Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another chat with Jeremy

Okay, let’s see if I can respond to some of Jeremy’s comments and questions...

Jeremy wrote:
Forthekids wrote:
"I don’t 'look to science to validate my faith'".

But you have said in the past that if you didn’t see any evidence for the God of the Bible, you would most likely not be a believer. This means you require evidence as a prerequisite for your faith. Essentially, you have the same requirement for belief that most atheists do. The difference is that you think the evidence exists and atheists do not.

I have and will always believe that the universe was designed by an uncaused first cause. There is no doubt in the minds of the majority of the human race that we are not the byproduct of a mere accident which occurred billions of years ago. What we find in the heavens has the look and feel of a masterpiece. There is purpose, symmetry, and a lack of chaos that is beyond anything one can reasonably say is the byproduct of an accident that burped into existence from nothing.

My faith lies in the fact that I have no doubt that there is a Creator, but in order for me to know who or what that Creator is, I must examine the evidence that might support what various religions hold as truth.

So it seems to make sense to me that I should not merely pick a god to have faith in and then decide to go with that set of religious beliefs on blind faith. I was brought up as a Christian, but there comes a time when we all question whether are beliefs are valid. Personally, I believe that it is very important to look at all belief systems and consider whether one particular set of religious beliefs has more evidence for its validity that the others. If there is a creator of our universe, which I believe from considering my surroundings that there most certainly is, then there can be only one truth as to who or what that creator is. It is illogical to believe that all religions lead to the same true creator, and if they are all wrong, it’s irrelevant to consider choosing one at all. So, we must consider evidence in order to know our creator. There are many ways to go about this, and we’ve discussed a few in private conversations. I hope to get to those in future posts.

Jeremy wrote:
I have a different view of the relationship between evidence and faith. I do not require evidence as a prerequisite for my faith. For me, faith comes first and then I look at the world in light of my faith. When I do so, I can detect God at work in my life and in the lives of those around me. Although my experiences are not the same type of evidence that ID supporters claim to have, they are still meaningful to me. All that is required is for me to be openly receptive to God.

And, I agree that this is a great way to come to faith in God. Like you, I am also amazed at how we can find God at work in people’s lives. My friend lost her husband to cancer a few weeks ago, and throughout their seven year ordeal it was absolutely incredible to watch God at work in their lives. I talked with her last night and she is doing amazingly well. I sometimes feel like I want to help her in some way because I think about how heart breaking it would be to lose my own husband, but each time I talk with her, it’s my faith that is strengthened and I walk away simply energized by her strength and her faith in God.

But, my question to you would be why is it that you choose ~Christianity~ as the religious preference in which you place your faith. Is it because you were brought up in that faith, and if so what about a Muslim or a Jew who was brought up in their particular faith? Are all religions equal and simply a way in which we try to understand our creator? Major religions differ considerably, so it would stand to reason that there can only be one correct option or they are all wrong. Personally, I believe that for something as important as considering the creator of the universe, we should give ample consideration to all religious beliefs and discern whether there is one particular belief system which gives more supporting evidence for its claims.

Jeremy wrote:
Forthekids wrote:
"Obvious to most, there had to be a first cause to our existence. Hence, everything we explore in our world can be viewed through the lens of what this creator had in mind for us and in turn what our purpose is within it’s creation."

From what I gather, your viewpoint is based on the logical argument that God exists because "there had to be a first cause to our existence." Based on this currently unverifiable presupposition, you subsequently assume that we should find physical evidence of God’s creative action throughout the universe. I personally share your presupposition, but I think your assumption does not necessarily follow from it.

Why couldn’t God create a fully autonomous universe? Why couldn’t God, being a fully transcendent entity, work through the finite causes we call “natural” without interrupting or interfering in such a way that would be physically detectable to us? Maybe it was all set up this way in order to ensure that the beings created in God’s image would have genuine freedom. These are just a few alternative ideas you might want to consider.

Without even considering what the Bible, which supports the Christian ~faith~, says about God’s creation and observing His hand in the creative process, let’s just consider your thoughts regarding natural causes.

On the surface, your idea that God works through “natural” processes without “interrupting or interfering” is interesting. But, not only does this assure “genuine freedom”, it also eliminates the possibility of miracles outside of natural causes.

