Annoyance with “God did it.”

The topics of evolution and the Big Bang came up in a recent conversation with one of my Christian family members, and I very briefly stated why I felt that the so-called “young earth” interpretation of Genesis’ early chapters was unwarranted, or at the very least, not the only “biblical” way to understand the relevant verses. Similarly, I told my family member that I accepted the Big Bang “theory” as fact and saw no reason to reject it. In reply, I received a mildly dismissive assessment of my perspectives, and was told that regardless of our human misunderstandings, we could rest assured with the fact that, however creation was carried out, God did it. Out of respect for the family member making the comment, I choose not to offer a rebuttal, and had merely to stew in my own annoyance until I could put some thoughts together on my blog later on.

However, before my annoyance at what I initially considered to be a poor excuse for independent thought spilled over into an acerbic blog-post, thankfully I did some reflecting of my own and realized that there was nothing inherently shoddy about the position that the respective family member took on the issue. While I am convinced it IS silly and unreasonable for humans to throw their hands up in the air and use the phrase “God did it” just to excuse themselves from thinking, doing research and testing out explanatory hypotheses about natural phenomena and the processes that govern them, it simply does not follow that if science can explain something, it proves God had nothing to do with it. Naturalistic explanations for naturalistic phenomena may demonstrate that the events in question did not lean directly on miracles (or a suspension of natural laws), but in no way does this disprove God’s hand in any part of the equation.

A perfect example of this can be found in Matthew 17:24-27, when Jesus asks his disciple to go catch a fish and use the coin in its mouth to pay the Temple Tax. There is no suspension of any laws of physics for this to occur. Fish swallow weird stuff all the time and there are empirical instances of things being lodged in their throats and mouths. The “miracle” here is not the bending of physics, but rather of Jesus’ uncanny awareness of what was going on in the universe at that particular moment (as well as the related series of cause and effect events that were unfolding).

Like my fellow Christians, I affirm that God is the author of creation and hence, the ultimate source of all its “natural laws.” Similarly, it is somewhat obvious to me that not every event requires direct, divine intervention to occur. That being said, the Bible teaches not only that the earth (and its creatures) were created by God in the past, but also that creation continuously “holds together” by his will in the present (Sirach 43:25-26*, Acts 17:28 & Colossians 1:16-17). While what we call “natural phenomena” may not require miracles for their immediate cause-effect relationships, it strains credibility to say that this series of causes and effects extends infinitely into the past. As per the medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, and his Cosmological argument, Christians have long held that if we could go back far enough in time, we would discover a first, uncaused-cause and that this is God. Of course this is ultimately an article of faith, but so is its materialistic alternative (that there is an infinite regression of causes and effects with no uncaused cause). Similarly, for an atheist to assert that God cannot work through natural laws and/ or that he did not create those laws in the first place is also a profession of faith, and it goes as equally wrong (although in the opposite direction) as the person who would use “God did it” to “explain” everything and thus squelch scientific inquiry.

The fact remains that God can “do” something (lots of things, actually) without suspending the laws of physics. This goes well beyond coins in fish mouths and can include things like medical procedures suddenly gaining traction against what doctors previously said was hopeless, etc. In that sense, my family member was quite correct to say “God did it” in reference to humanity’s existence and the time scale (whatever it might have been) used to bring us into the “image of God.” She and I undoubtedly disagree on “how” God did it, but there is no need for me criticize the idea THAT God did it. After all, I also affirm that he did…    and does.

Thanks for reading me,

-C. Lambeth

* I am aware that the Apocryphal book, Sirach, is not officially recognized as “Scripture” by all Christians everywhere, but I nevertheless included it because many do, and it is consistent with the trajectory of Christian belief, especially on this issue. Apologies for peeling verses out of context, but I tend to be long-winded, and this makes it much less cumbersome. That being said, I am open to further explorations of these verses should anyone want to go there. -CL

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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16 Responses to Annoyance with “God did it.”

  1. JS says:

    Love it! I totally agree with your stance, but I’ve always wondered about something too… God created Adam as a man, He never went from egg to fetus to baby to child, etc, yet if you studied his body you would probably find signs of aging. (except the belly button maybe). The same when Jesus created the fish. They would have been full grown fish, a scientist could probably tell you how old they were, even though they were brand new! I’ve heard it said that he could have done this with the universe too. I don’t think so, but it’s interesting to think about. 🙂

    JS

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Thanks for the comment, JS! What you mentioned is formally called the “Omphalos Hypothesis” (omphalos is a Greek word that references “navel”), and as you said, it wonders if God created the universe and its celestial bodies with the appearance of age (like an adult Adam who was only a few minutes old). I also think this is interesting and certainly within the realm of possibilities for God, but I wonder if it creates more problems than it solves.

      I am convinced that God has invited us to learn about him through creation (as well as through his word, his Word and his Spirit), but in order for us to do this, it requires that our senses yield reliable information and that we can understand reality as it really is. So the problem with the Omphalos Hypothesis is that it implies a degree of deception, namely, that things are NOT as we perceive them to be.

      Even if we can avoid the related issue of a deceitful God, this is a dangerous path to go down because we can’t be sure where it stops. If we can’t trust our mental faculties and perceptions about creation (and its appearance of being very old), then who’s to say that our other reasoning and perceptions are not as equally mistaken? It’s not always safe for me to do this, but I am going to admit that sometimes I wonder if Adam and Eve were ever supposed to be literal, historical figures or if they are just proxies for the rebelliousness that all humans choose. I don’t have the answer, and I’m not comfortable saying it is absolutely one way or the other, but I do wonder about it.

      -CL

  2. DBH says:

    If you were asking about what caused the big bang, that’s not something we
    currently know, although I imagine we will some day.  After all, we now
    ‘understand’ vacuum fluctuations, where matter is created out of nothing.
    So, perhaps someday we will have a test-able theory for what caused the big
    bang.

    If one now believes that the Big Bang was an ‘act of God’ then that person is at risk of losing his faith to the god of the gaps.  Was the big bang a miracle? No.  We may not presently have the science and math to explain what came before the big bang, but it is entirely plausible to me that someday we will.  So, for me, even the big bang is not outside the laws of physics or the laws of physics we will someday know.

    Sincerely,
    DBH
    someone who does not believe in miracles

  3. C_Lambeth says:

    DBH,
    You assert that a man who believes that “the Big Bang was an ‘act of God’ [ ] is at risk of losing his faith to the god of the gaps.” I don’t think I understand this, for it appears to be operating under the assumption that if science can demonstrate how something occurred (or why), then it means God had nothing to do with it. Christians are by no means obligated to believe in such a proposition. In fact, if Christians accept God as both the author of creation and of Scripture, then it would literally be impossible for the Big Bang not to be an act of God. Science and the physical universe it studies do not compete with God or Christianity, that would be atheism. 

    If we understand God in the ‘god of the gaps’ paradigm as an explanation for things we don’t understand, then that’s okay, I suppose. Saying “God did it,” might lead to intellectual laziness, but that doesn’t mean the claim itself is false. Similarly, and you have neatly demonstrated for us, there is also a variation of a “science of the gaps” faith commitment afoot: We might not know the inner workings and the science/ physics of such and such just yet, but we have faith that they are there and that we’ll know someday, etc. 

