“THE GIFT OF TRUTH EXCELS ALL GIFTS.”
Peter Santina: “Faith knowledge & Truth”
Broadly speaking there are three kinds of truth:
1) Definitional truth; All Bachelors are single men because that is how we define the word.
2) Logical truth; 2+2=4 and only 4 because reason requires it, and
3) Experimental truth; pure water boils at sea level at 212°F because anyone can repeat that experiment and verify the results.
Next comes the matter of faith: Many atheists have great faith in science. So do I. When they use it properly it will lead them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Many Christians think faith is a substitution for evidence or reason. This is a misunderstanding of what faith is. Faith is not the absence of evidence. Faith is sticking to your evidence-based convictions, even when you are emotionally tempted to abandon them, or they become inconvenient or difficult. Faith includes remembering the reasons for our convictions when we become temporarily confused. Faith is not believing something or trusting some authority against common sense or without evidence or some degree of certainty. Faith is neither believing nor acting in the absence of evidence, it is the fortitude to both believe and act on the evidence even when it is emotionally difficult, practically unpleasant or inconvenient to do so. This is true in all science, including theology (religion). The problem with calling Christians “People of faith” is that everyone has faith. Differences between Christians and non-Christians include what we have reasoned through and what we know.
“Faith” translates from the Greek word “Pistis” which is also the root of epistemology, the scientific study of what we can know is true, how we can know and how sure we can be that it is true. I see seven great dispensations in epistemology:
1) Peter Abelard: 1079-1142: Si et non. The nature of Canon, (Authority) & its limits.
2) William of Occam: 1285-1349 Occam’s two edged Razor: Canon + reason.
3) Galileo: 1564-1642: Canon + reason and Isaac Newton (1642 -1727): Observation & experimentation.
4) Robert Boyle, 1627-1691: Experimental epistemology.
5) John Locke: 1632-1704: Philosophical epistemology.
6) Immanuel Kant: 1724-1804: Pure reason.
7) P. P. Pratt: 1830’s-1850’s: The key to the science of theology. (Personal revelation)
“Some ideas are so bad, they are not even wrong.” Enrico Fermi.
“It is better to be wrong, than to be vague.” Freeman Dyson.
Regarding how we can know, there are roughly, six ways:
1) Can I appeal to authority? Relying on a source that we trust is the oldest and still by far the most common way of seeking knowledge.
2) Can I reason through it? Does 2+2=4? A valid experiment for seeking logical truth.
3) Can I observe it? Observational/ experiential truth.
4) Can I experiment and test it? Experimental truth.
5) Can I “feel it” or “know it in my heart”? Emotionally verified truth.
6) Can God tell me it is true? Can He make me certain It is true.
Critics might consider methods 5 and 6 as epistemologically irresponsible but, in reality, millions of people in every culture throughout all of human history have learned a great deal in these ways. Those of us who have received direct revelation feel certain that it is the most epistemologically accurate way of knowing.
How sure can we be? Jurisprudence has identified six levels of certainty based on evidence, emotion and faith.
1) Probable cause: Having the appearance of truth. Being founded in reason or experience. The reasonable and prudent person rule.
2) Preponderance of the evidence: More likely true than not. More probable, convincing or reasonable than any other claim, theory or explanation.
3) Clear & Convincing.
4) Beyond a Reasonable doubt.
5) Beyond any doubt.
6) No genuine question of fact exists (Judicial notice).
“A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. Competent and satisfactory evidence is the type and amount of evidence that would satisfy a reasonable and prudent unprejudiced person.” Simon Greenleaf, A treatise on the Law of Evidence @ 1870.
There are many things that separate people from the knowledge and love of God. Scientific, epistemologically responsible evidence is not one of them. The absence of a scientific method or process that we can follow to get there is not one of them. Lack of knowledge is the first.
“No one knows what they do not know.” Sir Fred Hoyle.
“Who can learn anything new and not find it a shock?” John Wheeler.
Sin can separate us from a knowledge of God. Laziness, Pride, ego, unwillingness to abandon evil, embrace virtue and submit to God can blind us to His existence or true nature. God is, for many, the ultimately inconvenient truth. One must obey Him to know the joys of loving Him and to feel His love for us!
Modern mainstream atheists including; Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are consistently either misinformed or disingenuous about the meaning of the word “Faith” and its role in religion. Dawkins is exactly wrong when he declares that faith is fundamentally irrational, and
“…evil precisely because it requires no justification, and brooks no argument.” Dr. Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion, pg. 308.
