Are Faith and Reason Necessary for Finding the Hidden Truth of God?

Let’s take another pause in our review of Richard Bauckham’s book.  “Nathan”, a well-meaning Christian, left the following comment on the blog today.  I have decided to respond to Nathan’s comment in a post.  I will intersperse my comments in bold:

Act 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.
Act 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Act 26:15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
Act 26:16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, Act 26:17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
Act 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Yes brother Gary, you can and indeed you will continue to search for the “truth” with reason . . .I fall short of the Glory of God daily and make mistakes often. Satan is a liar and will continue to deceive and temp you further in your destructive off-path quest for the uncertainty and the philosophy of “truth”. I will boldly stand on faith in Jesus as long as I have breath. . . and with His help, with the guidance and the gift of the Holy Spirit and yes with God-given faith in Christ and human reason.

Lord help me and Lord help Gary receive Your Truth in Jesus Name. Amen.

Human reason should not to be confused with God-given faith in Christ. . . . human reason or strength without God’s help in Christ by His Grace and Spirit cannot receive or perceive faith in Christ.

Gary:  So if I understand you correctly, Nathan, you are saying that using reason is ok, but it must be directed by God, through faith.  Is that correct?  But how do you know that it is God who is directing your search for truth?  Does an audible voice speak to you?  Does a heavenly being appear to you?  I doubt it.  I will bet that your belief that “God” guides you to the truth is based on your feelings and perceptions.  But feelings and perceptions are notoriously faulty means for investigating truth claims, Nathan.  How do you know that your feelings of “God’s presence” within you is nothing more than YOU talking to yourself?  Humans carry on internal conversations with themselves all the time.  Isn’t it possible that you are confusing “God” with…you?

So unless you can prove to me that your God has appeared to you and audibly spoken to you, collective human experience strongly indicates that it is much more probable that the presence you feel and perceive is not an invisible deity with supernatural powers, but just you talking to yourself.

You are worth the fight Gary to bring into the light and knowledge of Jesus Christ. His saving and amazing Grace, to share the Truth of the Gospel to you, to point you in His direction in His Gospel and Truth, (there is no other) no one can change the fact (not even you or myself) that God loves you and desires for you to be saved and to be His child in Christ. Turn to God in Christ Jesus . . . “. . . you are not your own, you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).  This all comes from love (see 1 Corinthians 13) . . . anything that is not from love . . . I beg your forgiveness and above all the Lords mercy, grace and forgiveness.

The answer is Jesus . . .

God in Christ Jesus is absolute Truth . . . Reason is a gift from God and there is a distinction from the gift of human reason and the gift of faith in Christ Jesus. You were given both but are currently refusing and rejecting the one that matters eternally. You did not give yourself reason did you? Then who did my friend? You are quite the well educated individual worthy of love.

Gary:  How do you know that a Deity gave me my ability to think and reason, Nathan?  And more specifically, how do you know that the Judeo-Christian god Yahweh is responsible for my ability to reason?  If once again you point to your (subjective) feelings and perceptions, I will remind you just how unreliable feelings and perceptions are for investigating truth claims.

Do you not love?
Do you not love your neighbor as yourself?
Does not God love you?

Gary:  Ok, there is the carrot…

. . . only God-given faith in our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will save you from eternal darkness and separation from God.

Gary:  And there is the stick…

“Jesus loves you, loves you, loves you, loves you, Gary.  But if you refuse to love him (and obey him) he will caste you into eternal darkness to suffer for all eternity.”

That’s sick, Nathan.  That isn’t love.  That is sadistic blackmail.

And why should I believe this?  Your answer:  Not by using my brain, but by believing and trusting that YOUR feelings and perceptions about a “presence” within you is the basis for universal truth.

Sorry, Nathan.  Not good enough for me.

Who gave you life?
Who gave you intelligence?
Who gave you reason?
Who gave you ability?
Who gave you love?
Who gave you water?
. . .
Who made the earth?
Who made the stars?
Who made life?
Who made laws of physics?
. . .
Who and what can explain what they can and cannot see or understand?
. . .
What facts can prove or disprove a Creator God?
What facts prove or disprove a spontaneous interstellar dust theory?
Who is your god?
Who is God?
Who is Satan?h
If Satan exists then does God exist?

Gary:  I have never said that a Creator God (or Gods) does not exist.  I simply don’t believe that your god, Yahweh, exists, Nathan.

Why do we ask these questions and why do we exist?
To love?
To hate?
To laugh?
To cry?
To wonder?
To fear?
To die?
To live?
To be saved?

Who gave you redemption and why do you need it? Who gave me redemption and why do I need it?

Gary:  Why do I need redemption, Nathan?  Because my ancient ancestors ate some of your god’s fruit???  Silly.  Just plain silly.

