Navigating Uncertainty

@Casper_Hesp

My apologies… I think that was a typo! I thought I had more clearly written that you rejected the idea that Consciousness does NOT cause anything else.

So I guessed right. You consider conscious thought to be as much of a cause (if not more?) than the firing of a definitive string of neural synapses… part of the cause (or at least can be part of a causal string.

@DrebNay,

One thing to realize is that evolutionary forces on mammals… millions of years all dedicated to one thing… promoting the Will To Live and to Find Meaning …

Your brain should be predisposed to:

  1. see God in the wind,
  2. finding meaning in coincidences,
  3. and to believe that there is a grand purpose.

The fact that you have been rushing pell mell over the edge AWAY from these ideas strikes me as a form of depression. Notice, I’m not saying rejecting superstitious ideas is inherently “neurotic” … but it does go against millions of years of evolutionary forces. And you should be alert to this as a diagnostic principle.

Now… on the flip side… the fact that you are so determined to reject “fuzzy magical thinking” because it HAS to be true is fallacious in itself.

If you want to reject specific rather arbitrary aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition - - I would say Have At it… I’m a Unitarian Universalist!

So… once again… I say look at the miracle of consciousness … If you took a grown person and eliminated all conscious awareness … I believe a good number of Atheists would agree that he would continue to function just as he always functioned… and even say the same things.

Consciousness is a crazy miracle. And I don’t think a Godless Universe would have anything like it.

Hi Nathan,

I’m not an academic or anything like that, but I’ve recently experienced a crisis of faith similar to yours. After discovering that much of the OT is not historically accurate I was floundering -wondering whether I could trust any of the bible, whether God was a liar, and why he allowed this situation to arise. I started to listen more closely to the naturalistic argument and found myself praying less and reading the bible not at all. I was feeling very low. I did much the same as you are now, asking everyone I knew what was their best arguement for God, and had they ever witnessed a miracle. Among the answers that helped me were:

Yes, some people I trust have witnessed supernatural phenomena in answer to prayer.

‘Love as the final apologetic’ (John 13:35) - I do see a difference in the way my church family love each other, as opposed to any other group of people, no matter how well intentioned.

The experience of Paul and the gospel writers. If Jesus’ body was stolen (as you’ve suggested above) then the disciples made up the story of his resurrection. They did a poor job collaborating, and frankly it’s a dumb story that would have fallen over many times under the slightest scrutiny. Unless it were true. I’ve never come across any theory that can satisfactorily explain away Paul and the gospels. Ever. Not even close.

Self-authenticating eveidence of Paul’s miracles (2 Corinthians 12:12)

Eventually I felt confident enough in Jesus and his resurrection to start reading the bible again, and I think I just decided ‘I’m all in.’

I think you’re ace, and I pray that you come through this more resolute than ever that Jesus is the Christ, the creator and sustainer of the cosmos - God revealed to us.

Bless you,
Stacey :slightly_smiling_face::sunny:

1 Like

Hi Nathan,

I’m struck by the humility and vulnerability you displayed in sharing your doubts here and I’ve already started praying for you.

“Darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:18) It is amazing how open the bible is with the deepest, most troubling thoughts of those struggling with their faiths.

I haven’t read all your posts but I’d like to share a couple of things that you might find helpful.

In my younger spiritual days when I came across passages that didn’t 100% correlate in the most obvious way I got a queasy feeling. I avoided thinking about evolution and got enraged when someone would even suggest that life may have, “evolved”. But those things didn’t affect my faith at all. In the end, I just learned to live with the uncertainties. One, I figured that I wasn’t God and couldn’t understand everything, including some things in the bible - even Peter said that some things in Paul’s letters were, “hard to understand”. (2 Peter 3:16). Two, the way God worked in my life and in those of my brothers and sisters were just too powerful to ignore - changes of heart, attitudes, life, etc. As well has been seeing answered prayers, especially those born in perseverance, like those of a couple praying for 10 years for the wife to conceive and she finally does or the family praying for the dad’s agnostic father to become a Christian and he does so at 80 years old. Finally, evidences in the bible itself, and it might be a good idea to study out some of these things. Like:

  • The consistency of the message from Old Testament to New. (this had a big impact on my unbelieving heart when becoming a believer)
  • Fulfilled prophecies.
  • Foreshadows and prefigures of Christ in the OT (I find these more powerful than the prophecies)

Those together simply overwhelmed any doubts I had about God’s word because of the powerful effect of God’s word. That goes along with the profound wisdom in the scriptures and how Christ’s dying on the cross for my sins won me over.

Interestingly, my views of the bible have completely changed since my early days as a believer. Back then I was high on the, “inspired, mistake-free completely self-contained and sole exact words of God” bible. Now, I believe in evolution, natural explanations for the universe (excluding biblical miracles), non-inerrancy, etc. I don’t try to convert people to my positions, but I do want people to understand that we can have a joyful, faithful life in Christ and still hold to those things. I’m sure you’ve heard this, but it’s worth repeating that the bible is a collection of letters, prayers, songs, wise sayings and short books of history, narration, poetry, law and prophecy that was written over a period of 1,600 years in 3 languages in 3 continents by over 40 authors - do we really expect all the incidentals to line up? But my faith now is stronger than over having worked through several crises of faith and countless relational, career, health, family and other issues.