I believe, the exact opposite is true.
“For Dawkins, reason and science alike are to be celebrated because they emphasize the importance of beliefs being based on rational decisions, grounded in evidence.” Dr. Alister McGrath: WHY GOD WON’T GO AWAY, 2010, pg. 14.
I agree. My religion, (LDS) Christianity, is exactly the same: “Prove (test) all things, hold fast to that which is true.” 2 Thess. 5:21
“Dawkins argues that atheism is simpler and more elegant than belief in God”. Ibid pg. 19.
I agree. The stork is much simpler and more elegant than the theory I currently hold for human reproduction. Santa Claus more so than the far more complex and nuanced metaphor about parental love to which I subscribe. Aristotle’s views about the four elements specifically and physics generally were far simpler & more elegant than todays “standard model” The medical model of “humors” much more so than the germ theory and current models of anatomical and physiological dysfunctions. The question is: “Which one is true?” Magical thinking is often simple and elegant. Reality is far more complex and nuanced than that. Christianity has the complexity of modern physics.
Atheists are to be praised for honestly admitting that sometimes they value the simplicity of blind faith in atheism and evolution to the rigorous complexity and epistemological responsibility of evidence-based Christianity
Historically there has been an absurd notion that religion generally, and Christianity specifically is somehow unscientific. That claim would certainly surprise the Christians who invented Universities, created modern Physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, mathematics, well, all of modern science and made all of the scientific discoveries; gravity, electricity, the telescope, the microscope, cells, molecules, well, all of them from 1500-1850 and beyond. Let us remember that the universal language of modern science for the first 250 years, Latin, is the language Christians preserved and that modern science flourished because it was published using movable type invented, yes, by a Christian for the purpose of publishing the most important scientific book ever written, the Bible. All of the giants of the modern scientific era; Bacon, Boyle, Faraday, Galileo Kelvin, Kepler, Lister, Newton, Pascal, Pasteur, etc. are Christians. None of them thought Christianity was unscientific. The controversy between theism and atheism is ancient, but no one thought science was on the side of the atheists. The English word “Agnostic” translates the Latin “Ignoramus” and means “without knowledge”, an anti-scientific position!
Competent Apologists such as C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, Josh McDowell, et. al can lead any reasonable person from: Is there knowable objective truth? To a God who intervenes, to the Living Jesus Christ. I can lead them from the beginning into the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and an epistemologically responsible knowledge of the unique franchise authority (priesthood) of the LDS church. All Christians, not just pastors or theologians are apologists and should be prepared at all times to give the reasons for the hope that is in them. 1 Peter 3:15. We are all standing on the same solid ground. We should all be leading sincere seekers of truth down the same straight and narrow road that leads to our one hope for Eternal Life. We all agree that there is just one faith, One Lord, and one Baptism. Eph. 4:5. We desperately need one epistemological path leading to one systematic theology!
I have identified 40 epistemological proofs that God exists and that He is the living Jesus Christ. Some are definitional proofs, some logical and some experimental. All of them are scientific proofs, several of the experiments you can replicate and verify. If I am allowed, I will present them in future blogs.
> Many atheists have great faith in science. So do I. When they use it properly it will lead them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
You lost me right here. This point is so patently absurd that I had a hard time paying attention to the rest of what you wrote.
What version of Christ are they led to? The fabled NT version? The Mormon version? The historical version? To you I’m sure there’s no difference but to the rest of the world, especially those who don’t recognize Joseph Smith as any form of oracle, there is a big difference and I promise you that science will never lead them to your version of Jesus.
Thank you for reading on anyway. Have you read any of the apologists I mention? If you email me directly I would be happy to lead you through a scientific path to the actual living Jesus Christ. Our misperceptions of Him are interesting but far less important.
Disclosure: I consider myself a “spiritual atheist”, tho I’m not here to try to talk you out of your conclusions. I’m more just fascinated with your thought process and wanted to ask a question and bounce a couple of ideas off of you.
Firstly, your three types of truth is really interesting. Is that based on anything, or did you come up with that yourself? If it’s based on anything, where is it from? I’d like to read more about it.
I personally came up with two types of truth, but I divided it upon difference lines. It’s how I can be a “spiritual atheist.” I’m wondering what you think.
First is “Objective Truth.” This is reality. These are things that are true no matter who believes in them, or what individual experience says about the thing, or how well it’s understood, or how much current models match that truth. These are things which are, in theory, testable (eventually) even tho we currently may not have tools. Examples of objective truth: The earth orbits the sun. Trees exist. Light refracts in water.
