Navigating Uncertainty


(Nathan) #1

Hi everyone,

About 3 months ago I went through a crisis of faith, and it feels like I’ve barely been able to keep things together since.

The stupid thing is, I barely understand what caused it. Life has been going fine. I felt like I was growing in my faith. I’m involved in my Church community. I would go on-line at breaks at work and practice my apologetics against skeptics in yahoo forums on random topics. Then one day I read an article on the RNA world hypothesis, and another on the lack of historical verification of much of the Old Testament. I don’t know why - I’ve faced down all kinds of arguments from a range of skeptics before - but for some reason I found my hold on my faith slipping. Suddenly a purely naturalistic explanation for everything seemed somehow plausible, and God seemed to shrink back into the fringes, somehow alien and detached.

I have never been a YEC. I guess I could be described as a concordist, in that I thought the Bible and science would just get along. If evolution happened to be the case, no problem, God could use that. If evolution didn’t quite get it right, no problem, God could tweak that. It never seemed incongruous. It never seemed like an inerrant Bible and scientific discovery couldn’t get along. I had problems with the flood account, but figured it was non-critical to the story of salvation and that eventually new evidence would show up to explain things.

Somehow that has all changed. It suddenly seemed plausible that I could rationalize any of my experiences on the basis of biological programming. Even my capacity for belief might be genetically coded. Could I trust my mind to give me any “true” information at all - my DNA is a matter of survival, not veracity.

Even if I can temporarily pull back from the gaping abyss of meaninglessness that naturalistic materialism assumes, I find a Bible that no longer makes sense to me anymore. I struggle hugely with trying to frame an understanding of the fall and the atonement without a historical Adam and Eve. And even if I can find a way to rationalize that, how much more of the Bible do I have to rationalize away. Did the exodus happen? Did Elijah face down the prophets of Baal? Was Jonah in the whale 3 days? How do these things make sense as pointers to Christ, if we can’t trust whether or not any of these things happened? I understand the concept of genre with scripture, but with such core concepts at stake and no time machines, how am I supposed to accept any kind of theology as authentic?

I have prayed, and prayed, and prayed for the Spirit to clarify this for me, or frankly just give me the comfort of His presence. I think I can live with the lack of certainty with any of these things, even an error-filled Bible, as long as I can have confidence that God is there and that I can have a personal relationship with Him. But often there is just a big gaping void in my soul, and I come away from prayer more disheartened than when I began.

I have read the blog entries of all sorts of people that have come to Biologos out of other belief frameworks, YEC or otherwise, and seem to be able to rest in the uncertainties of their positions, but I am clearly having a hard time doing that. I could really use the support of people who have walked this road and come out the other side.

Thanks


(Christy Hemphill) #2

@DrebNay

Welcome to the forum, I hope you find some kindred spirits.

God answers this prayer. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but in time You don’t have to have everything figured out immediately, or even ever. As hard as it may be to rest in the uncertainty and undefinedness, there have been many testimonies of people who have come through experiences similar to what you are describing, and their faith is stronger and purer for all the wrestling and the doubts. I’ll try to dig up some personal testimony threads that may be an encouragement to you and I’ll come back and post the links.


(George Brooks) #3

@DrebNay

Wow… Nathan. You come here with a full burden, that’s for sure!

One of my dear friends was a Seminary-trained minister. And one year, many years ago, he had a crisis of faith as well. He looked for God, and he couldn’t find Him. And out of that terrible crisis, he resolved that he should only believe what probability tells him to believe. Well, that may be something that wins the applause of Atheists … but it’s still a pretty lonely walk. I kept in touch with this good friend … encouraging him when I could.

And a few years back, he seemed to be going through yet another very rough patch. So I asked him to consider something. If he were to walk into an empty sky scraper late at night … to retrieve something on an upper floor … when he pressed the elevator button, how does he know that the elevator won’t fail and kill him?

He explained that in terms of probability, elevators very, very rarely kill people who choose to use them. I agreed with him. But I gently pressed and said, but they do kill people sometimes, right? Out of the 6 billion people in the world, there are some people who confidently step into an elevator and die because of it. He admitted that this was true.

So, I said, a perfectly sensible person, using probabilities to guide his path, chose what was a logical and reasonable decision, and he died. Right?

