Home > Uncategorized > Faith Hope and Love- Supernaturalism & My Reason

Faith Hope and Love- Supernaturalism & My Reason

So I’ve had my experiences before. I’ve had dreams, and the Spirit has led me, for sure. Never will I doubt the times God has come into my perception of reality and altered it a little bit, giving me a second glance, and letting me peer into truth- what we call the supernatural. And never will I doubt the words that have come in the smallest of breezes on otherwise mundane mornings, or the stars that have shown me God’s glory and told me his wisdom on lonesome nights. I cannot deny the power of God in my life, because I’ve felt it all around me. It’s more than a feeling. It has moved me, sometimes physically brought me to my knees. To my face to lay prostate before God in a field praying forgiveness for the one’s who have hurt me most. I have seen God’s action, and have felt it. He is alive and well.
Tonight I visited a Pentecostal Congregation. I come from Church of Christ. The two denominations are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum of Christianity, and it was out of my comfort zone. Luckily for me I am not very comfortable in my comfort zone, so I felt fine. I saw people praise God like I haven’t seen since Camp of the Hills. I wished I could praise like they did with an honest and open heart. Instead I found good harmonies and followed a baseline closely. The whole ordeal was strange, and running somewhere in my mind was the thought that some of these people are full of it. I could understand better how atheists think Christians are delusional. But I held back my prejudices and tried to have an open heart before God.
Near then end is when it happened. God sent a lady over to me, someone I knew would come eventually and she told me God had forgiven me, that I did not need to keep asking forgiveness for the same thing. She didn’t know that I have given up on asking forgiveness, and pretty much accepted that I am guilty. In short, it’s what I needed to here. Then she assured me God was there and he was mighty to save me. That he heard my prayers, and had given me the victory. My mind was flooded with my best friend, who I was already thinking of, I’ll call her JM. I wanted her to be forgiven in my stead. For her to have victory and for me to suffer. I don’t care about me; I love her. I have faith in God to not give up on her, and I know he won’t. He assures me often, tonight being no exception. In short, I have witnessed people suffer without God for the reason of not being with him. I have seen people flourish without God, living worthless lives devoid of purpose out side of circular or dead logic. And I have seen God make and keep promises. If I were asked why I have faith in a magic man in the sky I could tell you a lot of things, but most of them would end up being meaningless. And these remain, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. Without faith life seems endless, useless. Without hope there is no reason to go one, no driving force for existence. Without love there is no chance for survival, and no chance for meaning- no meaning for faith, no meaning for hope. That is why I believe in a magic man in the sky.

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  1. March 31, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    From Eric MacDonald and worth reading in its entirety:

    Love is an unreliable guide to human relationships. One of its greatest dangers is that it gives the appearance of real concern for others, and yet it is the one emotion the interpretation of which is the most nebulous. This is abundantly clear just from considering the problem of evil. Though people sometimes suffer the torments of the damned, the religious will continue to speak of God’s love for them. Paul himself said that God would never cause a person to suffer above what he could bear — a verse my father quoted to me when, in a time of youthful angst, I thought dying better than living. (I did not think that a particularly useful strategy.) If the understanding of love can encompass the Holocaust, the nuclear apocalypse of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, as well as the Japanese tsunami of a few weeks ago and its sequellae, the mindless slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda (most of them Christians killed by other Christians), the misery of a small child dying of cancer, and so many more horrendous evils, then it can encompass anything, and the meaning of the word ‘love’ is correspondingly emptied of significance.

    We know what love is when we see it close up, when we feel the outpouring of emotion towards someone deeply loved, feel the joy and the fulness and the fragility of it, but when it comes to a more generalised love for humankind, the word loses its purchase, and with it the kind of humane meaning that it has when it is used in more individual, more personal situations. Think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta as an expression of this generalised love of humankind, and you can see immediately the kinds of deformations love goes through when it is used at this level of generality. Though widely regarded as a saint, it is quite clear that Theresa was not only not loving — though she would speak to those who were suffering greatly, and tell them that Jesus was kissing them — that is, expressing his love for them — morally she was something of a monster who deserves our censure, not our adoration.

    The point that I am coming to is this. Religion proposes itself as a bulwark against meaninglessness and disorder, and often it claims that religion makes an essential contribution to the project of humanisation, as though, without religion, we would still be barbarians, living in caves, and scrapping over bones. Amongst the gifts that religion offers, we will be told, is the deep spirituality of the religions, and how this intensifies experience and welds us together in mutual — and just here is the problem — mutual what? This is where words like ‘love’ and ‘hope’ and ‘faith’ begin to make their appearance. But these are words, literally, in the religious traditions that use them, without determinate meaning. What is a generalised love? How does it express itself? What would it mean for the relationships of people who had it? And faith and hope are just as uncertain. Faith in what? Hope for what? Spirituality is composed of vague indications of some kinds of inner experiences which can have meanings as diverse as the vast number of different Christian denominations which use those words in different ways and in different contexts.

    Jesus is said to have said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8.32) My bet is that he never said those words, but even if he did, it is a perfect recipe for tyranny, because it assumes a truth already known. And this is what religions do. They believe. That’s what it takes to become a believer. And, believing as they do that they know the most important truth of all, the truth that will, finally, after wearying heaven with their bootless cries, set them free, they inevitably wish, by fair means or foul, to impose those beliefs on others, so that others may also be free, as they are free. And that, brothers and sisters, is what love is all about.

