So, I wrote this in response to a reasonable Atheist viewpoint that intelligent people can have a faith because they pick up patterns from their lives and mistakenly credit them for something otherly. It’s quite long, but should be spliced into two at some point for the blog that it is meant for.
So, you may think about what a Christian has to do on a blog such as this, and why someone like me would bother to even post on a Skeptic’s blog? It isn’t to Bible-bash; ironically it is to play Devil’s Advocate. This post is in regards to a previous entry which was titled ‘Faithful genius- a contradiction?’
I actually agreed with this article- up to a point. There is something about having a belief, a faith, or lack of a faith, which turns a switch on or off inside of us- not necessarily changing our being but changing how we view and interact with the world all together.
I also believe that having a way to deal and explain away patterns into a worldview is generally a key way to predominately survive, as it (usually) forms something within us which reacts in a very useful way to our surroundings and the intricacies of our very lives. I also agree that a smarter person with faith does not necessarily have a clear view of the world around them, just a better way of explaining it than others.
I see all of these patterns time and time again in the people around me- whether they have a faith or not. It is the issue of this explanation in regards to faith as a whole that I am going about questioning. So, how do I go about questioning about a theory that I see and believe in the world around me day by day? It is simple- expanding the horizon of such a statement predominately to explain away the notion of faith has its flaws.
I say this because there are many things I have seen which I have no control over; things which can only be rationally explained through a Theistic viewpoint. This may sound crazy, but some things which happen to be deemed irrational and unexplainable from a Skeptical viewpoint can be a lot easier to explain and digest from a Theistic viewpoint.
Here are two examples for you to discuss. Both are from my life and/or very closely linked to me- as it is a lot better to use first hand examples rather than ‘stories’ and ‘tales’ which have been passed around to me by other people.
The first one is quite a recent one. I was at a prayer meeting before an outreach day, and the group of Christians there decided to pray for me (as you do at a Christian gathering) .Don’t worry, it gets interesting! Just to note that most of these people praying for me had never met me before, with the exception of one who had briefly met me a few days before.
They started giving ‘words of knowledge’ to me that they could not have known about at all. Now a word of knowledge is when someone says something into another person’s life that they couldn’t have known about due to (what I believe) to be divine intervention.
This isn’t your rosy and hazy ‘you’ll be rich next year’ kind of word that you hear a guy dressed in a white suit on the TV say. It’s usually a lot more direct and blunt, more like ‘I feel like God told me that you just broke up with your girlfriend yesterday after expressing a lack of commitment to marriage, and your mother is bitter about it because she thought that she was the one. Do you want me to pray about it?’
These Christians at the prayer meeting started saying:
“all my life I have felt like I never fit in anywhere, floating around various ideals and career ambitions trying to belong. I have tried so hard to actually fit in somewhere that I have wedged myself into an identity and a ‘box’ which isn’t actually me at all,”
They gave me the metaphor of being a toddler with a square shape, trying to hammer it into a circle hole and actually getting it stuck there. They then went on to say that:
“I haven’t felt like I have belonged where I am this year, even surrounded by like-minded people with similar ambitions such as myself,”
They explained to me that this was because:
“The purpose of this year was to wrench myself out of this box I had made for myself, and for me to be placed into where I am meant to be for the future,” (the square shaped hole so to speak).
Little did they know that I had felt dissatisfaction in such a way all my life, even now. This year, I am on a gap year Christian course which involves full time voluntary work, which I had felt led to. Last year I was a full time Music Manager, and eventual dropout student of the same subject. The fact that they even had the thought about me spending my whole life trying to put myself into a box and never really ever fitting in anywhere genuinely surprised me.
I had given them no incline about this at all, and they had no idea who I was as a person- let alone my past (which involved a lot of uncertainty and rather swift movements from one thing to the next thing, more recently with me getting enveloped with Music- especially on the management side of things).
Now, this was just one ‘word’ that they had for me. In the space of ten minutes, they had rattled about 8 in total to me, all of which were completely spot on and true and/or linked on from a previous word I had been given.
A few days later, after I had begun to rationalise the seemingly impossible and thinking ‘maybe it was just me exaggerating’, I had three more words from three separate people. All these words either all matched up directly with something which had been said before, or something which had been said at least a few months before (that they could not know about!).
An example of the latter involves a teenager mumbling the words to me of the second half of a Bible verse, of which the first half has been ingrained into my mind after consistently entering into my thoughts in a way I can’t rationally explain. Interesting.
Now, before I sound like I am crazy and need to go and seek counselling as soon as I finish typing, let me remind you that these words came from people who didn’t know me; or matching words which came from various other people with no collusion, or (as in the example above) from someone I have never met before about something I have never shared about to anyone.
If you want any more direct examples of words that I have stated that I had, please ask me and I shall make sure I get back to you with them. And if you want me to give you a word out of curiosity, feel free to ask- I don’t mind doing so (risky I know, but you have nothing to lose if my beliefs fall down).
