Struggling to Believe


#1

A bit about me before I begin. I grew up in a great non-denominational church all of my life and absolutely loved it. I always participated in all of the events that they did and served in the audio ministry for four years. Everything was fine until I went on to college and was exposed to a new worldview. Things started to go downhill after I read an article in National Geographic concerning miracles, and of course as a result I became more curious and skeptical. Weeks of googling and reading later, I became very depressed due to my findings concerning evolution, biblical interpretation/inerrancy, and other topics that seemed to shoot down everything I had once believed. It was like the life that I once had was literally sucked out of my body. I want to believe, because otherwise my life has utterly no meaning, and that is a very depressing thought indeed.

I understand that theistic evolution clears up some of my confusion, but honestly its hard to understand why God would use millions of years and evolution to create us. To me the science could point to God, but it just seems more likely that God was just invented by evolving humans and created during the past few thousand years. Now I know that that likelihood does not in it of itself mean God does not exist, but it definitely seems to shift the burden onto reasons why God does exist.

Has anyone been in this situation before? How have you dealt with it (and hopefully got out of it)? What did you find helpful (it could be certain books, reasoning, personal experiences, etc)? How can we know that an invisible God works and exists in the world, especially today (modern miracles, personal experiences, NDEs, I really don’t know)? Has the modern world and our increasing understanding of the world buried God for good?

I only recently found this forum, but to my understanding there are people of all levels of belief here. If I could make one request, I would just ask that only those who continue to believe in God and Christianity to speak. I am not trying to be one-sided, because I have heard the “other side” for over a month now without ceasing, so I want both views.

Thanks


(Bruce Holt) #2

Hi Evan,

Let me be one of the first of what I expect will be many to welcome you to this forum and say that we are glad you found it. I am at work and don’t have time to write much now, but I’ll say quickly that I think you’ll discover many who have been in the kind of situation you are describing and found their way through it to a deepened love of God and appreciation of God’s creation.

I’ll try to find time to suggest some more resources for you, but for now let me ask if you have discovered the Your Stories page. You’ll find an inspiring assortment of people relating their journeys towards seeing the harmony between science and Christian faith.

I’ll be praying for you during this season, confident that God is faithful and honors your courage in wrestling with difficult questions.

Bruce Holt


(Christy Hemphill) #3

Hi Evan, welcome to our forum! I’m glad you found this place and I’m confident you will be encouraged by your interactions here.

First of all, take a deep breath and remember you don’t need to figure everything out right away. There are good answers out there, but lots of them aren’t easy or simple and it takes time and work to rebuild a worldview. But, be encouraged because there are lots of people who have walked a very similar path to the one in front of you and they have emerged on the other side of their questions and doubts with a vibrant faith and secure hope in Christ.

What is your biggest concern at the moment? The overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution and ancient earth? Feeling like you can’t trust the Bible anymore? The idea that miracles can’t happen? The idea religion/God is just a human construct? If you could give us one place to start, we could point you in a direction.

Generally, on these boards we don’t delve so much into theism versus atheism debates, we just take it as a given that God exists, his revelation about himself in Scripture is true, and he loves his creation. There are other Christian apologetic sites that get into the details of debates about God’s existence and character.

But BioLogos has plenty to offer about the topics of how Christians can reconcile a belief in authoritative and inspired Scripture with the findings of modern science, how to read Scripture with sensitivity to its ancient context and the worldview of its ancient audience, how the reality of evolution and an ancient earth affect our theological understandings on topics like God’s sovereignty, original sin, redemption, and New Creation.


(Christy Hemphill) #4

In this lecture, N.T. Wright compares the work of creation via evolution with the metaphors of the Kingdom presented by Jesus in the Gospels. There are lots of parallels between how God works in bringing his Kingdom and how God works in bringing about his creation. So maybe it is more consistent with God’s revealed character and intentions than you might assume at first.


(Jay Johnson) #5

Many people, and I’m sure you’ll hear from a few of them. What you are questioning right now is not Christianity or Christ, but the particular strain of Christian teaching that you grew up with. There is a vast difference between superstition and religion.


(George Brooks) #6

[I have edited this post with an important note about my personal perspective - - not to be interpreted as universally held by too many others.]

@EvanFlick,

This is an important question to ask - - because So Many people ask this:

“… why would God use millions of years and evolution to create us.”