    Christianity has been reined-in in many of its aspects. As Hitchens pointed out, when JFK was running for president, the population demanded the assurance that his decisions would not be based upon words coming from the Vatican. This is still an assurance that we should seek from his successors. But Islam has been permitted, almost without hindrance, to develop in its own way, and there is very little sign that it is on course to adapt itself to the freedoms that have become so important to liberal democratic societies, especially as those freedoms apply to women.

    Theological virtues are not enough. They are not enough of an assurance that religion is not going to be destructive of our freedoms. This is becoming more and more clear. The fact that, within liberal democratic societies, Islam is permitted to develop as it likes, with the inevitable restriction on the freedom of women and girls that this implies, is something the implications of which we should be discussing with greater concern. And as this same disregard for women’s freedom is showing up so blatantly amongst conservative Christians as well — something so evident in the appalling video of the “couples retreat” linked by Ophelia Benson — is an indication that the project of the growth of freedom is seriously in danger. That may seem outrageously alarmist, and perhaps it is, but we must not underestimate the power of religions to change the basic tenour of a society. Women claimed their freedom from forces which are once again expressing themselves openly in society. This should be a matter of concern, especially since there is now a new, untamed religion in our midst that looks upon the freedom of women as unfaithfulness and impiety. Theological virtues are not enough. We need the political virtues, and the greatest of these is freedom.

    • April 1, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      Tildeb, thank you very much for sharing that guy’s words. They’re very good, I enjoyed his writing. I hate to offer a rebuttal to words you didn’t write. But, you did offer it to me, so I will make a few comments, and do not misunderstand me, I did enjoy reading it a lot.
      First off, who said love was an emotion? It’s a cheesey little cliche line, but love is an action. It’s a movement. There is no “generalized” love that he’s talking about. It’s a spread of individual concern for individuals. Yes, Mother Theresa, despite what the everyone things, is human and is expected to have flaws- even big ones. But touching a child with leprosy who does not remember ever being touched before- to give the child the embrace that it needs is an ACT of love. Also, the need I mentioned is a scientifically verified fact.
      Next, he said mutual what? which became his central point. Mutual understandings of morality and accountability to continue to live morally for the betterment of society. It’s a foundation principal to democracy- especially the specific system found in the states- , which he also seems to favor. Next, faith in the existence of God and his benevolence. Basically what his words argued against. Hope in the coming of Christ. And I’ve adequately assessed love. I have a feeling that if Eric had read through John, Romans, 1 Corinthians and possibly 1 John he would have had a better understanding of Christian theology, and who have not written that. Faith, Hope and Love are looked at within these books with pretty solid detail.
      I noticed something really funny. He argues against assumed truth, but also asked for political virtue. Well, if truth is either unobtainable, unobtained, or nonexistent, then there would be no way to decipher between different political ideologies that point to different virtue. Is foot binding virtuous? How about Monopolies, or big business mergers?
      Virtue is considered in value judgments. Judgment is neither wrong or right unless there is truth, knowable or not. So either, he was wrong about truth, or wrong about political virtue. If he’s wrong about truth, then theological virtues must be considered much more carefully because they point to a transcendent source, which could possibly lead to truth, which is by definition transcendent. I also disagree with what he thinks about Islam… and why he thinks it. I also don’t understand why searching to know the truth is a recipe for tyranny. Shouldn’t that be the tag line for science. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Think about what it says in the context of scientific discovery. Or literary genius. The quest for truth. I think he would actually agree with the statement, he only disagreed with the guy who said it, and for other reasons. Just saying. Anyway, that went on entirely too long, and I’ve ranted way too much. Chat me bacK?

  2. March 31, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Sorry for the html fail; it should closed after Eric’s name.

  3. April 13, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    I agree Carly, faith hope and love are some of the clearest ideas that resonate with me from the scriptures as well. And personal experiences, which others cannot really comment on, are up to the person to determine their meaning – and in this case – you found a lot of meaning in it. I think quite similarily.

    I have some of those experiences with this form called ‘God’, and for me they have been nothing but meaningful and important…never have they been something I would consider ‘deviant’. Which is what faith should produce if we were to believe many of things atheists say about God. But long before I met an ardent atheists – I had faith – and it was already developed and meaningful. So the probelm for the atheist is dealing with a great past where my life changed for the better and not the worse – which should of been the case if religion was ‘so terrible’.

    • April 13, 2011 at 5:23 PM

      Just because you attribute good things to god doesn’t mean god is the source of good things. If you automatically relegate bad – assuming some bad things have happened to you over time – to something other than god, then it would be surprising indeed if you attributed any of these to god.

  4. April 14, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    “Just because you attribute good things to god doesn’t mean god is the source of good things” (tildeb)

    Interesting, what would we attribute those things to? Mentors? Friends? Remember, even in those scenarios the people involved would be following the gospel narratives as well (ie: so in essence trying to be ‘godlike’). I guess you just might have to been there tildeb to see the changes in my life (for example).

    As for the ‘source’ – I’ll attribute it to God since this is when all of the changes I made that made my life meaningful started to happen (which is kind of ironic if I made all these great changes on some ‘whim’ out of thin air – why didn’t they happen prior to this experience?). The truth is the changes correlate with the teachings of Jesus – and my taking them seriously and applying them to my patterns for decision making and daily living. I cannot change those facts.

    It’s a good philosophical argument your making tildeb, but it’s weak when compared with the actual timeline of changes in my life (I cannot speak for Carly). Only a true skeptic would say ‘it was not God’ – because they could not find enough proof for this God…which is probably only made in haste or for sake of argument – or because you just cannot fathom this actually happens.