Second is “Subjective Truth.” These are truths that change depending on the observer. Subjective truths can ONLY be understood through the eyes of an observer, even when sometimes subjective truths are understood the same among many observers. Examples: Ice cream is delicious. (Not everyone likes ice cream.) Mozart was a brilliant composer. (What does brilliant even mean? Many people know it when they see it.) I love you. (One of the greatest truths one can speak, but it’s a singular experience.)
I’m not talking about opinion vs fact. I’m talking about truths that are experienced. “I love you” is not an opinion. It’s real. But only for the person experiencing it.
In my worldview, this makes spiritual matters subjective truths. Many claim these truths are objective (God exists, lives on Kolob, is our father, wants us to be good people, sent his son to die, etc.) But there are so many definitions of that objective truth, so many different perceptions of God, that if God IS an objective truth, there is currently no way to know whether it is an objective truth. So in effect, for now anyway, all we can know is that the experience of God is a subjective truth.
This is how I can love science (the study of objective, measurable truths), not believe in God (for my own mix of objective and subjective reasons), AND still have a spiritual set of beliefs (they are subjective truths.)
What do you think about that?
While I disagree with so much of what you present here, I do appreciate your point of view and am curious about the 40 proofs you have of the existence of God. That could be world changing stuff, but please forgive me if I remain skeptical.
You either misrepresent, or do not really understand what “atheism” is. It is a word that many feel really shouldn’t exist. It is also by definition a lack of faith. It isn’t a world view, a religion, a philosophy or anything of the sort. It is simple (not quite in the ways you present it in your article) in the sense that it is a lack of faith and belief in a deity. You are in fact an atheist toward any and all gods in every other religion throughout human history except the one you believe in now. It’s not because of your faith in not believing in these other gods, you just simply don’t believe in them. They don’t exist to you, and I doubt you’ve lost any sleep over Thor and Odin not existing, or had to put any faith or effort into not thinking they are real.
You seem to paint atheism as the irrational stance, when in reality it is quite opposed to faith because faith is quite often irrational. (belief in miracles that defy the physical laws of nature. Walking on water. Coming back from the dead. etc.)
Agnostic certainly does mean “without knowledge” but not all knowledge in general as you represent it by stating it as unscientific. It’s full meaning is without knowledge of a deity. Hard to find offense or fault in that, as it is just an open statement and idea. One with credibility. We are all without knowledge on at least some things. I’m definitely without the knowledge of how to build an airplane (of the non paper sort.)
I would also encourage any that read this to study more into the lives of many of the “christians” you presented here, and the extent of their faith. Newton, Galileo, etc. Many of the sciences they built on came from ancient cultures such as Greece, Egypt, China, and Middle Eastern cultures.
An open question as well. What are people then supposed to do when they find evidence that leads them away from God, or at the very least away from the mormon version of God?
Thank you for your comment and appreciation. Please do remain skeptical. We should all look closely and think independently. We seem to be talking past each other regarding “faith”. I am saying that faith is acting on evidence (though not a mathematical certainty). One example of faith is taking medicine because we have evidence to believe it will help us. I do not think that you lack faith. You may lack evidence. These are very different things. I can provide evidence.
We also misunderstand each other because of the ambiguity of the word “God”. I think we agree that there is truth, beauty, Universal Forces such as Gravity and Electro-Magnetism. We can agree that these are a part of God. When we look at what else we can learn about God, we are “religious” We can do so in an epistemologically responsible way. Thanks again for reading.
We should be delighted when we learn new things about God! No doubt the Mormon version of God is incomplete as is every ones. Do you know the Buddhist parable about the blind men and the elephant? It is literally an Article of Faith for the LDS that they do not yet know “many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (A. of F. 9.) Truth never leads us away from God it leads us away from our misconceptions of God and toward the Truth about Him. New discoveries in medicine do not destroy our faith in medicine they build it up. It is the same when we learn new things about God. Theology is not a closed science. Like physics there are things in theology that I know, things that I have good reasons to think and things that I do not know. We must be humble in all science and genuinely excited when we learn new things. “Who can learn anything new and not find it a shock”?
I’m delighted learning new things about pretty much anything. Be it God/s, a heavenly mother, a person, or just gaining understanding of different people, or topics. I think I share that enthusiasm for learning with you.
I am confused a bit. It seems like you are creating new (more personal) meanings to the words faith, and God. Personally, I am willing to hear/see what evidence you say you can provide that prove your definition of this, and learn more about how it shapes your view and helps me understand your article above, but I doubt I will adopt these new definitions of faith and God for myself.
