More on the Demise of My Faith

08Feb09

Dr. Philip had a few more questions for me after the last post on “What happened to my faith?”

“ Thanks for posting a reply to my inquiry. I read it all with full understanding of what you are trying to say because I myself have gone through this experience.  “

And thank you for your questions and comments about my earlier post.  It helps me to crystallize and reflect upon my thoughts on these matters.   I hope they are helpful to you in some way.

I partially agree with point 2, but am curious to know “how much” is science able to explain in comparison to the Christian faith? “

I don’t know about your experiences in faith, but my faith developed in an extremely Fundamentalist environment which was hostile to  Darwinism and interpreted the origins passages in Genesis literally.   As a teenager, the preachers and teachers I encountered taught seven literal days of creation, a literal Adam and Eve, an actual Great Flood that covered the entire world with water, and a doctrine of Sin that blamed both the spiritual woes of mankind and the chaos and death of the physical realm on the disobedience of two people over one fruit.  Much of what I say about Science, Religion and the Bible is based upon those experiences.

Much of my studies, as a layman, of science during my believing years was an attempt to resolve the contradiction between that view of the bible andthe discoveries of science related to evolution and cosmology.  Of course I can think of little that Christianity has to say about the medical sciences that has value.

There are many psychologists and counselors out there who brand their products and services with the term “Christian,” but I see the Christian slant on their approach as more marketing than science.

Of course the argument could be made that science deals with physical reality and the Christian faith informs or explains “spiritual” or “ultimate” reality. However I currently believe that “spiritual reality” is the product of culture, parental influence, religious teaching and genetics.  It seems as if they are extensions of the physical reality explained by science.

I haven’t really answered the question of “how much” science explains.  When we use quantitative phrases like “more than” or “how much” there is an underlying implication that a finite list of propositions about the universe exists with two variables contributing to the whole.    It sounds as if we have a formula like

Christian faith + Scientific explanation = The Whole Universe Explained
where Scientific explanation > Christian faith.

Thus we run up against the limitation of words.

What I am saying is that right now when Christians make claims about history, evolution and cosmology that conflicts with science, the Christians seem to come out wrong.  Science does not know all the answers or even provide answers that are ultimately satisfying.   But I can no longer affirm the claims of Christianity about spiritual or ultimate reality, nor do I see any objective, external indicators of a big “G” god or a little “g” god.   Thus, I am left with that subsection of science that I can come to understand to provide the explanatory function for what goes on outside of me and even inside of me.

Then, of course, I have speculation and intuition to guide me through the rest.

What right do [you] or I have to make such a request.


As a conservative evangelical Christian, I believed and I taught that faith in Christ brought believers into a personal relationship with Christ.

Through the redemption that God grants through faith in Christ, the believer is able to freely approach God as a loving Father.   As a believer, I was taught and I believed in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, thus making an interpersonal, subjective experience with the living  Christ possible:

Romans 8:9:  “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

1 Corinthians 2:12-13,16:  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words . . . we have the mind of Christ.

We are told in James 1:5 that we should ask for wisdom and that God will grant it:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts
is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Of course there is a condition attached to this verse.  I can always be accused having doubt.  I can only say that when I asked I asked in good   faith, believing that God was there and that he rewarded those who earnestly sought him.

We are also told in Philippians that we can make requests of God.

Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In those times, I believed we were granted the right to make requests by a loving , all powerful God and that those rights were affirmed in His  scripture.

What right do we have to make such a demand?

I believe the “right” is covered above.  The word demand seems a bit strong.  First, many times I did not appeal to God dispassionately.  Often I was experiencing great inner turmoil, confusion and indecision.  By the time I quit asking for things I was pleading, like a dehydrated man being refused a cup of water.  I don’t believe there was anything wrong with my attiude for the most part, so “demand” would not be a general description of my approach in prayer.  I don’t believe “demand” in terms of an unfair entitlement to and drain of God’s resources is accurate either.  A child can “demand” too much attention from a school teacher or a parent.  But I don’t think my asking for wisdom, transformation , direction or a manifestation of His presence drains any of the resources of a “God” who is described as powerful, limitless, loving and faithful.

No, the right words to use might be “ask,” request,” or even “plead.”    But demand?  It seems too strong to reflect my actual attitude, for the  most part, when I believed I was approaching God.

2serious
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8 Responses to “More on the Demise of My Faith”

  1. I came from as much of a conservative background as is possible (Plymouth Brethren), believed all the “givens” like you, and ended up losing the faith during school final years. But then one of my atheist professors gave me a challenge. But before I come to that, let me say that once again I agree with a lot of what you said, but I am also curious about some points. So as not to lose focus, I will ask the questions only one by one.

    You said “right now when Christians make claims about history, evolution and cosmology that conflicts with science, the Christians seem to come out wrong.”

    I am curious ti know what these claims are that come out wrong.

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)
    India

    • 2 2serious

      Dr. Philip,
      Please see my comments below:

      . . . I notice that you probably
      do not plan to continue the discussion with me on
      the blog. That is find with me.

      That is not my plan. I just happened to reply
      from my email and not my blog environnment.

