I’ll give you one more question to ponder over:
Why should Christianity be the truth? Why not Hinduism, Islam or the many other religions whose followers would definitely vouch for their beliefs as you do for Christianity? Why are there so many different religions with widely varying accounts of creation, some even involving multiple Gods? In the absence of evidence to determine which religion is actually right, how can you reconcile all these divergent beliefs with science?
I’ll give you one more question to ponder over:
@Wayne, I think your thoughts on the various creation stories and other perspectives on origins from other religions is interesting and worth the conversation. However, I am not advocating “using” the scientific method alone to distill out religions truths. Science, by definition and necessity, has a narrow focus with the intentions of narrowing down variables to obtain the only dependent variable. I would argue it offers physical truths that, as a Christian, I see supporting my beliefs in the God of the Bible. But I would also say that some truths from science (data) would confirm things from other religions or viewpoints. I’m not saying science is all-encompassing; rather, I’m saying that it offers important and unavoidable truths about the universe (that I would say also explain aspects of the Creator, as well as the creation) that everyone can take as truth. It’s not a one-or-the-other thing, where you must pick empirical, rational, and physical “data” OR spiritual, oral-tradition, and non-physical “data.” Both play a part in shaping how we see and interact in the world - no matter our beliefs.
Thank you Matt for your response.
“I would argue it [science] offers physical truths that, as a Christian, I see supporting my beliefs in the God of the Bible.”
That’s called confirmation bias.
Different religions all interpret the same data as supporting their own pet beliefs. Obviously, all those different beliefs cannot be true at the same time since they contradict each other. That’s why I don’t think that religious scriptures, spiritual experiences, revelations and personal testaments can be accepted as objective truths because they are unsubstantiated, and often unverifiable, subjective claims.
You further say:
“I am not advocating “using” the scientific method alone to distill out religions truths.”
But as long as religion makes statements about reality, those statements must have empirical support. Those claims must be put under the scanner and scrutinized (indeed, many religious claims have failed to hold up to scrutiny). Competing explanations must be ruled out before you can accept a given explanation. The only way to do that is via science, because only science involves competing hypotheses, unbiased testing, impartial examination of the evidence, accountability and reproducibility. In contrast, religion only relies on faith to indoctrinate unquestionable dogmatic beliefs.
Wayne, again I would say that you are coming from a different value of how we get truth. In your comments and response to my points you chosen, you seem to only agree in what is "unbiased testing,’ objective, and hypothesis driven. I would say these are good methods (necessary even) for scientific knowledge, but my point again is that this is not how I nor any religion must ONLY come to truths. That is what I would refer to as Scientivism. Do you see the possibility of a false dilemma there? As for confirmational bias, my own personal story spoke to that. I saw, at first, the evidence of nature to go against my original beliefs in God and that’s 'why I wrestled so hard with origins. I don’t see my now reconciliation of the two (faith and science, natural and supernatural) as confirmational bias. To speak in scientific terms, when new data comes out that disagrees with a hypothesis, we wrestle with that and seek to reproduce that data. When it can’t be ignored, the hypothesis is changed or abandoned.
What other reliable and fool-proof method does religion use to arrive at the truth? Frankly, I can’t see any.
All I can see are blind assertions, many of which have already been proven wrong.
How can blind assertions constitute truth?
Let me quote your own statement as an example:
“I would say [science] also explain aspects of the Creator, as well as the creation”
How? What’s the evidence that a creator exists? What’s the evidence that science is discovering the methods of a creator? There’s none. You’re imagining a creator and force-fitting him to the data uncovered by science in order to keep the creator concept relevant and satisfy your faith. That’s all that’s happening. Your creator is such a vague concept that you can easily fit him into any scenario you want. The difficult part is to define your creator and pin him down to a set of principles. It’s easy to have a very flexible creator concept that you can mold around any premise/challenge you encounter.
@Wayne I wonder if your standards are set unrealistically high? Where is there a “fool-proof method” for any area of inquiry?
