then the end will come."(Matt 24:14) Genuine Christians are doing as Jesus commanded, teaching others about God's kingdom, a heavenly government consisting of 144,000 individuals selected by Jehovah God from the earth (Rev 14:1, 4) to serve in the official capacity of "kings and priests"(Rev 1:6), joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom 8:17), who has been enthroned as king of God's kingdom since 1914.(Rev 6:2; Dan 7:13, 14)

    Mr Dobson obviously has not been active in teaching others concerning this heavenly government, that it is designed to bring about God's purpose of a paradise earth, for "God's will to take place on the earth, as in heaven."(Matt 6:9, 10) Our Creator, Jehovah God's will is for the earth to be transformed into what he originally purposed when he created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, for "meek" ones to enjoy life in "the abundance of peace" forever on the earth.(Ps 37:11, 29)

    February 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • What are you talking about?

      Blah blah blah...wheretofore the Lord GOD Almighty...blah...blah...blah... (insert language from the 1800's here)....blah...blah...blah.

      If you want to win anyone over to Christ then stop talking like some puritanical witch-burner from the 15th century. Nobody understands a word you are saying when you use language like this.

      February 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • NotJW

      Umm, yeah...what you just described theologically is Jehovah's Witnesses–not genuine Christianity. Dobson is not a JW and obviously wouldn't preach those doctrines.

      February 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Michael

      Really? You sphere of influence must be next to nothing. Your making an idiot of yourself. Nobody listens to people like you.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Transfused

      Why don't you tell everyone how your Jehovah's Witnesses will choose themselves to be in that magic number TG? Yep, JW people will stand up, declare themselves perfect & only those self proclaimed JW people will exclusively get all the heavenly stuff. Great schtick, but those old testament bible passages were all about those people of Hebrew descent. Jehovah's Witnesses not being Jewish, I do not see how those passages are even applicable to them.
      Don't forget to tell them about how some Jehova's Witnesses also ignored no trespassing signs to prosthelytize a cancer patient's minor children, to save them from having a loving parent who received a blood transfusion to live? Or that those same Jehovah's Whitnesses had to be warned by the police to leave the family alone?
      Maybe you should start examining your own eye for a beam lodged in it. The pastor is traveling his own path towards infinity, bad mouthing him as he is dying is not the act of a Christian. It just lets everyone know what a sanctimonious self aggrandizing religious bigot you are.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      I don't know why I attend a JW Communion Service once a year and then be forced not to drink it because I am not one of the 144000 Hebrew virgins of Revelation. S John the divine who wrote the book was not a Virgin when he took the Last Supper with Jesus, was he? Love fulfils the Law. God is love.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      You,JWs, are evangelising a lot but what you are teaching are u sure it is setting people free? I will like you to take a Jewish Bible and compare it with yours. Do they match? I wish you allow others to preach because all religions are false ultimately. Love ur neighbor as yourself.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      Most people ignore MR REALITY for the fact that he posts the same half-truths over and over again like an automated e-amail answer.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  18. bw

    The real problem is that he has relinquished the power and the money–the reasons for today's organized religion.

    February 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things . .

    February 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Victor

      Ahh, but Christianity IS healthy? REALLY?

      February 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      It's healthy for fellow Christians, as long as you're the 'right' kind of Christian, that is.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Jim

      "The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic." - William Lane Craig

      February 21, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • sean burns

      No. It doesn't. It's sweet and touching that you think that way but there is not one shred of evidence to support it.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven .

      February 21, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Wes

      Prayer changes perception, not reality.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things
      Proven how?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      February 21, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things
      Again (and again, and again...) how?

      February 21, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • just sayin

      Prayer is the act of talking with God. Conversation, speaking with requests and peti tions, listening and learning. Learning to apply what God has given in prayer to me has been life changing. From salvation at the cross to my daily bread, every word of God keeps me fully fed. Thanking God daily and making every effort to draw closer to Him. The greatest change of all is in coming to know God loves me.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      February 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  20. Name*Renee barkwr

    I really enjoyed reading this article. So much to learn from Ed Dobson.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Nothing fruitful about atheism

      me too.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:13 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.