Your “alternative idea” would certainly not allow for miracles, a relationship with the creator through prayer, answers to prayer, and of course a risen Saviour would be out of the question. All of these things require supernatural occurrences in which the creator allows miraculous things to occur in our natural world. Traditional Christianity is based on Christ’s death and resurrection and our Creator’s plan to have a relationship with us. Peter, Paul, the apostles and countless numbers of early Christians died for these beliefs. Many of the apostles had eye witness accounts to base their beliefs upon.

Also, within this “alternative idea”, Jesus’ words to Thomas would not apply to blind faith or anything else for that matter because if one does not believe that God works in ways that are outside of nature, then Jesus’ words to Thomas were nonsensical. For a person who does not believe that the Creator of the Universe can step in and act, this story could have nothing to do with the nail imprints that Thomas was seeking as evidence of Christ‘s resurrection from death as this would clearly be a supernatural occurrence.

On the other hand, if one examines the evidence that supports scriptural truth, one can come to have faith that the death and resurrection of Christ and other biblical prophecies were fulfilled through God’s guidance in ways that conflict with natural causes as we know them. In that case, miracles happen and that leaves the door wide open to allow God to create the world in whatever way He chose to do it - naturally/supernaturally/whatever. God is beyond our understanding and can act in whatever way he deems necessary.

This is why it is important for a Christian to consider supporting evidence for the validity of scriptural truth. I’ve yet to ever hear a theistic evolutionist speak of Christian apologetics, in fact they usually reject the idea upfront. They dismiss these arguments that support the accuracy of scripture and assume that those who study these issues do not have faith and therefore need evidence.

But, what the TE has done is left our children with no option other than blind faith in a creator. Why would one choose faith in the God of Christianity when miracles and so much of biblical history is assumed by some people to be merely ancient story telling with some type of deeper meaning to the listener? Some form of deism or panentheism seems to me to be the only option in regard to a faith in this type of god.

As far as blind faith is concerned, I can have ~faith~ and ~strong feelings~ about many things, that doesn’t mean that they are correct. It also stands to reason that if there is evidence to be found for God’s word being true, it should certainly be analyzed and shared with others. There may be a poor soul out there who has strong feelings that the creator sent a non-detectible message through the glass of milk that he was drinking from that our Creator lives in a bubble in the outer depths of the universe, yet without lines of evidence to support this revelation, it would be rather useless to conform to this individual’s faith in the bubble god.

I’ve watched these “Christians” of “blind faith” stand up with atheists and support everything the atheist has to say without blinking an eye. Do they not realize that they are playing right into the atheist’s hands?

Blind faith is worthless.

[Jeremy, when I put quotation marks around the word "Christian", I am ~not~ referring to you. My personal belief at this point is that you lie somewhere in the middle of these differences in opinion, and I’m still not quite sure exactly where you stand on many of these issues. From what I understand you do believe in miracles and Christ’s death and resurrection. If that is true, then you are a Christian in the traditional sense, IMO.]

Jeremy wrote:
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it is fine for you to view the world through your chosen lens. However, I don't think it is right for you to try to prescribe "corrective lenses" for everyone else. It seems to me that you want students to see the world through the "lens of what this creator had in mind for us and in turn what our purpose is within it’s creation." That’s what you seem to be suggesting when you say that we are teaching science "dogmatically" unless we also present ID.

No, I am not saying that everyone must prescribe to my viewpoint, and I do not feel that students in the public school system must consider the world through the “lens of what this creator had in mind for us...”. What I am saying is that there are many scientists and people in the general public who do consider intelligent design as a legitimate scientific inference, and we should not be singled out and waved off as being unscientific.

I am also saying that TE’s and atheists feel that their religious/non-religious “faith” is being tampered with as well as their faith in what ~they feel~ man has without a doubt concluded as being true within the field of science.

I am also suggesting that Intelligent Design is the best inference that we have in regard to origins. The scientific community has never had a problem putting forth ideas like primordial soup or Miller-Urey which by today’s standards are quite lame. ID offers far more scientific support than either of those theories.

ID is the best science has to offer in regard to origins and until Dawkins, Harvard University or whoever comes up with a better option, ID should be considered.

David Lui from Harvard University seems quite certain that we will find our answers as to the origins of life and it will require no divine intervention:
''We start with a mutual acknowledgment of the profound complexity of living systems," said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard. "But my expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention."

But, until that time comes, we cannot assume that natural causes give conclusive support for our origins.

I think perhaps that is your fear - that science will eventually eliminate the need for a creator. That is where you believe your faith alone is vital to your belief system.

