Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Embracing Mystery

Faith is embracing mystery with conviction. Fundamentalism is when people, who in the name of faith, claim certainty.

Harold Camping was a man who was so bent on certainty that he insisted that he knew more than even his savior did by claiming to be able to predict the end of the world…. twice!

As a meticulous student of the Bible with a special fascination for numerology, Camping sought to uncover the date for the end of the world from the Scriptures. He predicted May 21, 2011, and after failure, October 21 as end dates.

To his credit, he DID apologize for his failed attempts to predict the apocalypse.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. - Matthew 24:36

It doesn’t take a person as studied as Camping to see the point of this verse. So why did Camping seemingly ignore the point?

We draw comfort from the delusion of knowing. We think that if we KNOW how to live and how the world works then we are empowered to protect ourselves from possible calamities. If I KNOW that all that I have to do is go to church and be a good person then it helps stave off worries about death, or at least a possible consequential afterlife. If I KNOW there is a God and believe Him to be someone who rewards good, then I can live my life in a neat little way, putting God into a box that requires Him to reward me, sealing my life in a neat little ‘cocoon’ of certainty.

Faith is about having a conviction for what I BELIEVE, not what I KNOW. In religion, insecure people grab a hold of certainty in the name of faith. People who use faith to quell certainty are seeking a god of their own making, an idol. Such is the knitting of a security blanket, producing a life attempting to escape reality through delusions of a comfort zone.

The wisest response to the uncertainties of life is humility. To claim to have all the answers is to embrace pride. I advocate that we embrace questions. Faith is a series of questions, whose answers wait to be explored.

Reason can be a pernicious tyrant, imposing itself even over our own will. Maybe this is why so many people abandon it. Follow the truth no matter where it leads, remembering that the greatest obstacle to truth is self.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am a traditionalist

I AM a traditionalist. Like the early church of the 1st century and the church that developed throughout history, I traditionally believe that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Because of this love, and God’s love for us, I believe that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. I believe in the historic tradition of the church that confesses that the God incarnate who revealed Himself to us, demonstrated such love with His life to save us as we give Him our lives in faith. THAT is tradition. The rest is just man’s rules.

What do I mean by ”the rest?”

Jesus taught things that are timeless truths… His teachings are devoid of anything dictating whether or not we have stained glass windows, acolytes, liturgies, music, organs, guitars, pews, coffee, candles, multimedia and light shows, or even church buildings.

Christ taught us that we should build upon a rock so that when the storms of life come, our house will withstand the onslaught.

When a storm hits the natural world, trees with shallow roots are uprooted while those with deeper roots are left standing. Just as a storm ‘shakes’ up a tree to determine whether or not it has what it takes, Christians should test everything we believe and practice against Christ’s teachings. If anything doesn’t pass the test, do we have the courage to abandon such beliefs?

The picture of the sanctuary that you see here…. is not found in my religious traditions or dogmas…. It is not something physical that I believe in, but something that I live in…. it is within my soul, the true temple of the living God.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Religion of the Skeptic

Skeptic or religious, I am convinced that no matter which path one takes, faith is necessary to sustain the assumptions of either side.

This is obvious with religious people. I would submit that it is obvious in part because they admit faith underlies their presuppositions. But I would submit that skeptics fool themselves with the delusion that they have escaped from faith and miracles.

The religion of the skeptic teaches that the material world is all there is and that it was formed from random, mindless processes. In their world, the earth just so happens to be far enough away from the sun for the oceans to not boil, yet close enough to not freeze. This happened by a lucky accident.

The earth has an iron core, with liquid iron flowing around this core to form a magnetic field that shields life from harmful rays of the sun. This is yet just another fortunate accident.

Thanks to chance, the apparent god of the skeptic, the earth’s axis just so happens to be at the perfect angle to ensure that we get four seasons, otherwise life as we know it would cease.

Thankfully, the plants that evolved on our planet, just so happen to produce oxygen, as opposed to a poisonous gas.

Author Whittaker Chambers, who left communism in the late 1930s, wrote this as he watched his young daughter eating. Chambers began to focus on the young girl’s ear:

The thought passed through my mind: “No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.

