Category Archives: God

The Role of Faith

Some look to their faith in God in their happiest or awe-struck moments, or some lean on their faith in their lowest or darkest times. Some turn to their faith “just in case it’s true,” and some long for a relationship with a loving God. Some “know or feel” that He is real, and others have found facts to undergird their faith. Often the evidence found reflects one’s personal preference.

For those that look for evidence, both philosophy and science are examined. Science is not enough to explain causes for:

The beginning and fine tuning of the universe, laws of nature and mathematics

The source and complexity of the beginning of life, a genetic code to create life from non-life, mind, consciousness and free will

Objective morality and evil

History

 

The beginning and fine tuning of the universe, laws of nature and mathematics

If space, time and matter had a beginning, then the cause cannot be space, time or matter. The cause had to be powerful to create the universe out of nothing. The cause had to choose to create because it cannot be automatic according to the laws of nature since the laws of nature had a beginning. It’s impossible in principle for nature to create itself.

Athiest Stephen Hawking estimates that if the expansion rate of the universe was different by one part in 100,000 million million, one second after the big bang, the universe would have either collapsed back on itself or never developed galaxies. No cosmic evolutionary process can account for this. If the gravitational force were different by one part in 10 to the 40, which is one part in 1 followed by 40 zeros, our sun would not exist and neither would we. That number is like comparing 1 inch to the rest of the entire known universe. If a variation in the process of resonance in the creation of carbon were more than 1% either way, the universe could not sustain life. If the difference in the ratio of nuclear strong force to the electromagnetic force had been different by one part and 10 to the power of 16, no stars could have been formed . . . That is the kind of accuracy a marksman would need to hit a coin on the far side of the observable universe, 20 billion light years away. Cover America with coins and a column reach into the moon, and then do the same for a billion other continents of the same size. Paint one coin red and put it somewhere in one of the billion piles. Blindfold a friend and ask her to pick it out. The odds are about one in 10 to the power of 40 that she will. It is argued that an alteration in the ratio of the expansion and contraction forces as little by one part and 10 to the 55 at Planck time (just 10 to the -43 seconds after the origin of the universe), would have led to too rapid an expansion of the universe with no galaxies forming or too slow an expansion with consequent rapid collapse. But in order to start off the universe in a state of low entropy – so that there will indeed be a second law of thermodynamics . . . the ‘Creator’s aim’ must have been accurate to 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123, that is 1 followed by 10 to the power of 123 zeros, a ‘number which it would be impossible to write out in a usual decimal way, because even if you were able to put a zero on every particle in the universe there would not be enough particles to do the job’. By natural processes could life be sustained with exactly the right surface gravity, surface temperature, atmospheric composition, atmospheric pressure, crustal iron abundance, tectonics, volcanism, rotation rate, rotation rate decline, stable rotation axis and degree of tilt?

The source and complexity of the beginning of life, a genetic code to create life from non-life, mind, consciousness and free will

All of the 3 billion characters of your genome must be right, except a rare error, for you to survive. No physical or chemical reaction mandates the arrangement of these genetic letters. Can natural forces determine codes? Richard Dawkins says that the amount of information in a one-celled life, like an amoeba, has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 Encyclopedia Britannica’s. Information from DNA is so dense that if you transfered all of the books in all of the world’s libraries into the language of DNA it would fit into a volume equivalent to 1% of the head of a pin. Can this occur naturally? Could an entire bookstore created by an explosion in a print shop?

If evolution is the mechanism by which living organisms develop advantageous mutations, would they have immediately developed the means of replicating or the coding mechanism like DNA to facilitate that? That life came from non-life is amazing—that it could emerge with the mechanisms necessary to create a second generation of life makes already-slim probabilities even slimmer. These are logistical challenges that a purely material view can’t properly answer. The chances are unbelievably slim. Materialism is not the safest bet. An Intelligent Mind that has orchestrated the process is far more likely. Dr. Stephen Meyer in his book Darwin’s Doubt shows through experimentally based calculations that the standard mechanism of mutation and natural selection wouldn’t have “enough opportunities to produce the genetic information necessary to build even one single novel gene or protein, let alone all the new genes and proteins needed to produce new animal forms.” He adds, “Even in a best case scenario – one that ignores the immense improbability of generating new genes by mutation and selection – mutations in DNA sequence would merely produce new genetic information. But building a new body plan requires more than just genetic information. It requires both genetic and epigenetic information – information by definition that is not stored in DNA and thus cannot be generated by mutations of the DNA. It follows that the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations in the DNA cannot be by itself generate novel body plans, such as those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion.” Can unguided natural processes create genetic information? Given the second law of thermodynamics or the law of entropy, should we expect natural forces to produce the order and specificity of thousands of pages of genetic information from non-living materials? Science has discovered that the gap between life and nonlife is wider than thought. Even a simple cell has thousands of pages of genetic programming.