Some last thoughts: we still need God for a life-friendly universe, for the cross and for the bible. And don’t forget Paul’s admonition in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. It’s expected that we’ll struggle but as usual Jesus’ comforts are the best: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

One last note. When struggling with something, what has helped me the most over the 28 years of my Christian life comes from Mark 9:29, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting." (not all manuscripts have, “and fasting”). I just love to fast - it humbles me and makes me rely on God, which probably is why God puts or allows a lot of these struggles in our lives.

Hope that helps.

Sincerely, in Christ,

Richard

1 Like

A happy Saturday to everyone,

I’m a little lower yesterday and this morning, but not too bad. 4/10. I made the “mistake” of spending a chunk of my time between work duties yesterday reading through the “ID censors one of their own” thread. Maybe I haven’t got to the “good” part yet, but reading Christians denigrate each other over the strength of their various opinions and argument tactics while I am in here fighting for my mind is extremely disheartening. Where is the unity in Christ? Where is the love that is supposed to characterize a disciple of Christ? It strikes at the heart of my hope in the very existence of the Holy Spirit; the church seems such a mess.

@GJDS - Thank you for the poetry. It is always deeply personal and an act of vulnerability to share a creative work with others, and I appreciate your willingness to be open in that way. Do you use this work as a mantra-like guide to summarize gospel? How do you incorporate it into your previous suggestions? And I guess my question on how to start on your approach (with ‘how do I know anything’) is still out there.

@Jay313 - I am doing what you suggest but with the Psalms to start, as they seem to speak to me for the first time in my life. They are also totally non-controversial as far as inerrency goes; everyone accepts that they are poetic, with some prophetic quality to varying degrees. Whoever the author, someone ancient wrote it, and I can identify with their angst. I’m not sure I can completely push aside the books and arguments, but I will continue to make more space there. It is hard not to pray for certainty - I want it desperately. But I do want Jesus more. The nagging questions return though; do I love Jesus because He is and I was made for Him? Or because the Christian story is the most resonant fit for the programming of my biology? In the last week I have been able to thrust that aside. . . somewhat.

@gbrooks9 - Thank you George for always responding so faithfully. Whenever I have a post you are here and get back to me. It means a lot to me that you care enough to make this thread a priority for you, and not just a venue for pushing your own opinion.

One thing to realize is that evolutionary forces on mammals… millions of years all dedicated to one thing… promoting the Will To Live and to Find Meaning …

Your brain should be predisposed to:

  1. see God in the wind,
  2. finding meaning in coincidences,
  3. and to believe that there is a grand purpose.

I can see selection favouring “will to live” but not so much “finding meaning”, which includes 1,2,3. In a pure naturalistic materialist model, inferring “meaning” must be either an accidental and/or incidental byproduct of increasing intelligence that conferred survival advantage, or maybe it was an advantageous adaptive illusion for the intelligent organism by keeping it from killing itself over the horrible, awful, useless meaninglessness of a godless existence.

I agree that if what I have indicated is true, insight into this is non-adaptive behaviour - if I lose faith and kill myself how does that translate on evolutionary terms? Then again, I’ve already had four offspring, and evolution certainly hasn’t had time to “weed out” those of us that through our “biological programming” recognize the implications of a theory less than 100 years old. So my thinking/programming may simply be maladaptive in the modern ‘environment’ of current human knowledge.

There is no need for subtlety in suggesting that I am depressed - that much is obvious to me and everyone else I think.

Now… on the flip side… the fact that you are so determined to reject “fuzzy magical thinking” because it HAS to be true is fallacious in itself.

You lost me here. I’m not sure what you mean.

So… once again… I say look at the miracle of consciousness … If you took a grown person and eliminated all conscious awareness … I believe a good number of Atheists would agree that he would continue to function just as he always functioned… and even say the same things.

. . . which I agree is an extremely weird thing to contemplate. Why do “I” have any perspective on anything. How can it be that a bunch of atoms in a random universe came together and some portion of them compose “me”, and only for a time, and have insight into this? What am “I”? Can “I” just be an accidental construct of my biological brain? How can non-conscious components organize themselves into conscious insight?

This used to be a strong argument for me, but I have learned through this time that I am susceptible to propaganda. If a smart person makes a bold claim, I find myself nodding my head more often than I likely should. When a smart atheist like a Dennett comes along and tells me that I’m wrong, I tend to believe them. So I end up coming here looking for smart Christians.

@staceyinaus - Thank you for the blessings and the kind words. I’m sure the path I’m treading is not unique, and I came here initially to hear from people like you.

It’s interesting that you mention supernatural response to prayer; you are the first to mention that in any thread at BioLogos that I have read so far (admittedly my reading has not been very exhaustive). Shortly after my crisis began I visited a Ghanaian pastor friend of mine who says he has been present in a prayer meeting where he and others prayed for a person with a congenitally malformed upper limb, and over the course of the evening it grew back, hand and all. I asked him again if it was true, and he said yes. Initially that gave me huge comfort, and I was pretty much my old self or even more enthusiastic about the the church and our mission for about three weeks, before doubt began to gnaw away at me again. I mean, if the name of Jesus still heals, how much do other arguments really matter? But how much can I trust any person’s account? And how much can I even trust my own senses or experiences? And then I look at the Church as a whole and see a gong show so much of the time. . . and I look at the suffering in the world and have no good theology for fusing that with an evolutionary origins model. . . and the wheels all start to fall off again.

On balance though, my own life experience proclaims God’s involvement and glory. If I had only the account of my life, and none of the arguments that drive me mad about theology, origins, or suffering. . . if I had only my own story, I don’t think I’d have a struggle. Oh to live in 1893!

