Where do I start, how do I start?


(Seth Dunn) #1

I’ve just read the rules on grandstanding, so I’ll do my best to avoid that.
I grew up as an implicit young earth creationist. It wasn’t really much of a feature other than the Creation magazines my Grandpa sent once in a while, I think I went to 2 talks or events over a ten year period where it was discussed. At the same time I was an obsessive wildlife enthusiast ( I still am) and loved it whenever my dad took me to the university to listen to public lectures or seminars. When I hit my early teen years I discovered the joys of the internet and on it a lot of people who thought that my background assumptions about the natural world were wrong. This usually ended up with me having drawn out debates in comment sections trying to prove that special proteins could make Adam live for hundreds of years. I spent hundreds of hours on creationist websites harvesting quotes or bullet point facts to use in arguments. When this seemed less tenable I sidestepped to intelligent design and did much the same thing. Eventually I came see science as less of ‘gotcha game’ and more of an honest method of understanding the world. Right from the start I had little or no faith to call my own. Since 13 years old I’ve been a mess psychologically and emotionally, for reasons which have little to do with internet arguments

As the need to magically prove the existence of a very particular view of God faded, my realization that the Gospel story and Christian message were, if real, the only game in town started to grow. I recently read the letters of a German pastor called Dietrich Bonhoeffer… He was under no illusion that God was an explanatory mechanism for all the annoying bits of science that don’t yet add up. But his faith was so real, his learning so deep, his love for God and humans and scripture just blew me away. There is nothing I want more than that kind of faith. I’m aware that by the ethical standards of the Gospel my life is a disaster. If you can imagine a kind of sin, I’ve probably committed it. I despise myself for being unable to change. I desperately want Christianity in some way shape or form to be true.

The narrative of atheists like Coyne, Dawkins and Harris is strangely compelling. Here I am, a young guy hoping to head off to university to study science. As someone who’s never had what religious people call faith, I still hate myself base on christian ethical standards and still cannot offer a stunning argument to demonstrate the existence of the God who I hope could make sense of the world and help me in fixing my own life. If I could believe for a moment I’d rush out and get baptised. I’d go to church 7 times a week. I know how powerful the ideas of Christianity are and how compelling the figure of Christ is. Every time I’m almost ready to jump back into Christianity I see a blog post or newspaper article mocking attempts to reconcile religion and science. They say it’s all an exercise in confirmation bias. I end up in despair.

I suppose the atheistic answer to my problems would be to buy a self help book, see a therapist and come to terms with the fact that life, the universe and everything are absurd. I don’t want that to be true.

Where do I start from this spiritual, philosophical, emotional ground zero?


#2

Welcome! Have you read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis? That’s always a good starting point. Start following Jesus and pray for faith!


(Christy Hemphill) #3

Knowing you are a messed up loser is kind of an ideal place to be when it comes to faith. You don’t have to fix your life before you ask for grace, you just have to want grace. Christ offers unconditional love and the hope of wholeness, and no one deserves it.


(Nuno) #4

@Seth_Dunn

Welcome to the forum and thank you for your openness. When it comes to the spiritual and emotional ground zero, I would recommend opening your heart to Christ in prayer with no reservations about your past - there is nothing He doesn’t already know and you will still be very welcome in His arms. Nothing can replace this direct outreach to Jesus but, if needed, it can also be helpful to find a local pastor who will assist you on this journey.

Now this is definitely an area of perceived conflict in which Biologos resources can help a lot. Since you ask where to begin, I would recommend the many excellent resources at biologos.org, among which the videos at http://biologos.org/resources/biologos-basics/ could be the easiest starting point. But don’t let the wealth of information at biologos.org be an overwhelming show stopper - do interact here with questions or comments!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #5

Seth, it sounds as if you suffer from a malady common to us all … that brings Proverbs 18:17 to mind:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

That is, it can be disconcerting for us when we read anyone who seems intelligent, and writes with wit who also then mocks our faith, even confidently dismissing it as beneath his lofty concern. But then you should go on to read from the cloud of witnesses we have that also write with equal intelligence, and even more importantly with the guidance of the Spirit who go on to demonstrate the empty status of such mockery. And you’ve already heard here of some great suggestions of authors to read. Read the Bible too, on its own terms, and don’t avoid the most difficult passages. No atheist mockery will ever shake up your faith as much as serious and indiscriminate Bible reading will. Pursue understanding of the hard bits by looking up how understandings of passages have developed by brilliant (but still not always agreeing) theologians throughout history. Then you will advance far beyond the weak canards tossed around by those who have no interest in true understanding (but still want to pretend they have defeated it).

James writes that we should not be like the doubter who is tossed about by waves and every wind (or in our case … the latest thing we’ve read somewhere). I think it helpful to aspire rather to be like a tree. You do blow in the wind --there is no avoiding that short of leaving the world altogether (not our calling). But be blown as you will, you should have roots firmly planted. And (contrary to what some teach) movement about and among various issues, or even changing your mind on seemingly important things is not necessarily a sign of weak faith. The strongest trees are the supple ones. Not only do they blow in the wind, they even bend with it to a certain limit, always remaining attached to their core roots. The Christians who think they are being strongest by a brittle rigidity in all things (“No Compromise on any front!”) are more like dry wood that snaps because it cannot bend. They are in most danger of losing what faith they have. Strive to be the living and supple kind of believer. There are deep rich soils for nourishment both spiritually and intellectually. And those two do dance well together, though we should never forget who the lead partner must be.