    Well it happened and you blog with one of the people it happened to, me.

    • April 14, 2011 at 7:02 PM

      Well, I’m happy for you that things have worked out in your favour. Why you, though, and not for any of the 300,000 people killed in the Indonesian tsunami?

      By suggesting that god has played an active role in helping you out, I’m not sure you realize what a slap in the face this is to so many who have acted like you, asked for help and guidance, prayed diligently, lived exemplary live in their faith, and have been squashed like a bug or been visited by repeated tragedies, pain, and unbearable suffering. If you look at your life only isolation, then I think you can reasonably convince yourself that you’ve beaten the odds, prospered, built meaning and purpose that brings honour your faith-based beliefs, and honestly think yourself so very fortunate and humble to receive such blessings. If someone were to call you arrogant, you’d rightly feel this was unfair because the credit you assign is not to yourself but to god.

      I get it.

      But when you take yourself and include the rest of the people, then surely you must ask yourself, Why me? Why do so many innocents suffer and die in pain and despair? Why does this happen to the faithful and the non believers alike? Are your prayers superior? I doubt very much you believe so. Are you more worthy? I doubt very much you believe so. Is your faith of a different kind and quality? I doubt very much you believe so. And yet… and yet.

      If there really is such a god as you claim there must be for your life to have turned out this far, then surely you can appreciate why so many non believers assert that it must a very capricious one when compared to the main. And I’m sure you can also understand why so many non believers think that such a capricious god is not worthy of respect to allow such very real and very tragic discrepancies to exist.

      Could you really look into the eyes of another who has undergone so much tragedy and still insist that your ‘evidence’ stands up to the brutal scrutiny of what’s real and true for so many others?

      • April 15, 2011 at 1:04 PM

        Tildeb, I think you and Society had a misunderstanding of ‘good things’. From what Society wrote, and I could be wrong, I gathered that the ‘good things’ he attributes to God are the positive changes he has made in his life directly because of the gospel. From your last comment it seemed like you were talking about physical security, financial stability and other things like that. Society was talking about the immaterial soul which is expressed in the material world through the things that he does here in the material world. You’re just talking about the material world. If you read carefully through the bible you will find that God does not promise physical security or financial stability. He doesn’t promise an easy life. In fact, many times throughout the gospels Jesus says the world will reject you, and you’ll have no home, if you follow me. He says I will lead you to life, but you’re going to have to pick up your cross and die to your desires, and you will be persecuted. Almost every epistle of Paul, and certainly 1 and 2 Peter are written to give comfort and hope to persecuted people. 1 Peter 1:8 sums up the idea when Peter writes something to the effect of, preserver through sufferings for you’re receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. With good Christian theology there tends to be almost a negative correlation of physical well being and spiritual well being. But that’s a little off topic. Basically the physical status of a persons life in the material world becomes almost irrelevant. God loves us. Who gets sick and who dies and who is born in a terrible situation and who is born with internet access and will be blogging later in life does not determine the range of God’s love. I believe all of those variations follow a natural method. God doesn’t interfere with that. Read through John 9 and Jesus will tell you exactly what I have told you.
        Just so you know, the oldest book of the bible, Job, was written to answer your question: why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people? Read through Job if you want the answer. Also, if you read the story of Joseph, I think that would help understand hardship. He faced immense hardship because he would not compromise his faith. And every time he reach the pinnacle of success he was knocked down again, and had to start all over. And the next pinnacle was higher than the last. Until he was steward of the throne of Egypt, and the entire nation of Israel was made possible through him. Maybe one reason we suffer is so God can do greater things that we could otherwise. I like Joseph. He was the original hard working capitalist/slave…/prisoner… anyway.
        If you reject the supernatural due to a naturalistic bias, then most of what I’ve written is meaningless because it all revolves around the idea of the spirit and well, God. I implore you, read over these words, and the words of the bible with an open mind, and an open heart. It will make as much sense as you let it.

    • April 15, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      Thank you for your thoughts, CJ. I have no doubt you are quite sincere and that speaks well of your character and compassion.

      I wrote one of my thesis papers on Job so I am very familiar with the book – even though it was clearly written by different people at different times. It does not answer the problem of suffering but merely highlights the inadequacies of god. I suspect this is not what you meant to highlight!

      As for Joseph, you may shocked to discover there is no anthropological evidence of any jewish slave nation in Egypt, which renders the book of Exodus as metaphorical at best. Just a heads up on that one.

      I understand how people like to attribute positive things in life to god – even if it comes through much hardship. But I’m always surprised at how people shield their god from the negative with such dismissive ease. Surely to be fair we must assign all outcomes to god and, by doing so, find the sweeping claims of goodness and mercy and power that is supposedly his to be less equitable and fair than what a pair of 5 year olds will eventually settle on in the playground. This tells me that infusing god with these attributes reflects not reality but personal bias of intentional favouritism. And because we intuitively understand just how unfair and inequitable life is in practice, we make up something intangible to be god’s focus… like the soul and an afterlife so that no matter what the evidence is in the here and now, we can continue to attribute goodness and mercy and power to a god unable and/or unwilling to manifest it so in this life in this temporal reality. Nice deflection. And necessary, too.

      Although his ways may be mysterious to some, his practice in exercising those ways is downright capricious in fact to anyone who actually reads the books of the bible with an open mind. And what’s with the god-sanctioned slaying of so many children? Bizarre moral reasoning, to say the least. Yet people continue to assert that this is a set of books that teaches the kind of morality we need to be good! Really? REALLY?