The standard answer is the same answer Creationists use to explain why God would create his greatest creation “miraculously” out of Dust: “Our ways are not God’s ways…”

That should be good enough for just about any Christian, right?

But there is also a second school of thought, which deals with the question of why God uses something as complex as the water cycle to create rain to nourish his creation? Are you familiar with how Rabbi’s analyze scripture? They take two texts that appear to be contradictory. And they analyze very deeply and very broadly all the factors that should be considered in evaluating 2 seemingly contradictory verses.

And out of this giant accretion of analysis and comparisons, they take the most beautiful and coherent intersection of a hypothetical metaphysical reality - - which would answer and resolve the contradiction - - and they explain that this elegant and beautiful “complex” of additional premises and divine instrumentalities must be true . . . if we are to find coherence in God’s word.

What’s my point about this? Ah … through this process, the Rabbi’s not only resolve a contradiction, but they more fulsomely describe the nature of the Divine! When someone say an Omnipotent God is one that can make a rock so heavy the Omnipotent God can’t lift it … the Rabbi’s might say (maybe): that the nature of God is that he would never want to do that. And so there is no conflict: the Divine Mind of the Cosmos doesn’t even think about making a rock so heavy He/It can’t lift the rock.

And like so about rain storms. One might look at the Divine and conclude: God does not think about waving his figurative limbs about and making rain storms “poof”" in the middle of nowhere. All God thinks about is how he can manifest his agency in His Creation to accomplish his will.

So… for the mystically oriented Evolutionist, it is a short step to conclude: God doesn’t think about creating humans in 6 days, or in 1 out of 6 days, because there is no physical, no natural, way for God to do such a thing.
[EDIT - Note: this is not a statement of fact, but an optional statement of perspective. I do think God is capable of the miraculous. I personally think such actions are reserved for incredibly important and unusual circumstances.]

But He knows how he wants to make rain, and he knows that Evolution will produce he humanity he wants. Theoretically, he could do it more quickly if he says “poof” … which is the Human interpretation of Him using “the Word” to create… but only in the way someone also says “theoretically, God can make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it, and he can make a square that is a circle.”

Or, @EvanFlick, you can go to the much shorter way of saying the same thing: “Our ways are not God’s ways.”


(Peaceful Science) #7

Hello @EvanFlick. Thanks for the honest note.

This does press on our understanding of God. Is he a tame invention of our minds? Or his is grander and larger then anything we’ve imagined? Perhaps evolution does not make sense if God is an engineer. But maybe he is an artist taking joy in the beauty and chaos and grandeur of his creation. I like how my Lutheran friend puts it:

So, if we think of God the Creator as an artist, the “problem” that the question raises is eased. There is no reason (as we are talking about reason) at all. And we are not under any pressure to come up with that kind or reason. It is sort of beside the point. The intentions or the mind of God in his work of art can’t be discerned. I also think of God’s work of Creation in light of something Daniel Siedell has written about artists. He writes that we want artists to tell us, once for all, ‘what the painting means,’ yet this is contrary to how artists understand their work. Art fights against this notion.

If nature is art, how does God reveal Himself to the world?

In Lutheran theology, the ultimate answer is that He reveals Himself in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus

I would add, that the answer should be the same in Reformed, Barthian, Lutheran, Pentecostal…well I suppose it should be the same in all Christian theology.

As for me, I know that God exists, is good, and wants to be known because Jesus rose from the dead. There is public evidence for this, established partly by science: www.veritas.org/evidence-easter-scientists-list/. There is also real experience through which I and others encounter the living God.

It sounds like you are looking for a confident faith in a scientific world, and I was in the same place too.

I found it in Jesus through his one sign, the Ressurection: http://peacefulscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/swamidass-confident-fatih.pdf .

I’m curious what you think of my journey, and if it is relatable to you.


(Christy Hemphill) #8

There is. But we also need to be careful not to imply that because you find out that a certain aspect of what you were taught about God and the Bible in your youth was wrong or misguided, then every experience in that context is somehow fraudulent. Sure you have some baggage to unpack and some underlying assumptions to re-evaluate, but it’s harmful to start thinking that no encounter you had with God in that context was real or genuine. It’s not all lies and make-believe, that’s the narrative the atheists are selling.

