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I get asked now and then, “Pete, you’re a reasonably intelligent guy, with a Ph.D. and everything. I want to be like you. But how is it that you still believe in God? On what basis is God still an option for you?”

God or not God? I think about that question a lot.

This won’t be solved in a blog post, but here’s basically where I am with all this “believing in God” business—in under 800 words. Just don’t mistake this as an “argument for God’s existence.” It’s just where my thinking process is.

First, note the way I phrased the staged questions above. I use the words “intelligent” and “basis.” The question presumes that belief in God is something to be settled on the basis of intelligence, education, knowledge of facts, etc. Without discounting all those wonderful things, I do not think that the God question is settled this way.

The western way of knowing privileges the observation and analysis/testing of external evidence by knowledgable, experienced, and educated people who make arguments and defend them. I’m all for that. I like the fruit of this way of knowing—everything from electricity and medicine to electron-microscopes and radio telescopes. I’d rather live today in the western world than at any other time in human history. It’s not utopia but I’ll take it.

But I don’t think this way of knowing settles the God question, since it presumes that God is an element of the cosmos that occupies space and is subject to observation and testing—like a quasar, proton, or tectonic plates—waiting to be discovered or discerned through methods by which we know the physical world.

I believe that, if there is a Creator, this Higher Power is not a “being” that we can “know” exclusively or primarily through this western way of knowing. In other words, “I don’t believe in God because I see no evidence for God” or “I believe in God because the evidence proves it” are both nonsensical claims for me.

I realize that there is a long and rich history of discussion over difficult philosophical issues concerning the existence of God. I’m not discounting the importance of thinking through these deep questions. My point is a rather modest one: the question of God’s existence is not settled—one way or the other—on the basis of the kind of evidence-based knowledge that modern western culture (rightly) embraces to help us explain many, many things around us.

That just doesn’t work for me. As I see it, knowledge of God accesses different ways of knowing.

In fact, presuming that evidence-based knowledge is the only sure way of knowing anything worth knowing lies behind both the angst and the sense of certainty many feel about God’s existence or non-existence.

Perhaps a great offense to many of us in the modern world is that God is not known in the way we are used to knowing many other things—which is a hard pill to swallow if you’re committed to evidence-based knowing as the only path forward.

A few years ago David Benner’s Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation was very helpful in pushing me to look at the God question differently at a time when I was ready to hear it. (I’ve blogged on Benner several times, for example here.)

In chapter 5 “Learning from the Christian Mystics” Benner discusses a knowledge of God that is “transrational” and “contemplative.”

Christian mysticism should . . . not be confused with experience. Instead, it should be understood as participation in the mystery of the transformational journey toward union with God in love. . . . Mystics are . . . much more defined by their longing than by their experience. They long to know God’s love and thereby to be filled with the very fullness of God [Ephesians 3:17-19].

This sort of knowing is beyond reason, but it is not irrational. It is transrational. It is knowing of a different order. It is a form of knowing often described as contemplative. And this is the connection to mysticism. Contemplation is apprehension uncluttered by thought—particularly preconception and analysis. It is based on direct and personal encounter.

When you know something by means of such encounter, you may not be able to express it verbally, at least not in a compelling, coherent, or exhaustive manner. But you do know that you know because your knowing has a depth and immediacy to it that is never present in simply knowing about things—even merely knowing about God. [pp. 75-76]

Thinking one can prove or disprove the existence of God through rational analysis is to apply to God a wrong way of knowing.

Rather, knowledge of God is described by terms like:

participation
longing
fullness
transrational
contemplative
apprehension uncluttered by thought
defying compelling verbal expression
depth
immediacy

So that’s where I am at this stage of my journey on the whole God thing. I’m still working on it—of course. And now my 800 words are up.

This blog was first posted in March 2016.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

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  • Tim says:

    Pete,

    I get your post. I do. But I also think you’re using the language of “evidence” in a very stale, limited manner. Meaning external, physical evidence. Evidence can be internal, which whether or not you rationally elaborate upon or take the direct “perceptive” route nonetheless still falls into that domain.

