Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Atheism’

What I Believe About God

I attended a meeting not long ago and heard a speaker say, as the general premise of the talk, that she had figured out how to get God to heal anyone, anytime.  She wasn’t talking about coercing God or artfully manipulating Him to do whatever we would want Him to do, especially in the area of healing.  She wasn’t that dumb.  Rather, her main point was that everything we need to know about healing, and getting people healed, is in God’s Word – the Bible.  All we needed to do was pray a certain way, believe a certain way, and He’d come through.  He would have to, you see, because He “had promised us He would heal anyone who believed, and would respond favorably to anyone who prayed in faith.”

But she doesn’t know what to do, think or say when “God” doesn’t heal someone, other than to just keep praying.  (That is, until death ends the process, of course.)  Others who believe in healing today, and have the formulas that “work,” will explain that when a person isn’t healed someone is at fault – either the person praying or the person that is sick.  What they are unintentionally or intentionally saying, depending on the person, is that they’ve got God figured out.  They know how He operates.  He’s totally predictable … that He responds a certain way in a certain situation every time that situation occurs.

Well … that’s what people say who have either (a) never read the Bible, (b) have read only the “interesting” parts of the Bible, (c) [ the most likely option] have approached reading the Bible with a certain pre-judgment (or prejudice, if you will).  Oh, and there is an option (d) and it is:  people have heard and then bought into teaching from teachers who live option “c” – teachers who themselves bought into the teaching of someone … who bought into the teaching of someone … etc., etc.

Their God is only as big as their understanding of Him … and that tends to be SMALL.

Let me tell you about my God.

He’s smarter than me.  I’m limited in my understanding of Him.  I can’t figure Him out … BUT … it doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I like it.  (If I could figure Him out I might think He is weak, or lacking intelligence … way too small to be worshipped as the great “I AM.”)

God tells me a lot about Himself … but again, more than I can fully understand … and He keeps me curious.  I want to know more about Him.

Put another way, His BIGNESS makes Him God … and for me, I like that.  I want a BIG God.  I want a God that can do infinitely more than I can, so much so that I wouldn’t want His job because I couldn’t do His job.  (I certainly don’t think I’m up for it.  I believe the position of GOD is filled.)

God’s Word, while totally true, is complex because it’s from Him – the One who is infinite in wisdom and knowledge.  It’s written to me and for me – the one who is finite and not all-knowing.  That means that there are parts of the Bible I won’t “get” … and there are parts that no one will get.  (If I could get it all, or if anyone else could understand it all … well, we’d have to be God’s equal, right?)  That said, there are times when children will get Him better than we do.

I believe God is the consummate, perfect LOVER.  He never holds grudges, never lies, alway understands, and is totally accepting … but … He’s not stupid.  He loves with His eyes wide open.  We can’t fool Him.  There’s not a place dark enough that we can hide our true feelings toward Him from Him.

Because God loves me He wants me to know Him better and better, and because He loves me He will reveal more and more about Himself to me in language I can understand.  (But that still means I won’t ever FULLY understand Him, or His ways.)

I believe God is beyond generous.  Because He’s so giving He always wills and wants to give me what is good for me; He said so.  He will not withhold good things from me.  At the same time, He WILL withhold what is NOT good for me.  He said so – He said don’t even ask for those things because He’s not listening.  Therefore,I should never try to lay a guilt trip on Him.  As hard as we might try, we can’t make Him feel guilty for not answering our every prayer in the way we dictate it to Him.  I also believe you and I can’t come up with formulas that make Him do anything He doesn’t want to do … even if we beg … or fast … or cut ourselves … or make promises concerning what we will do for Him in the future.  I can never force Him to do anything.  He is the greater, I am the lesser.  So if I think or believe something … ANYTHING … that doesn’t mean He has to believe it, too.

I believe God is HOLY.  That means He can never sin, just as light and darkness can’t mix.  He can’t sin against me, or against anyone in the whole world.  So … if anything bad happens to me – my stocks tank, I’m shipwreck, I am stoned (and I’m not talking about “pot” here), all my goods confiscated, I get really sick, or even die … it’s not His “fault.”  He is perfect.  Pure.  Right every time.  Good every time.  Kind every time.  Because He knows everything and I don’t, He knows when it’s time to pull the plug – my days are numbered … BY HIM.  You can’t sing, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and believe otherwise.

