Struggling to Believe


#43

…it feels probable given the sheer amount galaxies in the universe …
Perhaps you are assuming that the sheer numbers will make up for the fact that the probability of life arising spontaneously from only material sources all by itself is vanishingly small? So small in fact as to be impossible.
Saying God started the first life and allowed evolution to run it’s course doesn’t square too nicely with Genesis 1 and exodus 20:8-11 and Exodus 31:17. But to each his own.


#44

I think it was something to do with what this priest had to say:

Dawkins added, “By the way, I’m being a helluva lot more frank and honest in this interview than many people in this field would be.”

Mooney, Forrest, and the NCSE prefer to see the truth — that Darwinian theory indeed poses a threat to any meaningful theistic view — kept hidden under a heavy woolen blanket. Otherwise the word might leak out and alarm winsome and useful Christian allies like Francis Collins and Karl Giberson, of BioLogos and Beliefnet’s Science and the Sacred. Their names come up frequently in the debate.
The Daily Kos blogger laments, “While religious moderates may accept the theory of evolution and cosmic inflation theory, their means of reconciling their faith with scientific discoveries can still be pretty odious.” He writes of one such theistic evolutionary strategy, associated with Cambridge University’s Simon Conway Morris — “the notion held by some religious moderates that the evolution of homo sapiens was inevitable,” “a claim unsupported by scientific evidence.”


(Phil) #45

OK guys. Anything positive to share further with Evan regarding the original post? Evan, what are your observations. After all, we love you and have a great plan for your life:wink:
(Serious about the love, sarcasm regarding the plan, as it seems there is always someone on the internet who is ready and willing to tell you what you should do.


(George Brooks) #46

@Prode,

My dear sir, what can rescue you from your somewhat paranoid state of being?

Millions of Christians are faithfully devoted to Jesus, and yet they accept that the Earth is billions of years old, and that we are genetically related to virtually all the life on this planet. And yet these millions don’t go out of the way to harass old women, or attend Satanic Black Mass - - and neither do their children!

This pretty much stamps your concerns as False. What you should be worried about are the thousands of young people who are sent to seminary each generation, with youthful optimism about serving the Lord, and then learn how little basis there is for some of the more extreme Evangelical Creationist views … and their spirits are crushed. Many leave seminary. Some even leave the church all together!

It sounds like your Kos blogger doesn’t believe God (though he might be able to make humans out of dirt) … cannot make them using his own natural laws, without losing their devotion!


#47

There’s a lot to comment on, but I’ll start by saying that I share many of the same thoughts as Noah. I’m not so worried about dvolution per se, but i am struggling to integrate it with theological implications (e.g. What do we do with Adam/Eve, at what point are humans, human, etc). Are there any quality books on this topic? It seems rather specific. What are some of your top books regarding the compatibility of science and religion (by compatibility I don’t mean using the Bible as a strictly scientific book but rather why the two don’t conflict with each other)

To address something that Noah brought up, I am not necessarily worried about the multiverse (why should I worry about it now?), but I understand what he is saying about the odds of us being God’s creation seem to be diminished.


Most helpful books on the compatibility of science and religion?
Most helpful books on the compatibility of science and religion?
(Brad Kramer) #48

A post was merged into an existing topic: Most helpful books on the compatibility of science and religion?


(Noah White) #49

(cc: @dscottjorgenson)

Going to reply to both of you in one message as we’re talking about the same thing!

I often find myself thinking that it’s impossible to live life not thinking anthropocentrically, simply due to the fact that I am an anthropos. But, as Pascal said through Jay above, it’s those empty, quiet spaces that scare me. I don’t want to just make myself so busy that I don’t think about our place in the universe, because it does matter, but our culture’s obsession with the Copernican Principle seems pretty counterintuitive to living life. Not sure how much sense that makes (I had it outlined in my head but it got jumbled up in the transfer), but the paradox of human existence is indeed something that is hard to grasp!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #50

It is counter-intuitive to us when we think of ourselves as being the center of the universe. But all of us are at the center of our own little universe. Where else could each of us be?

There was a person on these lists once who actually defended the notion that the hostility of most of the vast volume of the universe to human life demonstrates that it was not designed for us (or something like that). But that draws on an unstated and very curious principle that significance correlates with size (or percentage of all space that something could successfully occupy). On that logic I guess elephants and whales are supposed to be any ostensible god’s favorites while ants or bacteria are truly the “least of these”. (Or alternately one could argue that subterranean bacteria or whatever biomass outweighs all the rest are the real favorite). But this all just highlights the silliness of the presupposition that significance must correlate to some empirical quantity like volume. Anybody know any parents who love their smallest children less because they have less mass?

