Tuesday, February 22, 2011
One of the interesting dialectics was the difference in approach to mystery between Mulder and Scully. Scully was the perennial scientist/skeptic, always believing that a rational explanation could be found. Mulder, on the other hand, was always open to the supernatural, otherworldly, irrational explanation. (And we all know who was right!!)
Although I admire people like Scully, at heart I'm a Mulder. I WANT to believe in the unseen, the supernatural, the REALLY big picture. Ultimate reality.
That's why when I enter a significant period of doubt, when the foundations of my supernatural worldview are being shaken to the core, it's horrible. I hate it. I despise it. I don't like it. It's unwanted and unwelcome. It's nothing I've asked or wished for. It's alien and foreign to my very being.
Must be the devil.
In my current spiritual malaise I'm finding an automatic reflex troubling. Thanking God.
When good stuff happens, or even just when I hit the cool sheets of my bed, my first instinct is to whisper, "Thank you, God."
But what if there is no God? or I don't know who he is?
I WANT to thank somebody. And to have that option removed would be a big loss. What do I do with that impulse? Thank the "universe?" Thank random chance?
Sometimes I am really grateful. But who am I grateful to?
I don't know if I'm making myself clear. Do you understand what I'm struggling with?
It reminds me of the zealots who emphasize the Christian foundation of the United States. They will speak about the institution of "Thanksgiving Day," and say, "Who do you think they were thanking?" (God, of course.) They have a point.
I'm frustrated with this post because I don't think I have expressed myself well. So, to beat a dead horse... I have strong gratitude impulses. What do I do with them???? What do atheists do with them?? It's hard to imagine a satisfactory answer that doesn't involve god.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Evangelical, bible-loving Christians, dismiss evolution out of hand despite any evidence, because "we believe the bible." In other words, the bible trumps "so called" science. And, if they were to accept evolution as true, it would put a major crimp in their ability to trust the bible in other areas.
HOWEVER... a few hundred years ago, a similar phenomenon happened. Science began to discover that the earth was round and not flat. It also discovered that we revolved around the sun, not vice versa. In the day, this caused as much stir and controversy in the church as evolution does today. The scientists who heralded the new truth were figuratively burned at the stake as infidels. This was serious business. A lot was at stake for the church.
So... what's my point? Well, science won. And somehow the church was able to reinterpret all the scripture passages to fit with this new worldview, and life went on.
I speculate about whether the church will be able to do the same thing with evolution. IF it gathers increasing scientific support to the point where it's as undeniable/irrefutable as the Copernican revolution, while the church adjust? Will it successfully reinterpret all the relevant passages in a satisfactory way, and move on? Or will this be a death nail in the coffin of bible-based Christianity? How elastic is evangelicalism? How much of the veracity of the bible can be chipped away at and still retain its aura of inspiration/infallibility/inerrancy?
These are good questions. Important questions.
In my opinion, the Darwinian revolution is more significant than the Copernican one. Why? Well, it's not too difficult to understand that when the biblical authors described the world, heavens, etc., they used metaphors that they could understand. For example, they might say "the four corners of the earth" to mean the whole earth. It's easy to understand what they were getting at. It does not seem to strike at the core of any important doctrine.
However, if there was no literal adam and eve, there was no literal fall, there was no serpent, there was no cain and abel, etc. etc. The whole foundation of what the rest of the bible addresses starts to disentegrate.
I think that will be a much bigger challenge for the church to adjust to than the Copernican one.
How do you think it will turn out?
Friday, February 18, 2011
What did you think?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I was reading a post about divorce by Gullible's Travels. It reminded me of what prompted my most recent faith crisis. (Yes, I've had a number in my life!)
I've been a Christian counselor for several years, and have done a lot of marriage counseling. I consider my approach to be very Christian, faith-based. My general tack with marriage has been to do whatever we can to strengthen the relationship and have a good marriage, including strong boundaries and stuff; but if it's still broken or abusive or neglectful, go ahead and divorce. You're not honoring God to stay in a loveless marriage. As I would say, "This marriage is dead. Let's give it a proper burial." Keeping it alive on paper did not seem God-honoring to me.
Then one of my clients challenged me on it. He said, "I'm not sure I can continue with you. Ultimately, we have different views of God's will in this matter."
