Navigating Uncertainty

Happy to answer you, Nathan. I turned slowly from atheism to agnosticism in my 30s and 40s. What happened was I saw that pure materialism didnt work in real life (where does art and laughter come from) but mostly I found that it didnt work in science either. But religion was not something I could embrace. I was born wearing those lenses you speak of. But I became more and more open to the idea of God, and slowly God began calling me. Very faintly at first. I wont bore you with too many details. Around 15 years ago (in my mid 50s) I began to go to Churches on occasion. I liked what I found there. Goodness, love, peace. None of the horrors I had associated with religion. And then finally only a few years ago, Christ called me directly. I was baptized 4 years ago (in my mid 60s) and joined the United Methodist Church, where I am now the lay leader, and very active. I have preached the Gospel, and been welcomed into the body of Christ. For me all of this is nothing short of a miracle.

I too sometimes will find myself thinking, “its all so beautiful, but is it real?” Could a man have truly been raised from the dead? If Heaven is real, where is it? And so on. The questions I used to ask people who tried to convert me in the old days. When those questions come to me now, I take a walk. I look at the trees and the people I pass. There is no proof that God exists. And yes, that woman smiling at her baby might be simply acting out the evolutionary imperative to care for her child in order to pass on her genes. I am a trained biologist, and I fully endorse and support the idea of evolution, which I believe is God’s tool for creation of life in all its splendor, drama and diversity. But I will never think for a moment that the joy in that woman’s eyes, the smile that comes to my face at seeing the baby laugh, and all the other wonders I find around me, are not much more than selfish genes doing their thing. If you pursue pure materialism far enough, it becomes depressing, boring, and not very convincing.

I believe the Holy Spirit is everywhere, but sometimes hard to hear or find. In those times its better to stop thinking and debating and just reach out and be touched.

Yes, we do a lot of arguing and debating here on Biologos. (and elsewhere). Not because we are trying to convince anyone that our version of the truth is right, and they are idiots for not agreeing. But because this work we are doing, trying to see how our new knowledge of God’s world of nature, His Book of Works, can be reconciled with His Work in Scripture is so very important, and most of us feel pretty passionate about the whole thing. That is not an easy task; it is in fact very difficult, and nobody knows the answers. Yet. But the point is not to give up if there are difficulties. That is not what God wants.

I am convinced that it is our (all of us) mission to work toward the truth, not to proclaim it. To take as many steps as we can toward finding how our science and our theology can be improved by each other, and ultimately learn all we can about the truth of the natural universe and God’s purpose for us, individually and as a species.

Have courage. Do not despair. Faith, hope and love always win, even when it seems like this time they wont. In the end they do.

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Hi Nathan,

I am impressed by the thoroughness of your approach, and when I think back, I had enjoyed my musings when I considered arguments for and against theism. I get the impression you are troubled by such matters, and in that context I would urge you to see things in a positive manner.

Within my particular remarks, I am indicating that whatever conception of god people may have created, none that I am aware of deals with the attributes Christians believe as God. This strikes me as central, and consistent with biblical teachings. Humanity has an awareness of god, and yet has chosen to worship constructs of their own hand and intellect. This surely is a great contradiction.

Anti-theists make many pronouncements, but I have yet to see any data or scientific results to support their assertions. I find their so called arguments are always “after the fact”; thus every civilisation has some type of god concept, yet I have not heard or read of any that recorded a change in intellectual capacity and attribute this to any religious concept. Yet history is full of ways of religious worship and associated teachings. It is easy to make up something after someone tells you about it.

The notions related to God as trinity, and simplicity, is imo impossible to conceptualise from any human capacity - some attributes, such as all-powerful, can be degraded into power of humans over other humans. Perfection and total goodness are also things we can only wonder and contemplate, but unless someone were insane, it is impossible to believe any human being can be considered as totally good.

On the nature of Christ, we are again at a loss as to how we can conceptualise a totally good and sinless human being, and atheists and anti-theists have made some straw out of this. Experience and human history shows us that humanity has inevitably shown to be good and bad - Christians however contend that Christ was without sin, and yet totally God and Man.

So I submit that these cannot be invented nor based on human experience. I need to emphasise that this is a starting point for a serious examination of Christian theology and Biblical teachings on God, and His self-revelation. The discussion would become lengthy when we consider faith, the law, and Christ as Saviour.

I will end this by stating that these contemplations, although lengthy and requiring effort, have proven to be useful for understanding the Christian faith, and also extremely stimulating intellectually and emotionally.

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What a thread and so full of love and help on offer. If only I had the time to follow it all through.

In John it says it so beautifully that in the beginning there was the word and the word was with God. By giving usthe word God has separated us from the other animals as to be able to have the concept of meaning or consciousness. The bible is a poetic description of reality and poetry is read with our heart thus able to connect you to the part of reality that is not part of the temporary material existence but part of the eternal realm of emotional or metaphysical existence. In our material world we are used to loose the sight for the non-material and the art to understand poetical language dries up. It is strange to see that at a time of ever larger information awareness we get more and more narrow minded when it comes to the use of words, perhaps a babylonian problem in the time of language governed by materialism. Thanks to @GJDS to help some readers to take the materialism out of the mountain.