    Expressing belief that science will ultimately reveal a grand theory of everything may well turn out to be accurate. Then again, it may not, especially if what we call “miracles” supersede the rules and restraints of “regular” physics and the scientific method. Science is also largely the wrong tool for the job when it comes to fields like history, philosophy, psychology, economics and other humanities. Science is a great tool for one kind of knowing, but it isn’t the only one.

    Sincerely,
    -Corbin
    someone who accepts the possibility of miracles

    • DBH says:

      Dear Corbin,
      It is a personal thing to describe what your god is.  But, if we ask what do we need god for, then we might get somewhere.  Some might argue that we need god (read ‘love’ in my case) to better know how to act in the world. I do not need god as an explanation for the big bang or for the universe. There is no reason I can see to equate the ‘prime mover’ god with the god of love.  Love, by itself, gets you to a kind of omnipotence and omniscience.  Why cant people allow themselves to think that the universe occurred randomly, but still believe we have purpose in our living and loving existence?  I doubt anyone will have a purpose which will outlive the final thermal catastrophy.

      You misunderstand my use of the word ‘faith’.  It is not your use of the word.  By faith I speak of faith like I have faith that when I switch on the light, it will be brighter in the room.  My ‘faith’ is based on numerous statistical samples where that was the result.  Nevertheless, my faith is not blind.  I know full well that sometimes the light does not come on.  I have a fundamental faith in the goodness of humanity.  Do you? I believe that humans will by and by overcome the bad activity in the world.  We have to help that happen if we want to see it in our lives, or the lives of our children (just like we have to replace the bulb or switch or power plant if we want the light to come back on.) I do not believe it will happen (goodness in hunan relations, or the light for that matter) when some lever-pulling superhuman god makes/allows it to happen.

      I am an optimist.  I have a fundamental belief in the goodness of humanity.
      And, I take the long view.

      Sincerely,
      DBH

  4. C_Lambeth says:

    Dear DBH,
    Thank you for your reply.

    I am not sure why some people won’t allow themselves to think that the universe occurred purposefully or that the God of love is also the ‘prime mover.’ Perhaps you will tell us if that applies to you? Nevertheless, the point remains that a Christian can hold the creation “text” in one hand, and the biblical text in the other, and see God’s handiwork and purposes in them both. There is no reason to believe that if science can explain something, it means that God had nothing to do with it. As you previously mentioned, the danger of holding the opposite belief would mean that the more science explains, the less there is for God to do. We can place faith in that assertion if we choose, but it’s not a belief supported by science or the Bible.

    Speaking of “faith,” I appreciate your effort at teasing out a more nuanced definition of the word. Nevertheless, I admit I’m having difficulty seeing how you support your faith claims with “numerous statistical samples” in each of the following instances:

    1. There is no Heaven (purpose or existence) beyond “the final thermal catastrophe”

    2. “The Big Bang is not outside the laws of physics or the laws of physics we will someday know.”

    3. Miracles do not occur.

    4. Goodness will not occur “when some lever-pulling superhuman god makes/allows it to happen.”  

    5. “Humans will by and by overcome the bad activity in the world.”

    For the record, I suspect #2 is likely true, and suggest that #4 is a general misunderstanding of Christian theology. The last of these (#5) seems exceptionally dubious given the evidence of world history and our present state of affairs. Even so, I’d be glad to consider the numerous statistical samples you seem to have.

    Sincerely,
    -Corbin

    • DBH says:

      Dear Corbin,
      Thank you.
      As usual, you approach life from a fundamentally different view, so allow me some time to answer your questions carefully in the next day or so.

      In my point of view we humans are ‘marooned’ on this island Earth and we need to make the best of it without expecting outside help.  There is no need to include a concept of ‘prime mover’ into my idea of god.  How does that help matters?

      My ‘statistical evidence’ has suggested to my mind that the vast, vast majority of individual human interactions are loving interactions.  It is easy to do what scientists do and generalize to ‘Humanity is fundamentally good and loving at the core’.  I do not imagine for a moment that each individual interaction between humans will be a loving interaction.  Of course not.   But where is it all going?  I think it is likely that we humans will eventually learn to understand the power of love.  Furthermore, this philosophy gives me a very clear understanding about what needs to be done to move forward:  Communicate.  Methodists teach how to have a group discussion, by honoring what each individual has to say, before moving to a group concensus,  Communication is the key.  Communication on all levels one to one, group to group and society to society.

      OK, Ok, I’ll work on your individual points next.

      Sincerely,
      DBH

  5. C_Lambeth says:

    Dear DBH,

    Thanks again for another reply. While I see no reason to exclude a ‘prime mover’ from your concept of God (and think that your understanding of God could be greatly enhanced if you opened yourself up to the possibility), I do agree with you on one thing: we come from fundamentally different perspectives when it comes to human nature.

    Your yet-to-be-quantified “statistical evidence” is the foundation for your beliefs that the majority of human interactions are loving and will someday culminate in a version of Moore’s Utopia. Alternatively, both my own experience and understanding of human history leads me to the conclusion that we are, all of us, fatally flawed. My apprehension of humanity’s ethical quality is that it is basically good… until it isn’t. This is somewhat paradoxical, and I have found St. Paul’s writing on the topic in Romans (7:15-24) to be an uncanny accounting of my own experiences with good and evil. And I don’t believe that Paul and I are the exceptions to the norm of human experience.

    And that leads me to my second point, which is that the Bible’s accounting of the general human condition is also what I see both in myself and the world/ humans around me: We are messed up, and despite our best efforts, we are insufficient to extricate ourselves from the situation without help. Thus, I think believing in a human-ushered utopia stretches credibility. Even if we ignore all the carnage of secular human history and present darkness unfolding in the world, the majority of the Old Testament is a running narrative of how God’s own, chosen people have run amuck and need constant correction, discipline, and salvation. The various narratives of the post-gospel New Testament features similar themes of strife, confusion, and problems in the Jesus movement. These were the folks closest to God/Christ, and they had major problems. Pending some latent, drastic evolutionary push, I don’t have as much faith in humanity as you do.

    That being said, I agree with you that we bear responsibility for acting in love as Jesus instructed. Another paradox of Christianity is that we are called to make the best of things without expecting an external skyhook while concurrently being promised that, in the end, we are not to worry because Jesus/God will ultimately make things right in a way that we never could. Not individual skyhooks if you will, but a massive anchor of righteousness and salvation for all of creation itself (humanity included). That is both the message and hope of Christianity (Methodists too), and I find it rather compelling.

    Thanks for listening,
    -Corbin

    • DBH says:

      Dear Corbin,
      Here is my attempt to answer your specific questions from a few emails back. Since the thread has no doubt been lost, I include your words, followed by my comments:

      C: “I am not sure why some people wont allow themselves to think that the universe occurred purposefully or that the God of love is also the prime mover. Perhaps you will tell us if that applies to you?