And so I read the new testament cover to cover in a month. And it couldn't be more clear. ONE exception for divorce; sexual immorality committed by your spouse. THAT'S IT!! It couldn't be more clear by Jesus or Paul. (Some construe porneia to mean lust or pornography or sexual abuse or workaholism or whatever. I'm pretty sure that the people who heard Jesus and Paul understood exactly what they meant. Knocking boots with someone other than your spouse.)
To go even further, if you divorce for ANY other reason, and then get remarried, you're committing adultery. ANDDD... you are causing your spouse to commit adultery if he/she gets remarried... even if he/she had been completely innocent in the original divorce. The only out in those circumstances was if your former spouse died. Then you were released. (Not if they got remarried. Only if they died. Dead. No longer breathing.)
And there was no way I could intellectually chalk this up to being a "cultural" teaching. The reasons given in the bible for this teaching had nothing to do with culture. They had to do with Adam and Eve and Christ and the Church and the overall sanctity of the marriage covenant.
I had to finally admit it. I either had to follow and teach this line of instruction, or ignore it and continue with my "principles," or reinterpret it to be more palatable, or question whether the bible is the inspired/inerrant "word of God."
I couldn't quite come to direct my clients to follow this instruction... it is repulsive to me... especially when there is abuse, neglect, addiction, etc. etc. I still don't see how it honors God for the spouse to stay married in those cases. Unless you're going to say "stay married, but live separate lives?" But again, how does that honor God? And is that a just sentence to impose on an innocent spouse? What if they are "burning with lust?" No wonder the text records Jesus saying, "This is a hard teaching, and not all can accept it."
So, for this reason and a couple other similar New Testament teachings (which I'll address in a future post), I am tapering off my clients, as I really don't know what to tell them anymore, while I reevaluate my faith; to wit, is the bible really the inspired/inerrant word of God; and, if it is, what does it say, and how does one correctly apply it to life today.
I should have that all figured out in a week or so.
Oh, there's this woman that I grew up with. Her husband left her for another woman several years ago. She has hung in there, praying for a turnaround, etc. But New York finally got no-fault divorce, and he is currently divorcing her. (He tried before and she wouldn't let him!) I have been waiting (hoping) for this divorce to happen, cuz I like her! But then I got thinking... He's divorcing her and she was never sexually immoral. He's divorcing for the WRONG REASON! So... she can't get remarried or she'll be committing adultery! And if I marry her I'll be committing adultery as well. Might be enough to abandon my faith for I guess....
Funny thing... 50-100 years ago this was not a difficult teaching to believe/accept by the church. It was par for the course. Divorce was unthinkable, even if there was sexual immorality! And remarriage was clearly only practiced by degenerate Hollywood movie stars. Amazing how dramatically the attitude in the church has changed about such a pivotal topic in such a short time. That in itself should lead one to question whether any and all of our current beliefs/practices aren't 98.3% culturally biased.
Lastly, in my personal situation, after 15 years of a miserable marriage, during which I had lapsed into agnosticism I suggested to my wife that we try an open marriage. We would still try to work on our relationship, but we would also be free to date others, as long as we were up front about it. We did that for about 6 months. (What an interesting experience.) Ultimately, she found someone that she had the feelings for that she never did with me, and is married to him today. Our divorce was mutual and amiable. Several years later I "came back to the Lord," and for the sake of argument, lets say I still am with Him. So, according to scripture, am I free to remarry?? Try to figure out that boondoggle. I remember Jay Adams had a book out about divorce and remarriage that outlined with engineering precision when and if divorce or remarriage were permissible or not. I'll have to look that up and see if it addresses my situation.
Talk amongst yourselves.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
When I finally posted that he was coming home from the hospital there were hallelujahs. Good still heals! God still answers prayer!
Even though I'm in this questioning mode right now, I pretty much believe there is a God, and I pretty much believe that he hears our prayers, and I pretty much believe that he can and does answer. I'm just not sure I would hold this up as an example.
"If you pray, God will allow you to get sick. Then he'll allow it to get worse. Then he'll allow you to have surgery. Then he'll allow you to have even more serious surgery. Then he'll allow you to go home after a few days to recover for 6 weeks."
