Is there a book covering these points?

Hello,

Below I have dot pointed my summary outline of a book I would love to read - ultimately I’d love to find someone else who has done the hard work to summarise all the below points rather than attempt, rather unably, to reinvent this particular wheel myself.

So, I’m asking for everyone’s help - is there a book or multiple books/videos/resources out there that examine the below points concisely and with intellectual honestly - preferably one in English. I’d appreciate any comments - and feel free to break it down point by point but if there was a resource brave enough to tackle them all as one package - that would be amazing and is really what I’m after

The book/resource I’m looking for:

  1. Asks how we seperate what mankind has just come up with through evolution and culture, to what actually is?

  2. Examines the nature of human belief as a phenomenon in itself. Examines the spectrum of belief as it stands today in the 21st century. Perhaps introduces a graph of some kind - eg uses an XY graph to represent the change of beliefs over time

  3. Looks at why there so many religions if there is just one God?

  4. Critiques - If it’s man’s fault we believe many things - why would a God by way one or the other allow humanity to get so off track with their belief systems (and when?)

  5. Examines the free will argument. Critiques it from a biblical perspective (God controls and guides all, free will is therefore limited, Pharoah example). Looks at free will also from a real world perspective - a parent wouldn’t let their young child play on the road even if they cried the house down wanting to. Nor would they let them push their sibling from a tree etc.

  6. Critiques the thought of the devil controlling the world - examines and unpacks what this would mean, how, it’s boundaries, implications etc

  7. Asks why the appearance of the one true God, Yahweh, came so late in the record of human existence? And why only in a small region of the ancient Middle East and not elsewhere in the world

  8. Examines human anthropological evolution, how long humans have been around, examines carbon dating etc in this

  9. Asks Why God presented a picture of creation that indeed was not the case? Not scientifically concordant when it could have been

  10. Critiques the accomdationalist argument and the ‘Bible says why but science says what’ arguments

  11. Critiques the ‘Bible doesn’t show us truth about scientific fact but does about God’ argument

  12. Briefly examines natural contradictions between ancient world view and science

  13. Examines who wrote the Bible, it’s construction (J,D,P,E theory) and the implications

  14. Examines the kernel of truth argument - is having a kernel of truth enough to justify having so much chaff?

  15. Examines the contradictions in claims of different religions - asks how could we know what is true from following religion alone when they all say different things and there is no objective measure between them?

  16. Examines Jungian psychological concepts and archetypes - religion as an expression of deep concepts etc. That is, as a way of thinking, of looking into a mirror. Like a collective dreaming - the collective subconscious expressing itself. Religion as true in the sense of the emotions and feelings being true but the actual forms and stories as fiction. Truth in fiction. Allegory. Asks, does this critique hold

  17. Touches on the science and psychology of religion as concepts/areas of study. Looks at the cognitive building blocks approach of religious and spiritual phenomena - unpacking and compare different aspects

  18. Dives into evolution with all its implications

  19. Explores the evolution of religion - touches on various theories

  20. Examines miracles and claims of miracles and the unexplainable in religion - beginning to examine, notwithstanding all that would’ve already been said - there indeed does appear an objective force outside human creation alone. Asks what it could be, how it works, examines concepts and boundaries and contradictions of faith given all the above.

  21. Dives into UFOs - brief historical examination of evidence using stats, follows logical deduction tree - if this, then that, what if this, than that kind of thinking to make some tentative deductions of logic about this area

  22. Examines how researching alleged metaphysical realities could possibly occur

  23. Summarises and presents challenge to look into these things further and how we might do so. Discusses the benefits and risks of doing so and potential dangers in not doing so

  24. Makes some predictions about the future of religious belief and societal trends in general

Just some light reading I’m after then :wink:

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So all the big questions, then. Sounds like the work of a lifetime. Good luck!

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A liberal studies degree at a reputable university would be best. Online in your free time if you’re working and with family responsibilities. It takes 10,000 hours to become good at anything. Ten years if you have a life. 5 if not. Unless you go full time. Worth the money. Otherwise find liberal studies degree reading lists. There are no shortcuts.

