@jpm - Thank you for joining the discussion. I am trying to be less tough on myself.
@staceyinaus - Thanks for the suggestions and thoughts. I will add “Christian Doubt” to the list. It is available on-line for free at: https://archive.org/stream/christiandoubt013335mbp#page/n0/mode/2up
I include it so I can link back to it from here easily if I forget.
In the above quote it seems that your struggle is moving away from “Is there sufficient evidence to believe that the God of the bible exists?” (Your own experiences alone seem to satisfactorily answer that question) and more towards, “Why doesn’t God operate the way I want him to?”
I agree with your answer and your example of Job in principle. I would say the problem is more the instability of my position on the first question, with the second question sometimes acting as an unbalancing force on the first.
The annoying thing about a truth assertion, particularly something as big as the existence of God and the content of His revelation, is that it is assailable from every side. Every observation (and observation itself!) is connected to it in some way, and so every perceived inconsistency is an opportunity for attack. If any part of it can be shown to be wrong, there is a temptation to throw the whole thing out, particularly if there is an alternate plausible explanation. This is where I am struggling to regain a sense of peace in the midst of uncertainty. There is a lot of if/then that goes on. If I can trust my own experiences, then my experience is reasonable evidence in favour. If I can trust the experiences of other Christians, that is evidence in favour. If fine-tuning of cosmology is irrefutable, and can’t be trivialized down with infinite universes or an eternal f® universe, then that is evidence in favour. If abiogenesis proves unbelievably improbable and fantastically rare, that is evidence in favour. If consciousness is not reducible to physics, that is evidence in favour. If the Bible holds up historically, that is evidence in favour. If the Bible can be shown to be true in the testable things it affirms, then it is more likely to be true in all things it affirms. But all of these things are under constant attack. Christianity makes truth claims, and so it has to endure constant, scathing scrutiny. The true measure of faith in anything is how much one invests in it, knowing that it will face future attack; its the trust that you will not be put to shame no matter the attack. It’s that trust that I’m trying to rebuild. Alternatively, as @Mervin_Bitikofer suggested, I can try to scrutinize the alternative, in this case atheistic naturalism, and by breaking that apart return Christianity to its place of superior plausibility. When I spoke of wanting to live in 1893, it was a fanciful wish for the comfort of living in blissful ignorance. Better an illiterate YEC with simple and unshakable faith in Christ than a partly-informed concordist with a wounded worldview (me). And I am not for a moment trying to insult YECs or imply that they are illiterate or ignorant, for the record.
@gbrooks9 - I mentioned Dennett frivolously; I am familiar with bits and pieces of the work of many of the names that get mentioned. I am not awesomely well-read.
I would love for your assertion - that the human mind is free and the operations of it exist beyond the limits of our physical reality - to be true. I’m not sure I have great confidence in the freedom of the mind at this point. It is much easier to believe in such a thing if you believe that you are a unique created being in the image of God, but in an evolutionary paradigm this is undermined (compared to creationist scenarios).
I used to become sad when I thought about all those precious moments in our lives that are lost. They go by unrecorded except for our fading memories. At some point I realized that with God, none of those moments are lost. They are all known always by Him eternally. And what reality is greater, the active memory of the eternal God, or the fleeting life of pitiful me? In that sense, even if God merely recorded all that we are and preserved only what He chose, the very best of what we are exists forever in reality with Him. But such musings are vanity, not evidence.
@GJDS - Wow. Where to start. Thank you for all of our thoughts.
On Knowledge and the Idea of God;
You seem to be following Descartes a little bit here, in that you are proposing that because we can consider attributes of God that we could not find in ourselves, or in an object, including and particularly the concept of meaning, that there must necessarily be a God for us to consider such things. Have I got that right? Your model of human as life-awareness-self and the “vehicle” by which knowledge and reason are carried through reality; is the suggestion that human love, as reflection or infusion of ‘meaning of God’, enables knowledge and reason? Am I correct when I say that you suggest that the presence of knowledge and reason in humans is both necessary for revelation and evidence of the presence of revelation, as well as the content of revelation revealing the completion of knowledge and reason?
Pitiful. . . Nathan. . . mind. . . struggling. . .
On Possibilities Resulting from Revelation and the Necessity of Faith;
I was following you here until:
Since I understand all human life and reason to be within the freedom of birth, freedom of life, and freedom of thought (intent), revelation is also understood within freedom. The unreasonable part of the human condition is lack of freedom that finds its ultimate unreasonable condition in death.
I can understand the second part as proceeding from the first, but I don’t see how you conclude freedom as part of the human condition. Even within a Christian framework wherein we have freedom in the sense of ‘meaningful intent’, we are constrained significantly in the physical realm, and in the spiritual through sin and it consequences.
If I have read you correctly (and it appears I should have practiced first by reading more Kant), you are suggesting that the nature of revelation is the response of reason to God’s goodness - that reason identifies goodness at all is the evidence of God. Am I far off? Forgive my inadequate familiarity with philosophy.