I myself am not very optimistic that through scientific methods we can arrive at some kind of objective proof of the truth Christianity or of theism in general. I do think, though, that Christianity can provide an organizing principle for the data of the sciences, and that this is more satisfying to me than others. If you’re interested in plodding through it, here was the series I wrote on this topic last summer: https://biologos.org/blog/series/belief-in-god-in-a-world-explained-by-science
Thanks for your articles, I appreciate your effort. If I have understood you correctly, the gist of your argument is that God resides in personal experiences. As an example, you point out that while there is a physical explanation for why tea boils, there can also be a personal explanation such as:
“why a tea kettle is boiling?…because I want a cup of tea!”
Ok, but I will ask you, what does your cat think the tea kettle is boiling for?
You further say that chemists can explain an oil painting and acoustic engineers can explain sound waves in a symphony, but those explanations don’t capture art and music.
Art and music for whom? Will a 1-year-old child appreciate those as art and music?
What you see as art and perceive as music may just be random noise for another person from another culture.
These are subjective experiences, which vary from person to person, organism to organism, culture to culture and religion to religion. It can even vary for the same person depending on, let’s say, his mood! Likewise, what Christianity holds as eternal truths may be dismissed by other religions, and what another religion espouses may be ignored by Christianity.
You just cannot reach any conclusion through subjective or personal experiences. That’s precisely why the only way to explore the truth is through objective means. Yes, no method is 100% fool-proof, but science is the only method that gets close to being fool-proof, because it puts reason and evidence over and above personal whims and fancies.
In your articles you agree that science has virtually eliminated God from natural explanations of the world. But now you’re trying to find a safe haven for God, away from science’s probing eyes, by placing him inside one’s “personal realities” and declaring that science can’t reach there!
This is exactly what I talked about in my post above, that God is a totally unknown and undefined commodity which enables theists to fit him into any scenario they desire! You can also see theists claiming things like “God is there in every one of us, you can’t find him because he is all-pervasive throughout nature” etc. Well, sky is the limit for imagination!
[quote=“Wayne, post:5, topic:168”]
You’re imagining a creator and force-fitting him to the data uncovered by science in order to keep the creator concept relevant and satisfy your faith. That’s all that’s happening. Your creator is such a vague concept that you can easily fit him into any scenario you want. The difficult part is to define your creator and pin him down to a set of principles. It’s easy to have a very flexible creator concept that you can mold around any premise/challenge you encounter.
I can’t believe you wrote this. Three thousand years ago the Bible gave a reasonably close description of the Big Bang long before science came up with this understanding of creation.
“In the beginning (when God began to create the heavens and earth) the earth was formless and void.”
What is true is the Judeo-Christian tradition had it right, long before anyone else did. Modern science which grew out of that tradition has confirmed the Biblical tradition, not the other way around.
You say that our version of the Creator is vague. Personally, I don’t think that Almighty, All Knowing and All Wise, and Omni-present are vague. I do not think that “I Am Who I Am” is vague. I do not think that a Loving, Caring, and Just God is vague. You might not accept and believe in the God of the Bible, but God is not vague.
Their are two things that we have learned from Genesis.
The universe was created by a rational God to serve as a rational environment for rational human beings. I do not see where science does anything but confirm this. Science does not confirm the world views of faiths other than Judaism and Christianity.
The other fact is that humans are created in the Image of God. This is the basis for our understanding the dignity of all human beings… This is not a scientific statement, but the basis of our theology and morality. Whether it is true or not depends upon your moral and political stance. I find that it is true and I hope you do also. We all need to take a stand against all terrorism.
Modern science is based on experience, that theories must be confirmed by experiments and/or careful documented observations. Christianity is verified by the experience of humanity as documented in the Bible and down through the ages and by my experience with God, others, and the realities of life.
Liberal Christianity seems to have a false modesty about its faith. However our faith is not about us, but about God. God defines Reality, not us, so we can take no credit for what God has done.
