Two questions about how central the question of origins is to your core beliefs

Merv, thanks so much.

I’m adapting to a new element here, after living my whole “outside the very small world of our home-life” life in two distinctly different places, where there was nearly no (permitted) overlap:

  1. theologically conservative, increasingly fundamentalist Baptist churches, where I have fit less and less well as the evangelical culture has shifted in many ways, particularly after we moved to a different part of the state where I have nearly always lived to find ourselves in a foreign country. (that “we” is comprised of my husband and me)

  2. secular academic and work worlds, surrounded with brilliant people who were worthy of my great respect, with whom I shared (nearly) no spiritual assumptions.

I can switch codes like a pro, when I know them. I am good at hopping between these categories and have very little experience with categories in between. And certainly no experience, except at our little kitchen table and in my own head, merging anything.

You learn quick, who will tolerate references out of category, but doesn’t like it, and who will do anything to shut them down immediately. It happens everywhere I’ve spent time. Few people will put up with it. You just don’t find people, who are willing to say, “That’s an interesting idea. I’ve never heard about it. How did you find out about that? How do you think that works? How did you draw that conclusion?” I’m really grateful to be meeting some who will and who will even have a discussion, share ideas, consider thoughts without labeling one a heretic, or intellectual troglodyte, who recognize that people have different backgrounds, experiences, have read different libraries that have molded their thought differently or richly in different ways.

It’s good to be here. Thanks for being a good part of it.


Not that important. You must be kidding.

I was so looking forward to the topic, that I started reading Jung’s essay on synchronicity.

In looking it up I found he discussed these ideas with Einstein before WW1, and a long correspondence and friendship with Wolfgang Pauli matured his understanding about coincidences and is found in the essay.

On a sidenote, I am wrapping up Keener’s book on miracles, he had a small part in the book where he considered the possibility of coincidences with respect to the number.of people in his extended family who have been witness to a miraculous resuscitation. Pretty jaw dropping numbers when you do the math.

While those were family members whose testimony he considered reliable, Keener also had a very well documented account of Dr. Sean George coming back to life after suffering a cardiac arrest. After an hour of chest compressions, chest compressions then being halted for a documented period of time, his wife who is a doctor arrived at the hospital. She prayed for him and the moment she asked God for a miracle, his heart started beating. He came back from a coma after 3 days with no brain damage.

Sorry. No offense intended. Just a different point of interest. I remember buying that one used and looking into it eagerly but I don’t remember a thing forty years later.


I found a reference to Bill that you made [here]. Thank you for sharing the tribute about him as well. He sounds like a really interesting person. I’m often more than a little amazed at the number of wonderful people, who have given me the honor of even learning my name. Bill sounds like one of that kind.

I think your points about measurement and subject-hood1 are correct. After spending most of my time relying on the fuzzy sciences, particularly psychology, information sciences related to working with humans2, and then in the fuzzy non-sciences of language and literature, I’ve worked with plenty of attempts to quantify the unquantifiable. We may be able to quantify our observations to a point, and describe patterns. But to actually measure – what? Our observations don’t get to the subject-hood under the surface of the observable. Howard Gardner’s (Howard Gardner - Wikipedia) and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Wikipedia) helpful research in multiple intellegences and flow (respectively) are some examples I’ve dealt with. So much useful information, but gathered from “subjective” subjects. Is it research? Well, yes. But it is not like measuring “stuff.”
And even, if subject-hood were measurable, what would those measurements tell us? I expect, we would find out that the tools available are not going to tell us what we hope to learn.

I’ve been eavesdropping at times, while you and @mervin_bitikofer have spoken before regarding consciousness, and I need to go back to those discussions and rereread them. This is obiously an important concept in your thinking, and foreign one to me. However your points about a winding down bang, tuning, watchmaker-type being tinkering make sense to me.3 Honestly, as far as the material is concerned, I find Klax’s description of an eternally cycling/processing universe (or multiverse) taking infinite shots on goal in the development of life far more aesthetically pleasing, which really has nothing to do with anything, I guess. But having stepped away from a literal reading of Genesis, I see nothing preventing the possibility. But I wasn’t there! Like you, however, I can’t accept the loneliness of mere Stoff. The presense of a creator God in that picture is necessary for me, as consciousness seems to be for you.