@Richard_Wright1 - Thanks so much for wading into the discussion. You jumped into an ever growing thread and put a lot of time into your response, like so many here have, and it really speaks to how much you care.

It’s interesting that you mentioned fasting. When this all started, I went on an 8-day water only fast - the first of that length that I have done in my life. I had hoped to get some sort of epiphany of God’s presence in the midst of that, and when that didn’t happen (it’s a bit presumptuous to try to force God’s hand perhaps), I had not really reconsidered it. I also wonder a little bit how genuine a fast can be when you don’t have a lot of appetite anyway. I’ve lost 25 pounds since this ordeal began.

The testimony of others and the incredible positive change in peoples lives that comes from faith in Christ is evidence to me that Christianity is absolutely, unequivocally the only hope for humanity. I am totally convinced of that. The uncertainty gripped my mind when it became believable to me that that may be true only incidentally, in that just because Christianity is good for our species (increases birth rate, healthiness, happiness, etc), doesn’t equate to its content being true. That there is massive disunity in the Church, that there is uneven experience of suffering and “goodness” in the lives of believers and unbelievers alike, and that the supernatural seems rare and ‘sneaky’ if verifiable at all (as opposed to its central necessity in the Acts church), makes it really disorienting to try to understand how God is at work now and in post-apostolic history. That is not to say that there is an inherent disunity between what is described in the Bible and our experience; not at all. It’s just that our own experience doesn’t always include the dramatic supernatural verification that one (me!) might hope would make faith easy.

we still need God for a life-friendly universe, for the cross and for the bible.

I guess where I seem to fall short is that just because I need Him, and I want Him, doesn’t mean He is there. But I’m trying to be certain where I can be, hopeful where I must be, and humble while I search.

Thanks again to everyone for not abandoning me! I’m sorry that I’m not easily ‘fixed’!

Nathan

Nathan, your story resonates with many of us, and we have been there ourselves.
I find Christians of a sort to be pretty tough on themselves, but we need to better accept grace and know that we are loved.

Hi Nathan - happy Sunday here in Australia :grinning:

It sounds like you already have a pile of books waiting to be read, but I found “Christian doubt” by Geddes MacGregor helpful on my own journey.
:slightly_smiling_face:
Edited to add:

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 don’t think anyone can answer that question outright, but the book of Job is a good example of the fact that we really don’t have enough data to make an informed judgement on these types of issues. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on to which we are not privy. It can be frustrating when God seems impassive or silent, but ultimately our hope is for the day when we see God face to face, and there is no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.

Bless you :slight_smile:

Stacey

@DrebNay, it is interesting that you mention Dennett.

It was reading Dennett that led me to believe there has to be a Cosmic Mind. Odd, yes?

Have you heard his story about Magic and Real Magic? A friend said he was learning magic. He asked him if he was learning magic or real magic? The friend’s response (I think) was that the only real magic is the magic that can’t exist.

This is when I suddenly realized that Free Will touches on this assessment at a 90 degree angle!

In a universe where we think everything happens via natural law … and/or by God’s intervention… what is the explanation for Human Thinking that is supposed to be Free, independent of lawful causation - - and yet still not be psychotic?

And suddenly it hit me: in a lawful universe… the existence of God is the only way for the human mind to be free… with the most crucial operations of the human mind existing in another spatial dimension (or “string”) where this Universe’s lawfulness does not touch.

I will provide a couple of sub-headings and a (short?) statement after each - this has taken me many years and my notes can be lengthy and at times difficult for some to understand, but here it is:

Any exercise in reason needs to begin with a specific purpose statement.

The purpose of the faith in Christ, the begotten Son of God, is the salvation of humanity from sin into eternal life in God the Father. This is shown in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. A work on salvation needs to deal with the ‘essential elements’ of the gospel and the faith that God grants to those he calls as an act of grace.

One may reflect on the meaning of such essential elements. I prefer to consider reflection on elements of faith as a personal choice, an act of freedom.

1 Knowledge & the Idea of God

To ‘know’ about God requires that what is known is comprehended and would form part of the context of a human’s awareness. The usual meaning of ‘God’ is a being with attributes such as, for example, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, eternal, unlimited by space and time, and so on. Yet it is not possible to point to anything that a human being may know or identify that would fit these attributes. Meaning for a human being, however, requires that it be within and part of the person, otherwise knowledge can only be of an object - such knowledge derives its meaning from sense responses to that object. If a human being cannot obtain meaning within self, then speculation and scepticism result. Meaning, however, may be attributed to an idea that would be intelligently constructed as an idea of god. This would be a synthesis of an idea and the meaning is part of that idea.

The argument may be stated another way. It is sensible to note the practice of using the word god in our culture and consider ‘a meaning’ as widely accepted. The historical context may be a starting point for the question, “Can I state the word ‘God’ with meaning?”

It may be argued that the term ‘god’ has emerged over thousands of years as a synthesis of human imagination and then sustained through the circular usage of words (and for conceiving gods with human attributes, as for example in Greece and Rome). However, such methods cannot be considered valid, since God in total meaning contradicts human synthesis. It is part of Christianity proper to view such a synthesis as insufficient. Christianity proposes that the meaning of God has been received from people who testify to have used the word God in a way that has meaning to them. Their testimony is that God has revealed himself to them and thus God has made himself known to them - the meaning is communicated by the use of words and symbols. The meaning is within God himself, since only he can be that meaning.

