Monday, September 28, 2009

God Outside The Box

Do atheists disbelieve in God because of a lack of evidence, or simply because the evidence suggests a God that doesn't fit within our natural human expectations?

I suspect the latter, more than the former.

I was in awe of the eastern sky this morning. As the sun set low in the sky, it was hidden behind a mist of clouds exuding hues of blues, pinks and yellows. The imagery inspired a sense of mystery and awe.

My scientific mind would expect a God who can be detected, hence placed under a microscope and observed, measured, predicted and reduced to a set of laws.

This world we live in with its suffering and death, coupled with its beauty and order, suggests that if a God exists, God transcends our imaginations...

Are you willing to believe in a God who is outside of your box?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why do we ask questions?

A coworker of mine pulled up one morning and noticed today Google had their logo branded as a crop circle. His first reaction was to put up his hands and ask if today was national crop circle day.

Everyone asks questions about life. Why do we ask questions? Is it not because we are driven by coherence? Are we not wired to make sense of the world? Why would this be? Why are we so hungry for meaning and purpose in life?

WHO's purpose are we hungry for? Maybe you've never thought of this question before, but how can purpose exist independent of a being that actually has a will?

We can speak about the purpose of a chair being for people to sit in. As a result, even though practically a chair can function as a table or as a step ladder, we all seem to know that anyone who uses a chair in such a manner is not making the most of the chair's ultimate purpose. This is certainly not the intention of chair designer/manufacturers.

OTOH, some art is created with a different philosophical approach. We've all seen the type of art that causes us to ask, "What is it supposed to be?" The artist's answer can usually be summed up to be "It is what it is. It is supposed to be what you see and nothing more." I believe such artists are trying to escape this questioning process that is inherent within our very human nature. The artist might try this because so many of life's questions are unanswerable. But they won't be able to escape the average observer from asking such questions. Why is this?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Standing at the crossroads of life

In a post entitled, "The Power Of Volition" borrowing from Ravi Zacharias, I wrote about 4 tests for truth:

1. The establishment of objectivity
2. The test of empirical adequacy
3. The test of logical consistency
4. The test of experiential relevance

An astute animal rights activist can defend vegetarianism and meet all of the above criteria with the same skill that a meat eater can.

The vegetarian, believing that we evolved from monkeys as their presupposition, demonstrates a logically consistent argument in concluding that we shouldn't eat meat as a result. They even draw a sense of higher purpose as a result of practicing vegetarianism.

As for empirical adequacy, they might point to the facts as they interpret them in the forms of fossils, carbon dating, etc...

The meat eater can make just as valid of an argument, also meeting the above criteria. Pointing to the fact that humans have teeth that are naturally designed for tearing out flesh, they can logically conclude that the human species was designed to eat meat. By advocating a form of creationism that concludes that there is a separation between the Creator and creation, they logically conclude that man has been specially set apart from the animals.

They also point to thefacts in the forms of fossils, carbon dating, etc., but interpret them in a way that supports THEIR arguments.

I once heard a young earth creationist state that both an evolutionist and a creationist look at the same facts of the Grand Canyon, one saying, "A lot of time and a little water", while the other says, "A lot of water (Noah's flood) and a little time" formed it.

In the end, life seems to present to us forks in the road. In our scientific age, we seem to believe that all of these forks are answered via the empirical process, however empiricism only answers the surface questions.

The deepest questions of life are never answered, they are chosen. Life forces us to choose. It as if life is testing our hearts.

Why would the universe care? It doesn't? But there is a God behind the universe that does care?

Love is a choice. What do you choose when standing at the crossroads?

The universe posed as one giant question

The universe is a mystery. We look up at the cosmos and see balls of energy in the form of stars and planets, swirling around in what seems to be ordered chaos (not unlike jazz music).

Many people see this to be evidence that life as we know it came about by random chance processes. In such a world where chaos is natural, why is it that our human nature tries to see the order in life?

"If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don't feel at home there?"
--C.S. Lewis, "Encounter with Light"

If nature has produced us by random processes and chance, then why does this bother us?

Is the universe really silent because we live in a cold and impersonal world, or is it the silence of a library which allows one to best study its contents?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Faith Directions: To have faith, believe here.

I have made the case for faith in "The World Screams Faith" as well as other blogs. But this just begs the question, "What shall I have faith in?"