Thanks for adding your discussion of Campbell, Hillman and Jung, and spirituality and soul. Actually, some of this sounds familiar, I think from some of the femininst criticism I read many, many years ago, but I lacked the background to recognize the connection. That was a time of great soulish anguish for me, which would have been lessened if the categories I had to jump were not so clearly defined and guarded. It took years to recover a sense of balance, but I’m sure I acheived some of that through some forms of escapism myself. Setting some things aside was preferable to metaphorical schizophrenia.

I do want to return to your description of “an all powerful, timeless being did some quick adjustments to keep the possibility of us afloat.” You are welcome to stick with the description, but I find it a bit of a strawman. I’m going to pull in some ideas that I’ve encountered elsewhere, that make sense to me. I hope you find it at least worth consideration.

I make stuff. I can’t help it. I do it all the time.
Yesterday, I wound into balls some wool I had bought recently, because I liked the colors in it and the feel of it. The tiny slubs wound into the otherwise smoothly plied wool in radiant shades of my oak and maple and birch trees. What will it be? I really don’t know. Eventually, it will tell me. We will work back and forth, trying rows of stitches to see how the colors behave and what fabric it yields. What structures will work with this? How to show these colors so others see what I see, when it comes from the needles in my hands, so it expresses what I feel in my mind?
The process is joyful work. It will never be until I make it. The Stoff will just remain Stoff. The other yarn in the trunk that is still unformed is still just Stoff and remain so, until we spend a lot more time together. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the yarns become something other than Stoff, but when they do, the process and product and giving are a joy.

I’d like to propose that there is a maker who makes what is for the pure joy of it and the delight of making something that will eventually lead to living things (as well as many, many other things) in which that maker can delight, and who can delight in the maker. I am proposing that what is is made as an expression of joy and love, as well as an object of joy and love, and capable of spreading that joy and love. The making wasn’t necessary or even useful. But yet…

Footnotes (OH JOY!)
1I will be adopting and plagerizing this term from now on.
2The LIS folks who work with things go into tech services and shake their heads at the rest of us. Many of them are more akin to serious computer scientists, rather than the stereotypical “librarian.” A very special few, such as my colleague, the incomparable TW, incorporate the very best of all human qualities. Such people are a pecurliar joy to work with.
3This causes me to request an alternative number be created between 3 and 5, after noting hints of fine-tuning and intellegent design, both of which I find uncompelling, in the description of choice number 4 at the beginning of this thread.

1 Like

I like to say I have a memory like a steel sieve with a cocky inflection. Thanks for filling in and I’m sure he would’ve been interested to talk with and remember your name.

I completely agree. Good examples I think. Flow especially shows an interesting and surprising side of subjecthood, that not only do we not need to consciously control every detail of a complex action but we can actually be more effective sometimes just by stepping out of the way in that regard.

Exactly. That was why I started this thread was to put the idea out there that even if creation wasn’t direct as a species and even if God like consciousness is universally distributed among everything ourselves included that can still be entirely satisfactory if we question the obviousness of some of the common assumptions. We’re too quick to assume something so sublime is nothing but the little bit we’re directly aware of.

But how many threads can be changed out without taking down the whole cloth? Science has got to be accommodated without diminishing it. Consciousness though is just too poorly understood to replace the (to me) odious supernatural. If I was part of a community that was keeping faith alive and no one had an issue with it, I’d go along to get along. Not that important. But for those for whom the supernatural is just a stopper I think there is still good reason not to throw out the baby with the bath water. And I for one am not in favor of dismantling anything I don’t know how to put back together.