Are you completely determined by the laws of physics according to science? Or do you have free will? Mind, consciousness and free will and even reason cannot be explained by science because it is immaterial. Atheist evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane put it well. He wrote, “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to believe that my beliefs are true… and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” He then has no reason to trust anything he believes, including atheism and evolution.

Objective morality and evil

“It’s pretty hard to get objective morality without religion,” said Richard Dawkins. Can science give you objective morality? How could a mutating genetic code have the moral authority to tell you how you ought to behave? The very critiques of those who condemn Christianity for various injustices are rooted in Christian precepts. The existence of morality and suffering though, is not debated. Who is responsible for it, though, is debated.

History

Evidence is used to explain one’s faith. Many will not look for evidence for a faith that is not attractive. For example, the Bible has far better manuscripts and supporting evidence than any other ancient documents. It is bolstered by archeological finds and appears impossible that any or all of the Bible’s specific, detailed prophecies could have been fulfilled through chance or deceit, yet it can be casually dismissed. Another example would be the resurrection of Jesus. Because the initial followers witnessed the resurrection it removed their fear of their own deaths based on their beliefs. What would be the best way to account for the rapid rise in Christianity? Overarching values of compassion, love and tolerance along with no fear of death enabled them to not only be willing to die for their faith and reach out to the poor, sick and disenfranchised. Looking at the evidence may be summarily dismissed. Pascal wrote, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

Faith, and facts undergirding faith, will continue to be a source of comfort. Loss of faith is associated with distress. If God is real, and He offers a relationship in the present, such a relationship has to be attained through evidence and faith. Benefits exist for believing in God, and for not believing in God (like no accountability).

 

Sources

God’s Undertaker by John C. Lennox

Stealing from God by Frank Turek

Navigating Genesis by Hugh Ross

There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Antony Flew

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland. Tom Holland is not a Christian. His book is one of the most ambitious historical defenses of Christianity.

No Pain, No Gain?

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

The anguish we encounter in life is immeasurable at times. It’s big. Too big. What do you do with anger and the impulse to express it without a satisfying outcome? What do you do with fear/shame that reveals our vulnerability at its core and that our worst fears can come true? What do you do with sadness so profound, so far-reaching that it drains our ability to cope?

Some things you will never get over in this life. Some things you will never get back.

No wonder numbness takes over and leaves one unable to think. Definitely, for a period of time nothing will help. Don’t try to make the feelings go away during this time and do not try to help others in this way. Grief is so varied that no one knows what it is like for another person.

This psalmist describes his experience this way: “My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof. My tears run down into my drink because of your anger and wrath. For you have picked me up and thrown me out. My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass” (Psalms 102: 4, 7, 10, 11). “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief” (Psalms 22:1-2). The psalmist then turns to his faith in God for comfort. Instead of seeing God as an absent or passive Deity, he relies on God to be transformed. Nothing is more transforming than pain, for better or for worse.

Is this how God works, complicit with evil, working to make good come out of it? God as portrayed in the Bible is about his thwarted intentions for mankind bestowed with free will and then God’s redemptive purposes. The culmination of God’s love and pain is the sacrifice of his Son, and the Son’s experience of abandonment by the Father. Yet the son chose “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

God’s view of evil is not that it is required to accomplish his purposes. He is truly moved, angered and grieved by evil throughout the Bible. There is no remedy, other than “some day.” What He offers now, through his Spirit and the Church, is his Presence. Will the Church provide solidarity for those who suffer?

More on Grief.

Attachment Patterns and God

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

To say that a parent’s attachment to his or her kids is strong may be a negative statement. Attachment is described as secure and insecure, so it is possible to have a strong attachment that is insecure.

Insecure attachment descriptors reflect parental styles mentioned in the posts What is Attachment? and Disrupted Attachment These parental styles are associated with the types of attachment: secure attachment with parental flexibility and stability, avoidant attachment with dismissive parenting, ambivalent attachment with preoccupied parents, and disorganized attachment with overwhelmed parents. These relationship patterns are often reflective in one’s perception of God.

Avoidant attachment is reinforced from parental messages that emotions are not important in a child’s self-identity and in making decisions. Thus, the child (and as an adult) may feel like he or she does not really matter. An avoidant person may even believe that emotions steer one into danger or disaster and are not to be trusted. So emotions are left out of daily interactions. It may be hard to comfort or connect with an avoidant person. A second type of avoidant attachment seeks to please a significant other and downgrade one’s own needs because one can only accept emotions if they are not opposed by the significant other. This is a co-dependent relationship.