      B: There is nothing in my being which automatically blocks me from thinking and considering some Idea. Of course I have thought that the universe may have been purposefully designed or just set in motion.  Then, as a thinking, rational human, even without my scientific training, I try to put that thought into a position on my map, where I can use it.  That necessarily means that such thinking needs to be in relationship to the rest of my map, if possible.  So, I look for linkages to other things I ‘know’, other reference points on my map of life.   So, quickly I come up against other knowledge I have such as:

      1.      We know how to create matter out of the vacuum (e.g. Hawking Radiation, which explains why there are no tiny black holes).

      2.      We have a well developed theory which gets us to points in time as soon as 10^-36 second after the big bang.  So, from that point onward, we have theories which explain how the universe was born (or could have been, assuming we didn’t miss something).

      3.      I have personally learned useful details about science, and about people, which, as time went on, became more fully developed, and which more fully explained things and people’s interactions.   I see no reason to believe that ANY given science theory which presently has testable hypotheses, and can therefore provide useful explanations and predictions , might not, in the future, be subsumed by a better theory, consistent with the old theory, but which explains more about the world.

      4.      So, given these other place markers, and streets on my map, I can only find disharmony with the concept of prime mover as far as my map goes.  Sure, we don’t have good theories, yet, for what happened before the big bang.  But, we do have some theories which purport to give such an explanation, such as the Multiverse.  So, I don’t believe installing a prime mover onto my map will help explain ANY of the remaining questions about life. So, it is not, as you say, that I do not ALLOW myself to believe in purposeful creator, it is more that it does not usefully fit into my view of the way the world works.  So far!

      C:  “Nevertheless, the point remains that a Christian can hold the creation text in one hand, and the biblical text in the other, and see Gods handiwork and purposes in them both. There is no reason to believe that if science can explain something, it means that God had nothing to do with it. As you previously mentioned, the danger of holding the opposite belief would mean that the more science explains, the less there is for God to do. We can place faith in that assertion if we choose, but its not a belief supported by science or the Bible.

      B:  I see the work of Christians in the world all the time.  I see people working in soup kitchens, helping homeless, helping the hungry, helping the mentally challenged.  I also see people who call themselves Christians acting in a way I would call poorly or badly – IN THE NAME of (their misreading) Jesus.  I do not convict all of Christendom for the actions of some, but I do see that I have to protect myself from ever falling into the trap of waiting for the sky hook – waiting to be saved from imminent catastrophe. My ‘map’ has many examples of true believers going astray, such as believing that James Jones had the right explanation for gods will.  There are hundreds of these examples.  So I think that I need to find my own way to pass through this life.  I need to develop a guidepost which gets me through the bad times, and helps move me, my family, my friends, and all whom I can affect, towards a better world.  This discussion has NOTHING to do with a belief in god.  Nothing.  I think (not believe) that the spiritual leader named Jesus gave us a great example for how to live.  I also know that there are signs in the bible which show that Jesus also made mistakes he then rectified (Crumbs under the table episode).  This makes Jesus a person, and therefore an attainable model for us. I do not think of god the way you suggest – namely as a quantifiable, objective power based on some genius who knows things I don’t know, and therefore is seen as the cause of ‘miracles’.  So that my view of god gets diminished every time a scientists fills in that gap in knowledge once attributed to gods miracles.  We are already at the point where there is nothing in the PHYSICAL world for ‘god to do’, so to speak.  One needs to look into the human world, the cultural world, the spiritual world to find what a god could  do of value to humanity.

      C: “Speaking of faith, I appreciate your effort at teasing out a more nuanced definition of the word. Nevertheless, I admit I’m having difficulty seeing how you support your faith claims with *numerous statistical samples* in each of the following instances:

      B: My description of my world view, my map (above) might explain a lot of this to you.  My numerous statistical examples would be the sum total of my EXPERIENCE and REASON, which tells me not to ‘vote’ against phenomena with a high occurrence probability.  I can work to reduce the probability for expected bad phenomena, of course, and I look to the UTemple to help me decide where to move on this path. But without constant, critical evaluation of the assumptions we make, about the validity of our Maps at any given moment, the likelihood that we move in the WRONG direction grows more probable.

      So, yes I used the term ‘faith’ to mean that I believe (I do not know) that the sun will come up tomorrow. The more often that happens the stronger comes my conviction that it will happen again tomorrow.  But, I do not suppose for a minute that there is nothing humans could do, if we wanted, to delay the coming up of the sun, or that some celestial object might not just  do that for us.

      C: *1.* There is no Heaven (purpose or existence) beyond the final thermal Catastrophe.

      ***B: The thermal catastrophe is one end point for the universe which we humans can imagine.  We believe that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is a good one, and that entropy must increase for any repeated activity, such as goes on in any system of interaction, so eventually all organized energy will be degraded into heat, which will cool off to zero.  OK, maybe that wont happen because our description of nature is incomplete, but it is one endpoint that science can imagine.  It has nothing to do with heaven.

      Many at the temple talk about heaven as the kingdom of god here on earth.  The new testament suggests that this may actually be here now, as more and more people ‘get it’.  That is, as we GET the idea that we need to love each other as a prime compass direction (on our map).  So, I never said anything about heaven.  I don’t have any reason to think that ‘heaven’ is a place distinct from places presently attainable by humans while we are alive.  You seem to think heaven is the endpoint for all life in the universe, if you think the thermal catastrophe is an idea at the same level.  I see heaven and the thermal catastrophe as two, totally distinct, unrelated ideas. Of COURSE I don’t think that the final thermal catastrophe is the PURPOSE for EXISTENCE.   I exist here and now, not at some time longer away from the present than we are from the big bang .  So, for instance, if you are trying to argue that, given that I think the thermal catastrophe is one possible endpoint, which you equate with PURPOSE FOR EXISTENCE, then does that mean you think people like me should maybe be blowing things up to hasten the growth of entropy, or some such ridiculous notion?  If that is what you think I would do, then we are ships passing in the night, with no communication.

      C: *2.* The big bang is not outside the laws of physics.

      B: See above. Also, think about the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, which we see today, and which tells us something about the universe when it was very young.  Current work on gravity waves is trying to go back much, much further in time than the CMB time of emission.  It seems entirely possible that we will one day be able to detect a signal imprinted on this universe, which is explained by the conditions in the vacuum at a time before the big bang.  Why not?  Then maybe we can learn about the mathematical  singularity which occurred at the time of the big bang.  Who knows?  Why should I rule it out, and stick in a prime mover?  Such thinking will just halt progress to find such pre big bang information.  Fanatical religious folk may work to keep me (or scientists) from trying to do experiments that might figure that out.  Many religious folk work actively to squelch investigations into  their sacred cows.  They are AFRAID of the god of the gaps.  So, sticking in a prime mover at the point of the big bang is a sure way to stop people from trying to imagine something before that.

      C: *3.* Miracles do not occur.