Criticism may be made of this thesis because it removes an appeal to intellectual methodology by which meaning may be attached to words and presents epistemological (and perhaps ontological) problems regarding revelation.

I have adopted the thesis that a living human being is necessary before knowledge and reason can be considered. This continues the thesis from, for example, Aquinas, who discussed Christ as the true man. This thesis also recognises human beings as unique, in that we have the capacity to choose, based on intent and will (e.g. created in the image of God; God breathed into man the breath of life). I propose that a human being is correctly stated as life-awareness-self (said as one word) and may be understood as:

awareness-self (I am, I exist) …
awareness-self-life (I am alive, I exist as an active human) …
awareness-self-life-at-one (I am perpetuating life in a male-female relationship, in life- goodness, I worship within life-eternal goodness-revelation) …

Awareness of self begins as knowledge of self-life (soul). Within this view, all knowledge revolves about life. Death is the cessation of life - as such death is the contradiction of knowledge. Reason arises spontaneously from life-self-awareness and is subordinate to life. Reason is ‘bound’ to the continuation of life. There is no Kantian ultimate end to reason. The completeness of an idea in reason is a product of reason and cannot be considered as completeness of self-life-awareness. The completeness of a human being is found in the male-female relationship, as this is the means for the continuation of life; our awareness and knowledge may be complete in that life does not cease. The relationship of male-female is given added importance within the Christian context as it includes : ‘God has shed his love abroad in our hearts’. This provides a Godly basis for the continuation of life as it includes God’s love in the male-female relationship. (As this discussion deals with human attributes, it is necessary to restrict the term ‘love’ with either the ‘meaning of God’, or synonymous with the phrase ‘The Holy Spirit’ and the ‘fruits of the Spirit’). As our sins are forgiven through Christ, knowledge of God becomes synonymous with life and the completeness of human beings. Those in Christ are abroad with God’s love which is the basis for all things to life.

2 The Possibilities Resulting from Revelation and the Necessity of Faith

Theology discusses God and humanity. Theology is defined as the science of religion and the usage of the term includes the way arguments may be constructed (via speculative philosophy), on matters pertaining to particular conceptions of God. When considering revelation, however a number of difficulties emerge. Even if it is agreed that we avoid considering God as an object for empirical investigation, we cannot reason that revelation may be within a range of phenomena that are human potentialities or of the human senses. We have ruled out objective-based activities such as found in the natural sciences. Revelation cannot be defined in a way that philosophy or science may argue and consider within the ideas of reason.

It is not possible to reason goodness in life. It is possible for a person to consider the possibility of good in life, and this is usually through experience (à posteriori).

For revelation to be valid, the person being revealed unto needs to be able to respond, to reason, and to consider the revelation within his (context of) life. The meaning of God, which includes that of love and concern for all humanity, is provided by revelation and needs to be completely comprehensible. 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.

It may be argued that the basis for revelation is self-awareness-life and in that reason springs spontaneously from self-life-awareness - the synthesis of coherent knowledge is a product of reason, and is not revelation. This argument may be developed into a major premise that equates revelation of the meaning of God with a meaning of, and within, self-awareness-life. Briefly, such meaning is the goodness that God provides to life. This goodness is completely so and is synonymous with the Holy Spirit. Reason may respond to revelation rather than synthesise an idea of revelation. In general I believe reason responds via the ideal. This should not to be confused with idealism. Any reasonable person may respond to revelation in this manner. Some may communicate this ideal in almost illiterate ways, while others may communicate this ideal with great elegance. The response of reason, nonetheless, is of the same content (meaning), that can be summarised by the love that fills the heart, soul and mind of the person, in response to the revelation of God. This ideal, the response of reason to revelation, is consistent with life-awareness-self and is thus life-giving. Such a response includes the response to the Word of God, which provides an increased awareness of God and includes the goodness that results in life from God. Such a response is due to the Holy Spirit guiding reason rather than a scholastic analysis of words, even if these words are found in the Bible. Freedom is the framework for the possibilities of goodness to reason on an individual level (thus singular and multiple possibilities) and on the social level (thus general possibilities). Revelation of God is reasonable as reason spontaneously responds to revelation (is not coerced), is founded within the goodness of life from God, and is comprehended within such goodness.

As you can see, these discussions can be lengthy and for some, I would understand if they are tedious. However the remarks may stimulate an outlook and a point of view that requires any one (you, me or anyone interested in these matters) to contemplate on the essential aspects of Christianity and come to his/her reasoned conclusions.

Hi Nathan,
I’m happy to hear that my own story can be an encouragement for you. In fact, I also experience your presence here as a huge encouragement (and, seeing the other comments, I am sure others do too!). It shows that we’re talking about real human lives here, instead of just intellectual sparring between people who have already settled on their positions. My prayers go out to you and your family.

For me, this has been a journey from acknowledging the plausibility of the Creator towards accepting Christ as my Savior. It’s a huge topic so it won’t be exhaustive, but I’ll try to condense it into some of the essentials that helped me.

