Having Our Cake and Eating It Too

As believers, we emphatically claim to know God exists based on our experiences. When asked to document these claims or proofs, we fall back on “faith”. As I have stated before… faith is the Christian “get out of reason card”.

Christians claim complete certainty on one hand (God exists, the Bible is God’s word, Jesus died and rose again) and complete faith on the other. They only claim the latter when they can’t prove the former.

Wrote this over at Steeples and People and thought I would kick it around over here too.

20 thoughts on “Having Our Cake and Eating It Too”

  1. I don’t see empiricism as the end-all/be-all, either, but proof is largely a subjective matter. I’ve had a couple watershed moments in my life (including an instant, complete physical healing, witnessed by several people) that probably would be explained away as mind-over-matter by someone who was determined not to believe. But they were sufficient proof to me that God exists and interacts with creation.

  2. Were they flying Black Hawk helicopters? ‘Cuz if so, that’s the 8th division, and they should’ve been back at Pendleton an hour ago……but anyway…hrm. I don’t know whether to expand on the whole radical empiricism/skepticism thing, given Steve’s prior reaction to it. Because in the end, I fear it may just be willful ignorance.

  3. I’ve always found that frustrating. On the other hand, not using this circular reasoning can be a lot of work. It might be easier to just resign to this ignorance.

  4. I think it helpful to think about the concepts of all faiths as myth, meaning that these are great stories containing very deep truth. We don’t need to believe that the Easter events actually happened; all credible modern theologians will tell you that the authors of the gospels each had their own slant. Granted, this does complicate, as I am currently experiencing. But I see it as the most helpful and helpful thought to bring us forward into inclusiveness.

  5. OK…. sorry about the above comment. It was a gut reaction to what I just read. But I left it, cuz I thought it was pretty funny. See…. I think it is terribly important to be able to have evidence of what I am believing in. Experience and empirical proof is a part of that discovery. Faith certainly has a part what we believe but so does knowledge based in reality… not fantasy.If it is all based on feelings of faith or desiring something to be true and not proof, then churches like Saddleback have it exactly right… appeal to peoples “felt needs” and nothing more. Win them with emotion not facts or proof of truth. Truth is whatever they feel it is. That can’t be right can it?

  6. does this blog come with a dictionary? some pretty big words flyin’ around…steve, how good of you to continue this little chat in your backyard, instead of crashing jenny’s. It’s also nice to hear that i’ve made an impact *allows for momentary head-swelling, and then immediatly falls on knees to repend*to the subject – I love that the bible isn’t just a few pages of rules and regulations, but stories of real people with real issues. Jesus brief time on earth clearly showed that people responded to him in many different ways. Thomas (the doubter) needed to touch Jesus’ wounds. Many witnessed a miracle or were healed themselves-then believed. Others simply followed a man they knew little or nothing about…blind faith-or was that the spirit? I don’t think the bible ever shows that there is this one kind of cookie-cutter method towards finding ones faith or belief. We were created as individuals, and will there for respond to any given situation or issue completely different. The question of right vs wrong, or valid vs unprovable simply doesn’t apply in this case.I think if people spent less time trying to analyze others journey of faith (and BTW, that applies to ALL persons, regardless of their theistic point of view…everyone has faith in something or someone) and concentrated more on their own growth, the term “Stupid Church People” might just become nonapplicable…sorry steve, nothing personal 😉great post…great feedback.

  7. You should see the thread of discussion that happened over at nakedpastor, click < HREF="http://nakedpastor.com/archives/795" REL="nofollow">here<>. It was between “theists” and “atheists”. It was actually very civil. Faith versus reason.

  8. Steve, I have to ask this question: were the pigs wearing leather jackets?I am in a very similar boat to you, Steve. I have a pretty sharp friend I’ve been dialouging with as I wrestle with my doubts. His response is that we can’t empirically prove God exists. His is an appeal to intrinsic knowledge of God – Pascal’s “God shaped void”. He also spouts the same stuff we’re familiar with when confronted about the creation of our universe…that higher order can’t result from lower order because of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. I’m reading McLaren’s books “Finding Faith” and “The Last Word”. I’m trying to fight succumbing to “The God Delusion”. I guess I’m not ready to deconvert. I don’t know if I’m being ignorant, or if I can’t let go of the critical moments in my life where it seemed some divine force either saved my life or created circumstances favorable to my life. Then I have to look at those whose lives haven’t been as fortunate and I have to respond “I just don’t know. I wish I did.”