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I’m thinking something perhaps along the lines of that amazing book Guns, Germs and Steel but about religion - an Anthropological examination of religion and culture that attempts to sift out what is just human belief from what must be/could be something else? I’ve heard the Australian impact journalist John Saffron did something like this with “John Saffron VS God” but that wasn’t exactly academic and as I understand (I haven’t watched that series but do know Saffron’s style) made something of a mockery of it all. Surely there is a book out there that methodically, with fairness and balance (and hopefully readability) goes through the question of spiritual realities as either merely human construction or indeed possible reality - it’s a topic relevant to us all. I can’t believe no one would have done it. It’s just I can’t seem to find any, so I’m phoning a friend as it were by posting here.

I know there are a huge number here who are infinitely better read than me who could point me in the right direction. Perhaps all those numbered points in the original post were way too much (yeah, probably) - just something along those lines would be fine … I’ve started reading the Hero with a thousand faces by Joseph Campbell, something like that maybe but more ontologically analytical and grounded in principles around deductive reasoning and methodical enquiry/critical thinking??

Yes sadly I think it will be the work of my lifetime … but I have no doubt many others would have, in their own way, tackled this issue head on already.
I’ve learnt to check if someone else has done something before you try - and have consistently found someone always already has, someone to learn from - someone who has gone down that path already. Indeed, there’s nothing really new under the sun. So, I’m reaching out to find those who’ve already explored all this and written an honest assessment of it. It would make for fascinating reading, especially if written from a first person experience point of view

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There is no one book covering all these issues. Later on I can link some books I have read that covers some of these subjects.

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Thanks, I’ll take whatever people are putting out there

It’s been said that asking the right question (rather than formulating an answer) is the best, humblest way to knowledge. In the case above, I was going to suggest that you write the book yourself. @Klax suggested studying–that is a great idea, too. However, on more introspective thought, I’d be really careful at choosing any book that claimed to deal with all those. I like the way you put it–“examine” those points. If a book claimed to know the answers to any one of those deep questions, I’d not waste time reading it. If the book tried to restate the question thoroughly (as you have actually made a thesis, in a way, already), then maybe it would be worth while launching a way to prod the rest of us to study more. Or am I on the wrong track?
Best wishes. If you write the book, I am sure it will be a good one.

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Thanks @Randy - I do appreciate your encouragement - you’ve always encouraged me here. I would honestly be shocked though - dare I say almost to the point of tears - if no one out there in the world has written a book something along these lines. I feel like it’s one of those “just keep looking and you’ll find it things”. Indeed, ultimately what I am after is just an honest and thorough examination of what is and isn’t likely to be actually true in the realm of the spiritual. I know it’s one of those “where would you even start?” topics but humanity is smart enough and good enough to have started somewhere - surely.

I have all this brewing around inside me for sure - to the extent that if I don’t find something I’ll just have to write it down as a form of catharsis. It’s all making me feel sick in a way. The thing is, I honestly feel I wouldn’t do a particularly good job of writing something (well, I would force myself to make sure I did, or at least try but I think it would drive me - or anyone attempting it, nearly mad - trying to write something like that, with all the little bits and pieces needing polishing but it being so hard to just get right. I couldn’t be a perfectionist about it - which would mean it would be sub par. I’d have to aim for something at 80% to just get it out. Another thing is I don’t have a Masters or a PHD - I’m not a scientist or a theologian, just some guy (with a BA at least but not in the area).

For me, I would also honestly worry about what the point would be - I don’t want to make other people feel bad and hopeless. I don’t want to tear down believers’ precious faith. That would cause harm - I could imagine people reading and going off and doing all kinds of things in a sort of reaction to it. I say this as I know that feeling - having your belief bubbles abruptly popped is dangerously unsettling. It’s like a believing kid suddenly finding out Santa’s not real and being naughty, cause there’s no list.

I’m still putting the call out (suppressing a slight desperation now) - if anyone knows of some kind of work that engages the issue of how do we seperate between what is just made up by mankind and what might actually be spiritually real - even if you think “nah, he’s not looking for that” - please let me know

I spoke to someone at church recently about all this and he pointed me to AW Tozer’s ‘Knowledge of the Holy’- it is actually really good (I’m part way) - it doesn’t critically analyse claims of truth in a coherent manner - it makes a lot of assertions that are not examined - but despite that, it does make the case that we humans have limits. There’s truth in that for sure … sometimes I think we too readily and conveniently accept such thoughts, perhaps even embrace them as they give us a sense of security and reassurance but, I’m still glad this guy pointed me toward the book - it hasn’t not helped and anything people will put out there will be good for me to look at

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Hi @Klax - I had a look at the reading list, it’s good to know that is what is encapsulated in a liberal arts degree. There wasn’t much specifically about the origin and anthropology of religion - some good philosophy reading and a lot of other titles worthy of attention but not specifically about the area I’m looking at. Surely someone somewhere with a liberal arts degree (or other similar qualification) has sought to undertake cohesively bringing together the various human thoughts and constructs and measure them through the lens of methodical empirical thought, coming to conclusion about the likelihood or not of spiritual realities?