My friend paused. He said, right. So, probability is just a technique for leading one’s life. It’s not perfect. It’s not always true. It’s just one of many approaches for how to live life.

Probability says, to some people, that there is no God. Atheists certainly find this a reasonable analysis. But it doesn’t mean they are right. It just means that they have developed a disciplined system for applying probabilities to decisions even about the nature of the Universe.

If you used probability to analyze whether or not there was string theory, or an afterlife, or a Cosmic Intelligence, you would come up with a low probability, right? He said yes, the probabilities seem low.

And I said, right. They seem low to lots of people. But for me, the idea that I can have Conscious Awareness in a Universe that literally doesn’t care that I’m conscious and aware of the Universe seems ridiculous. Consciousness without a Universal Mind is a complete waste and completely unnecessary. Ultimately, the fact that I am aware of the Universe around me is the biggest mystery of the Cosmos!

For me, the odds are there has to be a Universal Mind. Not because probability says so … but because probability is not truth. And because the Universe would make no sense to me if there was nothing out there.

I can’t remember exactly how my friend and I ended our conversation. But that week he took a part time position at a local church, helping them take care of the desperate and the lost. He had made probability his god of sorts … and he suddenly realized that as logical as all that probability is … it is not perfect … it is not the same as truth … and that elevator that you had every reason to believe was safe can still kill you.

Nathan, without God we are all helpless and lost. God is with us … because that’s the only thing that ultimately makes any sense at all.

I have great optimism for you and your life, Nathan. I look forward to future discussions. Feel free to click on my profile badge and send me a message anytime you like. - - George Brooks


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Well, I found one in my quick search: My journey through the science/faith debate

It’s in the homeschool forum, but if you wanted to continue any part of the discussion, you can use the “reply as linked topic” feature that appears if you hover to the right of a post. Or @ any of the users in this thread if you want to discuss anything in particular. :slight_smile:


(Nathan) #5

Thanks Christy, George,

@ Christy - I appreciate the encouragement, and I have started reading through that link. I can see some parallels, and I am taking a few notes.

@ George - Thanks for the story about your friend. One of the things that I have really struggled with in these months is just a sense of whether the Spirit is at work or if it has always all just been in my head. I have read atheist apologists who were pastors for 20 years before rejecting their faith - if we are sealed by the Spirit, how does that happen? Another blogger I read, a father of four daughters, surrounded by evangelicals, serving in the Church, now an atheist. It is heartening to hear that sometimes people find their way back. It gives me hope.

I understand what you are saying about the mystery of consciousness. I used to try explain our human limitations when arguing with atheists with a story along these lines: Imagine a tree had consciousness, but was still limited to whatever rudimentary sensation it possesses. It might sense things about the soil, light, maybe temperature. But if it would not be able to sense where it was planted, or why, or even the person who planted it, even were that person leaning against its trunk. It would be unable to sense the landscape that surrounds it, or the beauty or function that the planter takes in it. And if the tree is cut down, or burnt up, it cannot perceive the reason why such a thing would happen, or even what is truly happening.

In as much as I can trust anything, this seems applicable to the limitations of our senses, our experiences, and our ability to reason. But I can’t take comfort in it if I can’t find the faith to trust that my Creator is there, or have confidence in what little I can perceive of what He has revealed to me.

In the meantime I seem to be a miraculously unlikely mind in a completely incomprehensible universe governed by a wholly unfathomable God who once seemed close, but now seems remote and capricious.

I ended up at BioLogos not because I want evolution to be true, but because I want some way to hold on to Jesus if it turns out to be. I like Hugh Ross and his Reasons site, but what do I do if their model breaks down? I loved the Tim Keller blog here, that calmed me down a bit. But what if Adam and Eve can’t be historical?

I tell myself I can’t let my faith live or die on any one scientific model of events in the remote past more than I trust in God. But then my confidence in who God is gets shaken. Not to mention it is the same argument used by YEC advocates to brand dissenters as heretics. And who knows? Maybe they are right.

Excuse my melodrama. I’m up and down a lot. And by that I mean my mood ranges from a 2/10 to a 5/10 most of the time.