Yes, certainly we can agree that there are truth, beauty, and universal forces such as gravity etc. However, I don’t agree that these are necessarily a part of God (by the more general, and publicly accepted understandings of the word, even as used in the LDS religion we are a part of, and I was brought up in. A supreme and loving human like entity, in this case.) Those things exist, there are testable measures and scientific theories in place to further our knowledge and understanding. We don’t have these same testable measures and theories in place for any God, let alone this (LDS) particular view of God (again, I can’t speak of God in the definition you seem to be applying here till it is further clarified by what you mean of the definition of God.) I am open to the idea that these things could have come from a God, or as you put it be a part of a God, but I’m also open to the idea that they are just governing forces that exist within our perceivable reality.
I am familiar with that Buddhist parable, and many others. There are many similar teachings among many religions and philosophies throughout time that I find quite fascinating, fun, and interesting. Theology is very interesting to me. What people believe, and why fascinates me and I spend a great deal of time trying to learn more. I thoroughly enjoy it, but also am confused here again in that I have never heard of theology being referred to as a science. It seems very much more rooted in philosophy, and history (which I also value) rather than science. Perhaps you could clarify for me how theology is a science, if you wouldn’t mind, or what you mean by that.
I’m just not quite understanding your new definitions to these words. Faith I picked out from your article above (Pistis, and the scientific study of what we can know part.) But universal laws being a part of God, and theology as science I am not quite connecting the dots on yet. And again, though I strongly disagree with much of what you presented (especially the part about in order to know and feel God’s love, we must obey him. That just doesn’t seem like any version of love I’ve ever known, or felt. Too abusive for me.) I did find your views interesting and hope my disagreements, and questions did not come across as belittling.
Thank you again for your interest. Theology is a science when knowledge about God is pursued in a scientific way, an epistemologically responsible way. I agree that many people accept absurd notions blindly in the name of religion. I would call that superstition. Paul urges us to prove all things and hold tightly to what proves true. I don’t think requiring obedience is abusive. I think what someone wanted you to be obedient to was abusive. Is it abusive for a dentist to want you to brush you teeth or a doctor to want you to eat well and exercise?
You may not be able to appreciate their concern for you unless you follow their advice and see that it helps. All of God’s laws are similar. Gravity and Sabbath keeping. It is not abusive to teach us that a lever & pulley makes gravity less offensive or that cliffs make gravity dangerous. We must obey Gravitational laws of orbital velocity carefully to know the joys of satellites. I am very sorry that you have been abused by superstitious myths about God and His Laws. That is not who God really is!
I checked out your website, curious about your 40 epistemological proofs that God exists.
One of them is, and I quote: “By far the most common uttered statement at the climax of intimacy is a reference to Deity.”
So the exclamation of “Oh my God!” during orgasm is a proof of God’s existence.
I have no words.
Rational Faiths: You’ve dropped the ball here.
I didn’t see a website link, and in my computer illiteracy am failing to find one. I too would like to examine these proofs. How do I find that link? And thanks in advance.
On Science and Religion:
“For the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14)
Our core doctrines of the Church include the existence and nature of God, Christ’s Atonement being absolutely necessary to our salvation, the First Vision, the Book of Mormon as the revealed word of God, and the governance of the Church by doctrine and revelation through authorized, inspired leaders.
There is no requirement for us to take our core doctrines or any other revelations we have received and run them by science for verification. Martin Harris took a portion of the Book of Mormon translation to scholars not to get buy-in from them, but to verify a prophecy from Isaiah that they wouldn’t accept it as a translation. They still don’t. Score from this exchange: Unlearned 1, Learned 0.
Requiring scientific proof to resolve doubts is not the Lord’s plan of asking us to seek spiritual confirmation and walk by faith in Him in this life. Science isn’t up to the job. Moroni didn’t advise readers of the Book of Mormon to seek the sanctioning hand of archaeology before believing. We are to go directly to the Source. The test of the Book of Mormon is not whether you can stick a shovel in the ground and hit Zarahemla. The test, per 2 Nephi 33:10-11, is whether you recognize and will accept the words of Christ. It’s a different kind of test.