Read more:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Giant Heart at the Center of the Universe

Reason, isn't so much a truth detector, but a potential falsehood detector. I say *potential*, because a falsehood may be reasonable under certain presuppositions.

You might ask, why can't we measure those presuppositions with reason? Many times you can, but there is a depth beyond reason's reach. This depth, reaches into the metaphysical. A paradigm is very difficult to evaluate if it is built upon metaphysical presuppositions. Sure, you can use reason to determine whether the paradigm is consistent, but you can't validate metaphysical presuppositions with certainty.

Let me give an example. It is probably too simplistic but generally, you can say that there are at least two assumptions that one can build a worldview upon. One says that man's most natural inclination is to do good, while the other says his natural inclination is to do evil.

A worldview built upon the former says that crime and socially malevolent behavior are caused by environmental and sociological factors. This worldview therefore emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment.

A worldview built upon the latter says that crime and socially malevolent behavior are natural to man. He therefore needs a deterrent and incentive system (the popular focus incorrectly tends to be more on deterring then incenting in my view) to 'do the right thing'.

How does one test which view on man's nature is correct? Although I do believe that induction and deduction can be used to give credibility to one over the other (as a Christian, I believe in man's sin nature), ultimately these two assumptions are metaphysical in nature because they can not ultimately be proven via a 'smoking gun' litmus test.

Unfortunately, we can't avoid building paradigms upon metaphysical presuppositions. And by metaphysical, I don't simply mean "religious", I am referring to any belief that is beyond empiricism's reach.

So how do we choose a paradigm when our only choices are metaphysical? Metaphysical choices require nothing less than faith.

Faith is volitional. In other words, we believe what we want to believe.

So why are left in such a predicament? Why are the answers to life's ultimate and most important questions left to the subjectivity of our volition instead of the meticulous scrutiny of empiricism? It seems that there is something in life that
is testing our hearts more than our minds. And since things can't ask questions, that "thing" is a being...

At the center of the universe is a giant heart...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Talk Nerdy To Me

Question: What is the largest number?
Answer: There is no such thing.
Question: How do you know?
Answer: Because no matter what number you can imagine, I can think of a number that is larger
Question: How do you KNOW this? Have you thought of every number?
Answer: Impossible

Do two infinite lines on a plane ever intersect? The answer is no, but I ask, "How do you know without examining every point on such lines?"

There is truth that can only be reached via the mind; truth that is inaccessible to empiricism. We could call this an "empiricism trap".

"Logic traps" also exist. Before the hare can pass the turtle, it must go half-way.
After all, you can't go 100% of the distance until you go half of the distance. So
let's say that the hare needed to travel 1 mile to get to the finish line. Before
traveling 1 mile, it has to go .5 miles. Before arriving at .5 miles, it has to
travel .25 miles. Before arriving at .25 miles, it has to travel .125 miles, Before
.125, it has to go .0625 miles. Before .0625 miles, .03125, etc.... At that rate, it
will never reach 1 mile.

There must be truths outside of the limitations of empiricism. Truths that only reason can touch. And, there must be truths outside of the limitations of reason
which only empiricism can touch.

"The infinite, even if it exists in reality, can only be represented through our
imagination." Marcelo Gleiser -

This is why I say that atheism is the failure of the imagination in bridging the gaps between empiricism and reality.

And notice that this whole posting uses reason. Reason necessitates its limitations. How surprising it might be to many that reason therefore births faith.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Quest For Divine Authority

In George Barna's latest book, "Future Cast", he says that Americans share these views about the Bible:

  • 84% of Americans consider it Sacred.
  • Less than 45% strongly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.
  • 26% believe in a literal interpretation.
  • 60% believe that the Bible is accurate and without error.
  • 18% believe the Bible is Inspired, but that it contains some factual and historical errors.

So what IS the Bible? Is it the very Word of God? Is it merely a book written by men? Is it even historical? Is it somehow a guide for our lives?