      Oh my.

      So I’m not concentrating on only the physical and material losses suffered by innocents… although that is bad enough. I am talking specifically about the pain and suffering associated with those losses as evidence against the truth of the christian god… although deemed to be too skeptical for Society’s taste made, as he says, in haste or for the sake of argument rather than in consideration of the evidence before us.

  5. April 15, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    “Well, I’m happy for you that things have worked out in your favour. Why you, though, and not for any of the 300,000 people killed in the Indonesian tsunami?” (tildeb)

    Why did I have to suffer for many years of my life under circumstances I could not control (ie: parents, economics/poverty, abuse, etc)? Hmmm. I have suffered as well tildeb – and still suffer from time to time. Suffering is part of life and as much as we hate the ‘randomness’ of such acts, they are are part of life on this planet. Should I not be joyous when the occasion calls for it because of this?

    “If someone were to call you arrogant, you’d rightly feel this was unfair because the credit you assign is not to yourself but to god.” (tildeb)

    Micro and Macro are quite different concepts – like psychology and sociology are. Lets not start the inter-playing of individual and community and call them the ‘same’…when they are clearly not.

    Where you see arrogance I see joy. And this may the problem. Viewpoint is in the eye of the beholder. Should i not be happy I turned my life around? Should I not be sad because many of my friends did not? There is a serious difference that needs to be staked with concern to your argument – individual and communal…

    “Could you really look into the eyes of another who has undergone so much tragedy and still insist that your ‘evidence’ stands up to the brutal scrutiny of what’s real and true for so many others?” (tildeb)

    I will ask them ‘what exact concern is it of theirs that my life has turned around?’. Before we get on about tragedy – I desire you to study my people’s history in the 1900’s – First Nations people in Western Canada. You gonna find some serious tragedy as well, which I was directly effected by and still am. Whats wrong with me doing well and attributing that to God? Is everyone out there living in comparison mode (which is very unhealthy to do)? Communally I still see the ‘macro’ problem – and contribute where and when I can – but none of that is possible unless I (micro) am healthy and whole to ‘give back’.

    So, yeah I do have a problem with your critique, it’s sadly unhealthy. Should people in Japan compare their circumstance with mine? What good is that? Should I compare my marriage with someone else’s? What good is that? Should I compare my music compositions with that of others? What benefit is recieved there?

    Yet, I am not to be happy for my own joys of finding a ‘diamond in the rough’ or ‘for doing well’? Thats also very unhealthy to do, this will make me depressed and naturally pessimistic of everything. I’d be quite amazed if anyone could survive with that mentality.

    No, even with the questions you raise what I am saying ‘stands as decent’ and I see no reason why I should not be joyous I succeeded. I have wrestled with for years already, coming from a community of poverty, and I don’t feel ‘bad’ for making it. I can still feel their ‘pain’ but me remaining in that condition would of done nothing for nobody.

    As for God, well I thank Him for the gospel (good news)…it brought me to a place of light (ie: direction). So is this God fair? I don’t know, but He was fair to me.

    • April 15, 2011 at 7:12 PM

      I never suggested you hadn’t suffered or that you should not be happy or content. But you suggested that your doing well now is attributable to god, attributable to your learning from scripture, attributable to your faith. I fail to see this as evidence as you have presented it to be and offer examples where lives as faithful as your own, as illuminated by scripture as your own, as strong in their beliefs about the goodness and mercy and power of god were simply snuffed out so I ask you what the difference is. Evidence for one is evidence for all and this fails because you take the good and attribute it one way and take the bad and attribute it another; what you’re doing in fact is cherry picking rather than dealing with contrary evidence of equal validity.

  6. April 15, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    “Surely to be fair we must assign all outcomes to god and, by doing so, find the sweeping claims of goodness and mercy and power that is supposedly his to be less equitable and fair than what a pair of 5 year olds will eventually settle on in the playground” (tildeb)

    100% disagree.

    The problem with you assertion is that the outcome is kind of ‘in the air’ and can ‘fall here or there’. I never speak of this kind of ‘oogity boogity’ spirituality.

    The scriptures are used as a ‘guide’ – direction – paradigm building. If the scriptures are teaching someone to live a ‘whole’ life and not to committ actions that are ‘evil’ then the outcomes attributed to scripture (ie: God) will have to be ‘good’. Just like if you leave your kids a list of rules to make sure they do not hurt themselves in the kitchen (ie: what not to play with) – do we blame the person that wrote the note when the kid burns his hand on the stove?

    And this is where we obviously disagree, the ethics and teachings of the bible. You see aspects of both good and evil, and I will admit – there is some of that – however – there is very little of that concerning teachings and direction. Most of what we find evil about the bible is contained mainly in ‘narratives’ and not so much in ‘teachings’. And as I have debated with MUR on your site, much of what we see in teachings is always taken out of historical context – as if that can be ignored altogether and we can condemn from our ivory towers of the future.

    • April 15, 2011 at 7:22 PM

      This raises the question of Euthyphro dilemma: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

      If you’re going to believe in god then you have to figure out this dilemma and good luck to you.

      As for my point about the pair of 5 year olds, if they can figure out what is fair and equitable, then god has no excuse. Yet scripture – both old and new – is full of examples where faith is held to be in higher esteem than what is fair and equitable. For you to assume that you can navigate through these examples and take out the good is rather presumptuous even if true. After all, the writings are either inspired by god or they are not. If they are, then you are presumptuous. If they are not, then they are neither better nor worse than any other fiction for being a ‘guide’. But my warning still stands that you navigate your way through these narratives based on what you bring to them and not as you imply from what you take away.