#6

Nathan,
I feel for you. I’ve been there in that darkness. I got a notification on this thread because Christy, just above, linked on of my posts. It’s my experience in this, and will come up if you click her link. I’m going to paste it here I think, with a few edits to take out parts that were specific to that thread. My experience:

"I felt a lot of “me too” in what you wrote. My details are different, but my journey through discarding old beliefs about God and the way the bible works was also dark and and painful. I know you didn’t use those words, and maybe I’m reading it into your words because of my experience. But I “get” it in some measure.

My journey also started through homeschooling. My son was reading a library book. I think he was around 2nd grade (I’m not sure–years ago anyway). He asked me about how we evolved from monkeys. I told him we didn’t, and I would get back to him to explain the whole thing. I was raised old earth, and I’m good at research so I began to learn so I could teach him. Long story intentionally short–I couldn’t merge even old earth teachings on Genesis with what I was learning about science. (I think my beliefs about scripture, and it’s concordance with science and history, was probably very similar to yours Nathan. I had no doubt this would all be easy to clear up for my son.)

It felt like my world fell apart honestly. The whole of scripture felt tenuous.

Finally I found Biologos and then Peter Enns… It was both a relief and led to more questions and adjustments in my views of God and the bible. I did more reading, and still more letting go and adjusting. This went on for a long time for me–my kids are 12 now, and I think I’m in a brighter place of rebuilding spiritually but had some bumpy stuff bubble up to still process even late this spring.

The whole thing was a mix of pain and loss and joy and discovery to be honest. I do still grieve, at least a little, the simplicity and, well, certainty in my prior belief systems. But those things are sort of, well, you know where in scripture it talks about seeing through a glass darkly–knowing God but not being able to really know him in our humanity? I know I’m still seeing darkly, but I’m less so now I think. And I have more awareness of just how dark my glass was and is as a human. I’ve kind of become ok, or more ok, with the lack of certainty."

My closest friend also went through something very similar. The hardest thing for her was the silence and seeming personal absence of God too. I remember feeling so angry, to be honest, that God wasn’t answering her prayers for so very long. She was seeking him, begging for him, and he was silent for her it seemed. Finally, at just the right time she now feels, that silence resolved for her and peace came. Side note, since you mentioned the atonement: my views of the atonement have been some of the more joyful discoveries I’ve made in my understanding of God through this process…but that wasn’t happening in this whole, long deconstruction process. It was in the rebuilding a new faith on the other side.

The take away is this…you can come out the other side to a richer place with God. I have every hope that you will. Your honest, seeking heart comes through your post. You are safe in Christ. I trust him to bring you through. I know it hurts.


(George Brooks) #7

@DrebNay

Nathan… I think you must know my friend! Naturally, that’s just humor. But all of what you say sounds so familiar with my discussions with my friend, his friends, my friends and even with myself!!!

My great grandfather was an Episcopalian priest in the Victorian era, who actually quit the ministry because he couldn’t teach 6 day creation to his congregation any more. Isn’t that a terrible waste? I don’t believe the modern Episc’s would give a flying hoot if their minister didn’t hold to 6 day creation - - and yet my ancestor took it so seriously, he gave up his lifelong career and training in Greek and Latin! But now he lies with the Saints … sort of … he became a Classics teacher at Milton Academy (Mass.) and then earned a sabbatical in Rome after the turn of the century. A mini-typhoid epidemic there took his life, and he is buried in the Protestant Cemetery, dwelling in the ancient city he loved - - for eternity.

Let’s spend a minute or two on those gosh-darned Atheists. I was being gang-beat at another internet group by 2, 3 and sometimes 4 atheists. They were saying that common sense would make you an Atheist. So I said that what seems like common sense to one person might seem like just foolishness to another. They argued that the evidence for’/against God’s existence was qualitatively different from any other dispute.

I rose to the challenge: “Is that right? I think I can prove to you that even people as logical and perfect in judgment as you Atheists can’t even agree on something even easier than the question of God’s existence . . . . is it obvious that humans have Freedom of Will? I’ll bet you a steak dinner at least one of you thinks the logical conclusion is exactly the opposite of the rest of you!”

Sure enough, just like in the New Testament when the topic of angels was thrown in the air to distract the discussion … before an angel could get his wings (< that’s just for comic relief, I don’t hold to the Zoroastrian idea of angels) … 3 atheists were quarreling over whether it was obvious that humans do (or don’t) have Freedom of Will !!!