  9. I have found that faith is a dispensable luxury when things go well in my life. We then have space to debate the existence of realities bigger than us and explore different nuances of theological debate. For me, it is when my back is against the wall that my faith becomes real – not because something has suddenly been proved to be true, but because without faith I am fucked. And it is usually at my weakest that I discover strength bigger than my own.

  10. Proof is overrated. There’s surprisingly little one could prove empirically in one’s own life, and that’s just talking about the more mundane stuff… …however, expanding on this to its logical conclusion gets really loopy and strange. Philosophical empricism is all it is, albeit a relatively uninformed version of it.

  11. I think Gary has a good point. It’s much easier for me to look at the Bible in the mythic context rather than trying to defend it as literal. But if we start carving away at the gospels to get at the deep truth, what are we left with? I’m also glad he brought up the issue of the gospels. “We don’t need to believe that the Easter events actually happened.”I’ve always had a hard time with this idea.I would argue that the Easter events did not actually happen; yet that’s the problem. If we can’t read the gospels as historical, which we obviously can’t; then where does that leave us? If we view the gospels as myth – i.e. how humans understand reality – where’s the truth in the myth? What truth is the myth of Christianity trying to reveal?Assume we pick out the mythic and literary elements that add emphasis on Jesus’ death and admit that they did not happen: the darkness falling over the land as the sun ceases to shine, the curtain in the temple tearing, the Centurion realizing his mistake, the crown of thorns, casting lots, the piercing of Jesus’ side, and the breaking of his legsWe can do this because they are not “essential” to our Christology.Okay. But then we look at the resurrection. We get rid of the violent earthquake, the angel of the Lord coming down from heaven, the rolling back of the stone, the young man dressed in white speaking to Mary, the Eleven refusing to believe, Thomas’ doubt, the catching of the fish, etc.Where do we draw the line? What should be defended? Do we still argue that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world? Why? It wasn’t Christ who died on the cross; it was Jesus of Nazareth. The first followers of Jesus likely didn’t even associate him with the Christ. This atonement ideology that we’re so hung up on today developed over time and was eventually recorded in the gospels decades after Jesus’ death. Do we draw the line at a physical resurrection and argue that God reanimated Jesus’ actual physical body and that Jesus physically appeared to his followers? If we say no, this did not actually happen, but there’s still truth in the myth what are we left with? Is the truth simply that there was a man from Nazareth who offended some people and was executed? “All credible modern theologians will tell you that the authors of the gospels each had their own slant.”I think it’s more than each writer having his own slant. I’m tempted to say it’s a case of each writer picking up on an evolving theology decades after the death of a historical man. Then each writer took it upon himself to write about this Jesus event from his respective theological perspective and cultural/political context. When we exam Paul’s Kergyma, the gospels, and some first century history on a timeline, it appears that Jesus of Nazareth had a lot of titles and ideas tacked onto his name, life, and death along the way – ideas and titles that he never would have identified with. It’s disheartening to think that we’ve based our faith on the literary abilities of first century men who lived in a time of religious syncretism; and we are now stuck trying to justify our faith two thousand years later with no authority or tangible truth to build our case on. We want to find out what really happened with this man from Nazareth, but we’re stuck. We want to declare that Christianity came into existence the way the gospels said it did; but if we want to learn about Jesus or defend our faith we’re forced to use the gospels as proof of our faith. It’s a circular trap that we can’t get out of.I apologize for the length… I got to rambling.

