Thinking like a Christian (or at least one like me.)

My brother Kyle and I recently (and seemingly continually) had a bout on twitter. The back and forth centered around who the ultimate authority of a persons life is. My stance of course is that God is that authority, and his position is that each individual is the authority over their own life. He wanted me to clarify my way of thinking about this and that is hard to do 140 characters at a time.

The first thing I need to say before I delve too much further is that I am not an incredibly intelligent person, nor am I the best writer. In fact, I think it would be helpful to include a list of those whom have shaped my thinking the most. If you are so inclined I have added a list at the bottom of this post of those books and authors.

Secondly, one of the things that is important to know is that there really isn’t a question about Christianity that is new. Sure it may be new to you, but that does not mean that someone 1,000 years ago did not also have the same question, discovered the answer and then wrote about it. As a culture we are very arrogant to think that all of these ideas about there not being a god of any sort to be really new ideas, but this is all the same ground we have covered over and over again. Hitchens claimed often that God was our (Humanities) first and worst attempt to explain the universe and all things in it.

How could he know this? Where did he get this special revelation from? If we are a species that has been present between 250,000 and 100,000 years as he claimed, then a few thousand years ago we come up with the idea of god is then in the grand scheme of things a rather new idea even if it is old to us. And further, we don’t know what was in the minds of early man, though we can guess.

And my guess is that Atheism, just like Theism has been with us from the start. There have always been those who have not believed just as there have been those who have. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I wish to make 4 main points and I’ll try to keep them brief.

1. Objective truth exists in the Universe

There is such a thing as a wave length of light even if the color red is subjective. There is such a thing as matter and energy. There is such a thing as things. When we are not capable of trusting our most basic of faculties, that is when reason truly ends. And this isn’t to say that we can’t be tricked. Optical illusions are wonderful because they expose our limited ability to perceive the reality of things. But the illusion revealed is just as wonderful because it shows us that there was a true thing all along, even if we didn’t see it rightly to begin with.

However, if I believe that our faculties were merely the sum of chance+time. Why should I believe that my ability to reason leads me to anything that is true? In other words, if evolution exists for the primary purpose of passing along my genetics, then why should I believe my own mind?

But, since I believe we have been created I also then believe that there is a mind behind my being.

2. Objective truth exists outside of my acknowledgment of it.

This is easy. I am affected by gravity regardless of my willingness. It doesn’t matter if I believe in it or not. It is a constant force, one of the fundamental realities of the universe. It doesn’t need my permission to be true.

God then is true (or not) regardless of my assumptions or convictions. Imagine two rivers. One is the belief that God is real. The other is the belief that God is not. OK. Now, only one of these rivers exists and the other one is a lie. The choice then is to believe in something that does exist or something that does not exist. And the rivers both lead somewhere, even imaginary ones.

3. There is a truth giver

Since I believe in a river that God is. I believe that this leads me to a place (that will take a whole other post) to Christianity. I believe that God has given us faculties to see truth, to seek it out with science. I believe that discovery and technology are important parts of knowing more about God’s creation and God himself. I believe that He is the one who has an objective view of all things and that leads me to…

4. Objective truth is knowable.

God reveals it. There is a process by which it is revealed. Some things are revealed through His word. Some through natural observation of His world. Some through more rigorous testing. Some through His Spirit. Some through other people. God created the Heavens and the Earth by speaking it into existence. Essentially, all of the natural world is a supernatural event. This is why explaining to a child a caterpillars transformation into a butterfly feels more like a fairy tale than science. Reality then, is the language of God.

To summarize; I believe that there is objective truth, which also means I believe there is a truth giver. I believe God is that giver of truth and has the monopoly on all things true. I believe that because of this there is a way to know what that truth is and the best news is that truth became a person.

Reading List

1. G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy

2. C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity

3. John Lennox: Gunning for God

4. Douglas Wilson/Christopher Hitchens: Is Christianity good for the world?

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Thinking like a Christian (or at least one like me.)

  1. `First of all, the topic that started our discussion was my question as to why your (one’s) religion has a monopoly over what defines marriage versus any other religion or governmental definition. I’d like to see you address the claim that marriage is a Christian institution and all people should adhere to the rules defined in the Bible regarding marriage, despite their personal beliefs. I’d be curious to see some historical evidence for this claim as well.