      B: As I said before, I define miracles as actions outside the ability for science (now or science we imagine could exist in the future) to explain.  So, no, I don’t believe miracles occur, not even the ones others perceive.  However, the word miracle is part of our vernacular and used to mean something that happened which was extremely unlikely (such as a gorgeous woman suddenly falling in love with an ugly, bad tempered man – now THAT would be a miracle – ha!).  But, hopefully for many, it is not outside the laws of physics (which presently cannot explain consciousness, let along love.)

      C: *4.* Goodness will not occur when some lever-pulling superhuman god makes/allows it to happen.

      B: This was just a stab at the idea that when we believe in a got out there, then we leave it to ‘him’ to set the rules, and guide the hand, and therefore make goodness happen.  Trouble is that same logic has a difficult time with the opposite: when bad things happen.  Hence some amongst us believe that evil is a force distinct from humanity, or at least distinct from god.  How can a Christian say on the one hand that god created all and is in all, while at the same time imagining that ‘evil’ exists as a distinct, separate force in the universe? Goodness does not occur because gods hand made it happen, in my view, but  rather when some human or humans finally GETS  IT and realizes it is in his or her own best interest in the long run to be nice to others. It is our responsibility, not gods responsibility, to be good and to promulgate loving interactions.

      C: *5.* ‘Humans will by and by overcome the bad activity in the world.’

      ***B: So, what’s the problem with this?  If you believe, as I suppose you do (do you?) that our hands are guided by god to do good works, OR if you believe as I do that enlightened folk will naturally realize that it is in our interests to do good works – it’s the same outcome: humans will eventually overcome the bad activity in the world.

      Here’s a question for you: do you believe in free will?  That is, do you think on the one hand that god guides the individual activity of the world (from ‘out there’) and at the same time ‘allows’ individuals to choose between all energetically possible directions?  Sort of like a test?  God told you how to be good, and now wants to see if you can OBEY HIM or not?   To me this is a non-question.  Or, more like the question about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.  The collective wisdom of the worlds religions (including christianity) tells how to treat our neighbor: AS WE WANT TO BE TREATED.  You don’t have to believe this is gods will or gods message or even that there is a god to understand that this simple rule makes lots of sense.  It fits nicely on my map.

      Sincerely,
      BH

  6. C_Lambeth says:

    Dear DBH,
    Seeing as how we’ve gotten off track a bit, I’d like to remind us that I asked you to reveal to us how you have used measured, “statistical evidence” to arrive at your 5 faith commitments outlined previously. Thus far, your claim remains unsupported. The closest you have come is by making more general statements about your beliefs and personal experiences regarding what you think are the loving majority of human interactions and that these will someday culminate in a utopian world order. And yet I find this unconvincing, not the least of which is because (as I have said) that my knowledge of world history, present events, and my own reason and personal experiences indicate the exact opposite conclusion, namely, that humanity has gone (and is going) more wrong than right. If you can, I think it is still vital for you to defend your assertion that your faith is of a different nature than mine. It seems to me that it is not.

    I’d also like to respond and clarify some of your last post’s apparent confusion about my positions, as well as some misunderstandings of the 5 points I am asking you to defend.

    Like you, there is nothing in my being that automatically blocks me from considering any idea, including that the universe might have occurred randomly. However, that particular idea doesn’t best explain all the other waypoints on my map. I am open to science, but I am also open to other means of knowing (including my personal experiences and those of others that are not subject to the scientific method). When I consider all the evidence, a singular and myopic scientific map simply does not account for all the data. Christianity does a much better job, and that includes a ‘prime mover’ and ‘his’ creation of physics that largely govern the universe.

    Between the two of us, it seems that you are the only one who believes in some god of the gaps (and then fills in all the gaps with either present scientific discoveries or -faith- in future such discoveries). Thus, when I say I believe that God is the prime mover and the impetus of physical creation, your citing research about black holes and the Big Bang, etc. somewhat miss the point. Part of my underlying faith is that God is the prime mover. It would seem that part of your underlying faith is that God is NOT the prime mover. You are free to believe that, but it is nothing less than faith.

    #1. Your faith that there is no Heaven (purpose or existence) beyond the final thermal Catastrophe:
    Let’s clear up some confusion about what I think of Heaven and the thermal catastrophe you spoke of. My point was that our purpose and our existence is not defined or limited by a purely physical existence. I think Heaven is a restored reality where life is as it was originally purposed to be. Perfect balance between all of creation and its creator (not just humanity). You expressed faith that there will be no purpose past the thermal end, and I merely observed that you are, in fact, making several faith claims here, one of which implicitly includes your belief that there is no Heaven. So, um, no, I don’t think you should go around blowing things up to hasten entropy.

    #2. Your faith that the Big Bang is not outside the laws of physics:
    The Big Bang does not necessarily represent a gap for your god-of-the-gaps to fill or be destroyed by. I won’t beleaguer that point again, but nobody here is asking you to give up on scientific inquiry. You seem to think that accepting God as prime mover means that a miracle has to be part of the equation, but that is a misunderstanding. If the Big Bang is a purely play of physics (and it may well be), then the only miracle a Christian need to see here is that physics is itself one of God’s creations. This is a faith commitment, as is thinking that physics is not the creation of a higher power.

    Furthermore, recognizing God as prime mover does not squash scientific inquiry for the mere fact that being able to research God’s creativity and peek behind the curtain as it were is as inspiring as it gets. Who wouldn’t want to know how God went about his work?

    Counter your assertion, God’s activity is not a *sacred cow.* The very metaphor you use is from Hinduism, not Christianity. Indeed, it is the Christian notion that creation is NOT God that has given rise to scientific inquiry in the first place. God wants us to figure out whatever we are able. As I said before, all truth is God’s truth, and the more science tells us, the more we learn about God and his creativity (whether we realize it or not). As such, science is an exciting endeavor for more than one reason.

    #3 Your faith that miracles do not occur:
    I am having difficulty making heads or tails of your position on miracles. From what you’ve typed, it sounds like you have additional faith that if something cannot be explained by science, it should be rejected. And yet you mention the inability of science to explain consciousness or love, which clearly you accept as real. Am I getting you right on this? Is this more faith in science of the gaps, that someday all will be revealed via scientific inquiry? Either way, you can’t say that miracles do not occur without a heavy dose of faith too.

    #4 Your faith that Goodness will not occur when some lever-pulling superhuman god
    makes/allows it to happen
    :
    Christians are called to partner with God to do good. According to Scripture, Christ serves in us and we serve him when we serve others. It is not our action OR God’s activity. It is both and. It is not that God alone can only make good happen. While God is the ultimate source of all that is good, he grants his creation (and its creatures) their own creative power. The moral creatures in that set can use that power for good or ill, but when they use it for ill, they do so without partnering with God. Sometimes goodness does occur when God pulls the lever unilaterally (and this might be a miracle at some points), but according to Christianity, goodness also occurs when humans use their free will to partner with God. Christian love is expressed through partnership with God, not possession by him.