Ambivalent attachment patterns are derived from close connections that are not stable. The parent could be hot or cold. When cold, the parent may be preoccupied; it does not mean that the parent’s love wavers. So fear may develop associated with closeness and connection, because the closeness and connection could be lost. The child or adult in this case may crave intimacy but not want to ask for it because of fear that it could be lost. If intimacy does happen, this person may eventually find it stifling. The child or adult may then experience anger and would distance from the significant other, but then fear would overtake from being alone. The pattern then becomes hot pursuit, but then cold distancing.

Disorganized or dysregulated attachment patterns stem from parents who are ruled by the “fight or flight” autonomic nervous system. Parents tend to be aggressive or controlling, stemming from fear. On the other hand, parents could be overwhelmed or a victim, again stemming from fear.

Secure attachments are stable patterns but do not have to be perfect. They stem from a parent’s capacity at a particular place and time to recognize and value the emotions of a child or connect with what the child is doing. When the child comes to the parent, the parent in effect says to the child that the child is okay even when the child or parent is having negative emotions. The child is allowed to be separate from the parent, with the child’s own set of valid emotions and self-confidence that comes from faith. The concept of grace found in Christianity opens up a growth process that does not depend on performance to gain acceptance by God, and thus creating the capacity for a responsiveness to God.

Emotions Versus Actions

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Many present a split between emotions and actions. In this way we tell ourselves that we are not able to change our feelings but that is acceptable as long as we do not act on them. Examples would be fear, anger, or desire. So acting right becomes more important. Similarly, if one does not feel enough joy, hope, or love, one may put more emphasis on actions, focusing instead on doing what is right instead of what they are feeling.

Using love as an example, is it possible, to act right but not actually love? In this verse the writer supposes that actions could be good, but inadequate. “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Love appears to be more than just actions.

Some focus on doing what is right and leave the emotion out of it, though the Bible indicates that right emotions are important along with doing right. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13). The risk is that too much emphasis on acting without feeling may leave one feeling empty inside, or may even lead to more negative emotions like guilt. Or, acting and finding one’s worth in one’s actions can lead to hypocrisy and self-righteousness. What is God’s view of the self-righteous? “They say to each other, ‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me! I am holier than you!’ These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away” (Isaiah 65:5). Instead, God may be looking for a change of heart. For example Jesus told the religious Pharisees “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:26).

Are Emotions Commanded?

The Heart in the Bible

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

God works through the heart (Jeremiah 31:33). It is out of the heart that we connect with God (Romans 10:10). We are told not to lose heart (Galatians 6:9). What does the heart represent in the Bible?

The definition of the heart in the Bible includes the conjunction of emotion, knowledge and the will. Each of these parts has an effect on the other parts; each part cannot be separated from the other parts.

In the story of the prodigal son, the father’s love for his wayward son was one of emotion, and not just from reasoning or just his commitment to his son.  The father did not respond to his son just because it was the right thing to do, or because he was forcing his will to comply.  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).”  It was the combination of all three parts – emotion, knowledge, and the will, that serves as a model for the love of God for us, and as a model for the love we are to have for others.

In contrast, in the description of a religious sect, Jesus describes their knowledge and their commitment, but questions their motivation. He compares them to white-washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but dead on the inside. He compares them with a dirty cup, again presentable on the outside, but the inside is corrupt (Matthew 23:25-27). Here again, rationality and dedication are insufficient if not corresponding to honest emotions. Paul also points to the knowledge of God alone being insufficient (Romans 1:21). The rich young ruler also attempted to gain favor by performance.

What if our desire, knowledge or will is lacking? God builds desire in us (Philippians 2:13), and for that we have to turn to Him.

Follow Your Heart?

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

The Bible says the heart is deceitful. Mental health practices, however, often encourages one to listen to the heart.   When the Bible references phrases like “called to mind” or “remember”, it uses Hebrew words focused on the heart or essence of one’s being.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Perhaps the heart is deceitful, and God works to change the heart. “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction (Proverbs 16:21).

How might God work through the heart? There are many accounts in the Bible. Knowing truth and one’s experiences of emotion seem to be primary ways God works through the heart. For example, knowing the truth can change the way one feels. It may not eliminate unwanted human emotions, but positive emotions are added, like hope, gratitude, or joy. When Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, He tells his followers to not let their hearts be dulled by the worries of this life (Luke 21:34). In the Old Testament, for another example, when the Israelites were desperate it was an occasion for God’s intervention. “The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:14).

God also works through these experiences of both positive and negative emotions.  The Israelite’s faith was founded on the fulfillment of God’s promises.  Another example in the Old Testament occurred when Jonah was angry that God spared the city of Nineveh, God changed Jonah through an experience of emotion. When Jonah felt a loss when the plant giving him shade died, he understood how God would feel if He lost the city (Jonah 4). This experience changed his emotions. God may even direct one to have such an experience: “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (Psalms 4:4).

Changing one’s heart, in which the Bible includes knowledge, emotion, and will, always involves not only Truth, but an encounter with Truth. “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD” (Jeremiah 24:7).