This world that screams faith, imposes faith decisions on us every day. Whenever we get into a car to drive to a destination, do we absolutely know with 100% certainty that we will arrive at our destination safely? I just passed a fatal car accident yesterday where thd driver's van was turned upside down.

Like that driver, we cannot absolutely KNOW anything, much less whether or not we will arrive safely at a destination. Now, would you get in the passenger seat of a car, put your seat belt on and let a totally inebriated driver take the wheel for the next 30 minutes on a busy interstate?

What's the difference between these two scenarios? Is it not found in the probability of you reaching your destination safely? Is it not found in the amount of reasoning you are able to apply given each scenario? Since theoretically your fate could swing either way, your choice is based ultimately on faith.

I advocate a rational faith. A faith that takes in the facts and boldly asks all the possible questions, willing to go wherever those questions might lead.

Someone has said that capitalism is the worst economic system in the world except when compared to all other economic systems in the world.

It is a fantastic leap of faith for me to believe in all that Christianity stands for, but it is a ludicrous leap of faith for me to reject it.

I believe in the testimony of the 40 authors who wrote the 66 books of the Bible, spanning over 1000's of years and crossing many cultural boundaries. I don't hold this faith because I can prove it. I hold this fantastic faith because rejecting it is impossible when considering the facts.

Skeptics who claim that its claims are fictious fail to give an alternative explanation that requires less faith than the Christian faith to which I hold.

The strongest and most common criticism they levy is the claim that the New Testament (N.T.) was written by people in high powers of Government throughout history in order to control the masses, gaining money and power through belief.

We believers stand in awe of common themes that exist between the O.T. and N.T.

My favorite one is to simply compare John 3:16 with Genesis 22:

John 3:16, the most famous verse in the Bible, says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life."

This scripture is a one verse summary not only of the Gospels as they unfold their story in the N.T., but also of the O.T. story of Abraham offering His only son Isaac as a sacrifice in Genesis 22.

But the skeptic believes this coherence was manufactured. They believe that the four Gospel writers collaborated and wrote their accounts to purposefully mirror the O.T.

These same skeptics will point out the differences in various Gospel accounts. Yet, if the four Gospels are the result of a collaborative scheme, why would the authors give varying accounts of some stories? Why would they disagree on some details?

And none of this explains the motives and veracity of the O.T.

A plausible alternative explanation has not been offered by the skeptic. It takes great faith to accept Christianity, and a greater faith to reject it.

Given the volitional nature of faith established in previous blog postings in the Pendulum Effect, life (or as I believe God) asks us the question, "What do you WANT to believe?" Such a question tests our heart's desire and tells us what WE are, not what this world is. The telescope that we try to aim outwardly, has turned inward becoming a microscope. What starts out as an attempt to search outer space, becomes a discovery of "inner space".

What were you made for? Does your heart scream "ME, ME, ME!", or does is beg to serve someone greater?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

No Useless Truths

Expounding on the previous post of "The Experience of Serving Truth", I ask, in the course of man's empirical discovery of the universe, would we ever throw away truth discovered that we might render to be useless?"

I tried to formulate an illustration of this question, but discovered something else. The very foundations of this question are flawed. Is there even such a thing as useless truth?

Imagine for example that our telescopes, penetrating depths of the universe never before uncovered, reveal unique random flashes of light particles. Despite the subsequent years of research, we can discover these light particles to have no other effect other than our ability to see them and we can find no cause for them.

Just because we haven't discovered something, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, but leaving this truth aside, wouldn't such knowledge still be useful, if nothing else simply because it would stimulate our curiosity?

So if there is no such thing as useless knowledge, then does this mean that at least the empirically known universe is full of knowledge that is meant to be processed by mankind? If so, then who designed it for such a purpose and why?

The Experience of Serving Truth

Imagine someone living their entire life in a virtual reality. In the future, it may be possible to simply put on a set of glasses that provide a completely alternative sensory experience of sights and sounds. In this new virtual world, the person might experience virtual people that they relate to.... people who practically worship the participant, giving them all their hearts desires, making them the center of this virtual world.

The scenario is not so far-fetched. We already have first person video games that are played in similar ways. Or imagine a person who might choose to medicate their lives away into a virtual reality created by the euphoria of drugs administered via a perpetual IV.