    #5. Your faith that humans will by and by overcome the bad activity in the world:
    Your view and mine are not necessarily when it comes to *enlightened* folks doing good. Where you and I part ways concerns the consistency of this so-called enlightenment and the enlightened folks’ ability to execute without fail. As I said before, your faith regarding humanity is at odds with the vast, vast majority of human history and present human activity. It is also at odds with my personal experiences and one of the central descriptions of creation found within the Bible and Christian worldview. Perhaps I just need to upgrade my friends?

    That being said, it seems that the church in early Acts came closest to your vision of utopia when they embodied a commun(al)ist mode of economics, governance and commitment to Christ. Even so, that narrative also reveals that evil was present right alongside good.

    And a note on obedience and tests. As I said, Christianity speaks of partnering with God to be a force for good. When our will aligns with God’s will, good is accomplished. This is partly an obedience issue, but not a *test* as you say. In Christ, the *test* has already been aced. Christians try to live in to that, but they’ve already passed. That is THE beauty and paradox of Christianity.

    Sincerely,
    -Corbin

    • DBH says:

      Dear C,
      I think we are using the word Faith to mean two different things. Perhaps this is why Russ considers our discussion boring. In this thread I once said: “My ‘faith’ is based on numerous statistical samples where that was the result.” And then gave the light bulb example. I think you can see from that discussion that I did not speak of my ‘faith’ as a truth the way you may think of faith as truth. My ‘faith’ is just a lazy way of thinking that something will happen because it is statistically likely to happen. It is not the same use of the word when you speak of faith in god. I thought I had made it clear the way I defined the word faith from my examples, but apparently that word is so steeped in baggage that I should have used a different word, such as ‘trust’. Perhaps.

      You keep asking this question:

      I admit I’m having difficulty seeing how you support your faith claims with *numerous statistical samples* in each of the following instances:

      *#1. Your faith that there is no Heaven (purpose or existence) beyond the final thermal Catastrophe:*

      *#2. Your faith that the Big Bang is not outside the laws of physics.*

      *#3 Your faith that miracles do not occur:*

      *#4 Your faith that Goodness will not occur when some lever-pulling
      superhuman god* *makes/allows it to happen:*

      *#5. Your faith that humans will by and by overcome the bad activity in the world:*

      This is clearly an example of how two people find a way NOT to communicate, even when we work hard at trying to communicate. By attacking the basis of what you see as my ‘Faith’ you asked these many questions from a point of view which suggests that Bob has a fundamental ‘Faith’ in statistics. I was (I thought obviously) using the phrase ‘numerous statistical examples’ only to give a clue why I thought it was reasonable to think something would happen next because it had always happened that way before. But, I believe I was careful always to indicate that I do not know, nor believe absolutely that the light will actually turn on the Nth time you flip the switch, or that the sun will absolutely forever always come up tomorrow. Clearly my use of the term ‘faith’ means something different that yours.

      Eventually we did get down to something akin to my faith – something taken to be true, even if I cant prove it. For me it is more like a working hypothesis, but you may think of it as a kind of faith, like faith that your friend or spouse will always come to your aid when needed. But ‘trust’ might be a better word. Nevertheless I have been trying to distill the essence of what I take to be true even if I cant prove it. This includes the working hypothesis that fundamentally, at the core, humanity is ‘good’. My statistics are, indeed, different from yours in this regard, so lets not try to ‘prove’ it either way by statistics. I have been around the world and visited extreme poverty, and amazing wealth, and many levels between. I have much more often than not been treated with kindness, and was able to see kindness and care being shared by the people in the villages and big cities. I can, indeed, imagine a baby being born into a life with no love, and indeed imagine this happens all over the world at times. But, I also see that children everywhere can, and often do, grow up being loved by parents or older siblings, etc, giving them a model for how to love others. So, fundamentally at my core I think it is more likely that humans are loving than not. I cant prove it, but I hope it is true. This gives me an optimistic outlook on life. I suppose that people who believe that god will reward them if they live a good life, also may be able to be optimistic about life.

      For me, someone who does not believe in a god out there, it is nevertheless possible to think that ‘Love’ is equivalent to your use of the word ‘god’. So, I can say that God = Love. Does that make me an atheist? If I have an unprovable belief that Love conquers all, or that love is all knowing (what goes around comes around) or that love is omnipotent (love can move mountains), then does this qualify as a godly belief?

      Love exists between humans, and a kind of love often extends to animals (e.g. pets). But lets leave out pets and other creatures for now for reasons I could discuss later if you like. My working hypothesis is that the most powerful force for humanity is love, not a god ‘out there’. I think of the global network of love as being bigger and stronger than the sum of all the individual bonds of one on one love. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Culture is amazing, and moves in ways we cannot (yet, and perhaps never will be able to) predict. Does that mean it is outside the laws of physics? I don’t think so. Physics says that any interaction that is energetically possible may happen. So one could argue that it is well within the laws of physics for everyone to love or hate each other.

      So, that’s why I go to church. Physics only tells us the possibility of what could happen, but it does not tell us how to act, or what outcomes we would do well to avoid choosing even if they are energetically allowable. In our church, (which allows a person like me to be a member, who does not believe that Jesus was god, only that Jesus was a great example of how to express Love) we have many people who also do not believe in a god out there. Many will tell you that god is in us, not ‘out there’. So, in our church I have people to talk to and share story about how we should act in the world. I do not benefit from dictates from anyone who believes they KNOW the will of god, or even that ‘god’ has a WILL ! So, lets restart our conversation about miracles if you like, or any other aspect of religion or spirituality you want to discuss. I have been running my simple idea that god = love up the flagpole for years to see if I have got it wrong, and have yet to see the error in that logical equivalence, or in the direct call to action that derives from it.

      I therefore separate out the part of the Christian god which people purport to be ‘the creator’ of physical stuff. Science has plausible explanations for that, which have no relevance to helping me learn how to behave in the world. There is nothing about the physical world which directly improves or reduces love. Does this help clarify your questions about what I believe? Or as I would say, about what are my working hypotheses? I have lots to add about love once you are open to talk about the ramifications of this simple idea.

      Sincerely,
      DBH

  7. C_Lambeth says:

    Dear DBH,
    I appreciate that you want to talk about your personal love philosophy again, but it is a little outside the present issue of your faith claims, and I already addressed the bulk of your latest comments in an email to you last July. Maybe we won’t have to revisit that all over again?

    Beyond that, I guess I only have one additional comment about your conception of God, and that is that you have only but a piece of the multifaceted “equation” that is God. Yes, God is love, but he is a whole lot more, and also more than your definition of love. To put this in terms perhaps more familiar to you, your position is akin to a person who wants to study astronomy, but only by looking through various telescopes and drawing charts and not with any mathematics, theoretical physics, or less tangible “out there” components. Such a person would have a woefully incomplete apprehension and appreciation of their field. Similarly, you need not force God into your specific love box, especially when doing so excludes the majority of the Bible’s core messages, Christian tradition, the personal experiences of others, and indeed rationality when it calls your own beliefs into question.

    But back to “faith.” I recognize that there are multiple nuances about this particular word, but it doesn’t seem to me that specific definitions will thwart my criticism of what you believe, think, opine, trust and have faith in. Counter your assertion, I am not “attacking” the basis of your faith, but simply asking you to support it.