      • April 17, 2011 at 2:34 PM

        Tildeb, why do “all outcomes” have to be attributed to God? Central to the bible is a will apart from God. Evil. Flesh, sinful nature. Those kinds of things. Surely the book that tells us about God that also tells us about wills apart from God that commit acts apart from God and then have outcomes apart from God does not suggest to attribute all outcomes to God.
        An answer?

  7. April 17, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Well, then, CJ, speaking fairness which ones belong to which? Which outcomes should we attribute to god in his wisdom and mercy and benevolence and which ones should we attribute to this other will you call evil, and how shall we determine the difference?

    If god is as you suggest omnipresent, then he is there when innocents suffer. If he omnipotent, then he could intervene but chooses not to. If he is omniscient then he knew this was going to happen. If he is benevolent, then none of this makes cohesive sense in that he is ‘good’ to allow this unnecessary suffering of innocents to take place.

    You have created this notion of evil separate from god to excuse god, to exempt him from his godly responsibilities. You haven’t thought it through but pretend it all makes sense when it doesn’t, that god’s moral obligations and duties are actually capricious and brutal and intentionally so. You simply cherry pick your attributions about god and apply them only when they make sense to you, failing to realize you – not god – are the arbiter of which morality you attribute to god.

    • April 29, 2011 at 12:52 AM

      hey Tildeb, sorry I’m so late getting back to this. You present an obvious dilemma, and one well worth mentioning. As I have admitted in the past, this is something I struggle with. In a grief observed C.S. Lewis struggled with this as well, however, Lewis and I both struggle with the implications of the philosophical solution rather than the obvious problem. The problem is that God cannot be truly benevolent and all powerful if people he is supposed to love suffer. One of the attributes must be failing. The reconciliation offered from believers is that our perception of suffering is skewed and ill manifested in our lives through the broken looking glass of our 2 dimensional view of reality. In other words, we’re fucked up in the head. We place priority on the less important things in life. We are bound by our earthly view. The bible is adapted to be relative to our lives, and so our lives are filled with unanswered sufferings because we have not adapted our lives to God. When we stop being world-centric and become spiritually focused then we will that our suffering is not at all suffering, because most of what we value is not important. God matters. When he is the center of our lives all disappointments can be put to rest because our hope in God does not disappoint. What this does is make our view of ‘bad’ actually ‘not bad’ and even in some cases ‘good’ and our view of ‘good’ is seen as ‘not good’, even ‘bad’. Now can we truly trust a God who is ‘good’, but in being ‘good’ is actually equal to our perception of ‘bad’? It becomes a mind game, and I struggle with it. I would expect nothing less from a search to understand God. But the truth is, what kills me is increasingly appealing, after it has been revealed to me that it is poison. And what heals me is most undesirable. I find myself being the happiest I’ve ever been in my life when I draw near to God, and when I thirst for the Spirit, and in fulfillment I am able to share that amazing peace, that indeed does surpass all understanding, with other thirsting souls. Yet, knowing this I continue to stray from God and be miserable, unable to let go of my pain, and fleeing from the only one who can stitch my lacerations, even take my illness upon himself. Thus, only by personal experience can I verify that God is indeed good, even through suffering. And the fact remains, only through personal experience can anyone argue otherwise with significant meaning. Everything else is a mind game and play on words and twisting circular rope that we keep pulling on. I struggle with it, Tildeb.

      • April 30, 2011 at 2:48 PM

        I’m relieved that you find it a dilemma – too many christians don’t because they fail to think it through.

        I came across William Lane Craig’s justification for the god-sanctioned slaughter of the Canaanites and he says

        So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

        Yup, WL Craig feels bad for the soldiers who had to carry our genocide by divine command… which just so happens to make the act moral (thus answering Euthyphro’s dilemma: What makes an act morally good is because it is commanded by God. And this raises a very perceptive comparison:

        Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet – apart from a few exceptions, examples of human weakness – to have remained decent fellows, this is what has made us hard. This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written and shall never be written.

        That last bit was taken from Himmler’s infamous speech about the Holocaust.

        Isn’t that interesting? Both justify atrocity in the name of carrying out a dutiful command justified by authority, as if your actions are moral only by means of authority, which undermines the theist’s claim that morality itself comes from god. That’s not true according to Lane: morality is determined by god’s command and not by a list of banned acts like we get from the ten commandments. If god tells us to do something, then that justifies flying passenger planes into civilian buildings as a moral act, don’t you know. According to these believers, god commanded it.

        So there is an obvious disconnect from the repeated assertions made by christians that their faith is all about love thy neighbour, love god, love our enemies. Here is a distinguished christian apologist arguing that, well, actually, obeying god’s divine authority is higher up in consideration, that to not follow his command is more immoral than participating in genocide.

        Don’t you find that deeply troubling? If you are convinced that god has sent you a command to commit Act X, while I am convinced that god has sent me a command to NOT commit Act X, then we have ourselves a bit of a pickle, don’t we? And this is exactly the problem we have disrupting inter-faith circle hugs: some claims are contrary to others and we have no way to resolve the issue by the perpetual muteness of the different divine authorities themselves.

        Perhaps this helps explain why not a single Nazi was ever excommunicated for participating in the gross excesses of authority-sanctioned murder, whereas hundreds of women, their doctors and nurses living today, have been excommunicated for the sin of having – or aiding in – an abortion.