So, how does this relate to your serious dilemma? I would counsel that you shouldn’t focus on what you think is logical from a common sense point of view. Atheists or Theists … we all want our lives to have meaning. Atheists believe their lives can have meaning without God; of course, this can be true.

But like every errant knight we have ever read about, a knight with a Lord feels more connected to the Universe than at any other time. If you can believe there is something greater than yourself, then you know exactly what to do to give your life meaning!

In the rather novel construction of monotheistic religions, the followers are quick to assign the following properties to their God, Allah, Yahweh:

  1. knows everything;
  2. loves everything;
  3. can do everything.

In my view, the first thing I can grant to my view of God is that it is a Universal Mind. I’m not sure that this entails that a Universal Mind automatically knows everything. But for now, let’s assume it does.

I think any self-respecting Universal Mind would have all the leisure time in the world to Love everything.

But these two truths have a startling result: they make it difficult to believe this Universal Mind can do everything. In a choice between an omnipotent God versus an all-knowing God, it seems pretty clear that an all-knowing God is logistically more plausible than an all-powerful God.

[One might finesse the difference by saying that an all-knowing God is so entrenched in the Creation around him, God does do everything he wants to do … because he only wants to do the things that he can do! But that’s a discussion for another day.]

So… we have an all knowing God, abounding in love, but only a few ways to do anything about it. This is why I am a Unitarian Universalist. I don’t get bogged down with the Zoroastrian idea of Hell. I don’t get bogged down with the Zoroastrian idea of Satan. But I do believe in a Cosmic divine from Whom/Which I intuit thoughts, principles and values.

The Cosmic Divine is alive, and alive in me. I think you will find this view very natural and easy to see… and it allows the “archaeologist’s spirit” that appears to dwell in you to also understand the human-crafted side of religion. The Jewish mystical Pesher that the Old Testament text on the virgin birth suddenly becomes an artifice! That part of the Bible was talking about the birth of a child 700 or 800 years prior to the birth of Jesus. Every Rabbi knows this. It was only the fervor of the New Testament age that tried to get double-traction from Biblical texts … to make the Bible mystically connect to a brand new age!

The Old Testament and parts of the New Testament are filled with items like this… items that can’t be sussed out by Evangelicals… but can be sussed out by folks like you!

[Again, drop me a private message any time you want or need to!]

Salve et Vale!

George Brooks


(Jay Johnson) #8

Welcome, Nathan. Before I start talking about anything having to do with our intellect or reason, I want to give a bit of spiritual advice from someone who is far, far from perfect (me), but has walked this narrow and rocky path for some time.

Be very careful not to judge God’s absence or presence in your life based on your feelings. The “felt presence” of God in prayer is certainly a joyful thing, but do not use it as a measurement of the presence or absence of faith. The spiritual life is not a constant up-Up-UP ascent to God. There will be ups and downs, failures and successes, sins and repentances, many times over.

The fact that God seems absent is actually good for you, in my opinion. It is the experience of dryness and deadness that spurs us to seek God for himself, and not just for the things that we desire from him. All of God’s people experience this. If our Lord could cry out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” … why do we expect something else for ourselves? Consider just the Psalms:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long? (Ps 6:2-3)

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Ps. 13:1-2)

How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity! (Ps. 89:46-47)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. (Ps. 22:1-2)

There are solutions for your intellectual difficulties, but do not be discouraged by the experience of spiritual dryness or deadness, or use it to judge your relationship with God. Deut. 4:29 says that if “you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This is not like seeking the sun at noon, or seeking water in the ocean. We must seek him because he is hidden from our sight, as you are experiencing, as have all his saints. Keep seeking, and you will find.


(Nathan) #9

Thank you mmytoboys, George, Jay,

@George

I hugely appreciate the time and effort that you are putting in to encourage me. Given your apparent comfort in engaging skeptics, I will assume that if I struggle with things that you have written and your overall position you will not take my questions as a personal attack, ideological snobbery, or anything other than an honest (even desperate) attempt to engage in understanding. As a Unitarian, you must be used to harsh criticism from many sources.