    Now, whether this evidence is good evidence or not. And whether that link between what you perceive or experience and reality is as strong as you think. Those are all things that can be looked at.

    Take sight perception as an example. We know by comparing our own, internal, subjective experiences of sight that this is a largely reliable sense. We also know how it may be tricked to produce the illusion of say motion or scale that is not really there. And we do this not by relying on our experiences at the subjective level as some private matter , but we take what can be shared about that subjective experience and put it on the table for all to look at and compare. As we do for so many other experiences and perceptions deeply subjective in nature. Love, compassion, empathy, etc.

    What of our “spiritual” experiences then? Certainly they are subjective but that does not then mean they cannot be compared. Nor does it mean we cannot say anything “objective” about them.

    So let’s give that a shot. You can experience a spiritual longing, connectedness, peace, transformation, serenity, boundless compassion, and so on. Something that transcends your petty thoughts as to self, or day to day concerns, and fills you with so much love and gratitude and beauty that if feels your heart will burst. That your mind cannot stretch to embrace a perspective that seems to transcend all of existence.

    Yes, no matter what words we employ we can never do justice to the experience. So please do not think I am trying to quantitize it in some scientific sense. But what we can do is employ language to describe those deep experiences in a way to see if we are alone in them or if there are other people who in the way they respond hint at having had the same shared experience as us.

    For example, parents do this when talking of their children. There is a type of love that can only be experience I think by a parent for their child. You cannot relate to it if you don’t have a little one of your own. No matter how much you imagine or try. But parents in talking with each other can often immediately grasp when a fellow parent reveals that they share that same experience. These are subjective, private experiences. But by putting these experiences on the table and sharing them, we can say some objective things about them. Namely the objective “facts” that these experiences are shared between many parents, that they have roughly the same qualia of experience, and that having a child of your own seems to bring them about.

    So same with spiritual experiences. You can although quite innadequately (as with so many other things in life), still put them on the table. And look to see if they’re shared. I mean, you’re already done this with respect to Christian Mystics. Such as I would imagine the Eastern Orthodox who are known for such practice and perspective on faith. But let us then continue this comparison to Buddhism. If you ask your typical Tibettan Buddhist monk, deeply committed to this same type of contemplative “knowing,” to describe their experience they will articulate something akin to everything you describe. Their experience will be every bit as powerful, transformative, transcendent, etc. as yours. If we hold to the same manner in which we share any other experience with those around us, we would ge bound to accept this. And we can also look at those experiences, and see if there is an element of illusion about them. Which may be revealed when two people have mutually incompatible “direct” perceptions in these experiences. For the Tibettan Buddhidist, they may experience a vision of the peaceful and wrathful deities. Deities that the Christian faith does not hold to exist. But nonetheless they witness them. Why? Could it well be that this spiritual “sense” is very prone to illusion as well? Maybe more so than that of our sense perception of sight? Maybe dramatically more so? It certainly seems that way as we compare the experiences of people across faiths. Yet since these experiences come across as “transcendent” many put a higher “truth” value on them than anything else in life. Which does seem not “tranrational” but rather “irrational.” In fact, if comparisons between spiritual experience seem to demonstrate anything, it is that perhaps the only “objectively” true thing we can say about it is that it is a very unreliable means of experience vulnerable to various illusions of reality. If there is still to be a link to truth there at all.

    -Tim

  • Tim says:

    Pete,

    I get your post. I do. But I also think you’re using the language of “evidence” in a very stale, limited manner. Meaning external, physical evidence. Evidence can be internal, which whether or not you rationally elaborate upon or take the direct “perceptive” route nonetheless still falls into that domain.

    Now, whether this evidence is good evidence or not. And whether that link between what you perceive or experience and reality is as strong as you think. Those are all things that can be looked at.