There are plenty of biblical literalist, evolution-denying, young earth Evangelicals who are doing a good job loving God and their neighbor, who are preaching a very true gospel of transformation in Christ, leading people in sincere worship, praying bold prayers and seeing God work in amazing ways. The OP said Evan loved his church experience. Probably because Christ was embodied there in lots of very real and genuine ways. I think we need to be careful that we don’t sound like we are calling into question the faith and character of anyone’s spiritual mentors or family just because they got science wrong or have what we would consider a less than ideal biblical hermeneutic.

One of my favorite Bible profs at Wheaton used to say all the time that all the passionate Evangelical kids go off to college and take a theology or church history class and realize everything their parents and pastor and church got “wrong.” But he encouraged us to stick with our faith traditions anyway, for a little while at least, because we owe something to the people who brought us to Christ. None of us is in a perfect church right now, right? We don’t necessarily have to declare that everyone who taught us something we later come to see as wrong is now untrustworthy and unwise. We just need to develop our own wisdom and discernment.


(Curtis Henderson) #9

A warm welcome to you, @EvanFlick! Thank you so much for your post and your willingness to step forward with honest questions. I grew up in a rather conservative Christian home and Southern Baptist church. My beliefs about faith and science were tested, strained, and modified during my undergraduate and graduate education in Biology, but thank God, I never had to go through the personal turmoil of a “faith crisis”. My thoughts and prayers will be with you!

You have already heard from several of our frequent posters, and even a moderator, and hopefully their input has been helpful. Although I have not been through the same struggle you are currently experiencing, you may find some of the BioLogos history helpful (http://biologos.org/about-us/our-history/). Dr. Francis Collins (founder of BioLogos, and current Director of the NIH) was deeply influenced by the book “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis. It is a relatively short read, but it has tremendously impacted lives for many years.

As @Christy mentioned, please feel free to speak up regarding any specific questions you might have - there are a LOT of people here who love to answer questions! :slight_smile:


#10

Thanks for all of the replies! I probably will not get around to addressing everyone, so if I do not please refrain from being offended.

@Christy, for specific questions I suppose I am struggling with a slippery slope. If the Creation story and the story of Noah are not to be interpreted literally, then how do I know what other parts of the OT I should interpret metaphorically. Just anything that does not seem one-hundred percent scientifically sound, like other miraculous events or even other stories that were supposedly history? I feel like I cannot trust anything, so I am now skeptical of just about everything.

I realize that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is particularly strong, especially for an event of ancient history. So do I just say, well the OT was partially inspired by Near East religions and meant to be interpreted metaphorically so its bogus, but the NT is still legit, and just run with that?

Lastly, after reading many arguments from atheists, I just get worried that religion in general was simply a made up phenomenon to explain things to fill in gaps. I understand the differences between Christianity and say, Roman paganism, but who is to say that Christianity was not just derived from a made up Jewish religion. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I am saying if the OT is made up then Jesus would have been full of it because he frequently quotes the Old Testament.

I know that’s a lot to answer but feel free to have a crack at any of the questions or ask for any clarification. Thanks for the support.


(George Brooks) #11

@EvanFlick,

I think the idea that Prophets of old had to speak the truth and nothing but the truth is a modern twist on prophets.

With the paternalism of ancient society in general, the idea that someone would take an old idea and make it true by making it more worthy or inspiring seems much more likely than that a prophet became worthless if he passed on legends from the past. They all passed on legends from the past… Even philosophers who weren’t so impressed with religion!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #12

Hi, Evan – I’ll throw my welcome on the growing pile; don’t feel obligated to respond if you don’t want to. I’ll just pick up on one of your comments.

This is one of those interesting objections that begins to dissolve into the larger backdrop mystery of why anything is at all. Nobody wonders why God created time. We just accept that it is our context and how things work. So if God had created everything in 6 days or even just 6 seconds we would still have the occasion to wonder why it took God that long. If it is proportion that disturbs us (that humanity was only around for the last sliver of all history) then ancients and all of us should have been equally disturbed about how tiny our spatial portion of the universe is (and some were / are). I have heard at least one atheist advance this as one of his arguments that the universe was not designed for us. Eventually one begins to realize that all these objections are a little far into our own perspective-centric egos. Not that these things have answers – it’s just that they don’t make for very good objections either and reveal more about us than they do about our universe or even what should count as knowledge of it.