My questions to you will be familiar. To what degree do you hold the teachings of Jesus to be accurate and authoritative? Do you deny the historicity of the resurrection? If we are free to re-interpret what little direct revelation that history affords us, do we not inevitably fashion God after our personal preference? And if I am a product of my biological programming, how can I assume any conclusion I may have about God is true?

I recently had a massive dip in my mood after visiting a local Aquatic Conservatory with a beluga whale exhibit. A huge amount of information about their life-cycle was on display, including what happens when a pod gets trapped in thick ice. They thrash for days against the ice trying to break free, while polar bears are drawn by their wails and take chunks out of them as they are able. Perhaps I am overly sentimental when it comes to the natural world, but that is a horrible way to die. It is hard to get to the first quality of a Universal Mind being all-loving from there. And I couldn’t help but see a metaphor in their plight - for me the ice is the uncertainty, the polar bears the atheists taking swipes at me.

@Jay

I get what you are saying in terms of judging God’s presence or absence on the basis of my personal feelings. In times past I would have held that position 100%, mostly because I have traditionally held to what I believed to be a rational faith position. However it’s very hard in a time like this not to ask “just what exactly does the Spirit do?” Because in our era, the seal of our salvation and the witness to our minds and spirits is the Holy Spirit, at least as far as I understand scripture. I don’t understand how one can understand the early church from a basic reading of the gospels and Pauline letters and leave out the activity of the Holy Spirit. And so in this time of deep intellectual uncertainty, one “way out” that I see as being scriptural is the direct action of the Spirit in my life - a witness to the veracity of the New Testament at least in the form of direct revelation independent of scientific data. Then I could at least try to simply rest in what remains unknown in the gaps of science, scriptural interpretation, and my own cultural imputations. So I suppose that is the sense in which I pray for a “feeling” of God’s presence. From a theological standpoint, I can totally rationalize what God can do in periods of “dryness”. In this time I have stopped any drinking, stopped playing video games. Not that I’m arguing that all drinking or video games are “from the devil” or whatever, just that I have removed anything that I thought might impede my relationship with God, and I could see God using this time of destabilization to seek him more earnestly. I have humbled myself before anyone willing to listen to my struggles. It’s hard when you are on the Board of a Christian school to confess to your community group that you are struggling with your faith. But all this is for naught if there is no God to hear me - that is the poisonous thought that eats me from inside. Or that the God that exists is impersonal and cruel - then what hope do I have in anything? If I don’t have Jesus, I really don’t know how I can have any hope at all.


(Jay Johnson) #10

George is a little too hard on us. And he does take flak for it. haha

Yes, the Holy Spirit does act, and does comfort, and does much else. I do not know if you are doing this, but I have seen many people who have lost faith because they went down the same road that you are following – asking the Spirit to reveal “the truth” directly, and when that does not happen … what next? If (and, again, I am saying “if”) this is your general direction, you are putting God to the test and asking for a sign. This happened over and over in Jesus’ ministry (Mt. 12, Mt. 16, Mk. 8, Lk. 11, Lk. 12, Lk. 23, Jn. 2, Jn. 4, Jn. 6), and each time he refused to perform on cue.

My advice is to cease praying for direct revelation. Pray instead that God would end this period of stumbling and confusion. Repent of thoughts of God that are unworthy of him. Pray that you would come to know him as he is. Then, go back to the beginning. What does your faith rest upon? Is it not Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith? The greatest apologetic that God provided is the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfillment of Scripture. This was by design. All other so-called “evidence” is ambiguous, as you have discovered. Christ is the rock. Take shelter in him.


(Phil) #11

Your post has resonated with me as I have been there, as I suspect most of us have. I will try to post a longer note later, but for now I would just mention that love is an action, not a feeling, and to some extent faith is also. I find if I live a life of faith, things fall into place a bit better as far as my understanding of God. When you let God out of the box we put Him in, the box may be empty when we look, but God is all around us.


(George Brooks) #12

The problem of Theodicy - - how do we explain natural cruelties in a Universe run by a loving God. Naturally, many of the Evangelicals think that the Adam & Eve story explains everything; I do not concur. I think it is a mess no matter where you are in the religious spectrum . … . which is on e of the reasons I have opted out of the equation: “God is both 100% love and 100% omnipotent”. I don’t think it’s possible.