    `Your point about there not being any new arguments concerning Christianity is not a valid argument. Just because someone has asked the questions I’ve asked before, doesn’t mean they came to the right conclusion, or that these questions are no longer worth asking. This is the definition of skepticism, not believing something just because someone told you so, and it’s essential for the search for knowledge and truth to continue. It’s been crucial in getting our society to the where it is today. Imagine if Galileo listened to you on this, and stopped asking about planetary motion, because the Christians already asked that question and answered it.

    `This is a fundamental problem I have with most religions in general. They claim Ultimate Truth and accuse those who choose to question their claims with heresy, immorality, or just ignorance. They discourage free thought, I think out of a fear of having to critically and personally examine their most sacred beliefs. I’m fine with people claiming Ultimate Truth, but they should be ready to critically defend that belief, without using fear or scare tactics. (Which I believe you are as you’re writing this.) You’d think if one knew what the Ultimate Truth was, that they’d be ready and excited to defend those beliefs, and not so quick to wrath when someone has questions.

    `Hitchens didn’t receive a “special revelation.” It’s what he thought about religion, being our first attempt at healthcare, chemistry, education, etc. You say “a few thousand years ago we come up with the idea of god”, well be realistic. The idea of god has been with our people before Christianity, before Judaism, even before Hinduism. I’m sure it was around many hundreds, if not thousands of years before the earliest recorded events and texts from Hinduism can be dated back to.

    So now let’s look at your 4 points.

    1. Objective truth exists in the Universe.

    I say no. Even scientific laws are up to skepticism and inquiry. Even things like gravity, or what makes up a wave length of light, or how the Universe came into being, are up for debate. If I could prove to the scientific community, that we’ve been wrong on the makeup of the atom, they would critically look at my conclusions and test them for validity. This way of thinking has no place in churches or religions. The people who question things are always shunned away. Because, as you do, they claim Ultimate Truth. They claim a divine knowledge that I don’t have, or can’t have, and that’s what gives them the authority on matters of meta-physics and public health. So to sum up, objective truth exists in YOUR Universe, but if you invite me into that Universe, I’m gonna question everything I’m told. And this doesn’t come out of being spiteful, but a desire to know and understand all I can in the short time we have together.

    2. Objective truth exists outside of my acknowledgment of it.

    This is somewhat ironic to me. If you’re wrong about something, regarding religion or politics, and I could prove to you that you’re wrong without any doubt, would you acknowledge it? Or how about with science or computers? If I could show you that you were doing something incorrectly, and I showed you the “right” way to do it, would you concede your viewpoint? If you believe this to be true, than you must throw out all subjective evidence for your religion as it isn’t valid because you have an objective truth.

    This begs the question, what if I’m wrong? Well, if you could present me with empirical evidence of your God being the one true God, and that we all have a soul, and that heaven and hell exist, and that we have all sinned before God, and that we all need repentance through Jesus, then I would critically examine all you claim, to make sure I have an understanding of it all. But I can’t present you with facts that claim your God or any god exists because it’s an indemonstrable statement.

    3 There is a truth giver.

    You give an example of there being 2 rivers, one that believes in God, another that doesn’t. But you fail to mention that this is YOUR God’s river, not the Muslim’s river, or the Buddhists river, or the Scientologists river, or the Agnostic river. Why do you believe in the Christian God versus all the hundreds if not thousands of other God’s believed to exist throughout human history? How do you know the Christian God is the only true God and how do you know that every other God is false? Why is your Ultimate Truth giver the right one versus all the others out there?

    4 Objective truth is knowable.

    This relates back to what I addressed on your first point. Truth is not something to be attained, but something to strive for. It’s when we give up the search for truth that we’ve failed our species.

    `There is a nature of credulity and willful ignorance in not just Christianity, but in all religions and in some cases, even some secular worldviews. My point is that everything must be left to inquiry and skepticism, especially MY dearest beliefs. It’s when we silence that skeptic inside us all, or hush the person who questions these things that we begin to lose what makes humanity so special. I challenge you to help me understand why you believe in Christianity, rather than the 100s of other religions out there.