In both of these scenarios, the person has chosen their reality. In both cases, the participants aren't hurting anyone. So what is it about these possibilities that bothers us? Why do we feel like these virtual players are wasting a life that has been given to them? After all, the life they would have lived in this world would have paled in comparison to the life they get fed to them via technology or meds.

What is it about our experiences that demands to serve truth? If God is truth, what does this say about how we might be wired?

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Litmus Test of Eternity

I've never heard this taught within Christian circles, but I am convinced that Christianity teaches us that we can think of good as being that which is in our best interest for the longest term (ultimately eternity).

Lust isn't wrong because I might like it. It is wrong because it might give me short-term gain but long-term sorrow. Stealing isn't wrong because it might satisfy a desire for a material thing. It is wrong because it will satisfy that material desire temporarily (not to mention the fact that it harms my neighbor).

Don't get me wrong. There is a deeper definition of good, simply being defined as God's character. His character transcends us. It is not dependent upon us. God doesn't revolve around us. But where His goodness does touch us, we can think of it as I have defined above.

This is why Peter was rebuked by Christ when he spoke against Christ going to the cross. Peter couldn't see far enough into the distance to understand the meaning of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. His myopia caused him to reject that which is good.

Without an eternal perspective, we'll misjudge goodness as well.

Sometimes God will look evil, especially in light of the suffering and evil we see and experience in this world. He can look evil in the light of the events that happened 8 years on this day (9/11).

It's often hard for me to believe, but Romans 8:28 says, "He works all things out for the good of those who love and Him and are called according to His purpose." At the same time, it is EASY to see how having such a positive attitude will bless my life.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." - Psalms 34:8

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fueled by Passion

Outside of my 40 hr IT job, I work 2-3 other jobs.

Those jobs are all in music, where I teach guitar at Cedarville University, teach at McCutcheon Music, and serve as a worship leader at a church.

When you add up the additional time I'm putting into these music professions, I'm probably putting in an additional 20 hrs/week NOT including drive times where my commutes can be up to 45 minutes!

In addition, I write and record music, practice guitar a lot, play gigs and even get to record music for television commercials on occasions.

Why do I do it? I don't do it because of the bill collectors. I don't simply do it to keep my head above water financially.

I'm fueled by passion. I have a passion for God and music that frees me. Such a passion energizes me.

So many religious people try to do the right thing out of a sense of obligation, duty, guilt or even fear. At what ever level they may succeed, they are successful walking zombies, presenting a "Night of the Living Dead" religious faith that is hardly worth the effort.

Perhaps you haven't rejected God. Perhaps you have rejected religious people who in the name of God, only know Him through guilt and fear.

So many people reject Christianity arguing that the Bible presents God as a draconian, fire-breathing, hate filled deity of wrath. Could it be that in the earliest days of God revealing Himself through history, man didn't have enough of His revelation to have the maturity to follow Him through love and passion, therefore being left to stumble in the early morning twilight via fear and judgement?

Sure I believe that there is a heaven to fear and a hell to shun. As I've written in the past, I hate the doctrine of hell, but if my spiritual worldview does not hold any unattractive/undesirable doctrines, I should raise a red flag. That religion is my idol of wishful thinking. Since the things most real in this life (suffering and death) are unattractive, my faith should hold the same resemblance if it is to even possibly be true.

BTW, this is the greatest problem of the liberal mind. If the belief is unattractive, the liberal mind tends to reject it out of hand.

But at the same time, a great leader doesn't lead via deterrence unless He/she absolutely has to. A wise leader leads by incentive whenever possible.

I believe that for the immature, fear is often the only way to lead. The only way we can keep our dogs out of the street is with shock collars, loud intimidating voices and threats of newspaper beatings. A dog doesn't have the maturity to be motivated by all the benefits of staying in the yard; benefits like staying alive and healthy, living a long life with a family that loves them, etc....

The Bible says, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Let me suggest that the "Love of God is the completion of it."

Passion is contagious. I believe that God wants to energize and fuel our lives by a passion for living out the purpose to which we were made.

"Delight Yourself in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desire". Psalms 37:4

The Abstract Nature of the Supernatural

Have you ever noticed how as soon as we name something, it becomes demystified?

