Blogging and commenting on other blogs exposes me to many different viewpoints. And it makes me think ….
Some questions I’ve heard before, thought about, and know what I think. Other questions require thought, research and more thought. But all the time I’m considering, reviewing, pondering.
I’ve also “met” many people, each one on the journey of life, but heading in so many different directions. They make me think and ponder too. How can people come to such widely different conclusions about life, truth and God?
Some people grow up in a christian family, or choose to follow Jesus, and continue with that belief right through life. But others walk away from their previous belief for various reasons. So why am I in the former group rather than the latter? After all, it’s not as if I don’t have doubts and questions.
It makes me think ….
Doubts and questions
There are lots of things I don’t understand.
I don’t always understand myself, let alone other people. I don’t really understand quantum physics, or cosmic inflation in the big bang, or how a bunch of electrical and chemical processes in the lump of flesh between my ears can store memories and pictures, feel emotions, do cryptic crosswords and like chocolate but dislike coffee.
So it doesn’t actually surprise me that there are things about God and the Bible that I don’t understand either.
- How can God be eternal, outside of time, and still do things?
- Why did God create a world with the possibility of so much pain and suffering?
- Why do some people experience God and others don’t?
- Can we be sure the accounts we have of Jesus’ life give us the right understanding?
- Why did God set up such a complex process for human beings to respond to him?
With questions come doubts. Maybe it’s all wrong, maybe there’s no point to any of this. What if I’m just fooling myself?
Doubts and questions: it all depends what you do with them
For some people, doubts are enough reason to disbelieve. For others, they’re a problem to avoid.
But I have found doubts can be a gateway to a new understanding.
I don’t expect to understand everything, so I don’t worry too much when I don’t. But I do often try to find the answer to the question.
I can understand why people have doubts, but I can’t see how many of them should become reasons to disbelieve. A reason to disbelieve should be able to be formed into an argument …. this is true and that is true and so we should be able to expect this, but it’s not so.
But when I look at many people’s reasons to disbelieve, I find they are based on assumptions and expectations that don’t seem to me to have much force. For example ….
Some people disbelieve because they find apparent errors in the Bible. But to form that into an argument, we have to start with the assumption that the Bible is a certain type of book (written by God), and so it couldn’t contain errors. Now many christians believe that, but it doesn’t have to be so. We get good information from many sources without any of them being perfect or written by God. The Bible could be like that.
Other people expect God to give more evidence than they believe we have. It would be nice, but should we turn an expectation into a reason to disbelieve? Why should we have that expectation? Hidden behind such an expectation are assumptions about God’s aims, and how he judges us, assumptions that can be little more than guesses.
For me, these are arguments from a lack of understanding – sort of “no-God of the gaps” – not from evidence, as good arguments ought to be.
So I think all of these things are reason to question, but not really substantial enough to be reasons to disbelieve. Or, at most (for me), weak reasons.
Certainties and probabilities
There are other things that seem to have a stronger basis.
For example, why does God allow so much evil? We can see this as another question which we don’t really have enough information to answer. But I feel it is more than that. A clear argument can be made: if God is good and powerful, he shouldn’t allow so much suffering.
I feel that is a reasonable argument and a stronger reason. Evil and suffering definitely trouble me, to imagine what some people have to go through, as well as questioning God.
But other stronger arguments go the other way. Why is there something rather than nothing? is another question, but it also forms the basis of a stronger argument. After all both logic and experience tell us that things don’t happen without causes.
Likewise, the fine-tuning of the universe is a scientific fact that begs to be explained, and God is a very reasonable cause, even though not an explanation of the scientific process.
These are not “God of the gaps” but “God in the science”. Not certainties, but certainly probabilities.
How much can we trust people?
Most of us learn to be wary of people we don’t know. Some of us, unfortunately, even learn to be wary of people we do know. I don’t respond to Nigerian email scams and I have learned that politicians say things they don’t really mean. It’s a sad realisation!
But we can’t live good lives without trusting some people, so we need to learn as best we can who to trust and when to be more careful.
I haven’t had any obvious miraculous healings or experiences of the supernatural, and I am suspicious of other people’s claims. But I have read enough reports by people who seem to be reliable to conclude that some people seem to have experienced God in discernible and unmistakeable ways.
We can always be sceptical and demand proof as if life was a debate, but we can miss out on so much that way. So one of the reasons I continue to believe while others don’t may be that in the end, I accept some people’s experiences as more likely to be true than not.
We can bring the same scepticism to the Bible too. But again, is that warranted or is it turning away from an important clue?
The historians give us enough confidence that the gospels are plausible documents for me to feel comfortable trusting that Luke, in particular, and the others, weren’t trying to con us, but were earnestly trying to tell us something important. Maybe they were inaccurate at times, but why should I mistrust them?
So I keep on thinking ….
How much do I believe because of hard evidence, and how much do I believe because I am trusting?
I really can’t say.
But I still think the reasons for disbelieving are way weaker than the reasons for believing. And I still think that I have enough reason to trust the evidence and my response to it rather than to distrust.
And so I keep on going, questions, doubts, trust and reason all running around in my grey matter.
It’s a good life and I thank God for it.
Photo: The thinker Wikipedia.