Now when you say you found God could be replaced by “naturalistic explanation” you should ask yourself do you mean natural or material/physical. God is natural, but goes way beyond the physical. It is important to understand that miracles are perfectly natural as the chance for life to exist - or a baby to be born is a miracle we just do not realise as we see it so often. God however does not do magic - a make belief kind of reality , but logic - the real reality. Thus your comment

makes me wonder what faith you are loosing that drove you into this crisis. Did you believe in a God thad does magic tricks like this. To what extend did you believe in a God of miracles - perhaps one that made mudpie plants and humans as a material creator. To lose faith into such a God of magic might be a good thing as to invoke the name of Jesus in prayer in order to get materialistic magic is a questionable practice.

So what would be my most compelling argument for God? it is experience of love, acts of selfless love that I have seen people to give their own life so that others can live and in suffering and death. The story of Jesus is a prime example for this love but I have seen devotion to help others in many people since who have shown me what difference it makes to believe in a greater self than that of our own. Naturalism or correctly named materialism is a worldview that is logically incoherent and can be dismissed as I understand it on the basis of the existence of laws, non material rules that govern material interactions. This is where the philosophy of energy, material free will and eternity hits the crunch and where you have to show what your faith is about and how you can have a meaningful interaction with reality and the limits of your free will. The only thing you can be certain of is the uncertainty about the underlying certainty.

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@DrebNay

Nathan,

There is a story in the OT about three beggars on the edge of starvation i9n Jerusalem when it was under siege by the Assyrians.

They said to themselves. We can stay in the city and die because we will not get anything to eat there, or we can try to go to the camp of the Assyrians where there is plenty to eat, but they will most likely kill us. In Jerusalem we will die for sure. With the Assyrians we might well die, but there is a chance we will live. So the went to the camp of the Assyrians and found to their astonishment that it was abandoned. After they ate their fill, they took the good news back to Jerusalem.

The point is without God humans are dead, without hope. With God we have hope although it might not be clear. Faith is not certainty. Faith is hope that God will eventually make things right. This is our only hope and reason to live a life of love and reason.

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Thanks again to all for the responses, both those that have been keeping tabs on me for some time and those who are new to the thread.

I am away from home this weekend and on an awkward device that doesn’t let me see the posts I am replying to easily, so I will have to reply to everyone in greater detail when I am home. I am also trying to get through a fair amount of pertinent reading.

Please forgive my delay. I greatly value your thoughts and so I try to reply promptly and thoroughly. In this instance it will likely be another couple of days.

Thanks again.

Nathan

Hi everyone. Sorry again for the delay.

@Sy_Garte - Thanks for sharing your personal story with the thread. It’s encouraging that people leaving the faith isn’t the whole story, and that a fair number of people on here started out far away from faith and managed to ‘get there’.

What happened was I saw that pure materialism didnt work in real life (where does art and laughter come from) but mostly I found that it didnt work in science either.

I can appreciate how materialism can’t make any sense out of the human experience. There is nothing about daily life that screams “Hey, look at the lucky way these particles happen to be interacting? Isn’t it lucky that my particles swirl in such a way as to give some collection of them an awareness of particles?” It’s telling just how badly things have broken apart for me that such a thing seems even remotely plausible. How did you find that the science didn’t work either?

What a blessing to have faith, even faith that arrives later in life! I so envy that feeling of fullness and ‘connectedness’ that pulls everything together and makes life coherent. What a gift to feel the importance of time spent and shared, and not futility!

If you pursue pure materialism far enough, it becomes depressing, boring, and not very convincing.

Depressing - check. Boring - check. Not very convincing - . . . trying . . .to. . . check

this work we are doing, trying to see how our new knowledge of God’s world of nature, His Book of Works, can be reconciled with His Work in Scripture is so very important, and most of us feel pretty passionate about the whole thing. That is not an easy task; it is in fact very difficult, and nobody knows the answers. Yet. But the point is not to give up if there are difficulties. That is not what God wants.

It’s a struggle. Honestly, I prefer the easy answers. Apparently I like a God that is beyond understanding. . . as long as everything He does is completely understandable without too much effort. I have always been a lazy pseudo-intellectual I think.

Have courage. Do not despair. Faith, hope and love always win, even when it seems like this time they wont. In the end they do.

I guess we will all get an opportunity to see if this is so.

@GJDS - Thanks again for your further explanations. They are clarifying your point for me.

I get the impression you are troubled by such matters, and in that context I would urge you to see things in a positive manner.

Any tips on how I could turn this from feeling like a complete meltdown to ‘seeing things in a positive manner’? I mean this sincerely, not sarcastically.

Humanity has an awareness of god, and yet has chosen to worship constructs of their own hand and intellect. This surely is a great contradiction.

I tend to agree. On the other hand, humans can be fairly creative. Look at the time and energy poured into the science fiction genre for TV alone in the last decade and you can find incredible and diverse ideas. I would agree that there is a difference for us between a story told for entertainment, and committing oneself to worship of a concept within a story. Could campfire tales retold generation after generation in a culture that finds the supernatural plausible lead to a monotheistic God concept? I agree with you that this explanation is not plausible for Christ. If anything he is the ultimate anti-‘God concept’, and there certainly weren’t hundreds of generations of campfire stories to build a Christ-myth.

I find their so-called arguments are always “after the fact”; thus every civilization has some type of god concept, yet I have not heard or read of any that recorded a change in intellectual capacity and attribute this to any religious concept. Yet history is full of ways of religious worship and associated teachings. It is easy to make up something after someone tells you about it.