As to the debate between science and religion, I just don’t have the time. If Jesus is who he said he was, then of course he could walk on water or raise the dead. If he isn’t, then of course he couldn’t. How does science decide if Jesus is who he said he was? How does science get data on the Atonement? And so on and on. Science is wonderful and accurate at describing the mortal universe of time and decaying matter that we currently inhabit. It’s of no use in describing either the deathless world before the Fall or the immortal eternities of permanent matter that are kept from our direct knowledge by the veil. In the eternities, all things, in space and time – past, present and future – are “present” before God’s eyes; He doesn’t need a telescope to see faraway objects. God is said to be “above all things” and “through all things”, all things are “round about” Him – a different experience entirely from our present circumstances.
Let’s just cut to the chase – what happens after we die? What does science say? What can it say? The Big Zero. Science has no standing whatsoever to pronounce on the afterlife. Science can simply state it has no evidence of one – and then must leave it at that. Satisfying? How many are thereby confident that there will be absolutely no continuation of our consciousness after death? I suspect not many. Science is of no help whatsoever in finding out what we will face after we die; it has not one particle of information. It has no way to even find out. Such information must come from another source, that is, a source that does know where dead people are and has access to them.
Separate from that, my own view is that the attempt by some LDS writers to reconcile science and religion by trying to fit all of God’s creations into the visible universe is misguided. Of all the planets, stars and galaxies we can see now or could see with the most powerful telescope, none are eternal abodes of resurrected beings. The entire universe of stars we see and study, vast as it is, is separate from the eternal realms. Kolob is not in our visible galaxy, nor is God’s throne (which, as an aside, is said to be “nigh unto” – near – Kolob, not on it. God doesn’t live on Kolob. Paris isn’t “near” France.) The Eternities have access to us; we do not have access to them. They simply are not bound by space and time the way we are. The Eternities aren’t way, way out there – they are both nearby and kept from us. Modern cosmology (a fascinating topic) teaches not that the Big Bang spewed matter into the only universe there is (typically conceived of as the endless, empty space containing everything that can be), but that the Big Bang created this universe – both the time and the space we now live in. It’s difficult to grasp (though the author Brian Greene does a good job), but from it you can get a glimpse of the majesty and power of God. (There is also an insightful article from 1980 in BYU Studies (20:3) called “Some Thoughts on Higher-dimensional Realms.”
In his Bio above it lists http://www.allscienceleadstogod.com
I had to add the www but I got there 🙂
Whether I end up where you do (regarding science leading to Jesus Christ) or not, we start out with the same kind of Mormonism. Thanks for encapsulating it so well.
Rational Faiths does essentially no editing. We try to invite numerous interesting perspectives and let the discussion happen. No man was ever damned for believing too much.
In law overhearing what someone else says is generally inadmissible into evidence as “Hearsay”. Exceptions include “spontaneous and excited utterances”. Humanity agrees that these outburst are usually true. You might actually ponder why billions of people for thousands of year from every culture and society, including atheists and agnostics assert the existence of God at this most venerable and intimate time.
I agree with you that this is not the strongest proof. I was striving for comprehensiveness. I find many of the other 40 much more persuasive.
Thank you so much for your comment. Different people have different gifts. I thank God for yours and for mine. We are talking past each other a little. I consider spiritual confirmation/personal revelation a perfectly valid scientific proof. I congratulate you and commend you for your faithfulness. We are truly brothers in Christ!
Thank you for your comment and for your blog on the B. of M.
I will present then is a shorter way in my next blog but to answer your question, if you go to: https://www.academia.edu/8368128/Does_God_Exist
and scroll down through a Power Point presentation with terrible graphics long enough, you will eventually get to my list of 40 proofs.
Thank you for the link. I had a chance to read through them now. I didn’t see any proofs. I did see many interesting hypotheses, and then assumptions based off of them though it did help me understand better where you are coming from. I do appreciate that. I am glad these things work for you, but the jumps in them just don’t work for the scientific community at large. Things such as even within the first 3 “proofs” of “something cannot come from nothing, therefor God” we cannot demonstrate a time there was ever “nothing.” Even if we can, we then don’t have proof/evidence it was therefor God. It’s just filling in the gap to claim “God did it.” and then even take it a step further and say this particular version of God did it. Couldn’t it be just as easily satisfactory under these circumstances to say Zeus did it? Or the Muslim God? Or the Norse pantheon?
Then many of them seemed to turn out like “The universe began to exist, whatever caused that is God.” Things like this aren’t proof. It’s a hypothesis. An assumption made with nothing to back it up except faith, or belief at the end of the day. Which I actually wouldn’t fault anyone for. Faith can be powerful, and if it enriches their/your life, that’s awesome.
All in all, I do think you have some good philosophical discussion points within there, (and to be quite honest I bet I’d enjoy a really good conversation with you in that regard) but not scientific discussion points.