Are not questions the basis of the human mystery of existence and purpose? I cannot persuade or argue that your reason is not a gift from God and does exist . . . I can only speak the Truth of Jesus Christ, “. . . the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29, 36)

I am saddened that you had made a strong decision thus far and effort to battle God’s existence in Christ ” . . . the Word become flesh . . .” (John 1:14).  By some hardening and resentment toward individuals, neighbors, mankind and toward God Himself?  . . . these blogs have been sadly against the Creator and Savior Jesus Christ.

Why is Jesus on trial?

Gary:  Jesus is not on trial, Nathan.  Your subjective feelings and perceptions about Jesus (and those of all Christians who believe like you) are on trial, not the man himself, who has been dead for two thousand years.

Evil is lurking in “false” claims of “truth” . . . denials and claims against Christ are the work of sin and Satan . . . or blind ignorance.

Gary:  What you perceive as evil, I perceive as reason and logic.  Reason, using the scientific method of investigating truth claims, has proven to be far superior time after time after time to the truth claims of any ancient holy book on the face of the planet, including the Christian Bible.

I do not believe ignorance is at play though. You seem to have “[tasted] that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) at one time in you life? “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”? (1 Peter 2:3)

Gary:  I believe that what I previously “tasted” was the incredible mind controlling power of a fear-based ancient superstition, otherwise known as a cult…and it has left a very, very bad taste in my mouth, Nathan.

Truth is the Power God and Wisdom of God in Christ Jesus who conquered sin, death and Satan. St. Paul describes to Festus and King Agrippa a few matters of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus;

Act 26:8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
Act 26:9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Act 26:10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.
Act 26:11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Act 26:12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.
Act 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.
Act 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Act 26:15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
Act 26:16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
Act 26:17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
Act 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Act 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
Act 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Act 26:21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.
Act 26:22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:
Act 26:23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Act 26:24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”
Act 26:25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.
Act 26:26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.
Act 26:27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”
Act 26:28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
Act 26:29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Gary:  So Paul sincerely believed that he saw a talking, bright light on a desert highway and believed that the dead Jesus of Nazareth, Creator God of the universe, had personally appeared to him.  Nathan, thousands and thousands of people over the millennia of human existence have claimed to have seen dead people and talking bright lights.  I will bet that you do not believe any of these claims, so why do you believe the (ghost) story of this one man?

I will not give up on you Gary . . . neither will Jesus.

Gary:  Jesus is dead, Nathan.  The voice you hear “in your heart” is just you talking to yourself.  I challenge you to prove that it is not.  There is no more reason to believe your supernatural based belief system than to believe those of Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, or the witch doctor dancing around a fire, burning incense, shaking his tom toms, and casting spells, in the deepest jungle of the darkest continent.

I deeply appreciate your concern for me, Nathan.  But I am concerned for you.  It is my hope that our discussions will help to bring you out of the darkness of superstition and into the light of reason and science.

 

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6 thoughts on “Are Faith and Reason Necessary for Finding the Hidden Truth of God?

  1. I think this story is about something much deeper than just Eve eating a piece of fruit, in the distant past. though. Genesis one is poetry, (myth) meant to convey truth to people of ancient times, and it still speaks to us today. What it says to me is that at some point in our prehistory, humanity(Adam) collectively and individually became alienated from God, and from each other. Our pole, so to speak, became shifted toward imitation of the desires of one another rather than God. This mimetic desire led to violence in human cultures. What do you think of this article?

    When I was in seminary one of my best friends came up with a brilliant theological … pick up line.
    Hey baby. What’s your hermeneutic?

    Despite the genius of that question, we soon discovered that anytime you start a pick up line with “Hey baby” you’re in some trouble.
    But it’s such a great question. Think of all the relationships that would have avoided painful break ups if they just defined the relationship in the beginning by answering the question “What’s your hermeneutic? What’s your primary interpretive method for understanding how the world works? What’s your interpretation of God? What’s your hermeneutic?”
    Since seminary, I’ve learned some important things about hermeneutics from a man named René Girard. Girard is an anthropologist who put forth a theory about human nature that has profound implications for how we do theology. Girard’s anthropology is called “the mimetic theory.” Mimetic theory is important to Christianity in the 21st century because it helps us understand that violence belongs to humans, not to God. Girard’s point is that from the very beginning of culture, we have had a hermeneutic of sacrificial violence. But Girard helps us see that this hermeneutic is false and that the God revealed through the Judeo-Christian tradition and specifically through Jesus Christ is in the process of transforming our hermeneutic from sacrificial violence to a hermeneutic of nonviolent forgiveness, mercy and love.

    Mimetic theory has three basic principles. The first principle is that desire is mimetic. That’s just a fancy word for saying that humans are unconsciously imitative. Girard claims that humans desire according to the desire of another. We are interconnected on the level of desire. Think “Keeping up with the Joneses” only on steroids. Without realizing it, we share desires with one another by watching what others desire. If my neighbor comes home with a new Mercedes, I look at it with a certain emptiness deep in my soul and now I want a Mercedes. I was pretty happy with my 1995 Ford Escort, but now I need a new Mercedes. One of the many biblical examples of mimetic desire is the 10th commandment. You know, Don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff. Why did the Bible have to tell us that? Because we covet our neighbors stuff. We have always tried to keep up with the Jonses. Interestingly, neuroscience’s discovery of the brain’s mirror neurons have confirmed Girard’s hypothesis, but you’re gonna have to trust me on that because I only have three minutes left.