Judeo-Christianity tells the story of Noah, building an ark for years and telling people that it was going to rain. The story says that it had never rained on the earth before and that up to this point, the earth was watered with a mist that came up from the ground.

If it had never rained before, I sincerely doubt that a word for "rain" existed in ancient times in any language. It is therefore easy to imagine Noah saying "I'm building this ark because water is going to fall from the sky and flood the world."

When you say it like this, the warning is even more unbelievable. The event becomes veiled in a wording that appears to be mystical and supernatural.

We have words for all sorts of things that otherwise look miraculous when you think about what they really mean:

The miracle of life: "fertilization"
Caterpillar turns into a butterfly: "Metamorphosis"
The rusting process: "oxidation"
The power that keeps us on terra firma: "Gravity"
A force that permeats the universe: "Radiation"
A series of colored lights forming an arc: "Rainbow"
Any repeated connection of events: "Scientific Law"
Lights in the heavens: "Stars"

G.K. Chesterton wrote:

It is the man who talks about “a law”
that he has never seen who is the mystic. Nay, the ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist.
He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations.
He has so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there must be some dreamy, tender
connection between the two ideas, whereas there is none. A forlorn lover might be unable to
dissociate the moon from lost love; so the materialist is unable to dissociate the moon from the
tide. In both cases there is no connection, except that one has seen them together. A sentimentalist
might shed tears at the smell of apple-blossom, because, by a dark association of his own, it reminded
him of his boyhood. So the materialist professor (though he conceals his tears) is yet a sentimentalist,
because, by a dark association of his own, apple-blossoms remind him of apples. But the cool
rationalist from fairyland does not see why, in the abstract, the apple tree should not grow crimson
tulips; it sometimes does in his country. - Orthodoxy pg 29

So what is it about our human nature that causes us to think that because we might name something, or even call it a law, that it is less mystical as a result?

As Shakespeare once said, "A rose by another name still smells the same." Is water falling from the sky any less miraculous if it is simply called "rain"? Is a meteriologist's explanation of the conditions which produce rain any different than the fairy godmother's explanation of the existence of Cinderella's glass slippers?

Is a scientist's explanation of why the earth has a gravitational force pulling us down, any less miraculous than the theologian's explanation of why faith in Christ's resurrection will raise us up?

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I also agree with Martin Luther who said that the Bible is God's "baby talk" to us. In the course of Him communicating to us in a way that we can understand, the Word is demystified to the degree that it becomes more propositional.

This demystified Word presents Jesus Christ as the son of God, who lived like no man has ever lived before or since, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for mankind, and did the ultimate thing in coming back from the dead. That sacrifice and resurrection gives Christians hope to share in the crucifiction of sin in our lives via grace and the promise of new life in being "born again" here and after our physical deaths.

But when I say it like this, the story sounds more like a formula than the miracle that it is.

But as I meditate upon these truths, the abstractions that naturally accompany the meditation process seem to melt the propositional nature of this revelation away.

What I'm left with is the story of God reaching down to man in his despair and need, pulling us out with the ultimate expression of love, giving us the freedom that all of us long for, but few find.

I don't believe it is coincidental that Jesus Christ is called the Word of God and is described as being humble.

The irony of this coincidence is that as the Word is humbled, its power increases, the story unfolds and transcends the mind, also reaching the heart.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The World Screams FAITH!!!

Nature abhors certainty.

For theists such as myself, if the cosmos were created in such a way as to place the earth at its center, perhaps in a universe where the earth was the only planet in existence, it would be more difficult to be an atheist.

Atheism is no walk in the park either though. The fact that the earth exists at the precise distance from the sun to allow for life as we know it to exist, screams intelligent design. The odds of the earth's precarious position coming about by random processes and chance are astronomical.

As a result, neither theists or atheists can hold on to their worldviews with certainty. BOTH viewpoints require faith.

And as I've stated in a previous blog, faith is volitional. Faith says more about our hearts and what we want the world to be, then it does about how the world might actually be.

This is why two people can look at the same world and interpret it in totally different ways, and both have equally logical and strong arguments to support their positions. Debate victories usually go to the best debater, not necessarily to the person who is right.

It is as if the world was designed to force us to have faith. And if faith is volitional, tied to our wills, then it is as if something, or better yet someone, is testing our hearts, asking us to choose....