I imagine, Mr Michael, that your very good concerns are those that any conscientious researcher would have.
I had an interesting experience with that tonight. For example, while reading a Christian story book, “Jungle Doctor Stings a Scorpion,” to my kids, we heard how the missionary doctor committed a common Biblical fallacy that many fall in to–that if it’s written, it must be true. When he talked to people about whether the Resurrection could be true, he said that it must be, because 500 and more people had seen Jesus after resurrection. My 12 year old son appropriately remarked, “But just saying that isn’t proof.” I was proud of him, because he’s avoiding the pitfall of one of the worst houses of cards we run in to. We then discussed that there’s really no solid evidence that what happened was true, though there are some historical indications that the apostles were convinced, that there were at least 2 sources for the gospels (I think) that overall agreed, etc.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that, “A God who would let us prove his existence would be an idol.” At first, I used to think that made no sense; but the more I consider it, the more I think he’s got a point.
When I was in undergrad, a professor tried to get those of us who attended his class to question why believed our faiths. I had no idea at the time how valuable to me his challenge was. After thinking a bit, I told my dad I was going to go back to him and say that there had been such an accumulation of evidence of the paranormal and miracles, that something miraculous must exist. Dad, a missionary in Africa, shocked me no end when he quickly and firmly disagreed. “There is no hard evidence of miracles,” he asserted. “No matter what you consider, you will, if you look hard enough, find a probable natural cause for it.”

He went on to talk about his undergrad class in philosophy, in which he studied the same questions. Kierkegaard was one of his main favorites, but the philosophy professor probed his faith relentlessly never giving him any answers, but asking him to think and give reasons. He finally came to the conclusion that he had to make a leap of faith, like Kierkegaard did.

I am not sure I would go that far, though in practice I think I do that every day. However, I needed that reality check. If Dad had let me go on believing that miracles could be proven, I’d be at the least in for a rude awakening as my house of cards fell. I can’t let my son do that. So, even though my family and church are mostly YEC, I affirm his skepticism, but try to point out the reasons I do hope in a good God–not that I have any proof. I’m “on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Narnia.” Also, hopefully, the god I envision will be less of an idol, and more like the real thing, if He exists.

More, I’m deeply grateful for the New Atheists and those who make me question, because by shifting my view of God (if He exists) to someone who would only welcome honest questioning, I have no fear of a capricious God who requires my belief to make him happy. Like Macdonald, it seems to me that God is downright pleased with one who comes to an erroneous conclusion–atheism, if you like–from honest questioning, rather than someone who, as C S Lewis wrote, would agree with God from "mere terrified flattery" agreeing with God to keep oneself out of Hell.

Your questions are better laid out than I have ever organized mine. However, I would love to learn more about them too. Biologist has commentaries on many of them.
I look forward to what you discover.

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Hi @Christopher_Michael. The best book in 500 years and then the preceding 1400 is Steve Chalke’s The Lost Message of Paul. It assumes the certainty of spiritual realities. Rationality alone precludes them of course, there is no warrant for bringing them in to the discussion, there is no need for a conclusion as God cannot be approached starting from science or philosophy. He’s utterly meaningless, a null, a superfluity explaining nothing at all in science and the greater rationality extrapolated beyond that. The starting point is Jesus as per the NT, posited as real, as God incarnate, warranted on the seven consensual early letters of Paul. The book above is, bar none, the best synopsis since the NT. Full stop. Period. If you read everything else, especially the second and third rate theology since, you’ll be none the wiser, and a lot older.

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Its sad that biologos have not put the effort to answer some of the questions the op listed above. I mean would it be a waste of time for our so called moderators or someone with administrative possition here?I know Biologos doesnt take a stance at things. But ive seen in the common questions at the menu some are answered. Too bad this has stoped

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I’ve been holding back because the book I’d nominate isn’t aiming to do what you’re looking for specifically. But in writing The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist researched quite a few field including neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, literature and the arts. I’ve read Guns, Germs and Steel and was just as impressed with it as you seem to be. I don’t believe any book is or could be that illuminating in the areas you’d like to understand better. But I think McGilchrist’s book might help to explain why.