    You have claimed that you have numerous statistical examples where such and such was the result, but when I ask you to share these stats, you make general references about what you have experienced in the world, which are themselves contingent upon your beliefs about how the world must behave (and cannot behave). Referencing your beliefs to justify your beliefs while claiming that it is some sort of empirical or scientific accounting of statistics is… odd.

    To make the point, let me try to use the same trajectory in a few of my faith claims, beliefs, thoughts, and opinions about a god who is both “out there,” and right here. I can reference numerous statistical examples of people who tell the truth and reasonably recount events with a high degree of accuracy. I can reference numerous statistical examples where science has gotten things totally wrong in the past (and in some cases the very recent past). I can also reference numerous examples where evil has ruined (and is ruining) both humanity and its life-support system. As such, we can reason that sometimes miracles do occur (indicating an independent force “out there”), that science itself incorporates a high degree of faith, and that humanity will not lead itself into a utopian existence unaided in the future. I might also throw in that we know (via the overwhelming number of statistical examples) that nothing comes from nothing and that it is a logical impossibility to have an actual set of infinite regression of causes and effects.

    If I am not effectively communicating here, let me try another way using your own words: “I was (I thought obviously) using the phrase ‘numerous statistical examples’ only to give a clue why I thought it was reasonable to think something would happen next because it had always happened that way before.

    First off, this statement itself incorporates a belief in what has “always happened” in a certain way before. I understand that sentence when used in reference to a lightbulb. Based on empirical evidence, we know that lightbulbs reach a point when their filament burns through, and that when manufacturing is reasonably consistent, we can offer a somewhat accurate prediction of how long said bulb and filament will last under normal conditions. While there are a host of variables that could prove such predictions wrong, the underlying principle isn’t really in question.

    What I don’t understand, however (and where I suspect your claim fails), is how you relate the lightbulb paradigm (and what you assert “always” happens before) to your beliefs, trust, faith, thoughts, and opinions on:

    1. Purpose and the thermal end/ absence of Heaven
    2. Physics (that physics itself is not from God)
    3. Miracles
    4. That a higher power is never a partner with humanity regarding love and action
    5. Humanity’s trajectory towards utopia

    Once again, it seems that you and I are using the same nuances and synonyms regarding faith and what we believe, trust, opine and think. Nevertheless, I appreciate your suggestion that a “working hypothesis” is perhaps a better description of how you interpret the map you’re on. I hope it won’t come as a surprise when I say the same about my own working theory: a Christian key (one that allows for science as well as other means of knowledge and experiences) does the best job of explaining what’s on my map.

    Sincerely,
    -Corbin

  8. DBH says:

    Dear Corbin,
    After all our discussion I think the overview of our views
    may be:

    1. Bob has a working hypothesis that there is no god
    out there, but that the concept of love, in its fullest,
    global sense, can be equated with the Christian god.
    Bob
    has no good statistical evidence that this is the case,
    only personal, anecdotal evidence which informs his
    working hypothesis. Bob does not believe in eye witness
    accounts unless those claims can be repeated by others
    under controlled conditions. Bob has not demonstrated to
    Corbin that the simplistic idea about the primacy of love
    is valid. Bob believes that science incorporates no
    absolute truths, and progresses with specific hypotheses,
    by trying to disprove them. Once many attempts to
    disprove them have failed, the hypotheses become useful
    bases for building the tower higher. Bob’s working
    hypothesis leads him to be bullish on the long term
    possibilities for humanity (also see below).

    2. Corbin has a working hypothesis or faith that
    there is indeed a god out there, adding more
    dimensionality to god than ‘just’ love.
    Corbin believes
    that there is a force called evil which opposes gods love
    (is that right?). Corbin believes that from scripture,
    tradition and experience one can find sufficient
    statistical evidence to support the idea that there is a
    god out there. Nevertheless, Corbin thinks there is a
    possibility that evil will eventually win out in the end,
    and therefore fears we are not likely to reach something
    he refers to as heaven or utopia.

    So, neither of us has made an argument acceptable to the
    other which convinces anyone of the validity of the
    other’s working hypothesis.

    I want to thank you for helping me think through some of
    the points which flow from my working hypothesis. Here is
    a new one I just thought up regarding the thermal
    catastrophe:

    Following from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which
    applies to a closed system, one can make the argument that
    eventually the universe will become completely degraded to
    uniformly distributed, very low temperature near absolute
    zero, with no organized energy, such as life, remaining.
    BUT, there may be a way to ‘defeat’ this end point, if we
    work on the ‘closed system’ part. That is, those ‘thermal
    catastrophe’ suggest-ers assume you can imagine a surface
    all around the outside of the universe, outside the
    farthest light can get after travelling for 13.5 billion
    years , and then, all energy and mass exists inside that
    surface, and thus the 2nd law must apply. The idea I have
    is that we can make the system NOT be closed, by learning
    how to create matter and energy from the background, such
    as we know happens with Hawking Radiation for instance.
    Anyway, this is just a thought which provides a POSSIBLE
    alternative ‘endpoint’ for the universe, which is not so
    bleak as one would imagine the thermal catastrophe to be.
    Anyway, some say the universe is composed primarily of
    dark energy which we don’t even know what that is, so
    judging the end point to be the thermal catastrophe is
    premature, if not plain wrong. I can discuss the
    ramifications of this later. My primitive logic is that
    love can conquer all, and move mountains, if we work
    together on a common cause. First we need to build the
    loving network globally so we can clean up our own nest,
    then face outwards to tackle the ultimate problem of the
    universe by developing a way to harness the vacuum.

    OK, this is total speculation, but it comes from an
    optimistic view that we are not stuck with some ultimate,
    depressing outcome, and it does not invoke an imaginary
    utopia.

    Please write back with your corrections to my surmize of
    your working hypothesis.

    Sincerely,
    DBH

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Dear DBH,
      I think your last appraisal could more succinctly be phrased as, “You have faith in certain ideas and people, while I have faith in different ideas and people.”

      To put a finer point on it, Corbin believes and has faith that Jesus/God is who the Bible claims him to be, and this is supported by a variety of reasons and evidence, only some of which are derived via the scientific method. Alternatively, Bob believes and has faith that Jesus/God is only love (as Bob understands love), and therefore not the fullness of who the Bible claims God to be. Bob’s beliefs are supported by his faith that the scientific method (or replication of results under controlled conditions) is the only way to attain information.

      -Is that an accurate summation of your epistemology (we should only accept things that can be tested/ replicated via the scientific method)?-

      I think it also necessary to comment on a few other things you said:

      1. God/Love wins
      Regarding what you perceive to be my beliefs about the future, you typed that I think “there is a possibility that evil will eventually win out in the end.” It puzzles me how you arrived at this conclusion. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that you’ve never heard a sermon on Christian hope for ultimate reconciliation between all of humanity, creation, and the Creator. It also makes me wonder if you read my earlier apprehension of free will and the agency and partnership between humanity and God:

      Christianity speaks of partnering with God to be a force for good. When our will aligns with God’s will, good is accomplished. This is partly an obedience issue, but not a *test* as you say. In Christ, the *test* has already been aced. Christians try to live in to that, but they’ve already passed. That is THE beauty and paradox of Christianity.