I believe God is more concerned about me – the real, down-deep-inside-me me – than my comfort.  That means things I may not like could be good.  Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong, or bad.  God can’t be bad.  My circumstances could be, but He is never or could ever be bad.  That also means that something bad happening in my life might ultimately bring about something good … something unanticipated.

God is tough.  He is the same God – in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  He didn’t come to His senses in the New Testament.  Jesus doesn’t represent “His good side” while Jehovah represents “His bad side.”  He does not have a split personality.  He is not a child killer in the Old Testament and a child resurrector in the New.  He is Job’s God.  He’s is Peter and John’s, too.  He hasn’t changed.  Everything He did in the Old and New Testament, whether we understand it or agree with it, was good because He is good.  In other words, He had His reasons for whatever He did … and He was HOLY while He did what He did.  Got it?

I believe God healed people in the Old and New Testaments … and He DIDN’T heal people in the Old and New Testaments – for His own reasons.  Again, some of those reasons He has never explained.  Some He has.  That said … even if I’m not healed, not protected, not always safe, not wealthy, not comfortable, not IN on His plan or plans … I try not to care.   It’s hard, but I’m better at it today than yesterday.  Because I trust Him.  I trust His judgment.

I trust Him.  And I love Him.  I can’t wrap my arms or my mind around Him, but I love Him – passionately.  During some tender moments He and I share it’s all I can do not to cry – I’m so filled with emotion.  I go ahead and cry eventually.  And He likes it, and thinks it’s masculine.  

So … that’s my God – my best attempt today to put what I believe about him down on paper, or in a blog post.  I don’t want to live without Him just because I don’t understand all of His ways.  I want Him, even if He keeps me wondering.  He is wonder-filled and wonderful.

Oh, and I do pray!  I do ask.  I ask BIG.  I have great faith.  I’ve seen miracles.  Real, honest to goodness miracles.   And when He doesn’t answer in the way I pray I just keep praying – with an open mind and an open heart.

He is God.  I am not.  And that is a good thing.

Calling All Atheists and Theists #3

Dear friends engaged in the discussion of beliefs (both atheistic and theistic),

Abu Ali al-Basra (a Tenth Century Persian scientist, also known as Ibn Al-Haytham, 965-1039 CE) interests me because my wife is an optometrist, and his Book of Optics has greatly influenced the development of lenses, mirrors, refraction, and theories of vision and the dispersion of light.  This great Muslim scientist is “a pioneer of the scientific method,” that is, the search for truth.  He said, “Truth is sought for its own sake.  And those engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things.  Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough.”  (Physical Thought from the Pre-Socratics to the Quantum Physicists;© 1979, ISBN 0-87663-712-8)

I bring him into our discussion because I love his take on the search for truth, and the fact that he is seen as the “Father of the Scientific Method.”

The Scientific Method was described in laymen’s terms by “Ubiquitous Che” – a commenter in my previous blog articles on Atheism and Theism – this way:

“I was drawn to atheism for a very simple reason.  I find the naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is to be wholly satisfactory.  (my emphasis) From this, I find it highly irrational to propose a supernatural entity as an ‘add-on’ explanation when no add-on was needed in the first place.

“Also, because the naturalistic explanation is … well … naturalistic, it means that we can get stuck into it very deeply.  It removes the foggy, murky veil of mystery and brings the picture of the universe into sharp focus, allowing us to peer deeper and deeper into its workings and bring about change according to our will.

“There’s more to it than just that, but it’s the core of the matter.”  (Ubiquitous Che, 5/04/2008)

I will paraphrase/interpret the quotation above this way:  Natural Science (Che’s “… naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is”) is the truth.  It explains the origin of the Universe in a way that satisfies man’s search for the truth. 

While there is much more to his rationale, Che says that Naturalism provides “the core” for his belief system.

The Scientific Method involves the collection of observable, empirical and measureable data (“evidence of and for cause and effect”), observation, experimentation, and the formulation of a theory (“hypotheses”) based on reasoning. 