    Take sight perception as an example. We know by comparing our own, internal, subjective experiences of sight that this is a largely reliable sense. We also know how it may be tricked to produce the illusion of say motion or scale that is not really there. And we do this not by relying on our experiences at the subjective level as some private matter , but we take what can be shared about that subjective experience and put it on the table for all to look at and compare. As we do for so many other experiences and perceptions deeply subjective in nature. Love, compassion, empathy, etc.

    What of our “spiritual” experiences then? Certainly they are subjective but that does not then mean they cannot be compared. Nor does it mean we cannot say anything “objective” about them.

    So let’s give that a shot. You can experience a spiritual longing, connectedness, peace, transformation, serenity, boundless compassion, and so on. Something that transcends your petty thoughts as to self, or day to day concerns, and fills you with so much love and gratitude and beauty that if feels your heart will burst. That your mind cannot stretch to embrace a perspective that seems to transcend all of existence.

    Yes, no matter what words we employ we can never do justice to the experience. So please do not think I am trying to quantitize it in some scientific sense. But what we can do is employ language to describe those deep experiences in a way to see if we are alone in them or if there are other people who in the way they respond hint at having had the same shared experience as us.

    For example, parents do this when talking of their children. There is a type of love that can only be experience I think by a parent for their child. You cannot relate to it if you don’t have a little one of your own. No matter how much you imagine or try. But parents in talking with each other can often immediately grasp when a fellow parent reveals that they share that same experience. These are subjective, private experiences. But by putting these experiences on the table and sharing them, we can say some objective things about them. Namely the objective “facts” that these experiences are shared between many parents, that they have roughly the same qualia of experience, and that having a child of your own seems to bring them about.

    So same with spiritual experiences. You can although quite innadequately (as with so many other things in life), still put them on the table. And look to see if they’re shared. I mean, you’re already done this with respect to Christian Mystics. Such as I would imagine the Eastern Orthodox who are known for such practice and perspective on faith. But let us then continue this comparison to Buddhism. If you ask your typical Tibettan Buddhist monk, deeply committed to this same type of contemplative “knowing,” to describe their experience they will articulate something akin to everything you describe. Their experience will be every bit as powerful, transformative, transcendent, etc. as yours. If we hold to the same manner in which we share any other experience with those around us, we would ge bound to accept this. And we can also look at those experiences, and see if there is an element of illusion about them. Which may be revealed when two people have mutually incompatible “direct” perceptions in these experiences. For the Tibettan Buddhidist, they may experience a vision of the peaceful and wrathful deities. Deities that the Christian faith does not hold to exist. But nonetheless they witness them. Why? Could it well be that this spiritual “sense” is very prone to illusion as well? Maybe more so than that of our sense perception of sight? Maybe dramatically more so? It certainly seems that way as we compare the experiences of people across faiths. Yet since these experiences come across as “transcendent” many put a higher “truth” value on them than anything else in life. Which does seem not “tranrational” but rather “irrational.” In fact, if comparisons between spiritual experience seem to demonstrate anything, it is that perhaps the only “objectively” true thing we can say about it is that it is a very unreliable means of experience vulnerable to various illusions of reality. If there is still to be a link to truth there at all.

    -Tim

  • Gary says:

    “Knowledge of God is described by terms like participation, longing, …, immediacy.”

    Indeed. As is knowledge of the Theotokos. As is knowledge of Heavenly Father. As is knowledge of Allah. As is knowledge of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. This way of knowing, too, is a pluralistic way of knowing and can be reflected upon both with and without special pleading.

    One of the things about the “Western way of knowing” is that it isn’t really a Western way of knowing. When a European team of scientists and an American team and a Chinese team run an experiment, the results are consistent. This discovered aspect is something that has given us shared trust in the way of knowing and ability to converge on what is true. Indeed, it is a way of knowing that has been championed as part of the development of culture in the Western tradition, but to pigeon hole the method as somehow distinctively Western is to lose something about its universality in a universe that significantly appears to exhibit fundamental uniformity. It is no more Western and modern than the Greek-named constellations are ancient and Greek or the Arabic-named stars are Medieval and Arab. Let’s not let a label lead us toward an equivocation.