(Casper Hesp) #6

Hi Seth,
First of all, I wish you a warm welcome to the Forum. I’m thankful for the sincerity and openness which you express so clearly in your post.

In order to answer your question partly, I’ll share a bit of my own story. I’m 22 years old and I came from a different direction than you. I was raised in non-christian surroundings and never had any problems with mainstream science. I did have some discussions with young-earth people and usually just ended up shaking my head as I walked away.

However, every now and then, I would meet someone with an authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I noticed something of unique value in it, in having such a sincere relationship with one’s own Creator. I also knew that all that young earth stuff had nothing to do with it. Even when I didn’t have faith, I viewed science as a beautiful means to admire this piece of art called the Universe and to honour whoever made it.

When I was reading the Bible, I didn’t experience any conflict between science and faith. I started to study the intersection between those two more deeply only after some atheists and young earth creationists initiated polemical discussions with me about that topic. This journey has made me very aware of the fact that the supposed conflict between faith and science is completely man-made. There is no inherent contradiction between God’s Word and God’s Creation.

I remember the time just before I started to believe. It was when I realized that I had nothing to lose. If God existed, He would be listening to my prayer. If He didn’t, nothing wrong with praying anyways. So I just prayed to Him with my whole heart, putting everything into His hands, asking Him to bless the people I knew. After this time, a journey of faith started for me. In my case, real trust and faith in God only came to fruition along that way. I got to know Jesus Christ personally on this journey. He’s the solution to everything :slight_smile: .

Now, what to do… What about simply reading the Gospel of John, combined with some time for contemplation and (if you wish) prayer? It’s a simple thing to do… But potentially very powerful.


(Andy) #7

Seth,

Your journey sounds very similar to one I went on about 3 years ago. In addition to Mere Christianity, I would recommend the Language of God (Francis Collins) and Surprised by Hope (NT Wright). Those three books were very helpful for me in working through my doubts and opened the door to many more books and resources (like this website) that have helped further build my faith. Reading, prayer, and fellowship with a couple key Christian friends helped restore my faith, although some of my views changed or expanded as a result.

Andy


(Seth Dunn) #8

Many thanks for the thoughtful replies. I’ll get the books - I love reading (although the evil of high school chemistry takes lots of time!)

To refine very slightly what I’ve said, I feel like my ability to come to any kind conclusion has been seriously undermined by years of point scoring and pointless debates. Somehow I’ve ended up as skeptical character, uncertain of anything in the world - more so when the things at stake are ultimate things. On one hand there is the possibility that the world is purposeless - perhaps that’s just the way it is. On the other this approach seems like saying ‘‘move along, nothing to see here.’’ - hence my reluctance to buy it.

Prayer/reading/meditation have been the standard christian method of coming to knowledge of God ( I realized this only recently, much to my discredit) and I feel so distant and undisciplined in all this. As I genuinely have nothing to lose, praying even when my doubt is telling me the walls can’t hear me sounds a start.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

As a chemistry teacher (though I do teach other things as well) I’m sorry to hear you are finding that such a trying chore.:unamused:

But it sounds like you are sensitive to what could be spiritual stirrings. It is commendable that you don’t, as so many other skeptics have, suddenly leave all skepticism behind while approaching that high altar of skepticism itself. Welcome to the world of relationship, which does not shun things like skepticism, but also refuses to elevate it as some kind of highest (much less ‘only’) thing.


(Seth Dunn) #10

I’m more into biology, although chemistry is fascinating it has been a means to the end of understanding bio.

Sensitive to stirrings yes, experiencing them, not so much. Rather than bursting into colour and freedom as God recedes, my world has become mundane and monochrome and prison-like.


#11

I’m concerned. Do you think you might be suffering from true depression?


(Neal Heires) #12

Seth,
I understand your situation quite well. I am a chemical engineer that struggled to find some scientific basis by which to justify to my mere mortal mind the existence of God. I was the doubting Thomas and I searched for 40 years before God revealed an answer to me at my moment on salvation.
It is based on a couple major premises.