Are you arguing that the anti-theists “make something up after being told about it”? Or are you arguing that the ubiquity of religious experience has to do with God having provided revelation of some kind to all people, even prior to Christ? I guess that fits with the Adam and Eve narrative, in that if all people were descended from them, all people had an original revelation experience of the presence of God in their generational history. I.e. there was never a human population that did not have “stories to tell around the campfire”, because there really was at least some initial revelation as its basis.

It is interesting, and something I should consider further. How plausible, really, is the the concept of God absent of any original revelation.

@marvin - Thank you for joining the conversation, and for your thoughts. I am overwhelmed by the number of people that have joined the discussion, and continue to do so.

Regarding your comments:

By giving usthe word God has separated us from the other animals as to be able to have the concept of meaning or consciousness

Consciousness has certainly been a significant discussion item, particularly if it is explainable or not on a materialistic basis. So far the jury is out. Do you have thoughts on this?

The bible is a poetic description of reality and poetry is read with our heart thus able to connect you to the part of reality that is not part of the temporary material existence but part of the eternal realm of emotional or metaphysical existence

Are you suggesting that all of the Bible is poetic in the sense that it has no historical connection?

Now when you say you found God could be replaced by “naturalistic explanation” you should ask yourself do you mean natural or material/physical. God is natural, but goes way beyond the physical.

I meant that it seemed to me that a purely materialistic explanation for existence could be plausible. At the same time my faith seemed to be undermined by the apparent discordance between an evolutionary origin of man and the Adam and Eve account in the Bible. So my use of naturalistic explanation is basically another way of saying the materialist philosophical position.

To what extend did you believe in a God of miracles - perhaps one that made mudpie plants and humans as a material creator.

I would say that perhaps I was once better able to accept the creation of Adam and Eve as being in agreement with both science and the biblical account. I suppose concordance of this kind is still a possibility, but seems unlikely at this point.

To lose faith into such a God of magic might be a good thing as to invoke the name of Jesus in prayer in order to get materialistic magic is a questionable practice.

Well then, to what degree do you consider prayer to be ‘magical’? Most materialists would describe it as a vain attempt at telepathic connection with an imaginary friend, rather than a ‘natural’ means of communication. Is prayer not meant both to harmonize us with the Spirit of God, but also as a supplication to our Father to intervene ‘in nature’ on our behalf? I am not trying to be argumentative; I hope to understand how these concepts interact in your view.

Maybe as an example we could use the prophet Elijah. When he faced the prophets of Baal and fire came down from heaven and burned up the alter, was that figurative poetics? Was that a ‘magical’ God as opposed to a ‘natural’ God? Was that naturally going to happen, whether or not Elijah prayed? Did Elijah’s prayer do anything?

materialism is a worldview that is logically incoherent and can be dismissed as I understand it on the basis of the existence of laws, non material rules that govern material interactions.

Can you explain the incoherence to me? That would be helpful.

Thank you again for joining the discussion.

@Relates - Hello Roger and thank you for joining the discussion.

I appreciate your OT reference, and its applicability to the question of how to live in situation of suffering and uncertainty. It mirrors the response of Peter in John 6:69. If you have to gamble your soul on something, you gamble on Christ, no question.

The true horror of my crisis has been that sense of Christ slipping away. It doesn’t feel like a choice, or even a “jump or don’t jump” situation. If it were a matter of picking door number one or door number two, I would choose Christ 11 times out of 10. My problem is getting either my heart or my mind to grasp faith at all. I totally agree that I am dead without it. That’s the whole problem; at present I feel at least half dead. Truly, I need resurrection - both figuratively and literally. I need Christ’s resurrection to be real, or all hope is vanity. And I need my faith to be resurrected also, and this also may well be something that only God can accomplish.

Thanks again to everyone. The love and patience you show with me gives me solace and rest in the midst of this. . . whatever this is.

Nathan

Hi Nathan,

Any tips on how I could turn this from feeling like a complete meltdown to ‘seeing things in a positive manner’?”

This is difficult one for me – I suppose it is my disposition – the most I can say that as a scientist I enjoy questions and dealing with doubt vs certainty is part of that. I also subscribe to Pierce’s opinion in that most of us deal with the irritation of doubt, and a successful result to this is belief, which comes with a sense of delight.

Are you arguing that the anti-theists “make something up after being told about it”? Or are you arguing that the ubiquity of religious experience has to do with God having provided revelation of some kind to all people, even prior to Christ?”

My argument may be summarized as, “Revelation is the best (and perhaps the only) explanation for God with the attributes discussed by Christian theology”.
When I say, after they have been told, I mean they react to what Christian theology states, instead of providing something that they would show is plausible. It is for this reason that I prefer to discus anti-theists, and not atheists – the latter simply conclude they will not believe in god or gods, and they decide to adopt an outlook of “an absence of belief” in anything spiritual or religious. Obviously this is simplified to keep my remarks brief.

Historically I see all humanity adopting various religious outlooks and practices - this is factually correct and is explained as having an origin in the past - Abrahamic faiths provide the explanation we have in the Bible.

How plausible, really, is the concept of God absent of any original revelation?”

Revelation is central, but it is understood as grounded in freedom. It is this that can make the question difficult and Christian theology becomes so rigorous in one respect. I view this as the numerous possibilities that result from God revealing Himself to humanity, and the necessity of Faith. I view faith as essential, but I also think that if someone were to make a particular decision based on considering testimony regarding God, this would be his act of freedom. My point is that anyone can consider spiritual and religious concepts, and at the most basic level, each person decides what they choose. That is why my major point re revelation is goodness felt and understood “with all of one’s heart and soul”. And the minor point is that of reasoning this, and relating it to goodness in life (as one would decide to live each day). Once we come to this reasonable point, we would look at what we feel is one’s self, conscience, deciding what is good and bad, and choosing the good, community, law, and so on.

