Which Faith Questions Bug You?

Somewhat similar to “You Lost Me,” Rauser reports in this 20 minute video that the average Westerner wrestles with a wider range of faith questions than classic debate on God’s existence

In this post, he accounts how he recommended that a pastor address the following questions, rather than William Lane Craig’s “Reasonable Faith.” He doesn’t say the questions of God’s existence are irrelevant, but that most people really worry about other things, as they have already made up their minds on whether a higher power exists or not. Do you think he was right? Why or why not?

Why I don’t Recommend William Lane Craig for Church Apologetics - Randal Rauser

  1. How does science relate to faith? For example, does it contradict evolution? Does God direct everything, including natural disasters? Are consciousness and the soul simply chemical processes? What does science say about life after death?
  2. How does faith affect sexual ethics and civil rights?
  3. Does faith ally itself with a narrow political spectrum, such as the Religious Right, and therefore exclude others?
  4. Does faith affirm violence and ethnic cleansing?
  5. Is faith provincial/narrow? Is it exclusive, inclusive, or pluralistic?
  6. Hell–most modern punishment gears to corrective goals, not vindictive ones. We consider torture wrong. How can Hell be moral?

Thanks.

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Well for me the last question, about hell, is based off of scripture which points towards conditional immortality. Good resources for this is the Facebook group, website and podcast “Rethinking Hell” ran by Chris Date and others. There is also some great books by the late Edward Fudge on annihilation which is conditional immortality.

But one question that really bugs me is the theatrics in Jesus ascension. Obviously we don’t really believe heaven is in the sky and Jesus just floated away beyond space, beyond the clouds or through a magic door.

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Great article. I enjoy RR’s writings, even when I disagree. Some of his videos with fundie types are painful to watch at times however.

As to what faith questions bug me, I think the nature of the afterlife is one of the big ones. I have seen in medicine the personality changes and cognitive changes that take place with brain injury and age, be it trauma, surgery, stroke or dementia, and find it hard to believe and understand how personality and cognition can persist after death, except in the most abstract way as they are so dependent on the structural integrity of the nervous system in our present reality, and change so much over the course of a lifetime.

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For me, I do not think that rationality necessarily leads to Christ. I think that apologetics and whatnot can be helpful, but love, relationship, and the Holy Spirit are of far greater importance.

Growing up in an evangelical church as a young person, pastors spend inordinate amounts of time trying to control our sexuality and it lead to many of my peers transitioning away from the church. Given that divorce was allowed as well as remarriage, we saw the hypocrisy very clearly.

Also attacking or trying to prevent critical thinking about anything. When your pastor misrepresents something and the congregation eats it up, the cognitive dissonance is overwhelming at times.

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I agree with the specifics of Rauser’s list as well as his more general point: the standard apologetics topics don’t itch where people are scratching.

I took a number of apologetics classes a decade ago at a Canadian seminary, and I think too much time was spent on arguments for God’s existence, etc. But I’m grateful my profs allowed our major research papers to focus where we wanted. For me, that ended up being Rauser’s #4, 5 and 6. (Of course I’m also interested in his #1, but part of my reason for going to seminary was to branch out beyond that.)

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Sounds like a good seminary. I don’t recall which one–would you mind if I ask? Thanks

Sure, it’s ACTS Seminaries, a consortium of a few evangelical denominations on the campus of Trinity Western University.

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I appreciated Rauser’s video too. Perhaps it is a little unfair to ask of Craig’s book something that Craig wasn’t setting out to do: ask what questions are relevant to the current culture. I haven’t read Craig’s book, but it appears from the table of contents that he is presuming an interest on the part of his reader in “the God question” and not attempting to interest them in it. Craig is merely trying to address the question for those still interested, right? But it also sounds like Rauser is spot on to be raising the question of “what questions are being raised by culture?”

One a separate note, and just to answer this question for myself; here is a question that I consider a constant irritant.

How much comfort and ease of life am I allowed to have as a faithful follower? If things are going well, am I allowed to bask in such temporary blessings and just enjoy? What if I share that enjoyment as widely as I can? Is it okay then? Or is it all an automatic indicator that something is wrong since I am not suffering the promised persecutions that afflict the faithful?

[P.S. -not to leave a false impression that everything is ‘peaches and cream’ for me right now. Don’t get me wrong; but …then again… I’m not a Palestinian refugee dad living in a crowded tent-city wondering from where (or when) the next meal might come for my family. Life really is peaches and cream for most of us.]

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Yes, I guess. I was assigned a few of his other books, and he really doesn’t seem to have his ear to the ground.

For example, he does address Rauser’s #4 and 5 about exclusivism and hell, but his solution is “transworld damnation.” How can it be just for those who die without hearing about Jesus to be lost? Simple: God ensures that only those who would never repent in any circumstances are born in circumstances that give them no chance.