    `Another thing, remember who I was and where I came from. My experiences and thoughts on this can’t be brushed aside simply because you think I might have never been sincere in my Christian faith. Often times I’ll hear “well he wasn’t really a Christian,” and that’s a cop-out. It is not a valid argument and belittles who I am as a person. It’s very insulting. I’m not saying you do this, but just bringing it up as it’s somewhat of a fallback statement.

    `”Truth became a person.” How? What does that even mean? Who’s truth? Certainly not the Hindu truth or the Muslim truth.

    Hopefully I’ve made my points clear.

    Cheers,
    Kyle

    1. You have indeed made your points clearer and your understanding of mine all the more muddled.

      I’ll try to start from the beginning but there is a lot here to sift through and I will do my best.

      I guess the first thing I would say is that I acknowledge and firmly believe that there are institutions and beliefs that predate what we would call Christianity. Marriage is a predating institution, God is a predating belief. Now of course the naturalist answer for these beliefs and institutions existing is evolutionary, or some social utility that we developed naturally over time. However what naturalism can not account for is why we should prefer one thing over the other. Naturalism can not tell us why polygamy is inferior to monogamy. Both existed, both exist but naturalism developed both so which is superior?

      The second thing is your question about ultimate authority and is really where our conversation took off. Why is Christianity superior to all other religious claims? Well, you having been a Christian should know our answer. But since you may be out of practice I will remind you. All other religions claim to be know the way while Christ claimed to be the way. And I’m sure that answer will conjure up many more questions for you but I’ll continue on.

      My point about there not being any new arguments against Christianity is true, fact and I would dare say gospel. It’s good news because Christianity is post argument. As we can observe though, there isn’t a stick some won’t beat it with and that is fine. In addition, questions are worth asking and we should keep asking them (even old ones because that’s all we have) my point was more on the fact that there are those who think they have a check mate with a question when all they really have is a game of checkers going. There are answers to questions, and you have to decide why it is that you won’t accept the answers given. You must come to the realization that your heart is truly set against this whole Jesus thing being true. You hate the idea, you hate the concept and that is your main issue.

      Now your point about me using scare tactics and resorting to some sort of wrath at first I laughed at but gave a second though about. Here is the main thing. I am not God’s lawyer. I don’t really feel the need to defend Him. However, when I am questioned and asked why I believe a certain thing I am happy to explain it. If my explanation makes someone feel like I am being judgmental or harsh, that is their issue and I chalk it up to the bait of satan (everyone being offended all the time). Furthermore I am fine with people not agreeing with me or thinking the way I think. I am even good with questions, in fact I welcome them. Yet, there is a difference between what I would call questions and doubt. Questions have a resolution but doubts (in the strictest sense) have no resolution and no answer will do.

      In addition, as a Christian there is no judgment (in the eternal sense) that I can give a non believer that is valid or just. I don’t hold non believers to the standard that God has, first I can’t adhere to it anyway as a believer and second I’m not God.

      Finally before I hit the points on truth I just want to say that I do believe that you were indeed a Christian and it is a thing that truly breaks my heart probably more than anything in my life. I recall you praying in bed, reading your bible and being someone that I admired spiritually. Now if you claim that this was all true of heart (and I believe it was) I also know that somewhere along the way your heart was hardened toward our heavenly father. This of course grieves me but it may grieve me more than you know and I will go no further in encumbering myself of this fact. I love you. I believe God loves you and all there conversations taking the guise of arguments I want you to know that my love for you will never change. And, I know that you feel the same.

      I’ll get to the four points soon. Thanks for responding.

      -Ben.

  2. On to your direct rebuttals of my four points.

    1. If you say there is no such thing as objective truth in the universe then we really have no where else to go in this conversation. But I don’t believe that you actually believe that there isn’t objective truth. After all science is a process that depends upon there being certain laws or truths to exist in order for us to know anything about anything. The great thing about science is that it does not have to be right all the time in order for it to be true, but that it finds truth in stages over time. For example, if we learn through science that The Earth is indeed round, we change our previous views. We choose to believe in what has been revealed that best aligns with what we know of the universe. We couldn’t know for certain that the world was round if it were not. Of course it doesn’t have to have been true but through science we will eventual come to a place where we can know something for certain.