Wayne, I agree with your statement. I cannot conclude that the Christian Faith I profess is the Truth and the world would be better off if all peoples professed it. As a Cradle Catholic, the Faith I first learned was a rather simple set of beliefs and rules suitable to guide a pre-teen. In high school I learned about evolution, and I found it necessary to slightly alter or expand that simple faith. As I moved on to college, to graduate school and then into research where my colleagues included agnostics and atheists (with whom in leisure hours I discussed philosophy and religion) I also needed to consider that ALL religious faiths might be misleading.
While weighing all these possibilities I had some personal experiences as a infantryman in WWII that tipped the scales in favor of a belief in a caring God. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but vivid enough so that, after giving it a great deal of thought, I decided that the faith I ‘learned at my mother’s knee’ needed only a bit of ‘tweaking’ to serve as my guide thru life.
However, since I cannot pass this personal experience on to others, I am a poor salesman for the Christian Faith. I do not have a ‘way with words’ that many of the BioLogos bloggers and responders possess–and evangelization requires. It just works for me, and I consider myself fortunate not to have lost it.
A classic question often asked by the most well-known of Atheists. And the answer is really quite simple when some thought is put into it…
Ultimately there is only one, true reality. But sadly, for some topics, it cannot be found at this time. This is where faith comes into the mix.
Facts are discovered via evidence. But faith can also be discovered via evidence.
Nothing should be accepted or believed without evidence. But evidence does not always lead to fact. Evidence can lead outside the regular scientific methods of discerning facts, this is where philosophers and theologians come in. This is where faith comes in.
Faith is believing in something that cannot be proven at the time. It is by no means a certainty. The nature of faith is agnostic. Yet it is still a rational conclusion to come to when following the evidence.
Anything can be believed in. But not everything can be rationally believed in, a final, faith-based conclusion must still be accompanied by evidence. What conclusion fits with the evidence? At this point, beliefs are tried and tested until they are discredited by the evidence and only one remains which fits with what is shown. For the rational person considering religious faiths, it is Christianity that is the only one that fits with the evidence. All others have been discredited yet are still clung to by the irrational. As the late Antony Flew admitted… “Christianity is the one to beat”.
Agnosticism may be the only true, rational conclusion to come to regarding the existence or non-existence of God. However, there is a multitude of evidence to rationalize your faith in Christianity. Not so with other religions.
It is never why something SHOULD be the truth… The truth is the truth whether it should be or not. And there is not much truth in other religious texts. They don’t hold up when compared with the evidence.
I would be compelled to say that this would only be true when Christians have crafted a harmonization between scripture and the real world.
If Christianity can only be true if there was a flood that rose to the top of the mountains … a fish that swallowed a man for three days … a talking donkey … and Samson with magical strength … and God making a woman from a man’s rib … then I would have to say it’s not a very sensible religion…
It is becoming quite plain to me that you haven’t invested much time into studying apologetics or thinking about the language of the Bible. Only criticising it. But it isn’t my job to convince you. There are so many others who are more than capable of providing answers to all your problems. You can ask and study here, you can head over to Hugh Ross or John Clayton’s pages, you can read a few books by C.S Lewis or N.T Wright…
I agree that God is working through Christianity to bring His kingdom. However, in saying that all other religious faiths have been discredited and are still clung to by the irrational is misleading. It gives the impression that “all” the teachings in these other religious faiths are false—this is not the case! (i.e., Hinduism, Buddhism)
Obviously, for the Ancient Hebrew people, these were stories that had a lesson, or moral, to teach. Just the same, I believe George to be definitively correct in his answer to your statement that Christianity is the only religious faith that fits the evidence;
Although apologetics is the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity, Christianity cannot be “thoroughly” defended or proved without this harmonization between scripture and the real world.
The only creation story that can be rationally defended is Christianity’s. The only true claims of authority from God are found in Christianity. Muhammad was a false prophet and Islam is based on and spread by violence. The World doesn’t sit upon the back of a great Turtle as Hindu’s state and all their myriad of God’s are simply representations of the things that they rely on, such as the Elephant which they use to build. And Buddhism’s reincarnation beliefs are not real occurrences either.
Short of some small quotes useful for teaching wisdom, other religions have nothing real to offer anybody.