This in itself does not categorise an atheist as bad, or a Christian as good – but it does show the difference between faith and the absence of faith. With faith, the Christian is strengthened to seek what is good, and live in this manner to the best of his ability and strength. Thus we turn to Christ.

Nathan, after I posted my latest comment here, I remembered that many years ago (2010) I was asked to post my story here on Biologos. There is more detail about how I got from atheism to faith there[quote=“DrebNay, post:66, topic:5722”]
I have always been a lazy pseudo-intellectual I think.
[/quote]

That is demonstrably untrue. Your words are powerful and moving, and your situation has touched many of us here. We are all praying for you, and I am sure I am not alone in saying that I have confidence that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned you.

I see your point. Many times we identify Jesus with a sense of power over our problems, which is not always the case.

Paul prayed release from the thorn in his flesh. God responded, 2 Corinthians 12:9 )
“My grace is sufficient for you: For My strength is made perfect in weakness. In your weakness you find My strength.”

After publishing “The God Delusion”, most people think that Dawkins holds a solid, unwavering atheistic worldview. That may not be the case, as indicated in his earlier book, “the Ancestor’s Tale”. Elsewhere I published these comments on it:

In view of his strident atheistic attitude, it is surprising to find Sir Richard Dawkins , who gained notoriety in deriding people of Faith, has himself experienced an “epiphany” (even if short-lived)
regarding the sudden appearance of modern humans. In “The Ancestor’s Tale” (2004), p. 35: “Archeology suggests that something very special began to happen to our species around 40,000 years ago. Anatomically, our ancestors who lived before this watershed date were the same as those who came later (i.e no genetic difference)….Something happened then…I like Jared Diamond’s name for it, the Great Leap Forward.” And further: “Perhaps the great Leap forward coincided with the sudden discovery of what we might call a new software technique.” (Dawkins must assume there is some sort of supernatural ‘Programmer.’) Embarrassed by his inadequate ability to explain how humankind appeared so suddenly, Dawkins then states: “Much as I would like to linger around the heady time of the Great Leap Forward,…we must press on” He then fills in over 600 pages with a commendable account of how Darwinian evolution explains all other life forms.

Just as Alfred Wallace, "Darwinian evolution’s co-author, Dawkins is unable to explain how human consciousness could have arisen and proved adaptive.
Al Leo

I suppose it’s good to know that even stridently opinionated folks are capable of being taken by surprise. It is a sign of mental health.

And taking my own turn at bat in that regard, the charge I repeated against Dawkins’ view (which you selected to quote above) may admittedly be a bit of a straw man in itself. It was C.S. Lewis that helped lodge that objection in my mind, but I think Lewis was successfully challenged on this front by the Catholic theologian Elizabeth Anscombe. And I wish I knew and understood more of the details of that debate, but my vague recollection (I can’t even remember where I read it) was that she challenged the notion that a deterministic (law-following) human mind does not necessarily preclude the existence of rational thought happening in that mind. And it is mainly hand-waving on our part, when we declare it must be so. If anybody can clarify or confirm my vague recollection on this, I would be interested.

But even if such a thing remains unanswered (as indeed I cannot prove positively one way or the other on this), it still remains as “hand-waving” on both sides then, regarding the harder, empirically unreachable questions around which both Dawkins and so many of us like to pontificate.

lets start from the back and see how far I get before my non material mind wanders of. The incoherence of atheism based on the underlying materialsim fills books. In a nutshell you a law that rules the behaviour of matter is a non-material object - as is PI. Similar the non-material content of a letter let alone a word or an image/painting should be obvious. This is what I mean with the bible using poetic language, e.g. painting pictures in our mind that go beyond the material/literal meaning of the words used. That does not mean that the words are not containing historical truth as well, like a picture depicting a bridge does not mean that the bridge is phantasy but it can convey far more information than the existence of the bridge painted there.
When it comes to that descriptive power of creation in the form of humans being formed from the dust of the earth it is an ingenious way of combining that they are made from the most mundane of materials and then having life “wispered” or blown into them as a description of the non material property if life itself, e.g. being given that ability to move material and/or energy at will.
in that respect prayer serves indeed that aspect of harmonisation with God, so in the terms of Jesus it is made clear that the way it goes it “thy will be done” not my will be done, thus God’s intervention in Nature on our behalf would deny God omniscience thus make him not God by definition.

Woah, this thread just became an article: http://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/dispatches-from-the-forum-faith-in-crisis

I wish I can give good answers to tough questions, but I can see a lot of people have very thoughtful responses.

The most important thing about this thread is that people took the time to listen and talk. Sure, there’s some really profound stuff here, but that’s not entirely the point. I love this thread because it shows our community at its best: Working together towards a bigger vision of Christ and creation.

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Hello all,

In case any were wondering, I have not abandoned the thread. The last couple of days have been busy, and a little rough. I was able to get a fair amount of reading done last weekend, and was feeling the best I had felt in a long time. Sadly, it seems it was a bit short-lived.

