Saturday, December 10, 2011

Knowing Part VI - Finale

If I had a philosophical motivation, it would be towards total honesty, meaning honesty on an intellectual and emotional level. The reason that I pick honesty as a philosophical centerpiece is that, if God is there, and I believe He is, then He is the essence of truth. Therefore the more we see truth at all levels, including the emotional level, then the closer we are to Him. It is that simple.

Secondly, and this is somewhat of a no-brainer, as a Christian, I believe that God speaks truth through His historical narrative (scripture) and through created reality.  If there are inconsistencies between the two, then one of my interpretations must be wrong.  If the Bible clearly said that the earth was six thousand years old (which it does not) and the geographical record screamed of a much older earth, then my interpretations of at least one must be wrong.

For decades, as an Evangelical, I also sought "truth."  I put the quotes there intentionally because that "truth" was not honest truth, but dogma.  It is were I was taught the "right" way to think. My process of seeking truth was opposing all that was inconsistent with that teaching of my Evangelical sub-culture. So in some ways, it wasn't seeking truth at all.

Okay, now back to knowing, which is much more fundamental than Christian dogma vs honest truth.

I've established that in my humble opinion there can be no certainty in the minds of fallen people. Those who profess certainty,  such as the Evangelicals or the absolute Atheists-Materialist, are the ones most dishonest.

So, and I think I've said this before, there is no single, easy path.  All possible paths have built in absurdity at some point and that includes the Christian path.  My answer for this is easy . . . once again, I blame it all the Fall of Adam.  In this Christian paradigm, if we were not fallen, our senses could be fully trusted as could our brain's reasoning and interpretation of those senses. But that's not the case.

So, because all roads have absurdity, then it isn't like most of the paths are uphill except for the one true path and it is clear and smooth. All paths are uphill. So that puts your starting point in the bottom of a crater.

But first you must have the starting point.  I spoke about this two posts ago.  You can make the argument that we are not here . . . such as we are a butterflies dream, or that we are not here for other reasons. Even some of the materialist are starting to make this argument through the notions of string theory that we are not really here. We are at least points of energy (strings) rather than mass . . . or, the most bizarre, we are holographic projections from the ancient contents of black holes. But I won't even waste anymore time with that thought.

So then, we move from the far left one notch to Descartes.  At the nadir of the crater, rest the position we are here because we have consciousnesses.  If you take the path up, along the materialists' paradigm, some of the path is easy, flat and smooth.  You can explain the old age of the universe and many strictly scientific facts about the universe.  But then you come to the steep sides of being human.  The only position that a materialist can have is that we are protein and carbohydrate constructed robots, that self-constructed through enormous periods of time with only chance being the guide. Therefore, you suddenly loose all meaning, all sense of ethics, all hope and etc. The steepest part of the wall is that no human can live this way.  Even the greatest of the materialists can't live this way.

Now, the fact that we can't live this way doesn't prove that it is not true, but it creates a conflict that we would be a certain way (having consciousnesses, a longing for meaning) but where there is none. I became a Christian as a teenager afer laying in my bed for months thinking about the fact that I am real, inside my head. I could touch my face and feel it.  Everyone else could be a bio-robot, but I knew that I wasn't. The late Francis Schaeffer said it is an evolutionary failure. It would be as if fish evolved lungs on a planet where there is no free oxygen, only water.  That is the point of absurdity.

The other great absurdity of the strictly materialists is the "prime mover" issue. How can all that there is, come from nothing, without a prime force?  I beg you to meditate on this for days and you will find the absurdity. But you do have to start from nothing. You can't start with some laws of physics or quantum mechanics.  If matter and anti-matter suddenly split (or energy and anti or even dark energy) making the universe . . . there HAD to be a process to cause the enormous divide or big Bang.  Honest scientists know that this is a point of absurdity and they escape it by trying not to think about it.

I won't talk about my views about pantheism because I'm running out of time. I will just briefly mention that their major point of absurdity comes in some of the same areas.  There is no personal God, but god is everything and everything is god. So the steep parts of the crater is that there can be no real meaning and no morals.  Now a good Hindu, Buddhist or New Ager  (and I think of Gandhi as one example) can have great personal morals . . . but they are build on tissue paper philosophically. That same system has created the greatest racism on the planet, in the caste system.

