Hello again everyone.
Thank you once more for your comments, ideas, and support. This last round of input has had a noticeably positive impact on my well-being. I’ve been able to hover around the 4.5-5/10 mark for the last few days, which may not seem like much to celebrate, but its a world of a difference for me.The intellectual side of my issues has been pressed to the periphery a little bit, and I’ve been able to re-engage with prayer and scripture (and real life) to a greater degree. While often it still feels like I am waiting for an inevitable re-emergence of questions and anxiety, it is a relief to have any reprieve. Thank you all for being a part of that.
I noted something of a pattern, or at least a theme, in the remarks of the four of you who responded. Although I’m still trying to connect the dots, the process seems to be helping.
@GJDS - Thank you for the effort you have put into condensing your thoughts into a succinct and digestible summary. As I try to rebuild from the carnage of doubt, where would you suggest I start that process? In trying to consider oneself and one’s humanity, what assumptions do you use to ground yourself, and why choose those? If I followed your process, what does beginning with a) look like?
@gbrooks9 - I think you are absolutely accurate in your assessment of my “out-on-a-limb-edness”. Thank you for your insight. Somehow having a deterministic atheistic biological paradigm crystallize suddenly as plausible has caused me to accept assumptions about what is reasonable in terms of proof from within that framework. The plausibility structure has altered. I don’t really know how that happened, or the best way to shake it. It seems tied to this idea of “biological programming” that has had me convinced all that I am may be the output of DNA algorithms. But its more than that - I have needed the evidence to refute that position to be acceptable within the atheistic paradigm. I guess I’m obsessively looking for a way for atheism to be self-defeating, so that it can no longer be plausible to me, in the same way that it wasn’t before this crisis.
“just because you can’t prove that your Evolution-based-Brain isn’t imagining things is hardly a reason to conclude you must be imagining things”
Sell me on this. Therein lies the rub for me with this consciousness question. I don’t think anyone’s experience of being human naturally leads them to the conclusion that all is meaningless, purposeless, reproduction-enhancing illusion. But few would deduce quantum physics is true from the experiences of their daily life. Evolution makes this option possible. Evolution also seems to undermine the primary evidence of the Christian theistic narrative, which is the revelation of scripture, in that it seems to weaken the plausibility of the Genesis account. So an atheist would argue that based on existing evidence, “I” am more likely to be an illusion than a creation of God. Of course, such a view assumes that our own experience of humanity is not credible evidence. Which is odd since it is our experience of humanity that gives us all of the data that we find credible in our refutation of the legitimacy of our own experience. Which leads me to. . .
@Mervin_Bitikofer - Thank you so much for joining the discussion! I was truly comforted by your refutation of my “biological programming” problem, and everything else you wrote. Please refute me more.
“I guess my main response to you is that it seems you are still investing your hopes in an intellectual arena where you hope you (or somebody on your behalf) will win a decisive debate that vanquishes the enemy of doubt once and for all.”
You are right, but forgive me this position, faulty though it may be. When in pain, it is natural to grasp at relief wherever hope may reach.
I can accept that if I am to experience God afresh, I must necessarily experience Him in the present, and neither in an epiphany of logic nor even a remembrance of past closeness. As I have mentioned previously, its the seeming plausibility of atheistic naturalism, and the undermining of my trust in scripture that have played a significant role in my crisis, which has led to a detachment from my sense of the present, which in turn may limit how I “invest [my] work and life”. When I have a meeting with a prospective donor to a capital campaign to build a Christian elementary school, and I am supposed to ask them to sacrifice $200,000 to make the project happen, and on my way to that appointment I feel cut adrift from God and uncertain of His existence and whether or not any school of any kind has any importance, it effects not just how well I conduct that meeting, but also whether or not I can accept that God may be working through that situation.
So if I can gain some encouragement from those that are stronger in the intellectual arena, and that helps to undermine the “program plausibility” gripping me, I’m going to make use of that. And if someone can help me regain a cohesive, plausible theology of the fall and atonement in the context of a full-on Darwinian origin scenario, that will help too (George Murphy, your book should be on its way in the mail). And if between reinforcements on the intellectual side, remembrance of what I have experienced of God in times past, and anything else that can calm me down long enough to experience the present and chase after God in an authentic way, perhaps I may get enough clarity in my head to see God when He shows up. Or maybe He will just show up without me doing anything, which would be even better! But I owe it to my family to do whatever I can myself.
And after living like that, the need for fool-proof apologetics has significantly receded for me. It would seem you aren’t there. . .
No, but I have been, and I know what you are talking about. It is my goal to be there again.
@Casper_Hesp - You are a blessing to me. It is such an encouragement even to hear of someone coming to Christ at age 19, and your host analogy is elegant and comforting. I guess one of the things that has been missing for me is even if I get back to a place where a creator God seems probable (a thought that I have been able to grip onto at times during this struggle) how do you get back to the God of the Bible? How does that connect for you?
Your comment to George on consciousness exerting a top-down causal influence on other processes is interesting also. One of the atheist physicists (whose name I cant recall) in a discussion of why he rejects Searle’s view on consciousness and prefers a strong emergence position is that, in his view, there are no examples of a higher level phenomena effecting the properties of a lower level. I.e. you may have mathematically true laws of fluid motion, but those laws emerge necessarily from the dynamics of the particles at a lower level. The dynamics of the property of fluidity does not direct the interaction of the particles themselves. He does not rule out that future discoveries may prove this to be possible, but he suggests that it is unlikely and would constitute the greatest ever discovery in the history of physics. What’s your view? Does consciousness move the molecules, or do molecules maketh man?
Not dissimilar to what I wrote to Mervin above, I was encouraged even by your relative’s quote:
“Please give me one insane miracle for free, then I’ll explain the rest to you later.”
Chipping away at the assumptions of naturalism helps bring things back into perspective for me. If we all have to choose an insane miracle to start from, it makes it easier to choose the Resurrection.
Also, recognizing that certain subversive assumptions have infiltrated my thinking, as George helped bring to light, allows them to be exposed and refuted. That can make the idea of natural phenomena pointing to God seem reasonable again.
It is a weird thing to be trying to “back into” faith. I.e. try to disrupt other ideas so that God feels more likely. But since George says I’m “out on a limb”, I guess a few steps back from the edge is not a unreasonable route to travel before navigating the rest of the tree. I accept the position of many of you that it is not a tenable long-term approach. Right now it feels like a process of gathering all the pieces together and tossing ones that don’t belong before trying to make them all fit, while simultaneously trying to decide if the puzzle reveals anything in the first place. And there must still be more to it that I don’t quite understand. For instance, I don’t know why the historicity of the gospels doesn’t seem as convincing as it once did, or why the apparent fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe to support life, or the big-bang itself, don’t scream “God” to me the way they once did. I guess I am still just reeling from half-believing myself to be a genetic automaton.
Once again, thank you all so much for being a part of this thread. I am so thankful for all of you. My wife and four daughters don’t know how much you have helped even this last week, but they are thankful to have me operating even at 50%. God bless you all.