Tag Archives: truth

knowing God

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Galatians 4:8-9)

There is a lovely tension in Christian epistemology between our ‘knowing God’ and being known by God (both of which, to be clear, are about an interpersonal kind of knowledge, not about simply knowing an infinite quantity of ‘facts’ about God or us).  One of the central announcements of the NT is that Jesus has revealed God in not only a fresh, unexpected way, but also in a full (and thus final) way.  God can at last be known.

But this knowledge of God in the face of Christ does not catapult humans into a state of omniscience.  ”Who has known the mind of the Lord?”, asks Scripture elsewhere.  And in the passage above, Paul suggests that the point is not our knowledge of God, but God’s knowledge of us that matters.

There is continuity and discontinuity here with the knowledge proper to the natural sciences.  Continuity in that in both cases, reality often has to surprise us for us to ‘get it’.  It’s often not what we expected it to be.  Truth has that ring to it.  But it also has discontinuity in the obvious sense that nature does not and cannot ‘know us’ as we know one another – let alone as we can be known by God.

this blog

I’m often conflicted about the whole apologetics thing.

As long as people have honest questions1 about belief, then it remains a logically legitimate enterprise, but it can be taken too far easily.

For me, I’m interested in taking away needless barriers to faith2.  Increasingly for me, it’s been exciting to see just how complimentary an evolutionary understanding of nature is with Christianity.  And as long as there are a) Christians who see evolution as a threat to faith and b) people for whom evolution has been a key point on their departure from faith, I think it’s hugely valuable to show and explore just how harmonious they are.

It occurs to me that believers and unbelievers3 both participate in the apologetic endeavour.  At their worst, both belief and unbelief ‘need’ a ‘defense’4 for why they are justified in being what they are.  Insert any usual topic (evolution, abortion, morality, cosmogenesis, abiogenesis, sexual ethics, religious violence, etc.): the believer defends belief, and the unbeliever defends unbelief.

The believer (often) needs to feel justified in their belief – “Belief in God is reasonable and logical!” (or the psychological translation: “I’m a totally reasonable and logical person for maintaining my faith!”)

The unbeliever (often) needs to feel justified in their unbelief – “Belief in God is silly and superstitious!” (or the psychological translation: “I totally made the right decision in giving up my faith!”)

I’m aware of this need to feel justified, so I try (as best I can) to be genuinely open-minded.

I genuinely think various theistic arguments (like the First Cause argument) work.  And that’s really cool for me, because I’m a Christian!  But I also think it’s important to recognise that (as Rob Bell has said) ‘What you look for, you will find.’

I hope believers can evaluate their beliefs and challenge them.  I think faith is of the good kind when it is open to being challenged.  Believers that recoil from questions and insulate themselves from challenges to their belief have a kind of faith that I can’t help but see as (perhaps ironically) ‘faith in faith’ – and not faith in the God of all Truth.  My experience is that my beliefs get sharper the more I expose them to criticism.  I’ve changed my views about several things – and long may that continue.  I’ve also maintained and deepened a lot of my beliefs as well – and long may that continue.

I also hope unbelievers can be sceptical of even their own scepticism.  If belief is sharpened by criticism, then this should be true for unbelief as well?  However, for me, this should logically lead atheists to become more and more agnostic – or even ‘fall’ from unbelief altogether?  Or at least go from being a Richard Dawkins style atheist to a Michael Ruse type one…

At any rate, I’ll probably always ‘do’ (with varying degrees of passion) the apologetics thing, but I’m feeling less and less like it’s something that I need to do for my own justification, but rather something that I simply enjoy doing and find worthwhile.  That’s all for now :)

  1. as opposed to dishonest questions; the kind that merely serve to insulate people from having to believe []
  2. And I anticipate the charge that I have “faith in faith”… []
  3. I’m inclined to believe that we all ‘believe’ something, however – which makes ‘unbeliever’ a questionable term. []
  4. Gk. ‘apologia’. []

beautiful

Is beauty completely subjective?

I just had a truckload of beauty dumped in my lap as I took part in ‘Mixi Club’ at my church.  Mixi Club provides community and food to the most interesting and wonderful range of people from the community around. Continue reading

mind over matter

The mind/matter issue is centuries old, and is probably here to stay.

The philosophy of naturalism says that mind is not a distinct category of existence (ontology), but is rather some kind of emergent property or state of purely material elements.  It actually proposes not that matter ‘makes’ or ‘gives way to’ mind, but that mind actually is nothing more than matter behaving in a certain way.  It’s the classic naturalistic insistence that – at the end of the day – there is only one kind of substance/stuff, and it’s natural.  All phenomena can be explained in terms of the most indivisible units of matter. Continue reading

moral truth

To demonstrate not only the difference between scientific/descriptive knowledge and metaphysical/prescriptive knowledge, but also the greater degree of both accessibility and authority in the latter, consider the following:

There are scientific experiments which everyone knows (accessibility: tick) without question (authority: tick) simply should not (prescriptive: tick) be performed1.