It’s an unneeded assumption to say I was abused by myths and superstitions. Though, are you relegating the Bible and Book of Mormon to myth and superstition with this statement? Is it abusive to require obedience by asking one to sacrifice their own son? Is it abusive to require obedience in asking for the genocide of a different people? Is it abusive to require a raped woman to marry her abuser? Is it abusive to require the murder of an unconscious man? We can see the health benefits of eating healthy and brushing our teeth, but those things also remain healthy suggestions and not required obedience. Dentists and doctors aren’t going to stop providing care to you if you don’t follow these things. You suggest that without obeying Gods commands (not suggestions) we cannot enjoy his love. His commands, as per our “records” also do demonstrate things we would consider abusive, and the only way around that is basically the whole “his ways are not our ways. He works in mysterious ways, or the even worse, if God asks it, it is moral arguments.”
Thank you for your comment. I have used this trichotomy for objective truth since the 70’s. I honestly don’t remember from whom I learned it (Where has my memory gone?) I do have some objective/subjective quotes that may be useful to you:
“These two great paradigms have always been at the heart of physics. “Colours, sweetness, bitterness – these exist by convention, in truth there are atoms and the void.” (G) Democritus C. 400 B.C.
“When I was a young man, I also gave in to the notion of a vacuum and atoms, but reason brought me into the right way.” (L) Leibniz 1716. The generations of Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz belonged to the physics of forces; if only Democritus would have written…In truth, there are atoms and fields from forces in the void. He didn’t, so I did. ” An Acceptance Speech by William Mills 2003.
I agree that there are objective and subjective truths. I agree with your examples. I disagree that theology is subjective truth. It is a fascinating field partly because it is the search for objective truths using many subjective truths to find it. Have you read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity? His entire Christian apologetic is based upon my argument #14, what the LDS call “The Light of Christ.” What Philosophers call the “Kantian sense of oughtness”. Many would agree with Kant, Lewis and the LDS (including myself) that this is objective truth, but is ultimately accessed intra-personally. I simply have more faith in science than you do. I think that the truth about God is objective truth and that those who keep seeking will find it. In this life or the next.
I agree that the cosmological arguments don’t lead us to Jesus Christ. They lead us to a Creator. It takes several steps to get to Jesus Christ. Have you ever tested the hypotheses of Alma? Replicated the experiments of Moroni? I realize one cannot do them as double blind experiments but one can honestly test whether or not: Forgiving is healing. Keeping the Sabbath is refreshing. Reading and ponder scriptures are ennobling. Sacrificial service brings joy. When one looks at theology scientifically one learns many interesting things: Which day we keep Sabbath seems insignificant. Sabbath keeping is beneficial. God hears and answers prayer whether we call Him Allah, Thor, Zeus, or Heavenly Father. Give the science of God a chance. “Who can learn anything new and not find it a shock?” John Wheeler.
Cosmological arguments don’t lead to a creator. A creator is one possible explanation and one hypothesis that isn’t verified, yes, but certainly not where the path clearly leads. That is a blank we fill in ourselves at the end of our current knowledge, and in a way it seems prideful. We don’t know something, so we fill it in with an idea (one that can be quite beautiful in aspects) to suit our needs, wants, or desires. We could get into ideas about universal theories, multiverse theories, multi-dimensional theories etc. which is all fascinating stuff, and I love reading about, discussing, and thinking about all those possibilities, but at the end of the day it’s just stuff. Ideas. Not evidence, or knowledge. There is much we just simply don’t know (yet) and much we will continue to learn.
You seem to assume a lot about me. I haven’t claimed to be an atheist, or a believer in a creator. I’ve given it all a chance though, and am still willing to give it chances (both the idea of a creator, and the idea of it being this specific version.) I have an open mind, and open heart. I seek knowledge, emotion, feeling, all of it. I find life quite the adventure, and learning a joy. I don’t seek to make things mold to me, or fit to me though. The universe, or God, or gods, or any creator doesn’t owe me anything in that regard. I don’t reinvent the meanings of words to do so, or find personal meanings. That just doesn’t have personal value.
I have tried the suggestions of Alma and Moroni. Most specifically the promise of Moroni about reading and praying about the Book of Mormon with an earnest heart, if that is what you are referring to. I have done so well over a dozen times (read the whole book and prayed with all my heart, and intent.) None of these times did I feel the spirit, or any confirmation in that sense. I have tried the suggestions of church and priesthood leaders throughout my life, and continue to do them. I have still never felt “the spirit” or any confirming spirit as suggested.