But I’m pretty definitive when it comes to that question and the issue of Evolution. Theodicy is everyone’s problem… Depending on how you see the world, Evolution can make it less tolerable or more tolerable.

As to your questions about Jesus, since I’m a Unitarian … the denomination which considers Jesus to be adopted by God, rather than fathered by God . . . it shouldn’t be too surprising to you if I don’t have any set rules about how much I invest in the teachings of Jesus. I do think there was a literal and historical Jesus. And I think he caused a lot of problems for the Romans. Since I’m a Universalist, the urgency of the resurrection is somewhat moderated. I do see Christianity, and religions in general, to be a preparation for the afterlife…

More narrative coming soon…


(George L. Murphy) #13

Nathan - Somehow I got via email part of this conversation intended for George Brooks. I am George Murphy, an occasional presence on Biologos and am a Lutheran rather than a Unitarian. Since some of your concerns have to do with atonement and the lack of an historical Adam & Eve, I’ll suggest a recent book of mine, Models of Atonement: Speaking about Salvation in a Scientific World. You can find more about it at http://www.lutheranupress.org/Books/Models_of_Atonement .

George Murphy


(George Brooks) #14

Shameless plug for another George !!!

Models of Atonement
Speaking about Salvation in a Scientific World

George L. Murphy

Models of Atonementbreaks new ground in the science-theology dialogue, going beyond questions about the doctrine of creation to speak about God’s work of new creation through Christ in a world described by science. The book builds on the author’s earlier work that addressed questions about origins, divine action and scientific knowledge in the context of a theology of the cross. It discusses the concepts of original sin and the work of Christ which reconciles “all things” to God in ways that take seriously today’s evolutionary and cosmic realities. By doing this it provides a useful resource for those called to proclaim and teach the Christian message in today’s world.

George Murphy is doing is a responsible representation of scholarship in the field of theology and science. He addresses in a thorough fashion many of the important issues relating to a discussion of atonement in the context of theology and science, particularly evolutionary biology and cosmology. George is to be commended for addressing the issue of salvation and the formal message of the gospel in a readable and accessible fashion.
Ernest Simmons, Professor of Religion, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota

George Murphy is one of the leading scholars working at the intersection of the Christian faith and modern science. Models of Atonement is an incredibly thoughtful and eminently readable attempt to rearticulate the doctrines of sin and salvation in light of evolution. Murphy has mastered both the science of human origins and the range of resources in the Christian theological tradition. Specialists and lay people alike can only benefit from this engaging and timely book.

Daniel C. Harlow, Professor of Religion. Calvin College

George L. Murphy is a graduate of Ohio University, Johns Hopkins (where he earned a Ph.D. in physics) and Wartburg Theological Seminary. An ordained Lutheran pastor, he has served in Lutheran and Episcopal congregations. He has written and spoken extensively on relationships between science and theology, with emphasis on their importance for the life and mission of the church. Models of Atonement is his sixth book in this area…


(Nathan) #15

Thank you George(s), Jay,

I appreciate your advice and thoughts. Today has been a busy and tiring day, and yesterday was a very low one, so I am going to take this evening to try to rest and have some time with my family while I am feeling at lest 5/10. I am reading through many of the materials suggested by those who are encouraging me. I will probably have questions for you in the next few days.

Thanks for not abandoning my thread.

Nathan


(Nathan) #16

Hello again all,

The last few days last week were absolutely brutal. I’ve managed to be functional only by doing my best not to think about anything at all, and trying to focus on whatever immediate task is in front of me. It’s really hard to live this way and somehow be a husband, a father, anything. What peace I’ve had in the last day or so I have managed by praying as Jay has advised, just that this suffering would end, and then doing whatever I can to distract myself from pursuing my thoughts. The psalms help a little, only because for the first time in my life I feel like I can relate with all of the negative ones - another shout out to Jay on the ones he listed. But part of it is that I feel like I can trust that whoever wrote them, David or not, felt the way I feel. The rest of the Bible seems distant.