Blessings to you as you continue your quest. Don’t let go of your skepticism just yet. After it has disposed of some of the weaker religious fundamentalisms that die so hard, keep it around for all the anti-religious dogmas too.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13

Why would God do anything? Our ways are NOT God’s ways, but God’s ways are good, even if we do not understand God.

Have you ever asked the question, Why wasn’t I born rich? (or maybe born poor)? Really it does not matter. If you were born in a different environment, you would be different and not be you.

Be glad that God made you to be you. God made us to be ourselves and to deal with the problems God created for us, not to live someone else’s life.

Who we are is not based on how God created the universe, but how God created us, one day at a time.


(Christy Hemphill) #14

It is not a very responsible exegetical approach to read a text and say “Well, if it matches what science says or what is historically likely, take it literally, if not, it’s a metaphor.” That is an unfortunate caricature presented by people who feel threatened by having their interpretations challenged.

No responsible Bible scholar is actually approaching the Genesis or other OT narratives that way. If I come to the conclusion that Jonah is not an objective historical account but is a kind of theological drama intended to teach about salvation, judgment, grace, and the character of God, it is because there is evidence in the text itself that points to interpreting it that way. It’s not because I refuse to believe a man could live in a fish for three days. If I think maybe the story of Noah has been mythologized or appropriated for a purpose other than strictly recounting history, I need to argue that from the text and the cultural context as well as from the rocks and the artifacts. If I see the seven days of Genesis as a literary structure that frames God’s ordering of creation and purposes for it and a polemic against the deities and religious beliefs of the ancient near east, instead of a blow by blow account of the literal order and events of physical creation, it’s because there are abundant textual reasons to interpret it that way. It’s not because I refuse to believe God could speak the universe into existence in six days.

There are lots of reasons to approach the Gospel accounts with different interpretive lenses than the first eleven chapters of Genesis, or Revelation, or Paul’s letters, or the Psalms. Plenty of brilliant people have spent their lives studying these texts, the cultures that produced them and the cultures they were in contact with, and they offer tons of insight into how the stories were understood and used in their original context. We shouldn’t think that we should be able to sit down with our translated Bible and the Holy Spirit and understand everything there is to know. We can understand enough to know the truth about the important things, but some of the details are hard. Some interpretations are highly debatable and we just don’t know for sure. There is work enough for a lifetime putting into practice the things that come through loud and clear though, so at some point you have to decide not to sweat the small stuff.

I think these two blog posts highlight forum conversations that touch on some of the issues you bring up, if you are interested.



#15

Thanks for your replies.

So I suppose that evolution can be reconciled with God, but what about psychology? All I hear is that modern day psychology invalidates faith in God or any religious experience. Is this true?


(Christy Hemphill) #16

Well, there are some people who think love can be reduced to chemicals and electricity, beauty can be reduced to rules of symmetry and math, and every act of altrusim, generosity, faithfulness, or grace is fundamentally some form of self-preservation or self-service. That’s a pretty tragic and sub-human perspective, and though some people might claim it is “scientific,” it’s hardly representative of what most therapists are going to tell you about life.

My personal opinion is that “evolutionary psychology” is a crock. That opinion is not specific to Christians. Rational Wiki calls it “a field is notoriously full of woo and cranks producing theories that are either proven wrong or cannot be disproven to promote bigotry.”


(sy_garte) #17

Evan

To add on to what @Christy said, you should be aware that not everything you are hearing about “what pyschology says” or “What science says” is actually true. You will encounter professors and classmates who will stray from the objective path of real science, in order to advance a philosophical agenda. Too often, especially in academia this agenda is not friendly toward religious belief. So then the question becomes, how can you tell what is true, and what isnt? That is not a simple question to answer. But notice that its very similar to the question you asked before about the Bible. How can you tell which parts are literally true, and which are allegorical or poetic?

In both science and theology, there are no easy answers, and this is the core of the lesson you are learning now. You were given easy answers, and you had the intellectual power and courage to see that some of them just didnt add up. The same is true in science. To quote Christy, some people think that[quote=“Christy, post:16, topic:35778”]
love can be reduced to chemicals and electricity, beauty can be reduced to rules of symmetry and math,
[/quote]
But that makes no sense, does it. The same goes for many of the pseudo scientific statements one can find everywhere: “There is no such thing as free will” “Consciousness is an illusion” “Humans are no different from apes” “The universe created itself” And none of these falsehood are any truer because someone puts “Science says” in front of them.