I myself was not raised in Christian surroundings, but through reflection and conversation with others, I arrived at a point at which I could acknowledge the following:

If there is a person who lovingly created us, then I would be happy and willing to get to know this person…”

I think this statement is something that agnostics and even atheists can concede. At that point in my life, those who were inspiring to me were those who claimed having a personal relationship with God, especially Christians whom I had met, and who also showed fruits of that in their lives, a certain kindness on a deep level. But while I could acknowledge that what they were speaking of was something truly beautiful, I didn’t want to (and simply couldn’t) fool myself into believing it merely on basis of its appeal. I was thirsty for truth so I didn’t want to settle on some kind of beautiful illusion. It was the same sentiment you expressed here:

I felt exactly that. But, at the same time, I knew that I didn’t have much to lose anyway, because nothing truly matters in an atheistic (godless) or a deistic (aloof creator) worldview. At some point, I allowed myself to pray in earnest, because that wouldn’t harm even if God wasn’t there. In stepping across that fear of being mistaken or “wrong”, I started to realize that the thirst in my heart could actually be seen as a sign of God Himself. It could be compared to finding a lock on which no key fits… If none of the keys you’ve tried “fit”, it implies there is another key out there somewhere. Extending this analogy even further, the inner workings of the lock actually tell something important about the shape of that key. In this sense, the emptiness or thirst for God in our own hearts is an important indicator, not only of God’s existence (the missing key), but also of who God is (the “shape” of the missing key). In extension, one could compare all forms of idolatry with using wrongly shaped keys that actually damage the lock. Sometimes, those keys almost fit, in that they reflect some part of God’s nature (e.g., a loving partner), but they are still different on essential points and still result in damage to the lock.

This point of view turns the existential thirst of mankind from something gut-wrenching into a wonderful gift, a valuable pointer towards God. I found it guiding me into three main questions or themes. In short, I found myself wanting to know (1) what the truth was, (2) how to live, and (3) how to meet God. Through contemplation of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ and interactions with Christians, I came to accept Him as the fulfilment of those three themes. He boldly claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus is that perfect “key”, the only one able to quench the thirst. John 4:14 “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” For me, understanding more about the Old and New Testament and the history of the Church came largely after acknowledging Jesus as the Holy One. This echoes the words of Peter when Jesus asked His disciples why they didn’t walk away from Him like the rest of the crowd: "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69) Peter spoke those words before he could even remotely fathom the Resurrection or the future Church and its mission.

After that, I still had to grow a lot. But I can definitely say that it is the person of Jesus, as revealed in the Scriptures and Christian testimonies, who connected the dots for me. Without Him, I would not have stepped beyond merely accepting the plausibility of God’s existence. Does that clarify things? Feel free to ask more questions on this.

I think I disagree with that atheist physicist on several points. However, it may be good to avoid an all-out philosophical treatise so I’ll just highlight some of them and give some counter-examples. Firstly, his example of temperature in thermodynamics glosses over a crucial mistake. While it is indeed true that the temperature (higher order) does not influence an individual molecule (lower order), exactly the same thing can be said in the other direction: an individual atom (lower order) does not influence the temperature (higher order). Only when we take into account the dynamics of a multitude of atoms (which is, in itself already a higher order phenomenon), we can say something about the temperature (higher order). As the Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka once said, “The whole is other than the sum of its parts.” The properties of a gas (such as temperature) are different from the sum of its constituent molecules. An individual atom is completely unpredictable, but when taken collectively multitudes of atoms can show orderly behavior. An individual atom does not “cause” any difference in temperature.

Okay, that issue aside, I think it is helpful to think of causality in broader terms than that of the narrow “bottom-up” approach of the person you were referring to. In that respect, we can take useful insights from the framework of dynamicism, which is basically the home town of formal definitions of emergence. Within dynamicism, we view a system as being described by a “state space”, the collection of possible states, some of which are more stable than others (attractor versus repellor states). This may be visualized as a landscape with valleys and peaks. The lower-order phenomena can cause changes in the location within the landscape, while higher-order phenomena can cause changes in the shape of the landscape itself. In other words, the higher-order phenomena constrain the possibilities of the system, while lower-order phenomena change the state of the system within those constraints. One nice example is that of a river. The small-scale corrosive processes describe how the river slowly carves its way through the sediment. At the same time, the overall trajectory of the river will place constraints on where the corrosion will take place.

Another note, which may come across as totally ad hominem but must nonetheless be taken seriously: never blindly trust the physicists when they speak about other fields of research (such as consciousness). Besides studying neuroscience, I’m also a graduate student in astrophysics and in that field we are constantly made aware of the “cultural” differences between astronomy and physics. Physicists have the tendency to think everything can be as clear-cut as the laws of thermodynamics. Astronomers are a bit closer to biologists in the sense that they are used to messy causality (and horrible data!) in the systems they study, which renders them more humble about the science. For example, look at the physicist’s claim that I highlighted in bold above. In light of my small causality discussion, we see that it’s more of a problem with his narrow concept of causality. Then again, he was trained to be a physicist, not a philosopher. If we look at it from within the framework of dynamicism, we can easily identify many examples of top-down causality. The river is just one of those. The brain is actually a much more impressive example! Actually, in the article to which I linked earlier (in my conversation with George) the author conceptualizes conscious intending playing a causal role as it places constraints on the dynamics of lower-order processes.

Finally, from the top of my head I can think of several fields of research which show that the physicist’s claim (highlighted in bold) is just blatantly false. There is already incontrovertible evidence of higher-order phenomena influencing lower-order phenomena. For example, the placebo effect (where a fake medicine can have effects just because a person believes that it will have an effect) is known to be related to actual changes in biological functioning.

I would not say I have “the ultimate answer” to that question. But, one possible, reasonable answer would seem to require two parts. Firstly, 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”. In fact, that’s what scientists do when they consciously manipulate matter to subject it to their experiments. Secondly, while the molecules may be constitutive elements of man, man is still more and “other” than molecules. “The whole is other than the sum of its parts.”