I feel totally disconnected from real life. Arguments in favour of the spiritual, like the irreducible nature of the consciousness, seem to fall apart before the onslaught of guys like Dennett and naturalist physicists. Am “I” anything at all? Even if I don’t ascribe to a simulation model, or that I’m simply the “emergence phenomena” of my neurons, it feels like everything in my life has become valueless with the uncertainty of God. It’s like I’ve been playing a computer game, believing that the treasure I have collected is somehow important, only to realize that its all just pixels on a screen, one pixel no different from the others. The game isn’t fun anymore. The world seems absurd and detached from the experience of the people in the Bible, or the God I thought I understood - like an old, fantastic story or dream. The naturalists world seems cold, empty, and again totally detached from the experience of humanity. I find myself envying anyone and everyone who can get through their day believing that anything in it had meaning, or was real.

Jay - I’m with you, but I don’t know how to get where you are. I’m trying to hold onto Christ. If ever there were an impossible story in human history, demonstrating God’s person and plan, that could be true, it would be the Resurrection. If ever there were a book from antiquity that could claim divine authority, due to its perpetuation and preservation across the millennia, the Bible would be it. But I find myself not even wanting to think about either - like if I look too closely they too will become like a mirage to me. Already I find myself looking at theories for the missing body and thinking - well, what if someone robbed the tomb after Joseph and Nicodemus left, but before the guard was posted the next day? I realize that it was the Sabbath and we are talking about jews here, but could Romans have been hired? Is this too hard to believe, when weighed against resurrection? I feel like I am going out of my mind.

George Brooks - I feel like your position would be incredibly comfortable to rest in, had I any way to buy into it at all. I mean that with all sincerity and not as an insult. I don’t find your view “very natural and easy to see” at all. What you seem to support appears to me an extreme example of the old “picking and choosing” problem, which I guess we all do. You grant yourself an identity as a knight errant. You grant yourself a universal mind, and ascribe traits to it. I assume from “universalist” you grant all a place in the afterlife, and so you grant yourself an afterlife. But you reject many elements of the monotheistic religious tradition that run counter to your assumptions. You assert much, but none of it seems to me easy or obvious. If I could simply choose to believe what I wanted to believe because I wanted it to be true, I don’t think that I would be in the position that I am in. I would give my right arm (more!) to simply have confidence in what I believed 4 months ago, and count myself fortunate. For some reason I can’t explain on any level, the desire to know the truth is more powerful than the desire to be comfortable. And fundamentally, from your point of view, does my suffering even matter? Will the Universal Mind make all well? Why not kill myself now?

George Murphy - A month or so into my struggle I ran across your “Theological Argument for Evolution”, and it made my day that day. I think that is how I ended up at BioLogos in the first place. I thought maybe there were people here who could bridge the gap between an evolutionary origin and a trustworthy Bible. Somewhere along the way that didn’t seem to come together for me. . . Keller helped a bit. . . the writing of others just beat me and bruised me. I ask myself why a God who is willing to die to restore relationship with His people remains so obscure that you need to be a philosopher/theologian/particle physicist/astronomer to defend your faith against your everyday culture. I ask why the body of Christ, exhorted in scripture to pursue unity, is vitriolic and vehement in abusing brothers and sisters over scholarly debate. And I ask where the Holy Spirit is in all of this. But if your book is as good as your article, I will buy it.

Thanks again to everyone who is contributing to this thread. It really does help somehow. I started writing this post earlier today, and about half way through I got called away to go out to a family engagement, and noticed that I was feeling better than I have in days. Maybe its your prayers. Maybe its hoping that there are people out there willing to help, and that you can help me keep atheistic naturalism from dismantling my faith and my mind.

In any case, thanks again and God bless you.


(George Brooks) #17

@DrebNay

I appreciate your sincere discussion of these points. I’m not offended by it at all.

The difference in our views is based on one key element:

A) Thinking about how to back down away from the Bible?

vs.

B) Thinking about how to back down away from Atheism?

I am coming from (B). You are coming from (A). Since I see the Bible as laced with all sorts of human-induced and human-laced errors, I am inclined to think Biblical metaphysics is highly flawed.

And so, to avoid getting stuck in a metaphysically fictional zone, I start with the rejection of Atheism and look for what seems naturally and cosmically plausible.

My approach, I suppose, is one looking for a secure hand- and foot-hold of the lowest common religious and metaphysical denominator.