One book that I am half way through is Barr’s Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, which I was finding extremely encouraging. At least until I read a Mark Perakh review of it. It is frustrating. I don’t have enough knowledge of physics to separate when an author is making a balanced, well-founded argument, or merely picking facts that support their position. For the most part I felt Barr was doing the former, but in truth I can’t tell if either he or Perakh are “proof-texting” the science. As I try to piece together a coherent belief system from the shattered remains of my own, and from additional knowledge and experience, I really want to have a few solid spots to “retreat to” while I figure out the parts that are less clear.

@BradKramer - I am humbled that you felt our conversation here warranted additional attention and comment. None would agree more than me that pretty well every contribution has been made with the spirit of encouragement and helpfulness, with strong opinions on divisive opinions seemingly muted. I am truly thankful for everyone. At the same time, while I recognize the importance of highlighting the best of community spirit and respectful discourse in order to try to promote it in all conversation throughout the community, the perspective for me - my struggles as the content - is still a mix of thankfulness and despair. BioLogos can be a great community, and has loved me in my crisis. But if it can’t make someone who wants to believe more than anything bridge that gap between science and faith, it hasn’t yet accomplished its mission. Which is not to say that this endeavour is a failure. I guess I just want people to recognize that I am not yet “ok”. I still need help. Please don’t be satisfied with having made a cordial and peaceful contribution, and that this has reflected well on this community. The work isn’t done.

I will respond to each contributor as soon as I am able.

Thanks again to everyone.
Nathan

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Reminds me of:
Proverbs 18:17 He who pleads his cause first seems right; Until another comes and questions him.

…And this seems to regress as far up the intelligence ladder as most of us can reach. I.e. even if someone makes (what appears to us) as a brilliant and worthwhile case, it will probably still be true that somebody else can persuade us (rightly or wrongly – think lawyers here) that the case that so impressed us was really not as impressive as we thought. And this can go on and on. Sooner or later we plant our flag and live our life. None of us (unless you are the genius at the pinnacle) has the luxury of thinking you have understood the last word on the matter. And even if we were that last genius, it still would not mean you were right. Faith never goes away…

Hi Nathan,
Two of your points resonated with me:

I was brought up with YEC views, and almost arrogant about ‘certainties’ in the bible. Realising that I was wrong (was the bible ‘wrong’?!) was agonising.
I had to accept that in light of the science, some (much?) of the OT was not 'fact.‘
I searched sites like this one to try and scramble back onto high ground. Even if the creation story isn’t historical truth, there must be some sort of compelling evidence for God, right? And where better to find it than among the intellectual elite on Biologos. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to pin my ‘exhibit A’ labels, even here on Biologs. I was trying to comprehend an incomprehensible God. The only box I can fit him into is “I Am.” He exists.
I still found it troubling that the bible wasn’t as ‘reliable’ as I thought it was. So I tried a different tack, if the bible is one of God’s chosen mediums to speak to us, then when I read it he should speak to me (no matter how it was written, finger of God or back of an ancient Hebrew form guide).
And sure enough, when I read the bible, God speaks to me. Do you have this experience?
Reading ‘the evolution of Adam’ was an interesting experience. Peter Enns talks about the bible being incarnate, God revealing himself in a very ‘human’ book -which seems to be where I’ve landed too. Sometimes I think that just as God allowed us to crucify him in Jesus’ human body, he has allowed us to crucify him in this ‘human’ book. But as with the resurrection, the Holy Spirit raises the text to life.
As with the fine-tuning of the universe, the bible seems to be finely-tuned to point us to Jesus, while leaving enough mystery to keep us humble.

I admire your gracious interaction with everyone - even in the midst of your turmoil.
You come across as very ‘Christ-like.’ My humble prayers are with you :slight_smile:

Nathan, I wish there was a specific argument that someone could make that would settle your internal disputes. It doesn’t exist, as far as I know. I deal with it myself on a nearly daily basis. There are times this whole thing seems too good to be true. The God of this enormous Universe wants to be involved with me? Seems unlikely.

I teach science to junior high kids, and we talked about Galileo a few weeks ago. According to legend, after he recanted saying the Earth revolved around the Sun, he muttered “And yet it moves.” While it’s unlikely he actually said that, that is the response I seem to feel during these dilemmas. I deal with all the same questions you mentioned, but yet it seems something else is there. After all of the logical arguments are done, I still have this sense of, “and yet…” Maybe it is just my upbringing, but it is still an intense sense.

At the end of the day, my response to these questions is very personal. Why do I believe in God? Because I talked to Him. I realize the futility of that argument to someone who can’t step inside my mind to test my own honesty about my feelings, but that’s what it boils down to. I think about all the things that lead me to where I am from where I was, and it sure seems like there was something else at work. Otherwise, I’m incredibly lucky. I also try look at this from a “boots on the ground” perspective. I don’t know the answers to all of these deep and wide theological questions, but I do know there is a dark world around me in need of something more than logic. Humanism sounds great and all, but honestly if we’re nothing more than another step in a 14 billion year long chemical reaction, the sooner it’s all over, the better.