    The second principle of mimetic theory is the scapegoat mechanism. If human desire is mimetic or imitative, our desires will inevitably converge on the same object, which will lead to rivalry and violence.
    Girard postulates that this rivalry and violence has plagued humanity from the very beginning of human culture. In order for our first ancestors to avoid self-destruction, all of those tensions from mimetic desire needed an outlet, and they found an outlet against a scapegoat. The internal tensions that threatened the community were projected onto a single victim. In the same way that desire is mimetic, violence is also mimetic. When the finger of accusation points against a scapegoat, more fingers will imitate the accusation. Soon, the ancient community was united against a common enemy who was blamed for all the problems the group faced. The victim was then sacrificed. It’s important to know that the members of the community did not know what they were doing. They were caught up in a contagion of violence that was bigger than any individual in the group. They believed that they were the good guys who were standing against an evil other that threatened their survival. After the victim was sacrificed, temporary peace and good will descended upon the group. It’s as if the blood of the sacrificial victim washed away the sins of the community. But the conflict and rivalry born from mimetic desire was never actually dealt with and so the conflicts continued and the sacrificial solution was ritualized.

    Religions emerged from the sacrifice of the scapegoat and a theology of the gods was formed. This brought with it a sacrificial hermeneutic that said the world runs on violence and the gods demand it.

    The third principle of mimetic theory is that the Judeo-Christian tradition is in a process of transforming our hermeneutic of sacrificial violence into a hermeneutic of mercy, forgiveness, and love. This tradition reveals that the true God is not one of the gods. The violent gods are idols, projections of our own violence. Indeed, a sacrificial strand runs through the Bible that claims God does desire sacrifice, that God is violent. But there is an alternative strand within the Bible that leads us away from sacrificial violence. The Psalmist says, “Sacrifice and offerings you do not want.” And God says through the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
    Jesus lived, died, and resurrected by the mercy strand in the Bible. Jesus frequently quoted Hosea to reveal that his hermeneutic was one of mercy not sacrifice. When the crowd united against Jesus and yelled “Crucify him!” Jesus hung on the cross and prayed that his persecutors would be forgiven. The words “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” is an anthropological statement that affirms mimetic theory. When it comes to desire and violence, we don’t know the full extent of what we’re doing. But Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. Instead of sacrificing others, Jesus offered himself to human violence as a living (640) sacrifice. Jesus saved humanity and reconciled the world to God not through a hermeneutic of sacrificial violence, but through a hermeneutic of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love. As St. Paul says in Second Corinthians, In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them and trusting us with the message of reconciliation.

    May your hermeneutic, your interpretive method, be guided by mercy, not sacrifice. May you participate in God’s merciful reconciliation of the world that doesn’t count our sins against us, but forgives. And may you know that God has nothing to do with violence, but everything to do with love and forgiveness. Thank you.

    Really interested to hear everyone’s opinion. May not be able to get back until the weekend as I have some very long days coming up at work. Thanks.

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    1. I’m sure you see your response as a beautiful expression of liberal Christianity, Rebecca. But I see it as a lot of rosy theological psycho-babble to excuse the immorality of your belief system. An all-powerful, all-knowing Being who allows even one child to be raped, tortured, and murdered without stepping in to prevent it does not merit our praise, love, or obedience. He merits our loathing.

      He is immoral. He is the epitome of immorality. He is a sick, sadistic tyrant.

      Thank goodness the evidence strongly indicates that the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh, does not exist!

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  2. Gary, you feel pretty strongly. It’s just recently, I was introduced to the work of Rene Girard, and I find this whole concept of mimetic theory fascinating and insightful myself. My undergraduate major was in cultural anthropology, so I find a strong connection. I don’t think the concept of “mirror neurons,” is just psychobabble. But, then again, I am working in the field of family based therapy. LOL I’m probably not unbiased.

    Dr. Girard was at one time agnostic, but ended his life as a committed Christian believer. I think we’re learning and growing all the time. Life is a journey.

    Do want to clarify that I don’t really see myself as a “liberal Christian,” although more and more, I’ve come to think that this expression is pretty relative. It’s defined from where you sit. 🙂 I identify as an orthodox Christian believer, fully affirming the Nicene Creed of the church. Jesus Christ is my Savior, and Lord. He’s come to me so much in my life.

    We’ll agree to disagree then.

    Shalom.

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    1. Thank you for your comments, Rebecca. Yes, there are many definitions of “liberal Christian”. My definition is this: A liberal Christian is a Christian who believes that God will not punish anyone for not believing in Jesus as God. Therefore, all people will go to heaven.

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