These are my thoughts. It became a lot longer than I planned it to be, hope that’s fine for you.[quote=“DrebNay, post:45, topic:5722”]
It strikes at the heart of my hope in the very existence of the Holy Spirit; the church seems such a mess.
[/quote]

Yes, the Church is a mess in many ways, so the fact that God still chooses to work through all of us helps us to understand how amazing His grace is. I still see His light shining through the Christians of that same universal Church, although imperfectly.

Praying for you,
Casper

4 Likes

Nathan

So many others have posted such wonderful comments, that I am not sure that a late comer to this like me has much to offer. But perhaps my own perspective might be useful. I was raised in a militant atheist family, became a scientist and remained an atheist, or agnostic until well into adulthood. I was only baptized into the Christian faith 4 years ago, (at a pretty advanced age). I certainly understand all too well the seduction of naturalism, with its logic, explanatory power, and reasonable sounding answers for all questions. 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.

With time, once my mind was opened, I was called by Christ, and my life changed immeasurably for the better. The fog of meaninglessness, purposelessness, and valuelessness dissipated, and I was left seeing both the scientific reality of this world (which I have never for a moment doubted) and the glory of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection as mutually supportive and complementary realities.

Of course all phenomena have natural explanations. Nature is God’s creation. But the more we learn about nature and life (I am a biologist) the more we see how immensely complex and difficult to understand it is. And of course, the same is true of the nature of God. But Christ was real, He came to us in the form of a simple man, a carpenter, not a king. A man who taught us and died for us.

I know little of theology, and I cant tell you much about the Bible. Like many here, I believe the Bible is inerrant, once we learn how to interpret its message. Adam and Eve could have easily been real people, without being the biological ancestors of all humans. And we know that the story of the fall is true, since we are all demonstrably sinners. That is what counts, and the rest are details. We needed and need salvation, and Christ offers that.

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.

As for doubt, all have faced it. Dont be afraid of it. Atheists like to say “Why dont you test your faith and see if its true. Pray for something and see if you get it”. And they usually include an object of the prayer like a million dollars, or a miracle cure or a good grade. But the test works if we we pray for a peaceful soul, or for enlightenment, or just to get through the night. Does this prove God? No. There is no proof. And we will all learn the truth soon enough. But for now, I can rely on the evidence of my mind, the evidence of my heart, my knowledge of the reality of love, and worship God with complete certainty in my salvation. Peace of Christ to you on this World Communion Day.

7 Likes

@DrebNay I didn’t read every single response so if I’m doubling down on other comment, my apologies. I can’t help but notice in your comments some similarities with a period of my life about 3 years ago. Reduced appetite, fluctuating moods, and the loss of joy in circumstances that used to bring it. I was never diagnosed, and I was able to process though the experience without seeing a counselor or therapist. But I’m convinced that for about 3-4 months I got a short primer in depression. Since then I’ve learned quite a bit about men and depression. According to one men’s health awareness group I used to support, I in 3 men will experience a period of fairly serious depression at least once in their life. Biologically, there are several periods in a man’s life where testosterone production drops fairly suddenly and it takes some time to readjust. If you’ve already considered that possibility, I’m sorry for wasting your time but a few of your posts on this thread struck me as something other than a crisis of faith. Because our culture discourages men being emotionally feely and because I know its not talked about I thought I’d share.

2 other thoughts that I wanted to pass along. If you haven’t considered the prayer in Mark 9:24. Do so, there is a LOT of comfort in the words “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Finally, if music helps you process your emotions at all. Looks up Oxford Out of the Blue’s ‘Cold Water.’ Beautiful arrangement that expresses the aforementioned prayer in ways that I struggle to.

Jim

1 Like

Perfect words, @Sy_Garte

Proof is an elusive concept. There is lots of evidence… but nary proof. This is the aspect of I.D. writings that I can appreciate … their use of “evidence” …

… but I part ways with them when they try to say their evidence can be called Science.

Science is not the only system of knowledge that people are allowed to use to live their lives. In the old days, the reliance on angels was very pronounced… even by scientists.

Angels and Angelology is not science per say - - though it is a “study”, as the -ology implies.

Let us rejoice in the various evidences that we find compelling! But to insist that one’s belief in God can only be meritorious if it is scientific in nature (one of the Atheists claims) is just out of line.

Life is a mystery. Love is a mystery. Consciousness is a mystery. And some mysteries are sufficient to put us on the right road to our personal understanding of the Cosmic Mind …

Hello everyone,

Thank you to each and all of you for your continuing prayers, input, and encouragement.

I have been reading and pondering your responses throughout the weekend. Between that and re-engaging with life a bit better (I went for a jog with my 9 year old yesterday), my mood managed to crest above 5/10 for the first time in a long, long time. But more than that, things feel like they are starting to come back together a bit.

There is a lot to wade through in the recent responses, so I thought it best to respond briefly now and more thoroughly later. In particular I think it is important that I respond to Jim (@jlock) , as a number of people have messaged me privately regarding some of the things that he has touched on.

There is no question that what I have experienced since June 8th can be described as a major depressive episode. I myself (from my research assistant days) am a published author in peer-reviewed psychiatry journals, which is not to say I should be self-diagnosing or anything, but only that I am more familiar than most with mental illness. I recognize the potential for medical problems to manifest psychiatric symptoms, and have had a full medical with bloodwork to rule out such common triggers as hypothyroidism etc, and more alarming possibilities such as a neural lesion of some kind. I have regular follow up appointments scheduled with my physician, and antidepressants are on the table as an option, although my physician and I have opted not to go that route at this time.