Do I find forgiving healing? Sometimes. I have personally never really had a problem forgiving, I am pretty easy going and don’t hold on to wrongs or perceived wrongs. Live and let live, but this is not proof of a deity. It has personal, emotional, and societal value, I definitely support that notion.
Keeping the Sabbath in what sense? As in resting? Spending time with family? I find those things very refreshing, but the strict “Don’t spend money. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Go to church for 3 hours” part of it doesn’t really seem to enrich or add any value to life, and never has the times I have adhered to it. It is me applying my own emotional value to things, rather than a tangible evidence of anything though.
Reading and pondering scriptures I have found to be many things. I enjoy learning, so that aspect I like. Sometimes I have found it a chore, or boring. Some of what is in the scriptures is just plain dull, and poorly written. Some is quite fascinating. Some is even quite entertaining. Ennobling though? Not anymore so than reading any other interesting articles or books, and pondering about the ideas or concepts in them (or even just the characters.)
Service does bring great joy to me. Sacrificial service in the idea of wanting and expecting nothing in return especially so. The idea that somebody I love, or even don’t know is now having a little bit better time, or a happier moment in this life is wonderful to me. People progressing and caring about each other is my ideal world view, regardless of any reward now or eternally. That doesn’t matter. This isn’t evidence of a creator though, and I don’t see the strings you are trying to use to connect it to that (other than your belief in the idea that all morality comes from a deity, which is a statement and belief, not an evidence or proof itself.)
If God is to receive credit for answering prayers and all good things like that, what about all the many many prayers that go unanswered? What about all the horrible suffering that comes from that? Shall we credit God with that as well, or do we wave our hands at the notion and put the responsibility of that back on us imperfect people?
Dear Brother Bill,
Classic Apologetics from an historical paradigm approached the subject of Science, proof, faith and truth from a very different world view. Early Christian apologists such as Tertullian believed Creation offered a witness of the existence of deity but didn’t tell us about whom deity actually was. Later apologists such as John Christensom would argue that pagan religions gave witness about the natural condition of Creation and spirituality. One of the ancient discussions was the Son of God versus the Ha Ka Ra beams from the sun in Egyptian mythology and the Sun of Righteousness was a ploy to answer the ancient Egyptian quest contained in Mithraism. All of these concepts were debated in the ancient cosmic temple cults in the Middle East. Creation was the beginning of the liturgical reading cycle which dramatized creation. Then, later, the redemption and salvation history cycles were read by the priest. Common readings in the Canaanite traditions were Psalms 119 through 122 and were dedicated to the god of chaos who dwelt in the water named Yam. The Canaanite Psalms are answered by the Psalter reading in the Hebrew Bible to show that the god of chaos was overcome by Yahweh to bring order on the land. This was apologetics in the ancient world. The triumphant god’s power was shown by how the former deities were vanquished. Our faith can be scientifically rational from a modern standpoint but it is naïve to suggest that science will directly reveal Jesus Christ. Science can lead one to faith if that is how a person internalizes his or her experiences. German publications such as Warner’s In the Beginning was Information do suggest that even string theory or quirks have information encoded in their very structure and operation which has lead some such as Behe and Jungel to Intelligent Design arguments which convey a powerful case for the existence of God. Other books such as Darwin’s Black Box refutes some of the overstatements made by atheists. But to believe in Yahweh requires that we believe in the revelations which reveal His and Her nature to us. This is and always has been a matter of faith “pistis”. Faith is simply evidence of things which exist and creates confidence in the things unseen. (Heb 11:1) So when we provide action “pistaeoo” we are acting upon what we have stated in our testimony. There are no world wide laboratories for bench testing non-destructive methods to total prove theist evolution or special creation. In some geological columns what is up at the top of the column is also on the bottom. The same is also true in the field of archaeology. We do live in a world that possesses absolute truth with which we live on a daily basis. Subjective beliefs require faith in the revelation that we accept to give guidance in moral aspirations and ethical domains for the operation and conduct in life. The New Testament corpus of literature especially in John’s Gospel state experiencially we will be free if we abide in the truth of John’s testimony. Mathew adds in the Beatitudes that we will be happy if we do the things to make us a child of the Kingdom. Experiences such as these can deepen the faith of any person who is traveling with his/her captain (who is Christ is this case). Other faith traditions will interpret their movements in faith somewhat differently because they believe in a different outcome which supports the experiences of this life in a different realm. May we all be willing to continue to examine our process and yes, there is a common ethos from monotheism which LDS Christians and traditional Christians can share from our common mother, Judaism. Science can serve as a handmaiden to equip us in this task but it is not the final arbitrator in the court of heavenly truth. Respectfully submitted by Father Tom Roberts, PhD, DD OSA Communion of Anglican Church, International
One much wiser than I was once asked about those who do not receive Moroni’s promised confirmation. Gordon Hinckley replied, “You mean they haven’t received it, YET. I would advise them to spend a little longer pondering questions of eternal significance.” I deeply admire you for your courage, strength and fortitude it such a long spiritual journey.