I always challenge people who reject the Bible's spiritual authority to give an alternative explanation of its existence. I make this challenge because I find that most skeptics have never even thought about the question.

But much of what skeptics say about religion in general can be tested against the Bible. I've heard them say that religion exists for the following reasons:

  • Wishful thinking
  • Crutch for the weak-minded
  • Social manipulation

Wishful Thinking

This idea is that people believe because they want to believe. Freud espoused this idea that we all had a psychological need for a father figure so we dreamed up the greatest father of all in God.

A great theme of this blog is formed in the simple question of "Why?". Why would we have such a need? Freud would appeal to evolutionary survival reasons. In a cruel world that sometimes forces us to our knees in order to survive, we want our "Daddy" to come and save us. It is comforting to think that there might be a Divine father who cares for our best interests and looks out for us.

Although I'm skeptical of evolution (I DO believe in natural selection. You can read about my beliefs on origins in this previous post), one does not have to be an evolutionist to believe in survival. I don't argue against wishful thinking projecting a belief in God. However, there is another way of looking at this truth that flips it on its head.

St. Augustine wrote about a God-shaped hole in our hearts. That hole is so large it can only be filled by God. He suggested that this hole was a longing in our hearts. It is one that can be connected to survival but transcends it. I see it in myself simply in longing to know and love someone greater than myself. I see it when I am enraptured in a love expressed via worship for Him.

What is more is that I have experienced that love as a recipient. Sure, you can try to argue this away as psychological projection.... perhaps it is but even so, it doesn't change what I have experienced and it certainly makes my life better.

In a world where there is no God, I'm not sure truth matters any more. If there is no God, than the chief goal of man is to have a good time, a good experience. After all, in such a world, man would be the highest being, seeking no one higher to serve. So if it feels good, do it. And if a belief yields a good experience, it would no longer matter whether or not it was true or a delusion.

I am NOT suggesting that I believe that I am living in such a delusion and asking skeptics to leave me alone. If there IS a God, this experience is based upon reality and reality is a slave master exacting its own demands...

So does the psychological need to believe prove that theism is a delusion or is the need to believe actually God-given? It is funny how life presents us truths that can always be looked at in two ways by reasonable, educated and wise people on both sides...

Augustine would suggest that this God-shaped hole has been placed in our hearts as a compass... a way that points to God. Make a note of this the next time life leaves you feeling like there has to be more.... Think about this when that last drink, sexual experience, accomplishment, or big ticket item purchase just isn't enough... And suffering is this truth's megaphone...

Crutch for the weak-minded

The crutch argument is wishful thinking extended to suffering and worry. We seek security even in the good times and a refuge in life's storms. What better rock can we look to than a divine one?

Like the wishful thinking argument, I would not deny the logic of this position... I would only question being dogmatic about its reality. Once again we see life presenting us with truth that can be interpreted in two ways. Does the need for a Divine refuge exist because we are self-deceived or is it a way for God to speak to us in the midst of our anxiety and suffering to say, "HERE I am"?

Does the need disqualify theism, or does God give us the need in the first place? I am convinced that such questions can never be answered within the circle of reason. Reason isn't a truth detector. It CAN be a lie detector but only if the lie is inconsistent with its presuppositions.

Reason simply tests the consistency and coherence of a belief. This idea is expressed in science in the form of objective positivism as demonstrated by the physicist Neils Bohr:

There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature... -

In other words, it is one thing to test whether or not something is logically consistent but it is quite another to say whether or not a logically consistent argument is true.

This does not invalidate reason, it just shows us that reason is not enough. So what lies beyond reason to touch truth?

I have come to learn that profundity can be described as when a complex question surprises us with a simple answer. Love is the answer.

Love rends us objective. It removes the internal biases that taint our interpretations of life, leaving us selfless enough to see the truth even when it makes us uncomfortable. I would suggest that the crutch argument applies to both sides and that truth armed with love only threatens the skeptic's crutch... After all, doesn't the skeptic need the crutch of disbelief in order to sustain a life submissive to no one higher than the worship of self?

I am still trying to unravel all that this means and can write no more about this discovery except to challenge my reader to seek the truth in love...