Maybe this is enough for tonight. I really enjoyed your post and look forward to taking a fresh look tomorrow.

1 Like

A primordial form of intentionality distributed everywhere. That’s one way to say it. The remark about the master watchmaker is what drew me back here after reading the paragraph from Bill’s book:

“… We need to acknowledge the fact that there was neither a single line of evolution nor a simple progression of complexity and efficiency of organisms, that there were ups and downs and even extinctions…”

Something about the complexity in those statements stood out for me. And yet the philosophy (or faith) of a child can see it so much more easily:

“But Daddy,” Sarah insisted, “it can’t go on and on like that forever; the only thing that goes on and on like that is numbers!”

While my memory is also the pits, it does hold some moments well. Sitting in Draper’s class and hearing about Hilbert’s Hotel, my intuition was that infinity is a non-numerical value. I shared it in class, and have worked with it in forums like this since then.

3 possible statements, and one has been determined by me and you to be metaphysically impossible. The other 2 are whether the universe comes from nothing or an uncaused cause.

Phenomenologically, how appropriate would it be to identify an uncaused cause that is unaware of its action as Heidegger’s nothing?

1 Like

That echoes Jesus’ love for children. They’re more ingenuous and honest than many (most?) adults.

(I hit a paywall because I had used up my freebies, but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, this should work):

Whatever you make of an infinite regress of causes, it’s hard to imagine an infinite regress of cats.


“I don’t like to talk about this,” he said.


“Because God would find it insulting—if he’s real.”


And that last line. Pow. It brought me to tears.

And then I thought (as I’m sure Maggie and George Müller would as well), if I’m dreaming about God (as the godless imply) and his very cool activity in my life (including in some difficult parts), then I don’t want to wake up.

1 Like


I was going for a characterization that communicated something of what turns me away. I definitely don’t think it is grounds for persuading anyone else to think the same way about it. It would be nice if what knows and helps us turned out to be all knowing, all powerful and the originator of everything but my hunch is that may be wishful thinking. My hunches aren’t always right but those are my defaults lacking corrective insight. But that has eluded me.

If there was a being whose desires and intentions were responsible for all we see I would want it to be as you conceive Him. What holds me back isn’t that I suspect He’d be worse than you imagine Him. I suppose my inclination to see everything through a natural lens is probably what stops me. When I think about the ways in which something more manifests in our experience as subjects I look to place what it is in the natural world. I don’t feel there is any reason everyone should share that inclination but it just is mine, for better or worse.

As I’ve already said, what I think gives rise to God belief is something real and important on experiential grounds which nonetheless do not lend themselves to persuasive argument. Since I agree with that you that what it is makes a difference in the quality of our experience, I’m inclined to think the best beliefs are the ones that put you in a satisfactory relationship to this elusive something more regardless of what it may turn out to be. If you can believe it is the creator of everything and that gets you there, perfect. Since I can’t believe that but can believe it is a constituent of consciousness, that will have to do.


Not when you get to know him. [Sorry, I just realized I took that out of context.]

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:44-46

It’s not the arguments’ faults (especially the ones based on objective facts) because you have pre-persuaded yourself, finding, in your own words, any consideration of the supernatural “odious.”

Mark, thanks so much for this discussion. It’s been good to learn to understand your thinking a bit better. I appreciate your clarity of thought and your honesty. Your decency and patience have made it possible to carry on a unique-to-me conversation. You ask good questions and make good points. Thanks!

Spent some time with Plato (that is today, scratching the surface of essays on phenomenology and intentionality. Actually, I got to intentionality as background for the essay I had started with on Consciousness. Very easy to forget what the original path was I had intended to pursue.

Mostly they were reminders (because I didn’t have the time they required during the time that was available to read with the needed concentration) why I enjoyed reading Marxist critical theory the most — Terry Eagleton writes like a newspaper man, deceptively non-technical sounding. Whatever the content is, I find the writing penetrable. This was a good reminder that on my dresser for quite some time waits How to Read Donald Duck: imperialist ideology in the Disney comic (Ariel Dorfman And Armand Mattelart How To Read Donald Duck ( 3rd Ed.) ( 1992) 1 : Dorfman : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive). I need to pick it back up and finally finish it. I found it perceptive and valuable critique.