  12. I know… I am often at the same place Jeff. Yet I have these thoughts when encountering others online and then I start typing and well… here you have it.I guess my personal struggle is this. If I do believe the Bible in its entirety regarding the essentials (i.e. your definition of faith for example), then my position must be (since Jesus didn’t really seem to leave doubt IMO – although I know others might have other opinions) is that all those who do not believe in him for salvation will be going to hell.I guess to answer the question, “Why should anyone else care?” I would ask another… “Do you care?” More importantly “Do I care?” Someone asked me earlier what I was looking for with this discussion. I guess I am looking for honesty… first in myself. Then secondly in others. And I want there to be honesty on all levels: spiritual, emotional and intellectual!My honesty is this… I gave my life to Christ at the age of 7. I was born in Houston, TX and raised in a So Baptist church. Really… pretty much the only thing I could have been was a Christian growing up. And the simple, age-old question still rings true. If I would have been raised in India and continued to live there today, most likely I would be Hindu (and bound for hell according to my Christian Bible). So what makes me as a Christian so arrogant as to think that my faith based system is any different than the Hindu faith based system (or any other mainstream world religion or even cult for that matter). Is that worth thinking about? Should I care? Is that casting pearls before swine (even the non-flying kind)?

  13. Back to the original comment for a sec:I think the problem is three fold: First: what constitutes knowledge and the justification of one’s alleged knowledge? Second: I think some Christians get a little too caught up in searching for validation of their hopes and/or aspirations. I think many times people are guilty of taking acid indigestion or a queezing feeling as a sign from God to mean something that just isn’t there. Three: I think there is always an issue of language. How do you put an indescribable subjective religious experience into the fixed form of language and then have another subject interpret your language. How can you describe knowledge of God?Lengthy apologetics are a dead end in today’s culture. Wittgenstein said, “Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.”If there really is a theistic God who interacts with selected human beings how can this act be put into words? I think it would be up to the theistic God to give the “non-believer” a mystical indescribable experience if any “knowledge of God” were to ever be reached.

  14. The way I see it is that there is no such thing as absolute certainty that God exists, as that would require verifiable proof in the form of incontrovertible evidence of God’s existence. If such evidence existed, atheism would become a thing of the past — but it doesn’t. That, to me, is the whole point of faith. If such certainty was possible, there would be no need for faith.In my opinion, those who claim to have absolute certain knowledge of God’s existence are deluding themselves. Personally I believe God exists, but I don’t claim to have proof or complete certainty.

  15. You guys are killing me now…Proof isn’t required. Proof is overrated.This is getting good.Wait, I would continue writing more but a flock of pigs just flew by my fucking window.

  16. No, Steve that can’t be right. What people feel don’t dictate what is. Now, when you say proof and evidence, just what kind of proof and evidence are you looking for? The New Testament has literally a mountain of manuscript evidence, or so I’ve been taught. Are you looking along the lines scientific evidence here or something else?

  17. bob, you said just what I was thinking but couldn’t be fucked writing 🙂 thanks for the expansion. josiah has a good point though, it really gives you a headache. and where do you draw the line? that seems to be up to the individual, as can be seen with the jesus seminar. it’s all fascinating but wildly speculative.

  18. This is a false question; a catch-22. People who don’t believe in God always want proof (though due to their presuppositions would never be convinced). Then as soon as someone presents anything at all as “proof” (no matter what the level of validity) the opposition emphatically declares that no such proof could ever possibly be genuine or at the very least that it must be tainted by perception. This of course reveals that the question was inconsequential from its genesis because no answer could ever suffice. On the other hand, if the believer says they don’t believe that proof is necessary, subsequently the opposition states that it is ridiculous to believe in something without tangible evidence (while seemingly ignorant to the fact that disbelief then would also need evidence that is genuine and untainted by perception just as they demanded).. Neither side is foolish for their beliefs but the debate is a loose/loose because no answer is acceptable to either side.

  19. I do not find Jesus sending people of Hindu faith to hell…of course many of his followers want to send everyone to hell who are ‘not like us’. I hear much more from Jesus about compassion for the outcast, and love for the sinner. What a pity we want to spend more time on shutting people out of God’s eternal presence than we do on finding ways to welcome all people in. PG

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