After my post on ‘What kind of God let’s that happen?‘ I was challenged on the purpose and effect of prayer, amongst other things. It challenged me enough to make me think about the reasons why I pray. And I’ve discovered I do pray a lot, from my daily quiet time where I really feel I am growing in Christ, to intercessing for others, those that I know and those that I don’t, to the quick ‘arrow’ prayer when I am out and about.
In this post, from last week, Phaedrus asked me several questions about Gods intervention (or non-intervention as the case may be). I felt challenged to think about this before blasting off my answers. So having had that time, I’ve been scribbling down my thoughts. The questions are his, and to read the full comment do click on the previous post above or right, but I have included shortened versions. As they are quite meaty I am going to post one a day for the next few days. It would be great to get some debate if people feel so inclined, as I say I felt challenged by the questions so it would be great to hear others view points too.
What God wants is a relationship with us, not a bunch of robot worshippers. We worship Him because we desire to not because he asks it of us. Scripture actually tells us that we won’t know all of his plan. When the disciples ask Jesus if he is going to restore the Kingdom to Israel in the Book of Acts, he answers:
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority”. Acts 1:7
I don’t believe that the bible was written so that God wouldn’t be a mystery – He is a mystery. In the Anglican church we use the words ‘we declare the mystery of faith…’ in standard services, and scripture states in several places that we cannot know the mind of God or always understand his actions. As He says to Job:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Job 38:4
If we believe in a sovereign God, then how can we expect to know why he makes decisions or how? Put it this way: if you look at any leader, do you really know why they make the decisions they do? Every leader will have things behind the scenes that they cannot divulge or that we cannot understand, that shape decisions they make. Sometimes those decisions may be unpopular but they have to stand by them knowing they have made the right decision in those circumstances. I think God is a bit like that. He wants the best for all of us and sometimes a decision for one person affects a lot more people than just the one.
Actually, Job is an interesting book because it shows that there is stuff going on behind the scenes that Job and his friends have no idea about and probably wouldn’t understand even if they did.
I think the bible gives us an excellent guide to human nature, in that it includes examples of amazing evil or wrong doing, and also examples of amazing good and giving or loving behaviour. It gives us a good moral code to live our lives by. People say the bible is outdated but it is not, my gosh it’s like an episode of the Jeremy Kyle show (or Jerry Springer for the US audience!) in places. You can pretty much guarantee that if you have an issue in your life, it’s been covered in the bible…
PhaedrusMarch 23, 2011 at 5:47 am
I like that you're thinking about this, but you appeal to the bible a bit too much (and the passages you use commit another fallacy called cherry picking, but I'll come back to this). It doesn't help your argument. In logic we call this an informal fallacy that is usually referred to as an appeal to authority (Person/text P, makes claim X. Therefor, X is true). We appeal to authority a lot, and in many cases it can be a legitimate aid to an argument. Like if I quoted an evolutionary biologist in a paper about artificial selection and the breeding of dogs, or if I quoted a shark expert to legitimize the claim that sharks are dangerous. However, i would still need my own argument, because what I have just quoted is testimony, and testimony is not an argument.
The biggest problem with appealing to the bible though, is that the bible is the source of the position you are defending. It would be like me using nothing but the Koran to defend the position of the Koran – that Christianity is false and Islam is right.
Think about it. You want to defend Christianity to those outside and possibly critical of Christianity. Quoting the bible to an atheist is like an atheist trying to counsel or correct you by quoting from Lord of the Rings.
PhaedrusMarch 23, 2011 at 6:31 am
And if I was to cherry pick passages from the bible to defend my own position I'd simply do what this Christian did:
"Many believe that we cannot know God, but Scripture refutes this idea. In fact we read in the book of Jeremiah:
'Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understand and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD' – Jer. 9:23-24
"Jesus Christ was sent so that we may come to know the Father. John 17:3; I John 5:20, I John 2:13; (see also Gal. 4:9; Phil 3:10; I John 2:3, 4:8)
"As Christians we have a personal relationship with God…We can speak to God in prayer, and He speaks to us through His Word. We enter His presence, sing His praise, and know that He personally dwells among us and within us – John 14:23."