Sorry, it is long but I hope it is of help philosophically for you to move forward.

and herein lies your problem. What makes you believe that there is a gap between science and faith? Science is based on faith itself but first of all you need to understand the concept of faith. On youtube there is the famous video called atheist bitchslap were a lady tries to claim not to be an idiot by not “doing faith” by her definition of faith: “faith is belief in the absence of evidence”. She shoots herself in the foot and is ignorant of the pain - thus the cry of “ouch” from the audience. To use an idiots definition of faith is not a good way to claim not to be an idiot, it actually defines you as one :slight_smile:
Now what is faith. Logically defined Faith is the trust in something to be true in the absence of proof. It is the fundamental principle of a worldview as well as for science and for religion and the basic principle of your thought process. The “idiot’s definition of faith” does mix up evidence and proof and lacks the basic understanding of a belief. Belief is a word that contains the presupposition of absence of proof e.g. states the point that one thinks but does not know if “A” is true. Without “A” being evident to your brain you could not consider it to be true or false as any reality check needs input e.g. evidence of reality. Without evidence you can actually not form a belief. If using evidence as in evidence amounting to proof you are even more of an idiot as only an idiot would form a belief from the proof of “A” to be true as an intelligent person following proof would know “A” to be true. An idiot just doesn’t get it so he forms his belief based on proof being unable to form knowledge.

Evidence can take many forms. There is material evidence for something to exist that if it contains most of the elements of the thing that is proposed to exist amounts to proof or is proof if it contains all of them. For example the dead body of “A” is proof of A’s existence and of his lack of viability, but not of the process by which he came to die, e.g. who killed him. Witness or testimonial evidence is used if there is no material evidence. Experimental evidence is for example what allows you to witness an effect yourself being unable to see the cause of the effect directly. Thus my experimental data are testimonial evidence for my theory that you can repeat for yourself. The only become proof of something by falsifying it, thus giving rise to a better theory. This may sound a bit paradox but is an essential axiom of science that you can not positively proof a theory but only proof it wrong as we cannot obtain proof in an open system such as reality is to us and our experiments are constraint.

Now if you look at the fundamental tenants of science you will realise that it is based on the principle of fundamental causality and that the behaviour of matter and energy follows laws, e.g. is organised in ways comprehensible to the human brain. That means that the ultimate cause would have bound the behaviour of matter by order. As such it has the principle of Theology at it’s foundation as without accepting those you cannot justify science.

Calling this ultimate cause God and giving it “personhood” is a feature of humans being able to perceive personhood. So “The Fall”, e.g. the eating from the tree of self realisation is a quintessential process in the understanding of personhood by defining your “self” in realising your own will. but once this occurs you automatically start to live in sin by putting your own will in conflict with all things identified as not self. This can only be solved by becoming part of the overall self again in submitting to the will of the cause, e.g. God by following its rule. Science tries to work out the rules that govern material interactions in our reality by doing physical experiments. Thus if you look at religions from a scientific standpoint you can see that they are experiments working out the rules that govern human interaction and by being part of a religion you become part of the experiment. This is why the bible tells you to let your faith be the evidence for the truth of the worldview you represent. It asks you to be a witness for what you experience through your faith. So be a scientist and report the outcome of your experiment to follow Jesus and practice selfless love, bear witness to the selfless love you perceive and the effect it has on you. In that respect Atheism is only witness to lack of experience of selfless love - or lack of understanding acts of love can be selfless assuming love to be only given for a self based purpose from own experience.
If you live by the golden rule you make yourself the standard of morality as it is centred on your own self. If you live by the word of God - which is substantially different- your morality is based on the love for others, and that is the survival rule based on the self of creation rather than your own. Most people do not realise the difference between being commanded to love your neighbour like yourself - e.g. the selfish interpretation - and to love thy neighbour like thyself - and see them to be interchangeable. However the latter refers to thyself as like the ones that are part of your self or “your loved ones” your children, relatives or your community. At the time of Jesus tis would have still been understood as survival was understood to be group based and the “self” was more than your own individual self. Guess it is harder to understand in the “I” generation of today.

Better stop here. What you see is not a conflict between science and faith but between individual scientists and faith which in a day were science is a great tool to glorify your own self should not be too surprising. Look at science as a tool to get closer to God’s logic and to help us to understand things we better don’t do not to fall foul of God’s creation and eradicate ourselves.

Hello again to everyone, and thank you for continuing to invest your time and energy in my struggles, and in me. Your willingness to encourage me, as frustrating as I can be, is a testament to your integrity and kindness.

I have many people to respond to. Please excuse the length of this post.

First, a clarification of my previous post.

But if it can’t make someone who wants to believe more than anything bridge that gap between science and faith, it hasn’t yet accomplished its mission.

I did not mean to suggest that faith and science are mutually exclusive concepts, nor that they are not interdependent on some level. If I could re-write the sentence I would say “provide a reasonable, coherent integration of biblical revelation, modern science, and human experience”.

In Brad’s blog post he highlighted some of the most encouraging contributions in this thread, and I am incredibly thankful for the heartfelt, candid and thoughtful posts from each of Casper, Mervin, and Sy. Re-reading them was a delight. However, the focus of all three of those posts in particular was more about the fit between biblical revelation and human experience - in particular, their own. I recognize this as an undeniable necessity for faith. But I don’t think it is the only part, nor where I am weakest at the present time, nor even the main stated purpose of BioLogos.

When Mervin says:

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.

Of course I wish this were true. Of course. I admit that openly. And Mervin’s post is by no means summed up in that quote. I agree with him fully that a believer cannot live only in an ivory tower of intellectual comfort, or that none should tread beyond the confines of their certainty into engagement with life.

On the other hand, the Christian faith is one that makes bold truth claims, including the truthfulness of God - ‘I am the way, the truth, the life’. If a person cannot integrate what God has revealed of Himself through revelation with what can be known of the world through investigation, I don’t see how they can maintain a belief in both.