      Of the 5 things that you mentioned, 1 is not claimed by
      the “Bible”.

      – – – This depends on who you talk to. Someone
      who follows follows in the tradition of
      Bishop Ussher
      would say a literal interpretation
      of the Bible does lead you to conclude that the
      earth is 6000 years old. They would certainly
      say the Bible implies a very young age for
      the earth. Sadly, there are many today who hold to this young earth theory.

      . . . which of the established facts
      of science have contradicted the remaining 4 things.

      The earth was created in in six days.
      – – – Actually, the heavens and the earth are said to have been created in six days. Scientists have
      laid out the evidence to support their cosmology which measures the age of the universe somewhere in the
      neighborhood of 13 – 15 billion years old. The formation of the earth was around 4 billion years ago. It is not described as
      six 24 hour periods. No credible six part division of
      ages as represented by the age-day doctrines that have been proposed.
      3. All humans are the descendants of a literal Adam and Eve.
      – – – Their are multiple models of the evolution of modern humans from early primates.
      No credible scientist would say that any evidence indicates all humans came from one pair of
      fully developed modern humans who were crafted first out of the ground in the case of the man and, in the case of the woman,
      from the side of the first man.

      4. Death and disease are the result of a literal Adam and a literal eve disobediently eating
      the fruit of one tree.
      – – – That is what Bible students all over the U.S. are taught. Little children have birth defects because of the results of sin.
      the sin of Adam and Eve. We grow old and die because of the effects of sin. But the bones of ancient humans
      reveal that violence, disease from microbial organisms or disease from genetic defects cause death. There
      is no evidence that a single act of disobedience lead to the death and disease experienced by countless
      multitudes of human beings.
      5. A Great Flood covered the world, destroying all humanity.
      – – – Except for noah and his family , of course.
      – – – No evidence. The direction of the evidence leads to an entirely different conclusion about the
      geologic history of the earth.

  2. It is curious “to” know

    • 4 2serious

      I elaborated on your most recent replies on my blog, it you are still interested.

      fisher0978 is also interested as well.

      2serious

  3. 5 fisher0978

    In my personal case, when it comes down to the clash of Christian Creationism vs. scientific theory vs. human mythology vs. personal intuition, I suppose I find reconciliation in my abstract, non-literal interpretation of the Bible. Science has very profound limits in my opinion, but I believe I can square its direction with my ‘sense of divinity’. Why couldn’t God’s creation be expressed through the big bang and the process of evolution? Why would advancements in neurological signaling preclude the animation of the soul. Granted, my knowledge of these maters is of the laymen-variety, but from where I stand, science is an exploration of creation.
    I think people start to crack up a bit when they take the Bible as GPS system instead of a compass. I truly admire the fortitude and discipline of my devout Christian friends (and I learn a lot from them), but I feel things begin to get silly when we talk of a literal Creationism.
    But I’m always willing to learn and be corrected should wisdom grace me with insight. I’m interested to hear Dr. Philip’s experience with his professor.

    • 6 2serious

      Mr. Fisher,
      It is great to hear from you!
      About 15 years ago, I too developed an abstract, non-literal interpretation of the Bible in terms of the creation stories in Genesis. And IMO, this approach serves the believer well. Many fundamentalist believers won’t have anything to do with such an interpretation of Genesis because they believe that if you cannot take the bible literally in Genesis, then you cannot believe that Jesus is the son of God and so forth.
      I developed the belief that 1) evolution is a valid explanation of the development of species on earth, including human beings.
      2) The creation narratives are renditions of common mythological forms of that day to teach that one God created everything , not a pantheon of gods, and that humanity has a special place in the order of things.
      3) The mythological narrative was necessary because humans as of , say, 2000 B.C.E. just would not be able to understand explanations of the age of the earth in the scale required by the theory of evolution – – plus such an account would fail to inspire and instruct.
      I totally agree with you when you say ” Science has very profound limits in my opinion.” That is because science strives to operate on evidence and, by its nature, can only make observations about the physical universe. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. However, when Christians make statements of belief that make claims about the physical world, it is most certainly appropriate for scientists to evaluate those statements.
      I’m certainly not saying that people should not pursue the exercise of their spiritual side, however they interpret it. I have simply come to the conclusion, partial and provisional though it may be, that this spiritual side is a product of several dynamic influences and that there is no objective reason to believe God is at the source of it. I in no way intend to devalue the benefit people derive from pursuing spiritual enlightenment.

  4. 7 fisher0978

    make that: “Why would insights into neuronal signaling preclude the animation of the soul?”

    As for your unfilfilled thirst for communication and transformation from God, would I be out of line to suggest that you are currently undergoing a transformation through your turmoil of faith? Perhaps in the end it will lead to a grander love for God and ‘new wineskins’ so to speak.

    • 8 2serious

      As for your unfilfilled thirst for communication and transformation from God, would I be out of line to suggest that you are currently undergoing a transformation through your turmoil of faith? Perhaps in the end it will lead to a grander love for God and ‘new wineskins’ so to speak.

      It is always possible. I try not to close my mind to any possibility. That is why i use the phrase “partial and provisional” to describe where my thoughts are leading me in terms of my faith.


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