        And believers wonder why the younger generation is moving away from this schizophrenic world of faith-based beliefs and moral relativisms of the faithful while performing incredible gymnastic feats of theological rationalizations necessary to maintain the myth of moral authority from scripture.

        Us gnu atheists simply point them out and are criticized from all sides as being too militant! The irony is immense.

      • April 30, 2011 at 11:08 PM

        Tildeb, thanks for your words. I do think you brought up another side of the same dilemma. I was talking about people suffering as result of the natural course of events, and you seemed to have spent most of your reply talking about God’s command to cause suffering. In my mind, those two cannot be grouped together. God commanding genocide is so different from people killed in a natural disaster. I don’t really want to talk about the specific events of God commanding genocide, other than that clearly Judaism has transformed to a position where genocide is now completely unjustifiable through scripture or other means. Christianity, likewise, leaves no room for sound theology and genocide. In other words, God is not commanding anyone to commit genocide in the present day. I really don’t want to go too much deeper than that into the subject, because it is a long and drawn out examination for which I am not presently prepared.
        I do, however, want to talk about the origin of morality. I believe that God is actually all-good. In my last comment I addressed why. I also believe that if I were not introduced to God’s teachings and commands then I will still, for the most part, have a good sense of morality. God does not need to tell me not to kill people for me to know that murder is something I ought not do. Morality is built into the very being of a person. Some front-line scientists have chalked it up to evolutionary morality. That idea is crap, as I talked about in another post, Morality: Evolutionary Indecency, as you already know. Which that point of the post has gone without even an attempted refutation. I believe, as the bible teaches, that God worked morality into the human spirit. It exists outside of our physical being, yet is still a part of us. That is why murder is always wrong, no matter what genetics or cultural context.
        The ten commandments did not lay out an outline for what is right and wrong. It merely reflected what everyone already knew. Tildeb, no intelligent theist will argue otherwise. Does this mean that God is not necessary for morality? well, I believe God is central to the idea, for the idea rests strongly in the existence of the spiritual realm, and therefore, a transcended divinity. Otherwise we would be stuck measuring from an inconstant unit. You Rock.

      • May 1, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        Oh I commented on the justification to moral action because Society asked if answering Euthyphro’s dilemma mattered. When you find EXACTLY the same justification for genocide – reliance on authority – that brings the holocuast and god-sanctioned slaughter into the same line of reasoning, then we can see that using the moral authority of god as a justification for some action is both capricious and very dangerous. How we answer the dilemma does matter… a very great deal.

        CJ2, you write Morality is built into the very being of a person. Some front-line scientists have chalked it up to evolutionary morality. That idea is crap, as I talked about in another post, Morality: Evolutionary Indecency, as you already know. Which that point of the post has gone without even an attempted refutation. I believe, as the bible teaches, that God worked morality into the human spirit. It exists outside of our physical being, yet is still a part of us. That is why murder is always wrong, no matter what genetics or cultural context.

        First of all the term ‘murder’ means by definition the unlawful killing of another human being. But the law is not fixed on this point of ‘unlawful’ regarding the killing of another human being because sometimes it is fully justified… in which case it is no longer called ‘murder’. Your argument in this sense is a tautology (and that’s bad).

        I can show why your argument must be wrong by demonstration: if morality was based on some external application ageless and timeless in its truth we would not see any moral differences between peoples and cultures over time. Yet we do so morality is not a single cohesive set of behavioural rules.

        Consider how many humans view things like slavery and race and sexual preferences over the past 50, 200, 500 years. We do change our morality.

        Another way to look at it is where you yourself developed your moral sense over the course of your life. I sincerely doubt your moral code of behaviour has remained fixed from the first moments of moral self-awareness. If your morality was an external application, this should not be so. Becuase your moral sense develops through time and interactions with your environment, you realize that morality really does develop. If it didn’t but was imprinted from elsewhere, then the morality of your parents must be identical to your own. At what point in your lineage did the first moral imprint happen? When some ancient branch of Australopithecus was busy murdering other people when it suddenly dawned on her that this was wrong? Did it happen suddenly to your forefather we call Neanderthal? Or do you assume that morality is species specific, that the god-sanctioned and god-delivered moral imprint only imprinted into a human? If so, then why do we see the same kinds of behaviours in other social critters we attribute to human morality?

        No, the very notion of a delivered morality makes no sense and we have plenty of evidence close to home how we develop this sense over time and experience. Working backwards from this basis in fact, we can safely say that our moral sense is evolutionary.

      • May 1, 2011 at 11:26 PM

        True, there is a serious problem with accepting moral teachings based on authority.
        You’re right, murder does mean unlawfull killing, and I used the wrong word. What I meant was, the way murder is defined in the US, at least, is wrong even where the US does not hold jurisdiction. It is wrong not because the law says it’s wrong, but because the act in itself is the wrong thing to do. We can define unlawful killing, but that is not the point. The point is that ‘sinful’ things are sinful not because of cultural development, but because they are actually wrong, or sinful.
        ‘if morality was based on some external application ageless and timeless in its truth we would not see any moral differences between peoples and cultures over time.” No, sir. The various moral codes people live by, or neglect to live by, are a result of perversion, not inconsistencies. Slavery, and sexual preferences have changed, in some ways, but it is a result of cultural adaptation. What IS and IS NOT the absolute moral thing to do has not changed. It’s a behavior shift rather than a truth shift. Yes, I am making a truth claim to an existing absolute morality- knowable or not.
        I know this sounds a little convoluted, and rightly so, it get sticky and tricky. From examining the viewpoint you have presented I see a really interesting scenario emerge. If morality varies and there is no absolute right and wrong, then who is to say that God commanding genocide is wrong? For that matter who is to say that Hitler was in the wrong, or Mao? If you answer my question of ‘who’ it would be clear that that would be an example of morality based on authority. Right and wrong, when this idea is really thought out become non-words. They have no meaning and everything becomes not just permissible, but relatively acceptable. There is no objective political morality. There is no objectivity, actually, because that also stems itself in an assumed truth. The point is, either God is immoral and there is an absolute right and wrong, or God is not wrong, and there is no absolute right and wrong. Take your pick, you can’t argue both.