My point is, the only rational viewpoint I can give for this without a Theistic viewpoint is that I’m in The Truman Show. To me, that sounds irrational.
Whereas from my Theistic Christian viewpoint I can explain it like this: God is real and can speak to people whenever he wants to. He can also give people words to give to other people, which they wouldn’t know from any other source, or give people information about other people, which they wouldn’t know from any other source. Also, that this happens all the time in circles which conveniently happen to involve Christians.
You see, something irrational and inherently unlikely/ impossible, such as this scenario, can sometimes be easily explained and reasoned from a Theistic viewpoint. Does that make it necessarily right? No, it does not. But let me give you another example to discuss.
In the summer of last year, I was helping out with some community work- just your usual DIY/ Gardening work. Out of nowhere, an incline to go to a conference in the summer just popped into my mind. This was unusual, as I had no desire to go to this conference. It was a predominately Christian conference which, at the time, I felt I had no use going to.
What made this incline even more unusual is that it came with an ‘irrational’ conviction. This conviction was so strong that I would have walked to the conference if I had to- 200 miles away from my home. This for me, as a relatively reasonable and decisive person, came to me as quite a shock.
It was as if something or someone had reached into my brain to plant this strange idea and strong conviction as I was away gardening. Unsurprisingly, I booked myself in for the conference in anticipation- may be something supernatural was trying to give me a tell-tale ‘sign’ of what was important and where I needed to go.
Funnily enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Now before you play any cards of ‘hype’ or ‘emotion’ against me, I was completely level headed and calm; with only a sense of anticipation and curiosity of what was to happen next.
To summarise, I came back from the conference a different person. I wasn’t brainwashed or poked by some crazy Charismatic Christian, the change was deeper than that. What I found was this sense of longing and compulsion that I could not explain. Everything which was said seemed to be said straight at me, to the point of challenging almost every single aspect of my selfish personality and motive.
To top that off, I felt compelled to get prayer for every single one of these issues that came up; I didn’t even feel like praying! Even when I was going to get prayer, I just felt myself groaning as I had to leave my seat and deal with some random problem I wasn’t even thinking about, time and time again. Even when I got prayer, most of the time I felt almost nothing- I didn’t cry, or get emotional, or have a sudden change of heart. All I had as a constant was this deep sense of peace.
Now that may sound all nice and cosy, but up to that point I had found it nigh on impossible to find peace in anything I did. I spent every day restless; looking for ways to just get on with life and enjoy myself as much as I can. Now, I had been raised in a relatively churched background- from an early teenager I had to go to church as my family became Christians around me (my dad is a Biologist who was a strong Skeptic/ Atheist but that’s a story for another day).
But it didn’t really seem that important to me. If I’m honest, I didn’t really care too much at the time if there was a God who died for me or not- I had a life to live, and I was going to stick with that.
It did mean that the idea of a God didn’t shock me or surprise me, but just the notion that something or someone may have been potentially reaching out and beckoning me into a new or better life amazed me.
What little did I know then through all the sessions, lacking in any inward emotion and outward spiritual signs, that I came out the other end a changed man. I suddenly had more of a heart to care and tend for other people, as well leaving some of my past restless insecurities behind me, and I haven’t relapsed from that to this very day.
When I came back from the conference, I had one or two people come up to me after a week or two directly asking me how, when and why I had changed suddenly. I also had many people commenting on a ‘new you’ or stating how I seemed ‘different’. Funnily enough, I also came out the other end a fervent Christian, and it seems all I really did was just show up at the right place at the right time.
Now, both of these cases (in my opinion) would be incredibly hard to rationalise and to explain from a Skeptical/ Atheistic viewpoint. Feel free to challenge me on that one. But it seems to be rather easy to rationalise and understand these cases from a Theistic viewpoint.
And, contrary to any typical Christian stereotypes, there isn’t much from a typical Skeptic’s worldview which can’t be rationalised and explained within a typical Christian Theistic viewpoint. (There are many Christians which see evolution as no problem to their belief system, and MANY MORE who don’t think the Earth is 6000 years old!)
To summarise- is a Theistic viewpoint necessarily something to be doubted? The problem I see with faith being explained away as adapting to patterns around us (which in its basic essence is what the original theory is based upon) is that not everything seems to be within the confines of finite rule and law.
I have given an example or two which, in my humble opinion, seem to be nigh on impossible to explain and/or rationalise without the notion of a faith or a Theistic belief. There are many more similar occurrences I could highlight from my own life and other people’s lives around me (not necessarily all Christian to note) that cannot be fully explained or rationalised without a basic notion or foundation of faith behind it. Without a foundation of faith, some things just don’t add up/
Feel free to challenge or question anything I have said, and feel free to point out anything which might change/ deter my views on this.
- Theistic Evolution Follow-up (str.typepad.com)
- Creationist: Science Begins with the Bible, Not the Facts (patheos.com)
- Evolution and Divine Action (str.typepad.com)
- Theological mental gymnastics over evolution (openparachute.wordpress.com)
- A Call To Repentance (pilgrimpassing.wordpress.com)