Here are a few passages from his book which go to the issue of why the sacred and the further limits of insight cannot be summed up with facts and concepts:

So thinking is prior to language. What language contributes is to firm up certain particular ways of seeing the world and give fixity to them. This has its good side, and its bad. It aids consistency of reference over time and space. But it can also exert a restrictive force on what and how we think. It represents a more fixed version of the world: it shapes, rather than grounds, our thinking.

Language enables the left hemisphere to represent the world ‘off-line’, a conceptual version, distinct from the world of experience, and shielded from the immediate environment, with its insistent impressions, feelings and demands, abstracted from the body, no longer dealing with what is concrete, specific, individual, unrepeatable, and constantly changing, but with a disembodied representation of the world, abstracted, central, not particularised in time and place, generally applicable, clear and fixed. Isolating things artificially from their context brings the advantage of enabling us to focus intently on a particular aspect of reality and how it can be modelled, so that it can be grasped and controlled. But its losses are in the picture as a whole. Whatever lies in the realm of the implicit, or depends on flexibility, whatever can’t be brought into focus and fixed, ceases to exist as far as the speaking hemisphere is concerned.

Our talent for division, for seeing the parts, is of staggering importance – second only to our capacity to transcend it, in order to see the whole. These gifts of the left hemisphere have helped us achieve nothing less than civilisation itself, with all that that means. Even if we could abandon them, which of course we can’t, we would be fools to do so, and would come off infinitely the poorer. There are siren voices that call us to do exactly that, certainly to abandon clarity and precision (which, in any case, importantly depend on both hemispheres), and I want to emphasise that I am passionately opposed to them. We need the ability to make fine discriminations, and to use reason appropriately. But these contributions need to be made in the service of something else, that only the right hemisphere can bring. Alone they are destructive. And right now they may be bringing us close to forfeiting the civilisation they helped to create.

As you can tell he is primarily on understanding how our divided brains shape how we experience the world, which I don’t think was on your list of objectives. But it really is something very pervasive. Good luck to you and please do share out whatever you may find that you find helpful.

Edited to note that the last two quotes do not actually appear sequentially in the book. For some reason they became merged though I entered them separately.

Edited to ask @Jay313 if the sentiments expressed in these three quotes overlap with those of the later Wittgenstein?

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These are pretty heavy duty questions and I agree, it would be really good to have some BioLogos articles/direct input on them. One article could be ‘how we can seperate between what comes from us and what is divine outside of us’ with a much better title (I can hear the references to the incarnation - both human and divine interacting and us not knowing already - hopefully it wouldn’t be to too heavy on that but anything of that nature would be good).

I’ve just had a look through some of the BioLogos articles and have remembered how I’ve felt when I’ve read them before - they are not bad per se but they do have a bit of a “pitched to a Year 10/11” feel to them - they counter maybe one or two claims with other quotes but never seem to get real down and dirty into deep analysis - they have a bit of a school teacher vibe, one who is not available for questions afterward.

Obviously the moderators have seen this thread - I do feel for the poor guys, they are volunteers and they must just get completely tired at times. I tend to ask extremely difficult questions - ones that really don’t have any easy answers and we all know it can be draining wading into those kind of conversations. But one would think they would know the best books and articles etc to point a wandering soul like mine to. Anyway, it’s still early on - perhaps - in the thread so we’ll see but if they don’t, that’s fine - again, they do a lot of good work and can’t be expected to do everything

Some articles here really dwelve deep. It just depends on the question. But yeah i dont know why these articles stoped. Hopefully theyll return. They arw posting articles but its just a tie to faith with whats currently going on and not articles that answer biblical questions

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Hi @MarkD - I really like those references, what an interesting and useful perspective. Thanks for sharing - and an interesting title to the book. I look forward to reading it in course.

Everything like this is really useful.

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Hi Mark and @Christopher_Michael. Sorry I’ve been a lousy conversation partner, but I’ll try to catch up. I’ll reply to Mark first and come back to the OP and subsequent discussion.

Regarding Wittgenstein, I would say mostly yes. Thinking is prior to language. Even now, we have trouble putting our emotions into words. Words are approximations to reality, and language both shapes and limits our reality. The early Wittgenstein said in the preface to Tractus:

The book deals with the problems of philosophy and shows, as I
believe, that the method of formulating these problems rests on the mis-
understanding of the logic of our language. Its whole meaning could be
summed up somewhat as follows: What can be said at all can be said
clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.