      • May 2, 2011 at 9:28 AM

        You write It (murder) is wrong not because the law says it’s wrong, but because the act in itself is the wrong thing to do. We can define unlawful killing, but that is not the point. The point is that ‘sinful’ things are sinful not because of cultural development, but because they are actually wrong, or sinful.

        Think about that for a moment: you suggest that some act is wrong because it is sinful. Why? Because committing a sin is wrong. Do you see a problem in the reasoning here? I do. Under this metric, you must be <i.told what is sinful in order to determine what is wrong. Yet I have no doubt that if your 12 year old daughter was raped and you were faced with the choice of comforting her, wiping away her tears, assuring her that she was going to survive this ordeal, taking her to get medical attention, OR stoning her to death, you would think the first was ‘right’ and second ‘wrong’. Yet according to your authority argument to determine waht was sinful and thus wrong, you would select the second if you were muslim and wished to adhere strictly to the koran’s ‘moral’ teaching about the sin of being raped.

        Now, you will claim this second approach of stoning to death the rape victim is a perversion. Yet upon what basis can you possibly deduce this? Well, you will go to your bible and look for support and claim this version of god’s position is such and such, thus granting your position god’s authority. But this is exactly what the mujslim does with the koran and grants this horrendous act authority from god. So which scripture is right? God seems unable to help us in this matter.

        The real question is how can we design a metric for morals that provides us with evidence for an absolute moral code? This is what Sam Harris is asking in his book The Moral Landscape and offers us the argument that this is a job for science, a job to create a metric in principle against which we can measure human well being and flourishing so that we can compare and contrast the morality of human actions so that we have some means to do so other than yield the entire field to religions over moral assessments. His argument is that science can help us do this without having to establish exact moral boundaries in practice. In other words, carrying for a rape victim is more moral (higher in elevation on this moral landscape) than stoning a victim to death on the authority of scripture.

      • May 2, 2011 at 11:41 PM

        Tildeb, nope. Sorry buddy, but I think I wasn’t very clear in communicating about murder, and for that I really am sorry. It was pretty important, and I failed to do it adequately. Hopefully that will not be the case this time. The act is tied in inherently wrong. It is not wrong because it is is sinful, nor sinful because it is wrong, but it is present within the action itself. It is pretty low on the moral landscape, even falling into the immoral abyss. No authority needs to tell us this, we know. If someone argues that it is not immoral, they are perverted. I don’t think you would argue. Such as your stoning argument suggests they would be if they would think it more moral to stone the woman than love her. And you know I would never argue that even if the Christian scriptures said so. It would be a deal breaker for me (this does not mean that all of Christianity would be false, only that tid bit. Also, this does not mean I am picking and choosing at scripture. I am merely rejecting the obvious moral flaw. I do not, currently believe that flaw to exist, though I do not wish to get into it, if you don’t mind).
        Also, it is not a perversion because the bible says so. It’s a perversion because it’s perverted. You don’t need the bible to tell you that, nor do I. The truth found clearly within the human conscience is an authority for every man within himself, that needs to be respected, and often times corrected.
        I am familiar with Sam Harris’ ideas, and I rather like them. I do believe there is something to learn there, but it cannot be said that his ‘science’ is without it’s significant amount of value judgements. Morality in this case refers to the physical and emotional well being of a person. All acts that aren’t directly related to physical or emotional well being are immeasurable. We do not need brain analyzing technology to tell us that. Do we?
        Also, the technology does not exist to do what Harris has based his ideas around. In other words, there is not significant evidence to say that it will work in its entirety, and therefore, I can reject it until some is presented. Or maybe I should brush up on Harris’ ideas?

  8. April 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    “But my warning still stands that you navigate your way through these narratives based on what you bring to them and not as you imply from what you take away.” (tildeb)

    I think it’s give and take personally, as with anything we intake (ie: viewing and reading). I always admit I am part of the process in what I bring to the table and how I look at the pieces written. Warning was heeded since I picked up the scriptures to be perfectly honest. However, I also admit it’s give and take…not as one-sided as you would have some people think.

    “This raises the question of Euthyphro dilemma: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” (tildeb)

    Good question, does it matter? If it matters so much, why?

    I obey my elders and parents because I was told by them to do so at a young age. Did I do this because it was morally good or because it was commanded as good? I see the philosophical debate and the reason for it, but sometimes there need not be a definite answer for us to ‘do something’.

    As for the question, each moral is on debate as to what is even the morality within it. The levels of rules people has changes as well, for some there are these strict standards and for others less. What is moral? Which is right? Are these questions God lets us answer? I think of a parent when I review this concerning the right to determine one’s own path in life, at some point parents are ruled out of our equations (ie: decisions). However, not altogether, we still have their best interests in mind as well, and faith in God functions like that for me (ie: thankfulness).