I have experienced a similar episode in the past (roughly 14 years ago), which lasted for about one year and was comparably intense. Ironically it was when I first felt that God was doing something in my life in a personal, intentional way. Then, as now, there was a massive cognitive component to my distress. When I was able to work through a re-alignment of my worldview (which was by no means a 100% intellectual process), I had total relief (beyond normal highs and lows of life) with no recurrence of anything similar until now.

I am meeting with a Christian counselling psychologist (PhD) who I see either weekly or biweekly. I have a great support network of friends and pastors who I am open with about my struggles. However, most of them have not directly experienced this kind of situation themselves, in the sense that they tend not to be “science people”. They also tend to be poorly informed when it comes to technical arguments of science and philosophy (in all honesty, I am no more than a dabbler).

This is where the community of BioLogos has been a real blessing for me. There are other resources that I have found helpful and comforting (whatever you may think of Hugh Ross, RTB seems full of kind people with good integrity, who may not agree with the consensus scientific interpretation, but don’t seem to deny the science itself), but there are few forums that have a concentration of people like yourselves, people who tend to have both scientific expertise and a strong faith commitment.

To be clear: I am not relying on you guys as a replacement for medical treatment, professional counselling, or personal responsibility. Nor do I expect you to be God and solve all my problems. What I was hoping for, and where you all have really “stepped up to the plate”, is to help me on the intellectual side, as brothers and sisters who are stronger on that side of things than me and/or have walked the same road and can encourage me.

You are demonstrating what it is to be the Body of Christ. Not one person has weighed in unhelpfully.

Thanks again, and I will engage your other responses soon.

Nathan

9 Likes

Hello all,

@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.

or

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!

Nathan

1 Like

No, I mean that we cannot synthesise an idea of god - but human history shows us that perhaps every culture and civilisation has done just that, provided their own ideas of what they think is god, or gods. We cannot ignore this fact (nor that of atheism), and we are faced with an intellectual puzzle, “Just how is it that humanity has considered gods, and Christianity comes and tells us that there is a God that we cannot invent?”

The point of this is to encourage us to reflect on what, and why, we discuss god and if we can provide to ourselves, as reflection and contemplation, the meaning of words such as “God exists”.

Nathan

Thanks for your kind words. I fully understand your concern, and why you feel the way you do about the “nothing buttery” explanations of atheists (anti theists is a better term) who use neuroscience in a clear agenda to destroy the concept of God or spirituality. I am a biochemist, and not a neuroscientist, my expertise is in molecular biology, genetics, and am now working in systems biology. I have had decades of experience reading and writing scientific papers, and I can tell the difference between a valid scientific result and a philosophical claim deriving from that result.

From everything I have read, including the work of Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett on consciousness and free will, I see nothing that “explains” away either as illusions or programming. The attempt to discredit religious feelings as anything other than a neurological reflex has become a subfield of neuroscientific research, which is both a pity, and a sure sign that there is a strong agenda behind this work.

Lets take an example. I am sure you have seen very impressive seeming experiments that show that when someone is having a religious or spiritual experience, certain areas of the brain light up with neuronal activity. Does that show that such experiences are a mirage, and actually its “only” a bunch of neurons firing that give you the illusion of Christ speaking to you? I dont think so. What it shows is that if Jesus Christ does in fact speak to me, and I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I have a number of reactions, including the stimulation of some specific brain areas. In this case one cannot identify the cause and effect. And that remains true, even if the brain stimulation precedes the feeling of the experience, since there are time delays in neurological processing that make conclusions based on timing impossible. I will look for some links to share.

Dennett’s solution to the hard problem of consciousness is that its an “illusion”. But Dennett has also said (not often quoted) that this does not mean that consciousness is not real. When he says illusion, he means something that is quite difficult to define, and in fact is not that different from saying immaterial, something with which we can agree.

So, be skeptical. There are a lot of people like Sam Harris (who I have no respect for as a scientist) and Lawrence Krauss (who verges on the irrational when he defends atheism so passionately) who will explain to you that everything is just a meaningless result of scientific laws, but they are wrong. Even the scientific laws they proclaim so loudly, actually point in the other direction. Toward purpose, design, toward an underlying fundamental Will, ultimately to a Creator, and to us, meaning you, Nathan, and I, as majestic, beloved creations of God.

3 Likes

@DrebNay

Nathan, I promised you some links, and by the grace of God, one of favorite bloggers, Ruth Banewicz has just published a post about free will and choice from a Christian neurobiologist’s point of view. There are other links included in the post.

Hi Nathan! I understand that being addressed by all people here simultaneously might be a bit overwhelming, but you’re doing an impressive job in responding to everyone.

I agree. “The Bible is the Word of God,” is one famous catchphrase that, unfortunately, has done more harm than good to the lay person’s theology, . In the Bible itself, it actually says that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). The Bible can be considered the Word of God in the sense that it transmits to us who Jesus is. But the book is not enough by itself. For example, it was the Risen Christ who revealed the meaning of the Scriptures to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

I deeply respect Sean Carroll’s work. I’ve been taught General Relativity from a textbook written by him, he’s an excellent teacher. I appreciate his voice in the science-faith discussion because he is actually an atheist who holds to a standard of gracious dialogue. Also, I’m an enthusiast of efforts by scientists to develop the current standard paradigm in new directions. f® gravity is not a replacement of Einstein’s theory, but a generalization of it.