Video is interesting, good questions and objections in the comments as well so I’ve noticed.

1 Like

Good, I’m glad you liked it. As I was watching and telling a guy at work about it, we had a good laugh that the first question from the audience was whether he saw anything.

For the skeptic, there is never enough second hand evidence, it’s when they begin to experience the work of the Spirit for themselves and are still skeptical, that…

I have come to really appreciate how the “therefore know for certain” of Acts 2:36 follows eyewitness testimony for the resurrection and a self-evident work of the Spirit.

[How do you know your wife’s prayer is what “brought you back to life”? You’d have to first rule out every other possible explanation. Also, it’s odd that you would take this rare occurrence as evidence for god. However, it’s more common for family members to pray for a dead loved one and nothing happens. Why is it that when prayer obviously doesn’t work it’s because “god works in mysterious ways”. And then whenever there’s a rare correlation between prayer and someone getting better, that’s all of a sudden evidence for god. Come on.]

I feel this comment here does raise some good questions and that it should be adressed, of course i am no good in the theology department but the commentor does seem to have a point about how when prayer “works” we attribute it to God nevermind the doctors and nurses and when it doesn’t work we just get told that it’s just apart of Gods plan etc. Personally i cant think of an answer to this.


This reads as if you think it’s completely unreasonable to believe God answers prayer.

Does a father give his children presents every day, or a mom accede to a child’s every demand for a toy while shopping. God himself is his own best gift.

With lyrics:

Merv, thank you for the recommendation. I just downloaded it from Bookshare. Looking a bit at Rohr’s Wikipedia page and reception by Doug Groothuis and Erwin Lutzer, I understand what you mean about heresy hunters. After having read Groothuis’s Truth Decay 20ish years ago, his response doesn’t surprise me at all.

Being aware of my own mildly allergic responses to Richard Foster’s and Calvin Miller’s books on spiritual practice, I am interested to read Rohr. At the same time, I consider myself an intellectual1-scavenger, taking from whatever place I land. Just haven’t been here before.

1 I am using that term very loosely, and in the sense of development, rather than state.

Kevin, I approach these kinds of testimonies with similar reservations. There are so many charlatans out there, and even an honest person can be misled by subjective interpretations. A girlfriend of mine has deep, beautiful faith in Jesus and a far closer relationship with him than I do. She often ascribes things to answered specific prayer, that I would see as part of the bigger picture in the life of faith. Jesus told us to pray and that prayers uttered in faith would be answered. How it all works, though, is beyond me.

In 1996 my 16 year old cousin died of brain injuries from a car accident she caused. The psychological destruction that this did to her parents, who are Christians, was/is huge and permanent. I know they and everyone they knew prayed. The answer was devastating.

In 2012 my oldest child (then 10) was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor next to her brain stem. Just from the surgery there was a lot of neurological damage, and her main recovery took about 2 years. We have continued to see improvement, though, even since then. She’s about to finish her sophomore year in college, where she’s focusing on neuroscience. Our church and our families prayed and supported us in innumerable ways. Do I claim some sort of victory here? In light of my experience, what would that say about my cousins’? No. I refuse to interpret.

I have heard more than enough sermons on learning from our suffering and praying in faith, etc. I much prefer Michael Horton’s analysis that we CANNOT know what God’s plan is beyond what is explicitly told to us in Scripture, and that that is enough for now. Job wasn’t told to learn from his pain. He was reminded of God’s all powerful abilities to bring order from chaos, even to enforce order into chaos. Job was told he couldn’t understand God’s purposes and reminded of his powerlessness.
While I’m willing to take God at his word, I’m just not always sure about other people.


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

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