This 20th Century “hypothetico-deductive model” of the Scientific Method has been the engine that has driven the study of physics and biology – the very foundation stones of Naturalism.

But because the Scientific Method has its limitations when talking about the origin of the Universe (you and I can’t collect observable, empirical DNA-rich data, experiment with it, and then observe measurable cause-and-effect outcomes).  Because of these limitations, the scientific community had to develop a whole “new class” of scientists:  scientific philosophers.  (These are the “atheologians” of the atheistic community.)

This new class of scientist is not limited in their search for truth by the Scientific Method’s primary requirement – “proof.”  Their only limitation has been the span and capacity of human imagination.  These new scientists (the “Darwinist Class”) began with (and still begin with) a belief – what they call their “theory” – and they search for evidence that will reinforce their belief.

In the scientific community, the guardian of the Scientific Method was “peer review.”  The object of these guardians of truth – peer scientists – was to find possible mistakes in observations, reasoning, and the interpretation of data.  [The way out now for peer review, when it comes to the origin of the Universe anyway, is simply that peer review only applies to the “experimental sciences” (physics, chemistry).] 

When it comes to proof, scientific philosophers are exempted!  They are not held to tough, evidentiary standards when it comes to defending their theories.  Scientific philosophers don’t have to “substantiate” their beliefs.  They just have to write about them, and see if the ideas postulated will find an accepting audience.  And they do, because now there are more scientific philosophers than true scientists.  Scientific philosophers have bastardized the proof systems inherent to the Scientific Method’s search for truth … and then these people have the audacity to say to people of faith (i.e., believers in God), “Show us your proof!”

Honest biologists and physicists are coming forward now, swimming against the tide of atheistic belief, saying, “There are unexplainable gaps in the evolutionary chains,” and “There are mysteries that defy logical human interpretations when it comes to what we are observing in the Universe.”  They are daring to suggest that Naturalism is built on “un-faith,” so to speak.  They are challenging the scientific philosophers to defend their un-beliefs.

Interesting, don’t you think?

I really like Ubiquitous Che’s style, and respect his intelligence.  (I even like the name he has chosen to describe himself because his peers are “everywhere, omnipresent!”)  U-C is a modern “every-man.”

Would his friends please care to comment on what I have written above.

Calling All Atheists and Theists … AGAIN (#2)

Dear friends … Please write and explain … in just a few paragraphs please … why you are an atheist, or a theist.

I am NOT asking why you are NOT an atheist, or a theist, but ONLY why you are what you are.  Here is your opportunity to explain your rationale for believing what you believe (and not why you DON’T believe something).  

Nothing personal, but I’m tired of being told why someone is opposed to a certain belief.  Aren’t you?

You can also add what attracted you to your belief (remember this when responding, that atheism is a belief, too), and who may have influenced you to positively pursue your belief system.

Thanks everyone, in advance.

(Oh, yes … please do not use my inquiry to body slam, subtly or not, someone else’s belief.  Don’t tell me you’re exercising your right of free speech when I’m not asking you to engage in a conversation, but to answer a question – one among many I hope to use as “research” in order to draw some conclusions.  Is that cool?)

Calling All Atheists and Theists

Where does love come from?

This is a real question, and not some gimmick.  I want to know where this particular part of the human experience comes from.  What generates it?  What is its origin?

The Spiritual Journey 3 – Humility

Sheldon Vanauken wrote (in A Severe Mercy):  

“To believe with certainty, somebody said, one has to begin by doubting.” (p. 83)

“… there is nothing in Christianity which is so repugnant to me as humility – the bent knee.” (p. 91)

“… if we were a species that didn’t normally eat, weren’t designed to eat, would we feel hungry? … Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? … [and] Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time.  (‘How time flies!  Fancy John being grown up and married!  I can hardly believe it!’)  In heaven’s name, why?  Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” (in a letter from C. S. Lewis to Sheldon Vanauken, p. 93)

Based on these quotes, I’d like to make a few observations.  First, if you’re going to believe that Christ is the Son of God, and therefore the Savior He claims to be, it is no fault to begin by doubting such a phenomenal claim.  