So in addition for evidence that a biblical God can integrate with human experience, evidence that a biblical God can integrate with what we can investigate in the rest of reality is necessarily a part of determining what we know to be true about God, and loving God with all of our hearts, our minds, and our strength. I think this conclusion is obvious to everyone who ends up on a forum like this one. That’s why we are here.

It happens that, for me, materialism is the worldview that I am contending with most directly, and the one where I would hope scientific evidence, unshackled to a purely atheistic interpretation of that evidence, would afford me at least some reason to view myself as anything but “another step in a 14 billion year long chemical reaction”, as Keith put it. I am appealing to those with knowledge, scientific expertise, and faith to help me in this area.

@GJDS - Thank you for the explanation. I would agree that the traditional Christian concept of God - triune and unified - and Jesus as deity in particular, a God who takes on human nature and suffers on our behalf, does seem to fly in the face of most God concepts, and I would suspect the God concepts of the second temple period, although Jonathan_Burke might have more to say on this subject.

Are you familiar with the work of Rene Girard and mimetic desire? He proposes some radical ideas regarding the development of religion, and Jesus as one of the ultimate examples of his theory. I am only superficially familiar with his work.

How would you respond to a person who says that Christianity exploded in popularity because its philosophy happened to be a ‘good fit’ for our biological programming? I.e. that it is a phenomena of social evolution?

@Sy_Garte - Thank you for sharing your personal story with BioLogos, and for guiding me to it. Thank you also for the ongoing encouragement and prayers. I do not doubt that the Holy Spirit would not abandon me, I just wish I could believe with my whole being that the Spirit is real.

You mention in your Stochastic Grace blog:

I was finally given the gift of God’s grace directly from Christ in a dramatic and undeniable way.

Would you be comfortable sharing that? If not in the main thread, I would be interested in hearing it privately from you. If not, that is obviously completely fine, it is not my desire to put you on the spot.

@Relates - Thank you again for the encouragement and thoughtful response. I am certainly open to the possibility that God will simply work this whole thing out for me. I suppose on some level, that actual the only possibility assuming this resolves at all. The question is how much of the process involves me asking, seeking and knocking.

@aleo - I often pray that Dawkins or Harris will become believers. Not that I love them more than other atheists; I am simply more familiar with them. I wonder also, when I am not questioning the existence of God, just how far the grace of God extends. I don’t believe the doctrine of hell is avoidable if we ascribe any authority to scripture, but I wonder if a prayer said at a children’s camp, said with a child’s sincerity and knowledge, is enough for God to extend salvation. Will God redeem the little bit of each person that turns toward Him, or is there a certain amount of infusion of the Spirit which makes it an all or nothing affair. Just to be clear, I am not mentioning this to begin a discussion on different concepts of Hell.

@Mervin_Bitikofer - Thank you again for your contributions. I think Brad chose wisely when he included your comments in his blog.

I looked up the debate between Anscombe and Lewis. Apparently it led to Lewis revising his book Miracles to address her criticism, and was a turning point in his backing away from direct apologetic writing.

Sooner or later we plant our flag and live our life. None of us (unless you are the genius at the pinnacle) has the luxury of thinking you have understood the last word on the matter. And even if we were that last genius, it still would not mean you were right. Faith never goes away…

I know. I agree, as I discussed above. I can accept that I cannot have proof. I can even live with the possibility of incomplete certainty, and the necessity of faith. What I hope for is clarity where I can get it, and some strong arguments for cohesion between science and faith. The philosophical side I think I’m doing okay. Theologically, with the exception of melding evolution and the Fall, I think I’m doing okay. Personal experience, I think I’m doing okay. Modern science connections to biblical concepts? OT historicity, or a clear approach to discerning the figurative from the literal? Not so good. Some way of separating the real science findings from the surrounding philosophy of science rhetoric? Very bad. This is where I hope the biologists can clarify the biology, the physicists the physics, and the astronomers the astronomy.

@marvin - Thank you for taking the time to respond twice, and at length. I appreciate your arguments and ideas.

I did not find the link provided to the incoherence of atheism particularly helpful, not because the arguments had no merit, or were not fully developed (there was a lot of ground covered in quite a short piece). It was because the bulk of the arguments were directed at the apparent inconsistency between beliefs of atheists. For example, they propound moral positions while denying moral standards, or suggesting that morality is an artifact of consciousness. However, it is not really fair to say that this is incoherent. The assertion that there is no true reason or purpose for morality outside of personal psychological comfort, doesn’t mean that an atheist can’t adopt whatever creed they wish irrationally. And one could argue from a deterministic standpoint that their biology has programmed them to accept some irrational beliefs, just as the biology may predispose us to believe in God, and the difference between us is simple variation within a population due to mutation, and natural selection will select for the superior belief predisposition.

My point is only this: just because atheists behave irrationally, doesn’t mean that they are wrong about materialism.

Even the argument that abstract concepts, or the process of logic, are undermined by atheistic materialism, while valid, does not demonstrate that an atheist is incorrect.

Where I would say a strong point could be made is that both an atheist and a Christian would argue that logic and knowledge to grant us ‘true’ insight into the reality that we experience - i.e. that true facts can be known. This implies that some of the abstract concepts (like the laws of logic) are true of reality, and so are a part of reality. A materialist would argue that all such concepts or laws are the products of the properties of the particles of the universe themselves, obeying the laws of physics. So the question becomes one of these two: how are the presence of the laws of physics in the universe best explained (i.e. is a law-giver more logical to posit than an infinite number of universes with an infinite variety of laws of physics)? and, are there any properties or events in the universe that cannot be explained on the basis of the laws of physics (such as possibly the hard problem of consciousness, the possibility of miracles or other divine intervention)?

