Sunday, April 5, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 6

I read a book last summer by Timothy Keller called The Reason for God. Great apologetics book. I would recommend it to anyone. I want to bring out a couple of things he says that seem -- in my wandering mind -- to be pertinent to these musings. The first half of his book, he bases on this particular premise:

". . if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts ... are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from [others] for theirs--you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared."

In other words, if you don't believe "A", then there is an alternate belief "B" that you must necessarily believe. If my dog has babies which disproves my original belief "A" that my dog was a male, I don't just float around in the nothingness of obscurity about the sex of my dog. If he's not a male anymore, then he's a female: alternate belief "B". Even in the world of the abstract, there are beliefs that are necessarily exclusive.

Keller suggests that, when addressing their religious doubts, many people have not even thought about alternate belief "B", much less truly examined it thoroughly enough to determine its validity. They simply don't want to believe "A".

At one point in my life, when I went through something of a spiritual "crash" and had to start all over again with what I believed, my first question was, is there really a God? Basically, this reasoning of Keller's is what got me there. If there isn't a God, how do you account for the existence of everything? How do you account for a natural evolution toward increasing complexity and order when the second law of thermodynamics shows us that everything naturally progresses toward increasing entropy or chaos? How do you account for any kind of moral code? For love? For any kind of good at all? I ultimately decided there had to be some "force of good" external to this natural world, because alternate belief "B" was too hard to believe. (Now it took me a little while to get to the point where I was convinced that that "force of good" was the God of the Bible . . . but that's a story for another day.)

Moving on to a different quote from Keller. He describes a conversation he had with a woman who found the very idea of a judging God to be offensive.

"I went on to point out that secular Westerners get upset by the Christian doctrines of hell, but they find Biblical teaching about turning the other cheek and forgiving enemies appealing. I then asked her to consider how someone from a very different culture sees Christianity. In traditional societies the teaching about 'turning the other cheek' makes absolutely no sense. It offends people's deepest instincts about what is right. For them the doctrine of a God of judgment, however, is no problem at all. That society is repulsed by aspects of Christianity that Western people enjoy, and is attracted by the aspects that secular Westerners can't stand."

He goes on to say, "If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place." If everything I read in the Bible made sense, if it all agreed with my inner reasonings, if I found nothing in it to be troubling or convicting, it would be harder for me to believe it to be the Word of God. It would sound like something made up by men to tickle their ears and soothe their conscience.

I remember a "Tough Questions" Sunday School class Keith and I took. A class member at one point said, "Well, I wouldn't want to believe in a God that . . . " yada yada. Keith and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. I don't think the Almighty gives a hoot what kind of God you want to believe in. God is who He is -- take Him or leave Him. But don't try to recreate Him in the image that pleases you. Then you're not worshipping God -- you're worshipping an idol of your own making.

That thought sends me back to grad school and part of a definition of mental health that we discussed . . . a dedication to reality, as opposed to creating one of your own choosing . . .

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