JulesMarch 23, 2011 at 9:41 am
I do refer to the bible a lot I know, but that's a big part of my faith and to be fair you quoted scripture to make your point so I was simply chosing some passages that helped to make mine;)
Actually to use another literary example, I think asking someoneone to discuss Christianity without using the bible is very hard – it's like saying: talk about Shakespeare without referring to any of his works. By the way I am not 'defending' Christianity, I am answering your questions. It's up to you what you believe, I am just telling you what I think.
The other main focus in sharing about faith is ones own testimony, as you suggest. But that has its own inherent problems too. The thing about personal testimony is that yes it can be powerful, but a lot of people still won't believe it – they will assign it to a 'rational' reason or circumstance. And unless something happens to you personally why would you believe it 100%?
(my story is here by the way: http://pickingapplesofgold.blogspot.com/2010/02/my-testimony-short-version.html) sorry dont know how to link it in a comment… and I could tell you countless examples of things where I believe God has stepped in to my life, but they weren't relevant to your previous questions.
Tell me more about 'cherry picking'? It does irritate me when people take scripture out of context and use it to make an argument so I hope I wasnt doing that!
Interesting your thing about logic and fallacy. Isn't that normal to go to an 'expert' to back up an opinion? I am not writing a paper that I am claiming to be my own I am telling you why I believe what I do.
PhaedrusMarch 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm
"I do refer to the bible a lot I know, but that's a big part of my faith and to be fair you quoted scripture to make your point so I was simply chosing some passages that helped to make mine;)"
– I quoted scripture to demonstrate that we can cherry pick pretty much anything from the bible to justify any position we personally believe (good or bad).
"I think asking someone to discuss Christianity without using the bible is very hard – it's like saying: talk about Shakespeare without referring to any of his works."
-in your Shakespeare example we would be referring to Shakespeare to talk about Shakespeare, not prove Shakespeare's existence. If I wanted to prove to you the Shakespeare existed, I would have to provide outside sources. And actually it is a major debate as to which plays he actually wrote. I know a prominent Shakespearian scholar who is convinced that Shakespeare didn't write hardly any of those plays (Myself, I think Shakespeare was a huge fan of collaborating with his fans and actors).
-your second point is surprising to me because I have read many, many arguments for god that does not use the bible in the least. I'll help you out here with a few examples from history (and of course I can show you where these arguments fail):
Ontological argument: nothing greater than god can possibly be thought of. A god who exists is greater than a god who does not exist. Therefore god exists.
Cosmological/first cause argument: Either the universe has been going on for ever or it began at a certain point. The universe cannot possibly have been going on forever. But if it began at a certain point, then something must have brought it into being, and that something can only be god.
– a more sophisticated version of this: every finite and contingent being has a cause (such as your parents), a causal loop cannot exist, a causal chain cannot be infinitely long… therefore, a there must be a “first cause” (insert god here).
Argument from irreducible complexity: when you see a complex object such as a watch, we know immediately that it didn’t happen by accident and must have had a creator. Human beings/Universe is far more complex than a watch, and thus it to must also have a creator.
Transcendental argument: Knowledge is possible (or some other statement pertaining to logic or morality). If there is no god, knowledge is not possible. Therefore God exists.
You can find these all over the internet as well as their rebuttals: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existence_of_God#Arguments_for_the_existence_of_God
PhaedrusMarch 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm
I'll have to respond to the rest of your inquiry later. Have to go to a class on American Political Thought 🙂
JulesMarch 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Ok maybe Shakespeare wasn't the best example 😉
But thing is you cannot prove (or disprove) Gods existance through intelligent argument or rational means. The bible (yes that old book again) suggests that faith is: 'confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see'. Which, aside from God, is a good definition of faith, right? The free dictionary ahs this:
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. 3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance
Faith is all of those things. It doesn't matter what approach you use, at some point you need some faith. I have faith that my washing machine will work when I switch it on, even though I don't really know how it works.
I have faith in God because of what he has done in my life, because of my own experiences, because of what the bible says, and above all because I can't NOT believe. As you said above – the argument that there had to be a creator, is huge.