It has been well researched and established by historians that we are wrong to equate geocentrism with any sort of religious arrogance. That association has largely happened in the imaginations of those who have an agenda to promote a conflict thesis. Dennis Danielson wrote of this extensively in “The Great Copernican Cliche”. So be careful as you face the understandably and rightly humbling prospect of our “pale blue dot” that you are not succumbing to some of the now discredited modern impressions that we moderns are bequeathed some sort of now enshrined humility that the ancients were too arrogant and/or too stupid to have access to. Some still believe these kinds of things in service of their conflict thesis; but they only do so by ignoring real historians in much the same way YECs ignore real scientists. They are in fact, intellectual cousins.


(Jay Johnson) #51

Totally overlooked this the first time around. I think that I saw “mediocrity principle” and translated “Peter principle” in my head. Doh! Anyway, this summed it up pretty well, for those who missed it like me:

Michael Rowan-Robinson emphasizes the Copernican principle as the threshold test for modern thought, asserting that: “It is evident that in the post-Copernican era of human history, no well-informed and rational person can imagine that the Earth occupies a unique position in the universe.”

I would dispute this statement on two counts. First, in an infinity of space, one point is as good as any other to serve as the “center” of that infinity. Even to speak of a “center” in an infinite space is nonsensical. Pascal put it much better than I can: “Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” Earth is as good a place as any other to serve as the “center” of the universe, especially when there is no center whereof to speak.

Second, the Scriptures do not claim that the earth occupies a unique position in the universe. The Scriptures claim that human beings hold a unique position in relation to God, as creatures made in his image. This claim has nothing whatsoever to do with the physical universe. Science could not have discovered this truth. It is a topic of special revelation, not general revelation.


(Jay Johnson) #52

It occurs to me that one kind of humility has succeeded another. Whereas the ancients were humbled by the sheer size of our globe and the skies above, we moderns think this planet almost small. On the other hand, we have acquired a new sense of awe at the sheer size and immensity of the universe, as well as its age. Perhaps God in his wisdom has ensured that man will never be able to ponder his creation without feeling overwhelmed. (Romans 1, anyone?)


(Mervin Bitikofer) #53

I think there is a broader application (or extension) of the Copernican Principle which is what I had in mind as I wrote. And it is this … yes, our planet “got ousted” from its position at the center (bottom, really) of the universe, to be replaced by the sun. But then we discover that our sun also is but one (an ordinary one at that) of many stars in our universe. But then we go on to discover that our “universe” is really just a galaxy (an ordinary one at that) among multitudes of others. But life --isn’t that made of special stuff? Then discoveries are made that our stuff is “only the ordinary” stuff like all other non-living matter. But we are the only intelligent ones, right? This still stands unchallenged, but you see the presumed inertia here, right? If we were actually entirely alone in the entire universe as intelligent life or as life at all, this would be an unforeseen blow against the so-far-so-successful Copernican principle. That is why the popular imagination (Christian or otherwise) just can’t countenance any other possibility than that there must be many civilizations out there just like ours. And many other universes too for that matter, because the notion that we are in just one singular one also flies in the face of this – hence the multiverse would fit well along the anticipated trajectory. It is all speculation of course, but you see where the motivation comes from – we all have inherited that cultural inertia. Just because something has continued through a few centuries doesn’t mean it goes on forever, of course. It won’t. But it takes somebody pretty brash to bet against it at any given point.

[Edit --I added to the concluding words above, also sprinkling in a clarification or two.]


(Jay Johnson) #54

Yes, thanks for the clarification. I was limiting it to the idea of the immensity of space. But even in your wider sense regarding the relative ordinariness of our planet, sun, and galaxy, I say that my first statement still applies. There is no single physical place in the universe that would qualify as “unique” from the vantage of its inhabitants (or not, as the case may be). Thus, this is similar to the “lottery ticket” objection to statistical “proofs” that deny evolution. No matter how high the odds against it, the fact is that we are standing here with a winning ticket. Showing how unlikely it was doesn’t change things after the fact. I also could draw some spiritual lessons from the very ordinariness of this planet and the very ordinariness of Jesus in his incarnation, but I’ll let you guys fill in the blanks on that one yourselves.