Can you imagine anyone struggling with the justice of hell having their doubts assuaged by that theory? If the inhumanity of the theory isn’t immediately apparent, just try substituting “those who die in infancy” for “those who die without hearing about Jesus.” Definitely an own goal. To explain it is to refute it (though that didn’t stop me from using a class paper as an outlet to vent on its absurdity and heartlessness).

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Well put. I am curious how your instructors received the paper?

For general theistic belief: it’s the problem of natural evil and the lack of any response I find convincing for it. For every potential instance of design or fine-tuning I believe it can be countered with a universe that just doesn’t ultimately care about safety and well being of humans. Not only that but life is designed to live off of and kill other life. There is no idyllic garden and there never has been. To me one of the key takeaways of the garden stories is that humans messed up the world. Unfortunately, things have been “messed up” for billions of years. Our ancestors and the Bible were wrong on this. We now must claim all the garden story is doing is given us a metaphor for spiritual death and somehow reality is “good” despite children dying of cancer and a million other things. That’s a long way from the actual content of the Garden story.

For Christianity: it’s that there is no really proof or even solid empirical data justifying it. Many Christian doctrines are highly problematic and the Bible really looks like a fully human book based on its knowledge level and content. Proponents of divine accommodation implicitly admit as much! I think Barth thought that is what the Bible was, until it was read with the Holy Spirit. Then it was transformed into the word of God. Despite believing it to be a historical religion, Christianity is really ultimately based on faith and personal experience. I suppose experiencing God and the Gospel should suffice over human reasoning but the skeptic in me is not thrilled.

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Craig sounds like the right guy to console distraught mothers whose children died young. “Don’t worry, your child was going to suck and wouldn’t have please God and is justifiably in hell now.”

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No.

I do continue to like G. Macdonald’s conviction: that any hell we face (from temporal to eternal if necessary) is indeed for our ultimate benefit to bring us back to God. I.e. Yes - God would never give a stone when his child asks for bread. But he might well indulge the child who insists on asking for the stone. God wants us to learn to ask for and desire God. Not that everybody we see suffering is being punished. There is Job, not to mention the words of Jesus about those whose consolation comes later. But no suffering is left unmet or unredeemed by the loving Father. It won’t answer all theodicy (any more than Job’s whirlwind gave him answers) or be found satisfactory by those determined to arraign God on everything according to their own present understandings. But it does insist that we do not attribute to God anything that a loving (and all-knowing) father would not do for his own child. If anything, we can count on God being more righteous than the best of our earthly fathers, never less. This conviction alone lays #6 (as well as #5) to rest for me as an already believing Christian.

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Why are Christians so faithless in the faithfulness of Christ?

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Well, you know human nature–we beat ourselves up for not being perfect, and then we beat ourselves up for being too perfectionistic and not relying on Christ. Thank God He knows our frame. :slight_smile:

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Maybe we are emulating his own behaviors (e.g. Gethsemane in the Gospels and also Hebrews 5:7). Maybe we just like to beat ourselves up for having doubt despite doubt being Biblical and heathy.

We had this discussion before. No superhero Jesus for me on this front. His fears and doubts were over his impending death.

Vinnie

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Sorry Randy. I realise there are many take aways from what I said and I like yours. But what I meant was the vast majority believe anything other than that Jesus saves. And they certainly have no problem answering RR’s questions accordingly. And WLC only preaches to that choir.

  1. Faith comes first, science can only be seen through that lens.
  2. See 1. Substitute sexual ethics and civil rights for science.
  3. See 1. Substitute politics for science.
  4. See 1. Substitute ethics for science.
  5. See 1. Substitute the Bible for science.
  6. See 1. Substitute damnation for science.
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Right; I was only saying that I am tempted to Dr Craig’s same weakness. Thank God he knows my own hypocrisy too :slight_smile:

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We wouldn’t be human without it Randy. I wanted WLC to have a point, to be clad, thought he must have with his Kalam weave. Even though I couldn’t see it. He doesn’t. At all. It was eternity that exposed his emperor’s new clothes. The same for Alvin Platinga who looks far more tastefully arrayed. But is just as naked. There is no apologetic, no theodicy, no reasonable faith, but there is Jesus.

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I trust in his love and righteousness… and justice as well. He is fair. It is also quite clear that just as there are degrees of reward (not any of it deserved, since we were all dead whom he raised), there are degrees of punishment. (I remember weeping for the boys killed by Israeli bombardment while playing ‘football’ on the Gazan beach last conflict there and thinking that I had no right not to be one of them.) I am much more open to ‘limited immortality’ than my church background should indicate, but I am not inclined to universalism, since Jesus himself did not appear to be.

“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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