Having read Carroll’s article on consciousness myself, I realize we have less to disagree on than I thought. One of his closing statements was:

“We’re allowed to talk about consciousness as a real, causally efficacious phenomenon — as long as we stick to the appropriate human-scale level of description. But electrons get along just fine without it.”

I think this can be true within the dynamicist approach, but only if we restrict ourselves to direct or proximal causality (single level of description). If we want to form a fully integrated description of reality, we need also to include indirect or “distal” causality (extending across spatial and temporal scales). This is where the fun begins :). The most challenging problems in science are cross-scale phenomena, both in mechanistic and descriptive terms. For example, in the case of turbulence, energy of large scale disturbances in a fluid can dissipate via smaller disturbances all the way down to molecular scale. This makes it difficult (and, so far, too difficult) to solve it mathematically. In fact, the Clay Mathematics Institute has offered a prize of 1,000,000 dollars to the first person who solves this problem.

Of course, I still fundamentally disagree with Sean Carroll when he makes the statement elsewhere that science and religion are inherently incompatible. In saying that, I think he’s gravely mistaken on the nature of both science and religion. But, fortunately, that disagreement does not place limits on the extent to which I can appreciate his work when we are talking purely about the physics. That’s something beautiful (but also limiting) about science, that we can work on it and think together about it coming from a variety of worldviews.

Casper

1 Like

Thanks again to everyone who is continuing to weigh in on this thread. I hope people don’t feel like this is all narcissism on my part - maintaining a thread focused on my own issues as though none of you have anything better to do than try to walk me through this with me. I know you are busy people. I am thankful for the time you are sacrificing to help, and hope that you are blessed for it. The last couple days have been a little rough, but generally the last week plus has been better.

@GJDS - I appreciate the simplification of your last post. Clearly I was struggling with the nuances of your longer reply.

Most materialists would argue that a concept of ‘god’ arises as a result of the greater intellectual capacity of humans, coupled with a tendency to find patterns in chaos and to anthropomorphise causality. For example, we have experience of ourselves and we attribute causation to the effects of our actions, therefore we conclude that the cause of other phenomena we observe is something like ourselves. When we cannot determine a cause, our creativity enables us to imagine intention behind the randomness of our experience. So we invent god in our own image. One could argue that the Christian God is the ultimate form of anthropomorphism - a god that is fully god and fully man.

How is it that you conclude that “Christianity comes and tells us that there is a God we cannot invent”?

@Sy_Garte - I love the robust confidence with which you write. I wish I could dunk my brain in it. Thank you also for the link to further resources. I read the neuroscience article, and I will look at more from Banewicz blog.

The anti-theism is aggravating, but understandable from a Christian context. We are to expect adversity, so I shouldn’t be surprised that it is there. I shouldn’t even be surprised that there is a diversity of confidently propounded materialist explanation for every ‘spiritual’ phenomena out there - if materialism is your lense, only material explanations can be seen. My problem, in part, is trying to get those lenses back off. My skepticism muscles are not strong.

There seem to be three problems I’m facing at once.

  1. debunking materialism
  2. re-integrating a cohesive theology
  3. reconnecting to daily life in a meaningful way

Finding evidence in nature that points to God and seeing it for that rather than through the assumption of materialism is hard enough. Trying to figure out the implications of common descent for the fall and other central Christian doctrines is hard enough that it has been the subject of rigorous debate on these forums alone, and accusations of heresy from numerous loud evangelical sources. While I appreciate what BioLogos intends to do in theory, in practice it seems ignite controversy, offer few answers to the questions it raises, and attract a huge number of opinionated people who seem very willing to dismiss large sections of the Bible.

The endless debate leaves me nauseated, tired, and weak. I don’t know how to reintegrate the Bible, science, and real life. Everything is disjointed.

You mentioned you only became a believer later in life. If you don’t mind me asking, how late? How did you step out of materialism? What kind of church are you involved with now?

@Casper_Hesp - Thanks again for taking the time to respond and to seek out that Carroll article and give me your thoughts, which I value tremendously. It is not overwhelming to me in any way to respond to everyone. In all honesty, I’m a desperate man, so I will grasp at whatever help is offered.

Truthfully I had hoped that you would have some easy answer to invalidate Carroll’s arguments. That’s probably because I wish God would generally make himself more readily apparent, and give us easy answers for every argument. When He doesn’t, and I have no good reason why He wouldn’t, I struggle. That isn’t meant to be a criticism of God; more a frustration with myself.

As I mentioned above to Sy, trying to arrive at that balance between accepting what we learn through science without accepting a materialistic interpretation of every result, while simultaneously accepting an authoritative Bible while traditional interpretations and doctrines seem open to vast differences in interpretation is crushingly hard.

I wish the state of research in each science discipline (and for that matter, theological position) could simply be listed without personal bias.

With evolution for instance, there seem to be some who suggest that historic contingency is a given. Others claim convergence is a major question mark. Others point to rapid speciation as a time problem. Many EC proponents would perhaps posit kind of a ‘divine constraint’ in that convergence and our own existence in biology reflect the anthropic problem of cosmology - the outcome of the process itself suggests that the process is fine-tuned. But no one seems to lay it out clearly. At least in physics scientists seem to agree on what the big questions are. In biology I guess abiogenesis is still recognized as a big question for most, but there seems little uniformity when it comes to the rest.

When you say you think Carroll is mistaken on the nature of both science and religion, what do you mean?

Thanks again, as always.

Nathan

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.