As far as life and mankind and intelligence, I will probably surprise you by saying that I affirm the Copernican Principle. In my view, humanity considered as “in Adam,” is nothing more than flesh. Personally, I think the search for human exceptionality is futile. Just about every human ability has an antecedent in the animal kingdom. Considered on our own, apart from Christ, we are not special. I think I can make a very good Scriptural case that man, apart from the Spirit of God, is nothing more than flesh, sharing the same “breath” and the same fate (death) as the animals. Only after we are born from above, in union with the Son, do we become more than mere flesh and blood. This, again, is a matter of special revelation. One is either “in Adam,” bearing the image of the man of dust, or “in Christ,” bearing the image of the man of heaven. Outside of Christ, the Copernican Principle holds everyone fast in its death spiral of mediocrity.

So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #55

I’m not surprised – and in fact I hope I didn’t come across as disapproving toward this principle such as it is. My disapproval was reserved for the way some have applied it as an attempt to showcase an alleged modern enlightenment wisdom as compared to alleged ancient shortcomings in the same.

I am very much attuned to the “what is man that you are mindful of him” part of this too without forgetting the conclusion. You give a beautiful exposition by the way of the role of Christ in this lowest of humilities thus lifted up. I would give that more likes if I could.


(Christy Hemphill) #56

33 posts were split to a new topic: Joe again tries to convince everyone that the BioLogos view leads inevitably to atheism


Joe again tries to convince everyone that evolution and God's truth are incompatible
Joe again tries to convince everyone that evolution and God's truth are incompatible
(Casper Hesp) #60

First of all, thanks @EvanFlick and @NoahWhite for your openness in sharing your doubts here. I think all of us struggle with faith at times, some more than others. Approaching these kinds of “intellectual” questions usually seems to be more enjoyable, productive, inspiring et cetera when your relationship with our Lord has the “wind in the sails”, being armed with the readiness to share the Gospel, well fed with prayer and scriptural teaching. Unfortunately, it is usually on our personal low points that those little stabs of doubt start eating away at us the most, producing a gnawing feeling that is often fed by the inability to wrap our minds around things. That’s when it becomes evident how crucial it is to have a “childlike” faith.

Since I’m currently a graduate student both in neuroscience and in astrophysics, I’ll share some of my thoughts on the parts of this conversation that touched upon psychology and astronomy (thanks to @Jay313 for paging me).

Having studied psychology during my university education, I can confidently answer that question with a definite “no.” Something that neuroscientists have found is that thoughts of God and religious experiences can be correlated to a certain extent with specific areas in the brain. Also, the tendency towards engaging in religious practices (called “religiosity”) appears to be inheritable to some extent (but which religion specifically is not inheritable). But these things do not affect the reality of God or the authenticity of religious experiences at all. To illustrate why such arguments are faulty, a simple counterexample will suffice: A cab driver is driving a real cab, while you will also be able to find correlates of that activity in his brain. Demonstrating some correlates in the brain does not degrade the status of faith to “just some chemical reactions in the brain.” The same actually holds for human love, which is definitely more than “just some chemicals pathways firing.”

You could turn the entire argument on its head by considering one simple, age-old theological doctrine: God’s providence. God provided us with what we need to be able to think of Him, to be able to have experiences of Him, to be able to engage actively in the Church (His body), to be able to love each other! If such providence is enacted through natural means, all the better because we know nature is God’s doing.

Regarding the size of the universe and the apparent insignificance of human beings, I think much that is relevant has already been discussed. I would like to highlight the fact that we are different from the vast expanse of the universe in the sense that we are able to respond to God and to reach out to Him. God IS love and we are made in His image. Sure, there might be alien life that is equally able of that and, if that would be the case, we could simply acknowledge them as part of our family as God’s children. Reminds me of those TV shows in which they unite someone with a brother or sister of whose existence they only learned recently! It would be interesting to hear their story of how they got to know Christ or, alternatively, to share with them the Gospel of Christ ourselves. Of course, that’s all just speculation, but it sounds fun to me and not like something to worry about :slight_smile: .