      And:

      …our purpose and our existence is not defined or limited by a purely physical existence. I think Heaven is a restored reality where life is as it was originally purposed to be.

      So no, at the end of the present paradigm (where creation is corrupted and humans can choose good or evil), good will unequivocally win. I have no fear that we will not be blessed with a perfected future reality (which Christians refer to as Heaven).

      2. Your Hypothesis about Entropy and Re-creation
      I really dig what you’re saying here. I think I hinted at it earlier regarding good and evil, but it seems to me that we have indeed been created to be creators. Perhaps this is part of what it means to be created in God’s image? The downside of this is that we can use our abilities to create actions that have nothing to do with God (like evil), but the upside of this is that we can share in God’s creative ability to bring about new and good things that did not exist previously, including, perhaps, a new flashpoint for matter to erupt from in a vacuum. This is very cool. But, and I have to admit that I take a degree of pleasure in pointing this out, if humanity were able to “tackle the ultimate problem of the universe by developing a way to harness the vacuum,” or even how to create a self-replicating DNA-like strand and a form of life itself, it wouldn’t prove that God wasn’t the prime mover, but it would demonstrate that it takes an awful lot of intelligence and power to create something new (like the universe and life). 🙂

      Sincerely,
      -Corbin

  9. DBH says:

    Dear Corbin,

    You say “Bob believes and has faith that Jesus/God is only
    love (as Bob understands love), and therefore not the fullness of who the
    Bible claims God to be. Bob’s beliefs are supported by his faith that the
    scientific method (or replication of results under controlled conditions)
    is the only way to attain information.”

    I don’t think my ideas can be couched in biblical terms. I have no
    beliefs or absolute faiths in anything, I only have well developed
    working hypotheses.

    Or, you could say:
    Bob has a working hypothesis (not a spiritual faith) that love, in its
    fullness, is the essence of the Christian god, nothing more, or rather
    that everything relating to the question of ‘how should we behave?’ flows
    from love. Bob thinks that the bible is folklore, BUT that folklore
    often has wisdom and value. Bob thinks that Jesus was a man who taught
    about great ideas, and lived the example of those ideas. (so no, I do
    not think Jesus/God is only love. I think Jesus was a man with a loving
    demeanor, but not that he was god, or that he is ‘only’ love.) Scientific
    method can apply to other situations besides just controlled experiments.
    Regarding miracles: I do believe that incredible claims require
    incredible scientific proof, which often comes down to “Is it replicable
    by others (who have no conflict of interest?” There is presently no
    scientifically proven technique to pre-determine how individual people
    will act or what they will think. BUT I know that people act, and people
    think, so clearly there are other ways to attain information than just
    through the scientific method. We can argue whether that information
    has any absolute truth to it, or not, but we can, nevertheless ATTAIN
    information by other methods.

    Also note that there is no equivalency between the scientific method and
    your concept of biblical faith. The scientific method is carried out by
    humans, who are fallible. Scientists make mistakes, and often vigorously
    defend their misconceptions until the preponderance of evidence convinces
    the rest of us that those ideas are wrong. So, no, I also do not ‘only
    accept things that can be tested/replicated by the scientific method’.
    In fact, even things that ARE tested by purported scientific methodology
    can still be suspect; lay people often cannot properly evaluate the
    methodology. I think change is the only constant, and that there is no
    absolute truth. Love is not a truth so much as it is an action (verb)
    and a state of being (noun). My working hypothesis: that trying to
    increase the love in the world is the best moral compass, is not a truth,
    or a faith, but just a working hypothesis, albeit one which has been
    tested many times (personally), and so far, anecdotally, been shown (to
    me) that it is still the best working hypothesis.

    I have worked out many ideas and concepts embodied in Christian texts
    such as the bible which can be seen to be fully compatible with the god =
    love equivalency. I have studied the gospels as have many theologians
    and find agreement with the Jesus Seminar that much of what is purported
    to be the words of Jesus, are not (such as the whole gospel of John.) I
    do not however say that the gospel of John is ‘wrong’! No! Rather I
    would argue that whoever wrote John had captured many of the fundamental
    ideas that Jesus promoted, and even went further. Jesus was a man. The
    writer of John was a man (probably not a woman, but possibly, I suppose).
    Who is to say that the presented wisdom of Jesus (in, say, the other
    gospels, and the works of Paul) is more ‘true’ than the words offered by
    the writer of John?

    I’m looking for ideas in the bible which give us fundamental information
    about how to live our lives, which DO NOT FIT with the idea that god =
    love. I don’t care who said what, or who did what, but rather want to
    think about what the bible, and other sacred texts tell us about what we
    should do in the world. This is one area where science does not give
    advice: what should we do in the world? God = Love, however, does
    provide a fundamental grounding for my moral compass.
    I’m not trying to do away with religion, or supplant or question the
    moral authority enjoyed by ‘the church’. Rather, I am trying to be more
    inclusive, more fundamental than our tiny minds can usually imagine, less
    rigid in our thinking, and focus on the most important things in life. I
    think religions, including ours, often can’t see the forest through the
    trees.

    Yes, I read your earlier comments about partnering with god. This is an
    interesting way to put it, and not a point of view that is often stated
    in so many words from the pulpit: so thanks for the idea. You say that
    good happens when we partner with god, or when our actions align with the
    will of god. It seems to me to be a circular argument. You cannot know
    the will of god, so your only way to tell if you did it right, is if good
    things happened. But, good and bad things can come as unintended
    consequences from some other action (also good or bad). Some blow hard
    police chief can clean away a tent city ‘to mitigate pollution and
    disease’ whereby throwing many people out of ‘homes’. Then, amazingly,
    townspeople see the plight of these people better, and a new home with
    better facilities is developed. In the end a better result. So, can you
    say that the police chief acted with, or against gods will? Sure,
    eventually good happened, but it is a stretch to believe it was a causal
    chain of events caused, ultimately by the love of a god out there. My
    mom always explained away things with the saying that god works in
    mysterious ways. I say that it is better to think things through, get
    the community involved, and find a solution that the majority of all
    those people affected (homeless and tax payers) can agree.
    My moral compass is more proactive than reactive. A better guide for how
    to create good works in the world is to act in the direction of
    increasing love at all times.

    I agree that nothing we do out of love or out of scientific curiosity
    will ‘prove’ that there was no prime mover. You can always push that
    point backwards to earlier times, prior universes, parallel universes,
    cyclical universes, etc. That is my point. It is unprovable, and has
    nothing at all to do with why we should be good, or why we should clean
    up our nest (the polluted earth). If you cannot find purpose in guiding
    the constantly changing world towards love, and only can believe that the
    purpose of everything is found in an ultimate, but perhaps unattainable
    truth, then we will never agree on some prime motivators for how to focus
    our lives.