I will differ from my personal idol Schaeffer on this next point, and this the absurdity of Christianity.  As an Evangelical I was taught that it is the only smooth and rational path. But it has it's problems too.  I will pick one, which the atheists point to all the time, and that is the fact that God IS silent.  I know that one of Schaeffer's greatest books was He is There and He is Not Silent . . . but us be honest about it folks, He is silent in the present age.  This is not a theological position. It is not a truth I've gleamed from scripture, but a simple observation of reality.

Now you can twist the issue. You can say that God is not silent because we see His beauty all around us. That is true and I think an un-fallen mind could full appreciate that. But, it is not a strong argument that God is behind it rather than chance.

Most Christians say that God is not silent because they can "hear" his voice, or "feel Him" in their hearts. Some claim they have seen His supernatural miracles.  It is extremely unpopular (and the main reason that many of my Evangelical friends no longer like me very much) to doubt these things. But I'm just being honest that all of these can be explained away through psychological factors.  I've witnessed as many "miracles' as any Evangelical and I can now, that I'm more honest, attest that none of them seem more than psychological wishful thinking.

As a side bar, I do think Christian apologetics are helpful . . . when they don't exaggerate. Christian apologists are notorious (just like their materialist counterparts) for exaggerations. Josh McDowel is an example.  But I am helped by archaeological finds that support scriptures. I am helped by historical and philosophical arguments  So they certainly do have their place.  But we can never reach certainty by them.

But, in my final statement, I personally believe that the Christian path up the steep crater is a little less steep than some of the others and that is why I am a Christian.  My point of this entire series is that Christians should be given the freedom to doubt, to be less than certain, to explore and think . . . yet have a dynamic relationship with the God . . . who we feel pretty sure is there.

I also have something to say in support of us "Uncertains."  If Biblical faith is the act of the will, to step out and trust God in something He has said (think of Abraham here), then who exhibits that most admirable faith?  Is the person who abstains from sexual relationship with their girlfriend (I pick this example not because I'm obsessed with the topic, but because sexual abstinence is one of the most difficult test of faith I can think of) because they are certain that God is there and sex is sin that will make God angry at them.  Or is it the person who is not absolutely certain God is there but abstains because they think that He is there enough that they are willing to discipline themselves not to, because if God is there, then his design of total commitment between two people makes sex much better and in its proper place?  Okay, maybe that wasn't clear to you, but I think the second person exhibits the greatest faith. Because in their 10% area of uncertainty, they could easily rationalize away and say, okay if God isn't there, it doesn't matter . . . so I might as well do it. Did I loose you?


chicago612 said...

I agree with everything you have said. except for the apologetics part. christian apologists constantly misrepresent the views of the scientists they quote. William lane craig is notorious for this..not too mention his kalam argument is as good as refuted. McDowell also makes similar terms of relating to science & discussing God's existencec , i think the baha'i faith has the right idea. at least when it comes to physics. Either way , my faith isn't built on apologetics.

Anonymous said...

You write what I am thinking. Keep it up.

Jaimie said...

I love the first part of this. Not that the 2nd part is bad, but the first part says exactly what I've been thinking lately. I have specifically thought, "Yes, the Bible is true but reality is true too, and where our interpretation of the Bible conflicts with our interpretation of reality... I can't ignore the problems."

I've been specifically thinking about homosexuality not being a sin. In fact I'm so far over it sounds ridiculous to me to put the word "homosexuality" in the same sentence as "sin." It just doesn't add up by the standards of reality, as I interpret them.

jmj said...


Homosexuality is certainly a difficult issue to figure out. A few things I know, but how to piece them together, I don't know.

From all the gay friends I've had over the years, I certainly know that many, if not all, have an inborn make up that makes them gay, not a simple choice and not a conditioning through life experiences. I also know that you can find language in the New Testament that seems to view it as sin. I can't reconcile this and I haven't even given it much thought as of late.