While I heartily support Harvard’s endeavor, my faith lies in the truth of scripture and I have faith that the divine creator exists and there is no getting away from that fact.

But, as you can see from that article, ID has pushed science to new levels and there will be even greater strides in trying to find a way to explain our origins. This is awesome in my opinion. There will always be those who believe that there is a designer, there will always be those who believe that natural causes explain everything in our world, and there will always be those who teeter in the middle not quite willing to take a stand one way or the other. Nevertheless, our current best scientific theories for origins should be laid out for our students to consider, and ID is certainly in that category. And, it is entirely possible to consider ID without letting personal religious views get in the way. The theory of Intelligent Design has nothing to do with my belief that Christ died for my sins and will one day return for me and all believers.

Jeremy wrote:
Think about your own situation for a moment. You have described yourself as a nominally-religious Christian prior to your in-depth investigation of the Bible. When you eventually came to the conclusion that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, you re-examined your prior acceptance of evolution because of its apparent conflict with the Biblical narrative. I think you would probably admit that you did not come to this conclusion solely through careful examination of the scientific evidence.

It was your religious presuppositions that led you through the process by which you eventually concluded that significant portions of the consensus scientific understandings were false. In contrast, I think we should let science advance on its own, without being encumbered by our religious misgivings.

No, actually what made me reconsider both science and religion was scientific evidence that I was never allowed to consider in school. If you remember, I stated that the initial spark that started this journey for me was my kids and their dinosaur years and friends offering me tapes and books with alternative scientific theories that are not allowed in the public schools.

I had been taught in the public school that there was only one way in which our world evolved and that was presented to me as fact. I honestly felt at the time that science was taking on more than could actually be empirically detectible, but I really didn’t give it much more thought than that. I took them at their word while having absolutely no idea at the time that there were scientists who are able to give clear evidence that some of these “factual” theories are quite questionable.

When I was presented with alternative theories, it was like opening up the door to ideas that made more sense and in turn I started considering biblical truth more closely. At that point, I found both science and theology so compelling that I couldn’t stop exploring both at length. It wasn’t until quite some time later that I discovered that the scientific community is composed of primarily scientists who hold atheistic beliefs and that there are actually scientific establishments that have been raised up primarily to stop any scientific thought unless it conforms with the mainstream “scientific community“.

And, as far as letting science advance on it’s own and following the evidence where it leads, it is a fact that many scientists have stated that they are out to stop religion and some have gone as far as saying that is why they do what they do. ~Everyone~ comes to the table with prior beliefs and commitments. That is not a fact that is exclusively held by IDists. You are aware that even Dawkins sees design in nature, but his prior commitment to naturalism will not allow for him to follow that particular line of evidence.

Jeremy wrote:
Now, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that empirical evidence of God's existence is not as self-evident to non-believers as it is to you. I think that’s a fair assumption.

Which of our two viewpoints do you think is more likely to encourage non-believers to have faith?

Well, actually I’ve talked to quite a few atheists about this and they’ve all stated that they would ~not~ believe in a god by faith alone. That is why they follow science in the first place - they need evidence. The problem is that the atheistic “scientific community” has only allowed for one line of evidence to be considered and that is why we have seen the number of atheists grow considerably. Atheists also love the fact that some Christians feel the need to “update” interpretations of the Bible (as you yourself have stated). They know that this will quickly eliminate the truth of scripture and destroy the deity of Christ. They also realize that these progressive interpretations will lead right straight toward atheism. Eugenie Scott is a pro at this approach.

Jeremy wrote:
I certainly don’t think God is "tricking us at every turn" or that God created a world that is in opposition to the Bible. I just think that the evidence we have uncovered using science suggests that some interpretations of the Bible are in need of updating.

And, just how far will this “updating” go? If you plan on going too far, Jeremy, Christianity will eventually mean nothing. You might as well start a new religion based on blind faith in a god of natural causes. Sounds like a form of panentheism to me.

Theistic evolutionists are far to awestruck with man's current scientific inferences and speculation. It seems to me that something this important would encourage a person to consider Christian apologetics before tossing their traditional Christian faith out the closest window in exchange for a deistic or panentheistic belief system that coincides with current scientific consensus.

Your questions regarding what should be taught in the classroom in regard to ID will have to come in another post as this one is far too long already.

Thanks again for your comments. I have a lot of respect for you and your approach in discussing these issues.

[A few words in this post have been changed for further clarification.]