@Casper_Hesp - We are indeed talking about real human lives. The eternal success or failure of BioLogos will be measured by its fruit, not by its epistemology.
The humility of your journey towards faith is remarkable. Thank you for your openness and candor. I too often went back to John 6:69 when I was struggling with some aspect of apologetics, or something about the nature of God or life I didn’t understand. Somehow that passage always anchored me.
I suppose in some ways I have relied more on scripture than on Jesus. In a previous post I mentioned an atheist blogger with whom I shared some similarities; he addressed his Christian daughters in a blog entry regarding scripture. He cautioned them to be careful not to worship a book, because that is what a lot of Christians do. They use the book to justify and judge, to da-n and to deify. I suppose to believe the Bible to be absolutely inerrent and comprehensible in full by our current, limited minds is to trust our reading of scripture over the person of Christ. I can and will accept that I can be wrong about scripture. And science and philosophy too. I am happy to be wrong about everything personally (and I probably am) as long as in the end God and the universe don’t disagree.
I think I disagree with that atheist physicist on several points.
I loved your response to this section, honestly, you are such a blessing to me. Don’t worry about writing too much, I could listen to your stuff all day. However I may have done said physicist injustice by my own ignorance. I hunted down the webpage. It is Sean Carroll I referred too, and the posting was his most recent blog entry on his page, on “consciousness and downward causation”. From a quick look at his work I gather he is heavily invested in f®, and that the recent findings favouring dark energy ( https://arxiv.org/abs/1607.00184 ) may be a challenge for him. But what do I know about physics or astrophysics really?
Well, one first response would be to say that the evidence for God is so “in your face” that it’s easy to get used to it
I would have said consciousness is the number one example of this phenomena, and our capacity to reason as the second. Few doubt the existence of the ground they stand on. Me being one of the few apparently.
while consciousness does not move individual molecules (only molecule-level phenomena can move individual molecules), it is able to constrain the possibilities available to molecules or “change the landscape of possibilities”.
An interesting concept to generalize to God and His interaction with reality, whether the precision of cosmology or the production of consciousness from evolutionary means. If the mind of God constrains the processes of biology, the mathematics of the ID camp may eventually converge with BioLogosian biology.
Thanks for the prayers Casper.
@Sy_Garte - Thanks for coming into the discussion, and for reading all the way down to us here at the bottom! I love hearing about people coming to Christ at a “pretty advanced age”. That is just awesome.
I love the simplicity and forthrightness of everything you wrote, and how it reiterates everything I want to believe fully. The more I hear that what I want to continue to believe, people actually do believe, and that these people are not idiots, the more I am encouraged. Hebrews 12:1-2.
On the other hand, I can’t just take your assertions as gospel, no matter how much I would like to. When you say. . .
But what turned me in the direction of God, was my slowly growing awareness that those answers were not actually very persuasive in all of the areas that I felt to be important. And often times, I found that the answers by some of the people you mention, like Dennett and Dawkins were not actually valid, scientifically.
As for consciousness, please dont take the nay sayers literally. Consciousness is both real, and beyond explanation. All of the claims you are seeing that neuroscience has found this or that are highly exaggerated, and need to be taken with many grains of salt. Scientism is a scientifically failed philosophy, and cannot replace, explain or make sense of love, spirit, humor, music emotion, meaning.
. . . can you delve into that a little bit more please? The more you can convince me, the better I can do. As I have mentioned previously, the hard problem of consciousness has always been among the strongest arguments in favour of God for me, but I’ve had my confidence in that corroded by the idea that it can all be explained as an illusion of my biological programming. A lot of what has been going back and forth between George, Casper and me has been on this subject. What does your background in biology tell you? What is your area of expertise?
@jlock - Thanks again for weighing in. When next I talk to my doctor I’ll make sure testosterone was checked as part of my blood test.
Mark 9:24 - totally. It’s interesting. What this whole thing is about in some ways isn’t belief in the sense of salvation. Salvation was accomplished by Christ on the cross, which I have certainly believed with my heart and confessed with my mouth. At the risk of sounding irreverent, as surely as the Lord lives I am saved. But lacking confidence in that extinguishes joy. The comfort of Mark 9:24, and even more for me, Matthew 18 12-14, is that it isn’t all about me and having to find Him. If I can rest and wait for Him, He will find me.
Again to everyone, thank you so much for being a part of the discussion, and for helping me personally. It’s been over a week since I’ve hit a bad low, and that kind of rest and relief is such a blessing. It feels as though I’m making some progress in re-establishing a comfortable place in the midst of uncertainty. At the same time, I know there are some intellectual and theological aspects of my conflict that I have been pushing off for now (in no small part due to the advice of @Jay313). I am waiting to re-engage with those until I’m a little more settled in faith, and until George Murphy’s book arrives in the mail. I’m hoping that doesn’t jar me loose again.
Thanks and good night everyone!