The topic of prayer becomes a problem from the other side of the equation. If we read in scripture: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12) and “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11), among many, many others, then we should conclude that God hears our prayers and responds to them in a meaningful way. How do we integrate this with modern science? Does God manipulate reality on some sort of quantum level to generate unlikely but ‘natural’ outcomes? Are the results of prayer the stochastic qualities of an otherwise statistical universe? When you say:

so in the terms of Jesus it is made clear that the way it goes it “thy will be done” not my will be done, thus God’s intervention in Nature on our behalf would deny God omniscience thus make him not God by definition.

I do not follow you. If the effect of prayer is to put us “in the right place at the right time” to experience an event pre-ordained from the commencement of the cosmos. . . I’m still not sure how you have not either adopted a deterministic model of the universe in which we have no true free will (God pre-ordained all of the outcomes of every natural process with all of our future decisions in mind), or run afoul of the testimony of scripture to the many miracles that would seem to be interruptions of the natural order in response to requests to God (the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, fire from the sky called down by Elijah, Peter walking on water).

I followed your second posting carefully. Thank you for the detail. I believe I understand what you are proposing, although I freely admit that I needed the guidance you provided to see what was wrong with the woman’s statement “faith is belief in the absence of evidence”. So I guess I am at least a partial idiot! This is actually very easy for me to accept, it’s exactly how I feel. Thank you for being patient with me.

I understand the idea of different kinds of evidence. For me they all are a bit difficult to grip at this point. For example, if I love others sacrificially and am hated by people for it, I will in fact experience Christian living as it was outlined roughly in Acts. Does this prove that everything recorded in Acts is ‘true’? Does it prove that God exists? Or does it merely demonstrate that humans relate to each other in a similar way now as was recorded in Acts? I am 100% sold on the idea that following Jesus in faith is the best way to live life. I’m just not sure what that proves or how that faith can be restored when it has broken.

I should note that there is one thing missing in my life now that seemed incredibly evident throughout Acts - the sense of presence of the Holy Spirit. Should the Spirit of God visit me in some way, obviously that would be a very powerful non-scientific evidence, and so I pray for that. But assuming my understanding of the Bible is somewhat accurate, the Spirit is a person, and I cannot simply make the Spirit show up on demand.

@staceyinaus - welcome back! Thank you for your prayers and your thoughts.

I have more books to read yet, and I suspect I will read some of Enns material eventually. I received my copy of @George s book, and I intend to get to that soon.

I wish I had the sense of God speaking to me through the Bible now. Prior to this experience, I definitely did. There were many passages of scripture I could not read aloud to my daughters without crying - for hope or joy I do not know. Acts 2:39, Hebrews 11:13-16, Luke 2:10-11. I think the word ‘behold’ has to be one of the most powerful and wonderful in scripture. But it is very hard now. Early in this crisis I would read a passage of scripture and then have someone else, totally out of the blue, bring up the same scripture to me, or be struggling with some philosophical point only to have the next sermon at church be on that point. That’s much less frequent and far between now. Most recently I picked up a book by Bordon called When God Isn’t There, and the scripture reference of the first chapter was one that I memorized part way through this crisis as kind of a litany against despair - Jude 1 24-25. But its that lack of confidence that is crushing.

@Keith_Jones - thanks for joining the conversation, and for sharing your thoughts.

I know what you are saying. Prior to this crisis, its not as though I never had any doubts. They just seemed more distant and more manageable, and that there were reasonably accessible refutations for whatever an anti-theist might throw at me. My faith, and my life, were comfortable. I could fall back to John 6:68, and get on with it all. I didn’t get all of the Bible (the flood always threw me for a loop), but nothing seemed irreconcilably contradictory.

I read the discussion on another of Brads blogposts on death before the fall, and @Dr.Ex-YEC wrote this:

The big problem is daring to consider that one’s spiritual heroes (parent, pastors, Sunday School teachers, radio preachers, favorite authors) could all be wrong—and that God would allow them to be wrong despite their prayerful sincerity. And that is where the fear factor comes in.,

and

Daring to doubt the traditions of one’s church is not just a matter of Pharisaic legalism. It is the fear of the unknown and the questions: How much else did I get wrong? How much did my pastor get wrong? Why did God allow us to our flounder in errors? It is the fear of these questions which often immobilizes their thinking. They dare not consider the evidence.

I was never a YEC, but I am experiencing what @Dr.Ex-YEC knows that they fear - the upheaval of being wrong, or the challenge of even just potentially being wrong, about things that are so central to who we are and how we live. It’s that much worse when the floor seems to fall out, and materialism seems to be all that is left. It’s not that in one fell swoop all of my arguments or evidence just vanished. It’s that when some parts of it broke, the integrity of all of the other parts were broken down too. Now comes the hard work of re-collecting them, piecing the strong parts back together, and trying to build a unified whole. Except now it seems that failure is an actual possibility, and the thought is terrifying.

That was really, really long. I apologize to everyone. Thank you for your patience and interest. I will try to be more brief in future, even if it means I must be shorter with each individual. I am sorry.

Nathan

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

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