Casper


#61

Hello Casper, thanks for your response. My question to you is how you handle doubts about faith. Do you read books, try to ignore the doubts, talk to people, pray, etc? I am afraid that I’ll be in a perpetual state of doubt and unable to do something about it


(Phil) #62

I’m not Casper but felt I should respond with a quote from Peter Enns:
"There is a benefit of doubt. Let me put that more strongly: there are things doubt can do spiritually that nothing else can do. Doubt is not the enemy, but a gift of God to move us from trusting ourselves to trusting him. Doubt feels like God is far away or absent, but it is actually a time of “disguised closeness” to God that moves us to spiritual maturity. Doubt is not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth."
http://peterennsonline.com/2010/11/24/the-benefit-of-doubt-coming-to-terms-with-faith-in-a-post-modern-era/

This is from an older post of his, but he has a lot of good things to say about doubt. My suggestion is to not ignore it, but embrace it as a way towards growth.


(Casper Hesp) #63

Hi Evan,
Never ignore the doubts. I think that trying to keep doubts on a short leash actually “feeds” them and they will eventually hit you harder as a result. Better to “stare them in the face”, and see what happens. In my experience that’s the only thing that resolves them. It’s like a kid being afraid of the dark, and the best thing is to allow the darkness to “come at you” full throttle, instead of hiding your head under the blanket. That will show that the darkness isn’t that impressive after all.

Reading books as an intellectual activity may not be the best thing to do. But devotional reading from the Bible or Christian authors could be helpful. For example, something that inspired me is the following text, 2 Peter 1:19:

"We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. "

The Morning Star is, of course, the glorious presence of Jesus Christ… Talking with other people could help there, but could also be a distraction. Prayer can be excruciating in times of doubt, but being silent before God is (ironically) often the best way to live through such periods.

I’m aware that I haven’t provided much more than a common-sensical answer to your question, but I guess that’s because that’s the only answer there is. God desires an authentic relationship with each of us, and there’s no formula for that beyond what is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Casper


(Noah White) #67

Sorry for the delay in replying–busy weekend!

A very refreshing and challenging word, Merv! I don’t have much else to add (maybe after I read the linked paper), but: [quote=“Mervin_Bitikofer, post:50, topic:35778”]
It is counter-intuitive to us when we think of ourselves as being the center of the universe. But all of us are at the center of our own little universe.
[/quote]

Relevant song by my favorite band!


#80

Unfortunately I can’t read the nearly 100 comments so far, but a book that has very recently encouraged me a lot is Mike McHargue’s Finding God In The Waves. You can listen for free on Audible or read free on Scribd, although you need to do a free trial then cancel for it to be free. I recommend buying it and keeping it!

He basically makes the case that it’s not God that doesn’t exist: it’s trying to fit square pegs into round holes that doesn’t work. The small branch of Christianity called 21st century Modern Evangelicalism (and all the idiosyncrasies that go with it) makes too strong of claims; ones that many times can’t actually be borne out. Instead he takes backward approach; he doesn’t try to see how well evidence AND experience (both are crucial and necessary) fit into a particular group’s pre-existing boxes—he instead builds from the ground up, taking what he knows (how little it may be) and begins again, stating basic axioms he actually does believe about God. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition: everything you experienced personally with God may actually be true experiences, and many of the things you learned about God may be right (God is love, God can interact with humanity, love your neighbor as yourself—many of the things at the very core of Christianity in the first place!) The whole thing comes down to tearing down and starting over (with intention) and building upon what you DO know (line upon line, precept upon precept?)

Another crucial part of the book is his explanation of the two very different and opposing parts of our brain—they literally think different, opposing thoughts. No wonder people wrestle with doubt! One is a mathematician, observing stats and figures, and the other is your “heart” and desires and instincts, and they often choose different things. He cites experiments where they addressed each side of the brain independently and they answered questions as such: “What do you want to do with your life?” One side responded “Draftsman” and the other answered “Automobile Racer”. We have two answers to a lot of things in our brain, and they both have validity. Understanding that were are made this way allows us to relax and realize that if God is responsible for our existence, God intended this dichotomy to exist.

A third—and VERY important point he often makes—is the need for certainty we have as humans. But nothing in this life actually IS certain, and starting from that state of mind can allow to relax quite a bit, knowing that you will never fully find the answers you are looking for, simply because it’s not possible from a human perspective. If we see this journey as steps growing closer to truth and making the adjustments when we find ourselves off course based on new information or experiences then we can have realistic expectations. We can live in hope and faith, yet know the 75 years of growth we experience won’t give us 100% clear answers.

I very highly recommend this book to you. Please respond if you want to read it but have to way to access it.