Doubting allows a person to begin with a clean sheet, so to speak.  A person that has been raised in the Church, had positive experiences in the Church, and is therefore open to indoctrination from early on, doesn’t wrestle with doubt on the same level as someone who (a) has been raised in the Church and had negative experiences or (b) not been exposed to either positive or negative Church experiences during their childhood and adolescence.  In speaking to those who doubt, I suggest:  that is a good place to start one’s spiritual journey, as did Vanauken.  Why?  Because of the “clean sheet.”  But to be truly clean, one’s “sheet” must have a valuable and necessary ingredient in its makeup or constitution, and that ingredient is HONESTY.  Not openness but honesty.  If it is discovered during one’s investigation of Christianity that there is a prejudice (a pre-judgement) based on anything – peer pressure, education or one’s educators, or the bias of unbelieving parents – and that prejudice is not addressed or challenged in one’s heart and mind, that person is not being honest.

Second, being honest comes from or springs from a general HUMILITY, and that humility is based upon an appreciation that NO ONE knows everything, and that there may be someone or something outside the existential confines of one’s reality and intellect that knows and understands more about the universe of ordered things.  Therefore, true humility must be allowed to and may result in “a bended knee” – acknowledgement that something is true when it would appear to the honest seeker, based upon the life-education-experience limitations mentioned above, that it “should” be false.  Humility requires the honest seeker of truth to allow for things to be true outside “the box” of one’s current thinking.  Again, this basic, this fundamental humility must be allowed to move toward a greater humility – a humility that would require a bended knee.

Third, it seems that if there is a hunger for something (say a belly for food, a fish for water, or the temporal for the metaphysical or, in this case, the sacred or mystical), that longed-for something may exist.  REPEAT:  The humble man will allow that something may be true that was, up ’til now, thought to be improbable, false, or impossible.

I would suggest, humbly, that mankind hungers for God because there is a God.  If one honestly doubts that supposition, help me understand the immaterial part of me – thought, love, joy, sadness, etc. – and why there is this debate about all things spiritual (and in this case, the idea that there is a God)?  How is it that the idea or possibility of God cannot be easily dismissed as some have dismissed the existence of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or flying saucers?

Think about it.

Resurrection On Maui

maui-sunset-small.jpg Joy!

This morning I was in the ohana (a Hawaiian name for “family room”) getting a cup of coffee, this cozy and welcoming little room being located close to our condominium.   Every morning Rick – our host – makes Kona.  The smell of the coffee was wonderful, deep and rich.

A minute or two later I was returning to our place, walking past the pool, and just luxuriating in the warm, fragrant air, listening to the Mina birds chirping and turtle doves cooing.  The sun was just peeking over the West Maui mountains, causing the clouds to glow light yellows and oranges.  Almost heaven.

A man I had never met came up the path leading to the ohana, heading for the coffee pot I had just left, and he greeted me.  “Happy Easter.”  I replied, “He is risen!”

I’m back in our place, sitting on our lanai, and my son just pointed toward the ocean.  “Rainbow,” was all he said.

This joy that is welling up within me is so pleasurable, so intense.  And I wonder, “Why do we concentrate so much on the problem of pain, and never wrestle with the problem of pleasure?” 

Philip Yancey asks, “If atheists insist there is no God because of all the pain and suffering in this world, why aren’t they held accountable for the ‘problem of pleasure?’” 

“Should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?” he writes, meaning that if Christians must defend the existence of God because there are so many painful experiences in life, shouldn’t atheists have to defend their beliefs because there are so many pleasurable experiences, too?

Why is sex fun?  “Reproduction surely doesn’t require pleasure,” Yancey goes on.  “Some animals simply split in half to reproduce … and … why is eating enjoyable?  Plants and animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds.  Why are there colors?”  All good questions.

Back to Easter morning on Maui.  As I look around, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth itself puts God’s creative genius on display,” says David, the song writer of ancient Israel. (Psalm 19)  I get to enjoy all that I see and taste and feel because there is a God in heaven who created me to enjoy creation.

I’m a happy camper, and a joy-filled human being today!

Jesus is risen indeed.

Think about it.

(By the way, I took the picture above last night … looking out of the Pacific, toward Lanai.  Wow!)