    “If you’re going to believe in god then you have to figure out this dilemma and good luck to you” (tildeb)

    As for how I actually approach this in reality – try, test, and review. God commands a lot of things – like ‘love my enemies’. I strive to find the intent of such an idea – and it leads to quite a few morals I have developed over my years in this faith. Non-violence as a stance. Enemies are only enemies if this is what we choose to make them (ie: treatment in kind or treatment in a new way – perspective is everything). Is anybody really to be labelled as an enemy? Etc.

    In the end, I think the morally good that comes from my interaction with the scriptures is through the filter of my mind, emotions, physical experience, and spiritual experience…in essence the morality derived is part and parcel God and part and parcel me. The morally good is defined via test and observation from scenario to scenario. Something may be the best moral standard and still not work in every scenario. It is quite complex, and like Euthyphro I am sure I will arrive at more questions than answers, such is life.

  9. kate
    May 9, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    this might be too personal of a question for a place like this, but i claim ignorance as i’ve never done this before. so, i’m sorry in advance for anything i shouldn’t have said.
    this JM girl that you speak of… why would you want to give away your forgiveness for her? it seems like if being a christian (of which i think forgiveness is an important part) is such a huge deal to you and if it’s worth everything you sacrifice to be a part of it, then why would you throw it all away for this girl? why would you give it to someone else who doesn’t seem to want it or deserve it? i get that you’re being selfless but if you don’t have forgiveness in the end, what’s the point of any of it? and you mentioned feeling guilty about something, don’t you feel like you need the forgiveness for yourself? i just don’t understand why you would give that to her if you work so hard for it. i guess no one deserves forgiveness, but it would be nice to think that people who try and work hard for forgiveness would get it before someone like her.

    again, i do apologize if this is too personal for a blog.

  10. May 9, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Kate, that is not at all too personal. It’s a great question.
    What sticks out to me is the use of the word “deserve”. I don’t think I deserve forgiveness any more than JM. Through baptism Jesus takes our sin and puts it on himself, and suffers our wounds leaving us healed. Isaiah 53:4,5 says “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering/ Yet we considered him punished by God, stricken and afflicted/ But he was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquity/ The punishment that brought up peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
    I have transgressed no less than JM, probably more. It’s not a question of who deserves it, because neither of us do. We’re just fucked up people. (excuse my language, but it is quite appropriate).
    I don’t want to tell you too much about why I want her forgiven in my place. It hurts knowing her attitude, that is really similar to hers “don’t want or deserve it.” It’s not so much about fitting into what the world says is a christian that hurts, it’s the idea that she doesn’t want to be close to God, and God wants so desperately to be close to her. I have been unhappy and floating on in life without God, and while coming to God seems scary or even impossible, the result of throwing off my pride and breaking down before my Lord left me in an odd sense of peace. Zephaniah 3:17 says “He will comfort you with his love.” God did that for me, but I had to get really loud and scream and cry to get there. I had to be honest with god with everything I felt and am feeling. I want JM to have that peace I found in God’s love. If I could give that to her, I would, even if it meant losing that peace myself. But, I can’t. She has to come to it herself, just like i have to keep coming to it, myself.
    I love her. thanks for asking Kate, I hope I see you around here more to question me, and inspire deep emotions. It’s nice.

  11. kate
    May 9, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    you said..
    “It hurts knowing her attitude, that is really similar to hers “don’t want or deserve it.” It’s not so much about fitting into what the world says is a christian that hurts, it’s the idea that she doesn’t want to be close to God, and God wants so desperately to be close to her.”

    maybe she tried and couldn’t feel close to him and doesn’t feel like hurting anymore. i think you’re right. maybe it seems impossible to her and she is tired of being hurt. it can be discouraging to feel like you’re trying to force something that doesn’t fit or seem right.

    even if you don’t “deserve” it, you do. you believe so much, you have so much faith and i think that means you are forgiven. she probably sees that in you. maybe she never felt comforted by god’s love and that’s why she has the attitude you say she has. maybe she is jealous of you that you can feel that and it feels real.

    • May 9, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Maybe, I feel closer to God because of her pain. You know what I’ve been through as far as church crap and family feuds and whatever. It wasn’t until I was desperate that God was really real. Honestly if it weren’t for a few prayers at Thousand Oaks when I was alone then I probably wouldn’t call myself a disciple either. That morning I tried to get you to come pray with me really early that last time we were at camp that awful preteen week… There was a moment when I was crying out to God and he became real. He spoke to me in the breeze and he opened up the clouds right above me so that I could see the stars. That was comfort for me. Later that week I spent hours at the lake praying for you. I was either working my butt off helping the interns or being a counselor or organizing meds or helping mav in the kitchen, or I was at the lake praying for you. That week was so hard, harder for you than for me. But, if it weren’t for those prayers where I cried out in desperation, often angry at God, then I don’t think I would believe. Sorry I dropped the whole “Kate” alias, I’d rather just talk to you. God doesn’t say we’re not going to hurt. From my experience he wasn’t us to embrace the pain, and work through it. I wish I could just say something amazing that would make everything make sense and I could give you a check list of what you need to do to fix everything… All I can say is embrace your pain and be pissed off at God. Just be honest with him, and then as the years pass and you devote your intelligence to God, and your conversations, then eventually you really have something that looks like faith. Something others can be jealous of.

  1. April 18, 2011 at 4:29 PM
  2. October 8, 2011 at 12:38 PM

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