Social manipulation

This argument says that religion was invented as a means for the tribe, monarchies and governments to manipulate the social behavior of the masses. Since the "arm of the law" is limited by police and military power, a divine power was conjured up who never sleeps, never tires and sees all even that which is done in secret.

I won't deny that many religions might exist because of this need. However, anyone who has read the new testament, will have a hard time reconciling this explanation to its content.

We repeatedly see in the New Testament this idea that man should obey God even over the law when there is a conflict.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. - Acts 5:27-29
Why would anyone wanting to conjure up Christianity for social manipulation purposes, write such a text?

Logic has found a lie...

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, I'll say that in regards to the Bible, I'm not going to go any farther... I have some deeper beliefs that I have learned to only share with people who are ready. I know when a person is at such a level by their level of questioning. In other words, I have a "if you don't ask, then I don't tell" policy regarding some of my deepest beliefs.

I see Jesus purposefully withholding truths from those who weren't ready. He seemed to determine this by the level of hunger as indicated by the presence or absence of questions from the potential seeker.

Besides, God doesn't reveal all. Instead, He puts Himself just out of reach as to give us a challenge, something to seek. Seek Him with all of your heart and the truth will come.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Delusion of Jargon

As scientific knowledge has increased, so has its verbosity. As its lexicon of explanations grows, our belief in God tends to shrink:

Since the latter part of the 18th century, deism used science to justify its stance. Scientists, like Sir Isaac Newton, were able to elaborate more and more to explain how the universe and everything around us worked. Many of the mysteries that man attributed to God, yielded simple mechanistic explanations. The increase in knowledge spurred the decline in religious faith among the intellectual elite. As a philosopher and mathematician, Descartes reduced God to a “mathematical abstraction.” Reason pushed faith off into the realm of mythology and superstition, while deism quickly deteriorated into atheism (belief in no God at all). Science seemed to engage in a centuries-old battle with religion for the mind of man. Life became a product of blind change -- a cosmic game of chance played throughout time. -

Imagine that you had never ever seen a computer before. One day, you discover one that is still operational. As you examine it, the one question that would dominate your thinking would be regarding its origin. You might start off thinking that some sentient being (a programmer) created it. Over time, you perform experiments on the computer and make discoveries. One discovery you make is that there is an underlying set of rules (software) giving the computer its logical features. Let's say one day, you even discover the binary logic and mathematical algorithms that underlie the ability of this computer.

Would this mean that you could come to the conclusion that there must not be a programmer? Would this mean that you could come to the conclusion that the computer must be the product of a chance set of random processes if given enough time?

So why do we treat the universe this way in light of modern scientific discoveries?

To use another illustration, knowing what is under the hood of an automobile, doesn't make the existence of automobile designers/engineers less believable....

GK Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, suggests in the "Maniac" chapter that in fairy tales, we don't think of laws, we think in terms of magic. We accept, as a premise of the story, that if Cinderella doesn't return before midnight, her carriage will turn into a pumpkin.

Yet in life, we seem to think it is some sort of law that the egg will turn into the chicken. But logically speaking, the egg is about as far apart as the carriage is to the pumpkin.

Science has replaced our narrative with propositions and our faith with technology.

I very much believe in science. I'm just not quick to accept the reductionist worldview we most quickly gravitate towards as a result of its influence.

Could it be that we really live in such a fairy land, obscured by illusions of scientific jargon? Yes, faith can fool us, propelling us into an illusory world that doesn't really exist. But could it be that science can do the same? The only distinction between the two is that if science fools us, it takes away wonder.

So, yes I think it is healthy to guard faith against wishful thinking. But it is equally healthy to guard against science's reductionist proclivity.

Words demystify. But SHOULD they? Should they steal our wonder, aging us out of childhood into crotchety old people?

Wise men hear and see as little children do. - Lao Tzu

Wisdom begins in wonder. - Socrates

If you disagree with the points suggested in this article, ask yourself this question: Do you do so because of a gap in logic or a gap in imagination?

How old is your thinking?