EDIT: lest it need to be said, the previous post makes no claim, of course, for human omniscience in any area.

  1. and there honestly is no need for me to give examples of such experiments []

true feeling

Just watched The Changeling with my wife (‘endured’ would be the term she’d use!), and really enjoyed it.  There are some real gut-wrenching moments in there, which I won’t elaborate on here.

One thing I found interesting was the particular (and familiar) feeling of deep satisfaction and relief I (and my wife – and anyone with a pulse) when the ‘code 12′ women were freed from the mental hospital, and when the lawyer offered to defend her pro bono. It’s just that familiar, deep-seated, very human feeling we all get when the right thing is done – when a horrible injustice is righted.  The opening scene of Amistad, where the slaves on the slave ship break loose and take over the ship, though violent and bloody, also provoked that same feeling – that kind of fist-pumping ‘yeah!’ feeling. Emotions aren’t infallible, and in terms of epistemology I don’t think any source of knowledge is (reason, logic, etc.); but sometimes they (emotions) can be very, very good conductors of Truth.

And I love how immediate, every-day, down-to-earth, and universal these kinds of emotions are.  No philosophy degrees needed here, no deep pondering or reflection, just deep, gut-level ‘knowing’ that – though we don’t know everything – we know that we know that we know ‘this is right’.

india: different

So I should probably post about my recent trip to India.

I could give a ‘what we got up to’ report of the work our team did (some still over – some still yet to go) on the new Freeset T-shirts building.  But we didn’t only go as labourers – we went to observe as well.  Kerry took us on a couple of ‘walks’ to see the areas around Freeset, and also we saw other bits of Kolkata as well.  I suppose I’m more inclined to reflect on what I observed and the thoughts it brought to mind – many of which will still tick over in my head for some time to come. Continue reading

thanks ian…

Thanks, Ian Luxmoore

…for a friendly, respectful, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable conversation about life, god, the universe, morality and all the rest.

postman on technology – 1998

Quite interesting (I’m slowly working through them in spare time, which I’ve not got much of!)

Continue reading

the most basic question

The most basic question one could ask is one which is asked and wondered at both by small children and genius level intellectuals.

It has various forms, and is worded differently, but is essentially the same question:

Where did we come from?

Alternate forms include: Why are we (or anything!) here?  How did things come into being?  Why is there something rather than nothing?

It’s the question of the ultimate origin (or original beginning) of everything.

A few things about the question:

First, it is valid to ask this question and to seek at least some kind of answer.  The level of certainty which one has concerning their answer has nothing to do with whether or not it is a valid question.

Second, we are never done asking the question.  Comparison between the various kinds of answers will never be finished.

Third, it is the most basic question.  It is the question where all other questions lead to.

Now, this most basic question has three kinds of answers (each with presumably infinite variations):

  1. Everything* is an illusion.
  2. Everything is eternal.
  3. Everything was created.

Now, I’ll comment on each option in more detail.

  1. Everything is an illusion. This is not a popular view.  Who would want that to be true?  More than this, it immediately raises the question of “If things are illusory, then who/what is having the illusion?”  Descartes famously said “I think therefore I am.”  So things are real.  Option one is neither desirable nor logical.
  2. Everything is eternal (uncreated/uncaused). This view encompasses all views in which the idea of an ultimate ‘beginning’ is rejected.  Cosmology (whether big bang theory or multiverse theory) seems to point ‘back’ spacially, temporally and causally to an ultimate beginning.  Also, even the views that are cyclic in nature would seem to be in need of a prior explanation.
  3. Everything is created (had a beginning / was caused). This view can be split into two: a) Everything is caused/created by a cause/creator other than itself; or b) Everything is caused/created/originated by itself.  More succinctly: a) Created by creator or b) Self-originating.  If it is arbitrary or ad hoc (which I reject) to postulate a Creator, than it is certainly and utterly arbitrary and ad hoc to postulate that ‘Everything’ just had to exist of necessity (by nature).  This leads me and countless others to conclude that the most rational and reasonable position to take (however tentatively or confidently) is the view that Everything was created/caused by a creator/cause other than itself.  This view encompasses all kinds of beliefs in any/all kinds of creators/causes.  Affirming a 1st cause does not instantly commit someone to any particular kind of set of beliefs – only the simple affirmation of a 1st cause.  Pantheism, Panentheism, Deism, Theism, Spinozian/Einsteinian cosmic ‘god’, Mother Nature, etc. are all encompassed here.

This question, again, is the most basic question and is the starting point of theology.  Theology starts with the assumption (and a rational/reasonable one) that the only valid answer for the existence of things is a Creator who is other than the things created.

Theology must be taken one step/level at a time.  It is utter nonsense to reject the general idea of a Creator because of some specific question at a later logical step/level.

That brings things to a natural breaking point, so I’ll finish there.

Can anyone think of a 4th possible ‘kind’ of answer to the question – or another example of one of the three answers given that I did not mention?  Other responses?

***

*The word ‘Everything’ is being used here in the most basic sense, to refer to all existing ‘things’.  Much argument can be had about this usage.  But not here.