I have been so richly rewarded, so abundantly blessed in my journey. I have no idea how you have suffered. Christ does know. He knows you and your suffering. He loves you and wishes to help you.
Have you read much of C.S. Lewis’s non-fiction? His writing on suffering is excellent. His apologetic “Mere Christianity” is also excellent. His argument relies heavily on what the LDS call the “Light of Christ”.
I am stunned that you have had so little success replicating Alma’s experiments growing a seed of faith. That is like not being able to get water to boil at the same temperature in repeated tries. Check your thermometer.
My point about Sabbath keeping is exactly what you said. Build on what works. “Prove all things and hold tightly to that which proves true.” You are and will continue to be frequently in my prayers. I remain, your humble brother in Christ.
I don’t suffer. I have lived a pretty good life, and consider myself lucky to have found people I love and that love me back. I have no enemies, and have found ways to cope with life’s sorrows and tragedies.
I haven’t read much of C.S. Lewis non fiction. I am somewhat familiar with the Light of Christ stuff, but to be honest can only handle so much apologetics. It is an interesting idea for sure, but as I keep repeating this, it’s an idea not evidence or proof of anything. (since we then get into the territory that there is no proof of the existence of this “Light of Christ” etc.)
Many staunch believers are stunned when they find there are people out there that have faithfully, with the same fervor and intent as them, followed through with the promises in the BoM and felt no confirmation, or felt no “holy ghost” or spirit. There are many like me that haven’t though. The first, and obvious thing we are told is we are basically doing something wrong, or haven’t learned to properly recognize the spirit, etc. etc. Basically “Check your thermometer” type comments. No matter how many times we check it, and the amount of effort there is no confirmation. (even though the instructions given by Moroni are quite simple and easily understandable.) Many believers have a hard time accepting that this promise hasn’t worked for many others though. The only suffering I have felt has come from the guilt of feeling like there was something wrong with me for many years (from the time I was a young teen) and constantly being told there must be something wrong with me, or I must not be living right or doing something right if I haven’t felt the spirit.
Every instance in which I was supposed to feel the spirit though, I did not. In fact I would say I felt the opposite at those times. Going through the temple for endowments, and the many sessions I did after that (to keep giving things a chance.) Nothing felt more off, weird or wrong to me then those experiences. (I put my life, my thoughts, and my actions under a microscope to make sure I was worthy of being there, because I tend to internalize those things and felt there must be something wrong with me as I was always told by priesthood leadership. I made sure I was worthy, and “clean”) Serving a mission is often this amazing testimony experience building time for young men, I hear it so often from them. For me, it sent my questions into overdrive and I felt flat out wrong in doing what I was doing. I wanted to serve people for sure, and help in any way I could. But bringing converts into something that felt wrong… well, it didn’t feel right. I felt like a hypocrite when it came to that. I have often been accused of just being misguided, or mislead. Most are content to chalk it up to that and walk away comforted in that belief.
I have been trying to answer all your questions, and be as forthcoming as possible in my answers, and in pointing out where things are not evidence and proof, but really do fall into the more common idea of what faith is, but my questions and counterpoints seem to be ignored and skirted around, never addressed and it seems to me you are in essence just testimony bearing at this point. I appreciate it, but don’t see how it is aiding in providing evidence for the ideas you presented.
Father Tom Roberts,
“Our faith can be scientifically rational from a modern standpoint but it is naïve to suggest that science will directly reveal Jesus Christ.” After consulting my Oxford English Dictionary (pg. 1881) I agree that I am naïve; “native…unaffected…simple…straightforward in style…eschewing conventional technique.” I believe that being very hopeful and very optimistic are parts of the Christian virtues of Faith, hope and love.
One of the many reasons that I admire you and appreciate you so much is that we have complementary gifts and educational backgrounds. Thank you for sharing then with me.
Wonderful response Dusty, thanks. You said everything I’d have liked to say, much more eloquently than I could say it.