  1. God does exist and acts in the world OR He does not exist at all - either you have Upward Causation - matter to mind (us) or Downward Causation - Mind (God) to us and matter.
  2. Conservation of Energy is True - no magic wands but a scientific basis is needed for all miracles and acts of God.
    So how can God exist per the above premises? The answer I was given is that it is a combination of Quantum Physics as observation creates reality, and the Special Theory of Relativity (time dilation and how God exists in infinite time),
    And the evidence in the bible is actually the key to it all.
  3. God is Almighty - cannot add to or take away from God - conservation of energy principle.
    2, God is the beginning and the end, alpha and omega, see all and knows all - dilation of time means God is an observer in infinite time as if riding on a photon at light speed !
    Much more to it but keep searching, it is worth it.
    Praise be to God and welcome.
    Neal

#13

So glad you have joined us. Thank you for your openness. Even if you are in the throws of doubt, there is great power in coming among believers. I think that is one of the coolest “holy mysteries.” :slight_smile:

In addition to the wise words of the other posters, I might suggest you reframe the “Jesus will fix me” idea that you mentioned. I gather from your post that you are in high school, and I promise you I say this gently and without condescension. Those years are so full of both big highs and big lows. They are also a time when people are holding so much in tension that it can be overwhelming. You (generic you, not you personally:-) want to be “good”, but find yourself making bad choices. The all-or-nothing mentality of youth is fighting with the authentic part of you that realizes that life is a journey and that you will never be done or complete. You have to hold those things in tension. And the emotions that come with developing your mind more deeply or your relationships more deeply can swing radically within such a short time.

It sounds like you have that depth going on. It also sounds like God is speaking in whispers. I would share that, even though some people hear the horn, so to speak, others hear only whispers. I have had whispers here and there, but never trumpets. I have also had long stretches of silence. Not seeing God is not evidence of His absence. He is always here and He will be faithful. But, it is unlikely that you will feel fixed:-) Often, the deeper our relationship with Him, the more we step into His light, the more we see our own darkness. But, if we learn and pray and share community with others who believe, seeing that darkness, although humbling, does not give power to the darkness. We are protected by the light.

We strive to love Him and, through that love, act in the way He has taught us. But, not one of us does that perfectly. He hasn’t fixed me, lol. But, I will keep working because I feel that He is worthy.

A book I like is “Help My Unbelief.”

There are some crazy-smart and deeply faithful people on this board. When the “next person speaks” (as Mervin’s quote mentioned) and inspires doubt, you have folks here to help you assess the value of their thoughts.


(George Brooks) #14

@Seth_Dunn

I hadn’t visited the FAQ recently … I now see the rule about grandstanding:

“Posts that do not constructively contribute to the conversation will be removed, and posters who show a repeated tendency to “grandstand” rather than interact with others will be warned and suspended, if needed, at the discretion of the moderators.”

Good rule!


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #15

Hi Seth,

I’m glad you came here and shared, and I hope you find these responses helpful to you in your journey. I particularly love Andy’s comments above, and agree.

As for me, I had a major crisis of faith not too many years ago, during which I finally came to the conclusion that rational argumentation cannot prove or disprove God. What rational argumentation can do is to clear away the cobwebs of bad atheist and fundamentalist arguments alike, in order to allow for the possibility of God’s existence and knowability. (Believe it or not, out-and-out atheism is a pretty weak position, philosophically; agnosticism is more reasonable.) God is personal, which means that getting to know Him is not like math, but more like getting to know a friend.

All this to say that I agree with you when you say,

and you are wise to come to this realization as a young man.

As I said, I think Andy’s book suggestions are great. Just one to consider adding to the list, if you think it might be helpful: Proper Confidence, by Lesslie Newbigin (the subtitle: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship). It’s a relatively quick read. I wish I had read it at the beginning of my long period of wandering (that is, the deepest part of my crisis of faith, which lasted several years), and not at the end. Btw I’m not a huge fan of the publisher’s blurb for the book. The reviews do a better job of describing it.

All the best to you, Seth. Praying for you.


(Marvin Adams) #16

If you pray to God the walls will have ears and God will speak to you. You just have to pray in the name of Jesus. Now that does not mean that you should pray “please let me win the lottery - and this I ask in the name of Jesus” as I sometimes thing it is taught, but to pray in his name means to pray like he would have done, not to make reality according to his wish but to accept the cup and ask God for the strength and insight to cope with his reality.
There is an alternative text to the Taize song “Oh Lord hear my prayer” that reflects this. The original text implies that God needs to be asked to listen implying God not to be omnipresent and not with you. God is by your side all the time. The problem is not him not hearing us, but us not hearing him - particularly if we do not like the answer. So to ask him to grow you a new leg if you are an amputee is no good. God is a logician, not a magician, and if he would grow you a new leg, why would he not give me new teeth and mygranny a new heart. If you have a problem ask him to give you wings to get over the obstacle - just don’t wait for feathers to grow but sharpen your eye to look for the angels around you that he will send to your help.

Oh Lord here’s my prayer, oh Lord here’s my prayer, when I pray you answer me
Oh Lord here’s my prayer, oh Lord here’s my prayer, help me to listen to you

With regards to science and religion, the conflict is a manmade one propagated by people that do not understand science. You cannot do science without accepting the basic premise of theology, that there is an ultimate reason that caused our reality and that this reason forced order upon reality that everything following that cause is bound by its will, the logic imposed by this cause. It means that this primary cause knows everything that happens - e.g. is omniscient, is linked to everything in existence thus omnipresent and by forcing logic upon reality allows us to express love, thus is benevolent. Imagine a random universe where your actions would lead to unpredictable results - that would be cruel if you want to express your love to someone.


(system) #17

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