I find it impossible to treat the problem coming from the other direction because I don’t believe in a personal embodiment of Universal Evil … nor in a race of intelligent beings developed by the Zoroastrians that we call Angels.

I think you could reject most anything of the Bible you like, and still find refuge in what nature and the Universe still appear to be telling its human residents.

Best wishes to you in your search! In my Universe, prayer is still valuable and reasonable and I will extend prayer on your behalf.

George Brooks
On the Job Every Day, Unitarian Universalist


(Nathan) #18

@gbrooks9 -

Fair enough. Lets do B. Help me back away from Atheism, and I will be thankful.

What are your favorite (and strongest) arguments against a godless universe?

On the subject of Mind, how would you argue against a reductionist view of consciousness? When we look at evolutionary biology, how do we trust that anything we know is “true” or “reasonable”, and not merely genetically advantageous illusion?

Thanks,
Nathan


(GJDS) #19

While I cannot honestly identify with your dilemma and conflict, I can say that at an early age I questioned almost everything that I was taught, including my religious upbringing. On reflection, I think I was more concerned with my own intellectual honesty than any specific teachings of any religion. I guess this is one of a number of reasons I decided to put down my own contemplations and reflections regarding the Bible, the Christian faith, and my understanding of God’s revelation of Himself to us.

So on the one hand, I value self examination and doubt, but I also value the capacity for reason and intellectual analysis - out of this, I concluded that in so far as it is within my capabilities, I believe God and the revelation of Him in Christ.

It takes a great deal of effort and I suppose at times, brutal self-criticism as an attempt to achieve honesty to oneself in a tragically materialistic world we live in.


(George Brooks) #20

@DrebNay

Well, the first thing you need to read and understand, backwards and forwards, is that in an Atheistic Universe, consciousness… awareness… is absolutely without meaning or purpose!

The usual refuge for people who disagree is the argument that “consciousness” makes an organism smarter, and thus more evolutionarily successful. Pish-posh. In a Godless universe, the brain functions and evolves perfectly well without any consciousness at all.

Experiments have shown that human subjects make decisions below the level of consciousness- - sometimes more than a second before they become aware of their decision.

In a godless universe Consciousness is an epiphenomenon.

So… the first step to avoiding Atheism is to become a master at convincing Atheists that their awareness and consciousness is not part of the cause-and-effect of their behavior… it is the bubbly froth that comes off of neural activity - - where most of the brain’s activity doesn’t generate any noticeable froth at all!

Study these basic articles… and check out some of the footnoted material:

Here’s the Pro discussion … which is much more compelling than anything I could write:

“A large body of neurophysiological data seems to support epiphenomenalism. Some of the oldest such data is the Bereitschaftspotential or “readiness potential” in which electrical activity related to voluntary actions can be recorded up to two seconds before the subject is aware of making a decision to perform the action. More recently Benjamin Libet et al. (1979) have shown that it can take 0.5 seconds before a stimulus becomes part of conscious experience even though subjects can respond to the stimulus in reaction time tests within 200 milliseconds.”

" Recent research on the Event Related Potential also shows that conscious experience does not occur until the late phase of the potential (P3 or later) that occurs 300 milliseconds or more after the event. In Bregman’s Auditory Continuity Illusion, where a pure tone is followed by broadband noise and the noise is followed by the same pure tone it seems as if the tone occurs throughout the period of noise. "

“This also suggests a delay for processing data before conscious experience occurs. Popular science author Tor Nørretranders has called the delay “The User Illusion” implying that we only have the illusion of conscious control, most actions being controlled automatically by non-conscious parts of the brain with the conscious mind relegated to the role of spectator.”

“The scientific data seem to support the idea that conscious experience is created by non-conscious processes in the brain (i.e., there is subliminal processing that becomes conscious experience). These results have been interpreted to suggest that people are capable of action before conscious experience of the decision to act occurs. Some argue that this supports epiphenomenalism, since it shows that the feeling of making a decision to act is actually an epiphenomenon; the action happens before the decision, so the decision did not cause the action to occur.”

Oh… and prepare yourself… because there will probably be a big rejection of the point of this post. But the point of this post is not to convince people that consciousness really is useless… it is to show the only Universe that needs consciousness to be an integral part of a human’s spirit is a Universe with God!