If that is supposed to be an example of God's miraculous healing ability, it's a good thing he had help! I'm sure those that said these things were trying to bolster my (or their, or others') faith, but I think that kind of cheer leading backfires.
It seems that we're all too quick to give God props for the most mundane of things. Calling the natural order of things supernatural. Albeit, you can call natural processes supernatural, in that they were created by God, and upheld by him. But that's not what these folks are referring to. They are claiming divine, special intervention, because of their prayer.
When unbelievers or skeptics hear this kind of cheer leading, they just roll their eyes. They do not take it as proof that there is a God, or that he intervenes in the life of man. They take it as self-deluded fanatics who are so unsure of their faith that they have to prop it up artificially.
So, is giving God props a prop? Does he need us to tell him and everyone else what a great job he did, when he didn't do anything? Do we need to prop up his reputation artificially? Honestly, I see that as almost as bad as blaspheming the holy spirit (calling the work of the holy spirit the work of the devil). I think we're supposed to call a spade a spade.
When I look at healing anywhere in the bible, old or new testament, it doesn't look anything like what my son went through. It was immediate. It was without medical intervention. My son's situation was far from immediate, and required lots of medical intervention. By any rational criteria he is very fortunate to have had the advanced medical science we have available today. And lucky he had good health insurance.
Now, one could posit that it was God who helped human beings discover medical science, and God who helped his parents make the money to afford the quality insurance that covered the procedures. But I truly see these possibilities, even if true, as very different from what we normally consider to be a miracle, answer to prayer, or healing. They just are. I applaud the Catholic Church in their efforts to authenticate a miracle (or a demon, for that matter). They do their best to rule out naturalistic explanations.
What's the harm in ascribing God's miraculous intervention to seemingly natural events?
- It makes an idol out of our "conception of God" vs God himself.
- It makes skeptics and unbelievers even more convinced that religion is the opiate of the masses.
- It keeps us from confronting our real feelings about God... anger, sadness, disappointment, confusion.
- It may inoculate us from the real thing. If everything is a miracle, eventually nothing is. It would be better to wait, and fully celebrate the real miracles, should they happen.
- It keeps us stuck in an infantile view of God, wherein he really needs a lot of our PR.
- It keeps us stuck in infantile faith, wherein we can only have a relationship with God if he is demonstrably proving his existence and care at every moment of every day.
- This may be a summary of several of the above points, but it keeps us from a true and real relationship with a real person (God). If we are constantly reinterpreting situations to fit our conception of the way we think God is (or should be) acting, it is difficult to see clearly what he actually is or is not doing. And how do you have a relationship with someone if you don't have a good handle on what he is or isn't doing?
- majesty and awe-inspiring beauty and coherence and intricacy from the macro to the micro
- ample scientific and intuitive evidence (for me) of an extra-universe creator/designer
- Lots of particulars evidencing imperfections and natural processes
- a majestic and remarkable phenomenon, biologically, socially, intellectually, etc. "God-like" to some extent. A stamp of the "divine."
- a remarkable likeness to the animal kingdom. A stamp of the "natural."
- pervasive dysfunction. Something has gone wrong.
- grandeur, majesty, truth, revelation, a coherent story. "Inspired," if you will.
- particulars evidencing contradictions, inaccuracies, cultural influences, human fingerprints
- The gospels (including Jesus) and epistles refer to many events in the OT as literal, factual events... creation, adam, the flood, cain and abel, abraham/isaac/jacob, the exodus, sinai, david, etc. etc.
- The NT says that Paul wrote that all scripture (referring to the old testament) is inspired by God and useful for, etc.
- The NT says that Peter mentioned Paul's letters alongside of "other scriptures."
- The gospels record Jesus rebuffing satan using scriptural quotations.
- The gospels record Jesus saying "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
- The gospels record that Jesus often taught from the law, prophets, and writings... before and after his crucifixion/resurrection. It never mentions him saying, "Don't believe this part."
- The Old Testament is replete with praise for the law, word of God, etc. (See Psalm 119). This would seem to be speaking primarily of the Pentateuch, or more specifically the covenant at Sinai. (This DOES seem to be an example of "idolizing the bible," in a sense.)
1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
PS - Every time I write "inerrancy," blogger gives it a squiggly red underline, not recognizing the word. Damn liberals!