The book will, therefore, draw a limit to thinking, or rather—not to
thinking, but to the expression of thoughts; for, in order to draw a limit
to thinking we should have to be able to think both sides of this limit
(we should therefore have to be able to think what cannot be thought).
The limit can, therefore, only be drawn in language and what lies on
the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense.

The logical positivists misunderstood him on this point, and the later Wittgenstein rejected the big generalities of philosophy and saw its task as clearing up specific philosophical problems caused by our misunderstanding of language. In his words, the task of philosophy was “to shew the fly the way out of the fly bottle.” Perhaps that relates back to the OP.

More tomorrow.

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Yes indeed. I read it, but did not reply right away because I had no title to offer (and still don’t) - at least not one that hits every one of your rather demandingly comprehensive list of points. It isn’t that my reading repertoire has never ever included some candidates that might perhaps make some good headway through that list; but if any work did hit all those it would probably need a title like: “Life, the Universe, and Everything” - a book I have read, incidentally (and very much enjoyed!) But I don’t think you’re looking for a comedy, and while that might make an amusing “title response” at least, you are obviously seeking a more serious and direct approach. Another obvious book (library of books rather) would be … wait for it … the Bible! But it’s obviously ruled out from the outset since so many of your questions have the Bible itself as their subject, and in any case it doesn’t at all hit on the modern questions of evolution, science, and the like. But if it’s the basis for a metanarrative that you’re looking for, the Bible is always there.

I think I’m with Randy on this one. You aren’t looking for a single book. You’re likely looking for a collection of works and from varied authors. I.e. the age of “polymaths” who will be foremost on so many widely divergent fronts is past. Today you won’t find one author who is simultaneously the best historian, and the most knowledgeable about biological evolution, and with the most expertise on biblical hermeneutics, etc. In short, if you want the best people of many widely divergent fields, you will be obliged to seek out multiple individuals, each from their respective field of expertise. Not that others can’t have a good handle on a field not their own - but you’ll never get the best if you insist on broadness instead.

I’m flattered that some here seem to think that moderators ought to be resident experts on this, but (speaking just for myself anyway) I don’t feel like I’m any more qualified than any others here to give definitive recommendations. My own approach to all the larger questions of life is to look to people or authors whom I really respect (because of what I’ve read of theirs and/or how they’ve lived their lives) and then find out what all they’ve been reading, or what they considered to be formative literature for themselves. So it isn’t even some book that I seek out in doing that so much as a person. And of course Christ is that ultimate person for all of us Christian believers. We also then look to those who it would seem best embody who Christ is in their life walk - knowing that (other than Christ) the people we pick out and admire will all be flawed in many ways. But that doesn’t make their potential witness any less valuable if we can see it for what it is.

Sorry if this detracts from a direction you want to go. And please (anybody else) carry on and contribute here. Because if others do know of books that do make a major dent in the given list, then I’m just as interested as the next guy here.

[I’ve already read Guns, Germs, and Steel … and “Collapse” too. While they are good and very educational - I don’t think that Diamond is the one I would look to for “big answers” to the “big questions” that make up the requested focus.]

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I somewhat understand what you are trying to do. I suppose I — and others here-- have done the same, but with a different list. The “list” that you have, Christopher, is a list of things that “you” personally have drawn up in order to answer some of the deeper questions. And there is, frankly, an endless list of “deeper questions” because what is deep (necessary) for you – may be of no concern to someone else. Not all of it is “the work of a lifetime,” but once you have read “enough” to make a decision (you alone know when “enough” happens, I suppose), then you will go on to some other issue…maybe one that arises out of the things you have been reading…To be honest, though, you are not going to find, ultimately, completely objective analysis in a lot of these areas. Everyone has a perspective …I won’t say “bias” because it sounds like I am discrediting something. But every one ----from C.S. Lewis to Richard Carrier to your next door neighbor — speaks from a perspective. Your comment #4, as enumerated above, is an example of a topic that cries out for personal perspective, for example. Why would God (a God) allow humankind to get off track, and when? If religion is simply anthropological, then there are a lot of possible explanations. If religion is revelatory, then the revelation would answer that one. The biblical perspective, from the early chapters of Genesis would say humanity had free will and made that choice (to turn from what was revealed and replace with something else) on our own. And thus they/we substituted what we once knew for a series of other things. You will find other perspectives on this, I suppose.

Have fun on your journey!!

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