So how can you tell what’s true? On this forum there are many scientists and theologians and scholars of all kinds. We dont know what’s true either, but we are actively trying to find out. What you need to do now, as Christy said earlier, is not worry too much. Read, ask, think and take your time. There are lots of resources for you here and elsewhere. Dont worry about getting all of it right, this journey takes time.

Just keep one thing in mind. God made us to question, learn and grow. You are out there doing exactly what God’s plan for you is. And trust me, you will be following this path of understanding and knowledge your whole life. The good part is that you are not alone. Christ is with you every step of the way. And so are we.


(Nonlin Org) #19

Actually, Science is a composite of Belief and Observation:
Is Science in conflict with Religion? No! Religion is an integral part of Science. Extrapolation is a Belief that helps us stretch the Observable thinner and thinner, thus forming our Religious Beliefs as we get further and further away from the Observable. Since Religion is the base layer of our personal Knowledge and part of the individual Scientific views, to the extent that we all agree on the Observable, “Science in conflict with Religion (or Philosophy)” is instead a “conflict between individual Religious Beliefs”. More… http://nonlin.org/philosophy-religion-and-science/

Of course this doesn’t point you towards any one particular Belief. Just remember that “Non-Belief” is Belief too.


#20

I was brought up the other way around: as a skeptic and great believer in ‘scientific explanations.’ So I came in from the other window, so to speak. I have been a Christian just over 20 years, converting in my 30s, and have never once believed in YEC. What brought me to faith was the wisdom and beauty of the NT, and various forms of the Ontological Argument. I would never have been, and still aren’t, convinced by the Cosmological argument, or any argument based on “stuff.”

I would read CS Lewis: Mere Christianity, and Miracles. Also, Augustine’s Confessions Book 12 talks about space/time.

Regarding the millions of years issue: English only has one word for time, but in Koine Greek there is Kronos and Kairos (chronological vs ‘God’s time’), as well as two words for life: bios and zoe.


(Robin) #21

Evan…I know you have gotten other responses. You grew up in a church environment whereas I did not. I did however, once becoming Christian in college, hear the young earth view. At some point I decided that if I accept what archaeology and science (and etc) have to say that back up biblical events, then I had to deal with those things in the Bible that have no corroboration – at least not so far. I think (without going on too long) that it is possible to throw out the baby with the bathwater on all this. You seem to be considering that approach and I would advise you to hold onto the baby, please!!! The statistical likelihood of all this universe – incl you and me-- coming together by chance is nil. All you have to do is to have a major illness to realize how carefully we are put together. The universe at 13.8 B years is way too young for a bunch of accidents. Read Polkinghorne. …and others.

But the issue is greater than whether the universe is old or young, as you suggest in your note. And for me, the issue is resolving itself on a number of fronts — studying issues of text history (the biblical text that is), oral or written transmission of information – this has helped answer some questions for me. I also spent a lot of time studying one of the books of the Bible (I picked Daniel because it professed to be historical and also touched on all those controversial end time issues that people get excited about) and read every commentary and monograph I could find on it liberal and conservative, Christian and Jewish, Catholic and Protestant and etc – going back to 433 AD which was the earliest. Reading the different controversies over historical data in the text — did Belshazzar really exist? how was Nebuchadnezzar’s name really spelled? etc – and how they changed or ceased to be controversies over time…this also helped give me perspective on one book of the Bible – as a way of getting a better grip on the whole Bible.

Another thing that helped is reading magazines devoted to biblical archaeology – and books by conservative as well as liberal people on this subject. Reading classical historians also helped me to learn more about some details in the biblical text and how they reflected the reality of the times in which they were written.

In short — I know, this response is not short — I have looked into a lot of areas, not just one. It is not just a matter of evolution to me. That just is the subject that stirs people up. And no, I do not think the modern world and its techno=prowess has buried God for good. The modern world is like many earlier eras. People may have had superstitions in the past, but we have our own today. There are a lot of issues in the modern world that are not comprehensible or solve-able without God in the picture.