Discussions on “the truth” have taken place during the recorded history of humanity, and culminating in the question, “what is truth?”. The Christian faith sets a very high standard for the truth, in that it teaches us that we must value what we can understand is true, but more than this, our works and actions show to us, and others, if we live by our comprehended truths. By their works, you will know them, is a central Christian teaching.
This criteria presents a dilemma for those invested in science as the source of truth and means for proving some sort of proof to them. Christianity insists that truth is subjective, but also insists on a clear conscience - this is subjective as it gets. However, a Christians actions can be scrutinised and understood by others as well as by the Christian - it is here that we should insist that others who feel a need to scrutinise Christian actions, must also do so with a clear and clean conscience and good intent.
These short remarks point to a very elaborate and stringent standard place by Christ on all Christians regarding seeking what is true, and seeking legitimate proofs when these are available. Our critics seem empowered by the fact that most Christians are willing to admit the difficulties inherent in living up to the standard Christ has set - this often shows anti-Christians are less interested in truth and more inclined to vent their disagreements with the Christian faith.
Hinduism is the world’s oldest and third largest extant religion with over a billion followers. Thousands of different religious groups evolved in India since 1500 BCE giving rise to the organized Hindu faith—this is not different but for the opposite directional flow of the 42,000 Christian denominations that have “devolved” from the true Christian faith.
“Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.” So I don’t understand why you say that Christianity is the only creation story that can be rationally defended. In taking reality one step further (before the Creation), “Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution”—a present theory called the cyclical universe (the big bang, big crunch theory). I’m well aware that this perspective has not been conclusively proved as yet however, it’s what is most logical. Hindus also believe that “the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained”—this view, of course, is removed from “false teachings” of reincarnating into animal, insect, and immaterial forms. (Again, this is not different from the numerous “false teachings” of the many Christian denominations). If a person would only understand that one must go to the “core mystical teachings” of the world religions (removed from all the rubbish—great turtles, elephants, the white haired bearded man in the sky god, and Jesus ascending into the sky) to comprehend the facts, then perhaps he/she would transcend in thought and experience enlightenment (rapture). https://www.himalayanacademy.com/readlearn/basics/nine-beliefs
Buddhism is closely related to Hinduism and has a following of approximately five hundred million. Its focus is more concentrated on ending the individual’s suffering through the elimination of ignorance and craving. And similarly, as in Hinduism, Buddhism holds the concepts of karma, rebirth, and nirvana.
When considering all the spiritual insights from Hinduism and Buddhism, Jesus’ so-called journey to India doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all. It would explain Jesus’ unaccounted for years between the ages of 12 and 30 years. And the teachings of Christianity speak for themselves—Karma, reincarnation (the seed of Abraham, the line of David), liberation of suffering, and the immanence and transcendence of the Supreme Being, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
I would suggest considering that the “core mystical teachings” of the different world religions hold the different facets of “universal truth” which come together graciously in the “true” Christian faith.
What does Islam have to offer in regards to “core mystical teachings?” Apart from demanding a reconsideration of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and true essence, until now, all I can come up with is the story of Muhammad’s night journey on his steed to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This story identifies with etheric projection (out of body experience) where the physical body is put to sleep through meditation (all the while remaining conscious) and at the correct moment the person’s subtle body (spirit body) exteriorizes and travels in the physical world—this can be explained as the body one uses to travel in one’s dreams, only that here, the dream body is separated from the physical body and travels within the physical plane, while the physical body remains where it was put to sleep. Accounts say that when the person exteriorizes he/she can turn around and see his/her physical body lying there asleep. These experiences are not distant from Yogic Hindu tradition, neither should they be viewed as undiscovered by the Ancient Hebrew prophets and Jesus Christ Himself.
I do not subscribe to any post-modern/New Age reconciliation attempts between World religions.
Did anyone actually suggest this, Benjamin?
All I could find was my statement:
“I would be compelled to say that this would only be true when Christians have crafted a harmonization between scripture and the real world.”
Apologies, I was referring to Tony’s post.
Yes, all the other religions must be just false superstitions and myths. Yours is the one true religion.