    2. My mind has changed on many things. It’s changed on God multiple times and I don’t claim to have the monopoly on truth, I only claim that there is such a one that does. This does not disregard subjective point of views as being invalid. It only means that all of our perspectives our different. This is why I’m glad the Gospels are not carbon copies of each other. They have their differences in tone, point of view, context and significance of certain events. However they all follow the same basic structure of historical recounting.

    Futhermore, believing in an objective truth that exists outside of me means that there will be times when I will be in contrast with truth itself. It is a good thing to know that if we only believe in things that we agree with or prefer, then we are really acting as gods ourselves. I don’t like the reality of Hell, but I believe in it. I would prefer a longer lifespan of say 200 years. I don’t like my physical limitations. I don’t like evil in the world. Yet, I’m not God and God has done things (and is responsible for all things) and I am not. The point of the universe is not me, and many things can and have changed my mind on a myriad of things.

    3. To your third point about “how do you know that you’re right and everyone else is wrong.” is a question that atheists are not immune from. I can ask you the same. Why do you believe that every religion is false, or that there is no God? How do you know for sure that you are right? Who gave you the magic flashlight to know this? And, what standard are you comparing all other religions to? Is it your own? Why do you get to be in charge of all other standards?

    I imagine (and please correct me if I am wrong) that your answer would consist of many similar things that mine would, lack of evidence, lack of historical backing, personal moral differences and such. I could say the same. However, since you don’t believe in absolute truth all you have is preference. You prefer there to not be a God, and no evidence would really dissuade you from that position. You could chalk up any vision or interaction with God as a hallucination. Any feeling or sense of a presence of God could be just an echo from some evolutionary mechanism in your brain. Any reason or logic that backs it could be suspicious as there is some reason against it all the same.

    The point is choice. You have it, I have it. We get to choose what we will believe in. As a Christian (in the way that I am a Christian) I get to believe in a moral standard, truth, and objectivity that exist outside my subjectivity. I also get to believe that science is useful and an incredible tool for understanding our physical universe. I am making an assumption (as all truth claims do, including there is no absolute truth which is an absolute truth) that I can trust the facilities God has given me or at the very least what “evolution” has supplied me with for making choices.

    4. Now, as far as knowable goes vs striving for I don’t think you really understand what you mean here. Because striving for something that is not knowable (as you say) sounds a lot more like religion than science. So who is not asking enough questions?

    And that is another bad assumption to make isn’t it? I grant that people of all religions and beliefs can impede progress because they are afraid of answers. But this is a people problem and not a problem monopolized by a single belief system. I would argue that Christianity (true freedom in Christ) brings about a sort of playful bemusement about our universe. We live on what could hardly be considered a spec of dust in a vast cosmos that we are only beginning to awaken to.

    I’m saying your’re not skeptical enough of your own position and I am far more skeptical of mine than you might know.

    For further reading I recommend Mitch Stokes “A shot of faith to the head.”

    But your final challenge of helping you understand why I’m a Christian over everything else will not produce an answer that will satisfy you. I am not sidestepping the question. I just don’t believe that my answer will get you anywhere closer to understanding. Yet, if you insist. I’ll give you a 3 tiered answer.

    1. I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I actually believe that Jesus was the son of God, he came to earth, lived a sinless life and paid the price for the sins of all mankind and then pulled off raising from the dead. I see much historical evidence (not for him being God, but for this event taking place or something explainable happening).

    2. I have seen Jesus, felt his presence and heard his voice. I don’t share this one too often as I feel that it is cheating when arguing. But I can not deny what I have experienced. On separate occasions I have encountered Jesus.

    3. I’ve seen the gospel truly change lives in incredible ways. I’ve seen people made new people. I’ve seen relationships healed, people transformed and lives literally saved. I’m speaking of the gospel now and not the church. The good news that God loves all people, that He wants a relationship with everyone, that no one, regardless of how they have sinned is uninvited to the party. That God, truth, and love became Jesus and walked among us and is still with us today.

    Now, you can not like my reasons, they can be not good enough for you but your question was why I’m a Christian and those are my reasons and they are good enough for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s