    Sincerely,
    DBH

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Dear DBH,

      In addition to your initial 5 faith claims / working hypotheses, your last post indicates that you have incorporated (at least) 9 more faith statements, beliefs or things you think, opine or trust to be true:

      6. The Bible is nothing more than folklore that contains wisdom.
      7. Jesus is not God.
      8. Miracles require incredible scientific proof.
      9. The scientific method is not the only way to attain information.
      10. There is no such thing as absolute truth
      11. The Jesus Seminar is an authoritative group on what Jesus did not say or do.
      12. The purpose of the Bible is only to tell us about how to live, not to tell us about God.
      13. Being open minded means that one refuses to be challenged by religious texts that call one’s beliefs into question.
      14. We cannot know the will of God.

      It seems that the more we exchange messages, the more faith your position incorporates and leans on. I agree with you regarding number nine, however. I’ll address that and a few of the other points below.

      I also agree that your beliefs should not be framed in biblical terms, but it is obvious that you have many beliefs about the Bible and the quality of its contents even if those beliefs are outside Christian and Wesleyan traditions. It is also apparent that your faith regarding God and the conundrum of our existence is neither the result of a purely scientific epistemology nor a measured statistical analysis, but rather that of atheism. As you said to me in your last message, I must also point out to you that *there is no equivalency between the scientific method and your* own various faith claims regarding Jesus, God, love, or prime movers. Science is the wrong tool for building either position.

      Nevertheless, like you, I have a well-developed working hypothesis regarding my map and the territory I find myself in. As it were, I think Christianity does a better job of describing and explaining all the features in the territory than does your atheistic perspective, especially when it comes to miracles. As I said, you believe one set of things; I believe another. There is some overlap (like when it comes to loving our neighbor), but these are ultimately different conceptions of the universe, what actors are involved in it, and what lays beyond it. It is still apparent that we have different faiths (or working hypotheses if that’s what we’re calling them now) even if we take the same track (reason) to get to them. I have no problem with this, but I think we should call it what it is.

      The Scientific Method (SM)
      I am glad that we can agree on #9, namely, that the SM is not the only way we can gather accurate information. What puzzles me, however, is your insistence that miracles (at least in order for you to accept them) must be subject to the SM. As I already indicated, this is an unsubstantiated belief on your part. But I also think it’s important to raise two additional issues regarding your faith claim. The first of these is the anachronistic nature of demanding scientific evidence regarding miracles that occurred before the scientific method existed. That hardly constitutes a reasonable approach to the matter and is a circular argument at best.

      Secondly, by their very nature, miracles are not subject to the regular behaviors and requirements of physics. Miracles are often an expression of the out-there nature of God. It seems that what you are doing is expressing faith that events like the resurrection did not occur because you can’t weigh it or measure it’s physical dimensions. Once again, the SM is the wrong tool for this job.

      Extraordinary Evidence?
      Claiming that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is yet another faith claim on your part and a slight adaptation of David Hume’s 19th century treatise on the subject of miracles. I’ll let you make the case for why we should believe this, but I wonder what you think would constitute extraordinary evidence for an event that happened prior to the scientific method and outside the regular principles of physics. Would not a man walking around, spry as a spring chick, eating, talking, hugging and being hugged perhaps as little as 36 hours after being brutally executed and buried count as *extraordinary*? If not that, then what? Would you demand of God that he repeat an identical set of circumstances and actions for you to measure? Is that reasonable? Do you expect pictures, an audio recording or video tape of the event? Given the problems with these additional anachronisms, what kind of evidence would you count as valid for the resurrection of Christ 2000 years ago?

      *Absolute Truth*
      In your last post, you used terms like *absolute truth* and *absolute faith,* but I have to confess I don’t understand the difference between truth and faith, and the *absolute* versions you alluded to unless you mean the difference between subjective and objective claims. And if that is the case, it begs the question: Do you believe there are absolutely no absolute truths? It creates an obvious problem if you do.

      If I take your meaning, however, it seems that you meant *absolute* in reference to things that are accepted de facto or are above questioning. If that is the case then I suppose I haven’t adopted any absolute truth or absolute faith claims either. Nothing is beyond questioning or considering for me.

      Nevertheless, you could say that my *working hypothesis* is that God transcends your belief that love is all that God is. Similarly, I think the Bible is more than your concept of folklore. My map is open to the biblical witness on its own terms rather than imposing a pre-existing belief structure on what it can and cannot really mean or tell us about creation and humanity’s place and responsibilities in that creation. As such, I think Jesus was/is God, and that love will win (assisted by the god character found within Christian Scripture), and that the universe will bend (however slowly) towards justice, reconciliation, and restoration of life to its full potential.

      Yes, your concept of love fits within this trajectory and God’s purpose for creation (as well as my map), but it remains too small an understanding of our Creator as informed by the depth of Christian Scripture. You claim that you are *trying to be more inclusive, more fundamental than our tiny minds can usually imagine, less rigid in our thinking, and focus on the most important things in life,* but it seems to me that you are doing precisely the opposite by refusing to let the fullness of Scripture expand your preconceived notions about the universe, its existence, and purpose. Put another way, you only seem to listen to the biblical texts when they reinforce your pre-existing beliefs about its various topics and completely ignore those texts when they challenge your beliefs.

      The Jesus Seminar
      Let’s imagine a group of about 40 PhDs and other degree holders who are Christian fundamentalists with a particular commitment to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. They ultimately decide to take a vote amongst themselves to try and authoritatively determine which words and stories of Christ are perfectly accurate quotes and representations of what the man did. As expected, they determine that 100% of what we find in the New Testament is completely accurate and features indisputable, perfect quotes of Jesus’ actions and words.

      If you would find such promulgations persuasive and want to place an additional layer of faith in such skewed findings, then okay. If not, then you can probably appreciate my incredulity with The Jesus Seminar’s agenda. They ended up exactly where they started: faith that the Bible does not relate accurate information about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. Quite the shocker.

      This again begs the question regarding how you differentiate between what the Bible offers us about Jesus’s teachings on love and how to live that out (which you accept), and Jesus’ teachings about God and the miraculous events that accompanied his ministry (which you deny).

      God’s Will
      You claimed what I wrote about humanity partnering with God to fulfill his will was a circular argument because the will of God cannot be known. But this is yet another faith claim on your part and one that ignores both forms of revelation (creation and Scripture). For example, despite cultural variations and aberrations, there seems to be a baseline human moral compass (and sometimes even evidenced in other mammals). This is well attested to and documented by both biologists and sociologists, and it fits within biblical expressions that humans are created in God’s image (and that part of his will is that we love him and our neighbors). His will can be known and acted on (or partnered with) if we don’t rule out the witness of Scripture, so there is not necessarily any circularity here. Nonetheless, even if my understanding were circular, I don’t see how your faith that God is merely love wouldn’t fall victim to the same criticism. How can we know what your god (love) wants if the will of this god cannot be known?

      I think I’ll stop there.
      Looking forward to your reply.

      Sincerely,
      -Corbin

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