    Proceeding ahead and remixing words just a bit, “Thinking one can prove or disprove the existence of *any* God through rational analysis is to apply to *any* God a wrong way of knowing.”

    The list of aspects offered doesn’t quite get us to a means by which to assess exclusivity. It does though offer means to consider qualitative differences. Which faith offers the greatest fulfillment of the cosmos’ longings?

    I’d suggest there are other qualitative characteristics too. Here might be some: Healing, forgiveness, graciousness, redemption, justice, protection, universality. And it is worth noting that my list is subjective too. These are ideals that I subjectively value. If another person or group of persons has a different list, they have different values from mine.

    Now to consider these values a bit, we can exercise some examples. Can I find a certain kind of longing and hope to possibly be filled even on the Trump Train? But is that version of a Messiah a bringer of healing to all? Redemption to a broken world? Graciousness to Americans and more?

    As we give exercise to examples, we often discover these characteristics are more descriptive than prescriptive in their nature. Are they indeed “properly basic?”

    It is in this context, that Christianity, for me, is a profound disappointment. We’re two thousand years in. As claimed, the Incarnation passed through our material and human existence. What should be the impact? To dig down a little deeper theologically, I can deeply understand the paradox of the Incarnation of not only a God-as-man, but in the form of a baby in a manager in Galilee in first century Palestine. And I also can grok the paradoxical Essence of a Triune God, the kind of God allowing himself to be humbled and broken in kenotic sacrifice as an example of a new Way of Being, in hope of bringing forth a Kingdom.

    But what I cannot comprehend is that after two thousand years, these loftiest of other-way-of-knowing-related claims have produced only some good. Honestly and looking ahead, my mind is more centered on the significance of the sixth extinction, climate change, the forth-coming dissipation of petroleum energy, a huge human population, limited supply of fresh water for all, and need for compassion for and collaboration with others to existentially address all this.

    By some measure, through Jesus of Nazareth and the ensuing religion of Christianity, a “longing” has been fulfilled; there has been great “participation.” In fact, there are now around two billion adherents to the faith. Perhaps even the characteristics on the other-way-of-knowing list are not beyond study. While the truth of non-material claims can not be measured, the effects of the beliefs in them can be considered and studied.

    To me, simply, neither these two billion adherents nor there leaders really seem all that differentiated from their peer adherents of Allah, Brahma, and more in sacred task of transforming the world.

    I get that I can’t prove or disprove God or any God or really anything non-material that’s at least logically consistent. (Yawn.) But I also get that Christianity isn’t really transforming the world through compassion essentially better than anything or anyone else.

    To me there is a sacred goodness in characteristics of the way and Christianity’s “wins” over the centuries are attributable to this. But I see no reason to believe that Jesus of Nazareth has been, is, or will be the means of grace or hope of glory.

    Let us have both a precision of mind and openness of heart in dialoging on these matters.

  • Gary says:

    “Knowledge of God is described by terms like participation, longing, …, immediacy.”

    Indeed. As is knowledge of the Theotokos. As is knowledge of Heavenly Father. As is knowledge of Allah. As is knowledge of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. This way of knowing, too, is a pluralistic way of knowing and can be reflected upon both with and without special pleading.

    One of the things about the “Western way of knowing” is that it isn’t really a Western way of knowing. When a European team of scientists and an American team and a Chinese team run an experiment, the results are consistent. This discovered aspect is something that has given us shared trust in the way of knowing and ability to converge on what is true. Indeed, it is a way of knowing that has been championed as part of the development of culture in the Western tradition, but to pigeon hole the method as somehow distinctively Western is to lose something about its universality in a universe that significantly appears to exhibit fundamental uniformity. It is no more Western and modern than the Greek-named constellations are ancient and Greek or the Arabic-named stars are Medieval and Arab. Let’s not let a label lead us toward an equivocation.

    Proceeding ahead and remixing words just a bit, “Thinking one can prove or disprove the existence of *any* God through rational analysis is to apply to *any* God a wrong way of knowing.”

    The list of aspects offered doesn’t quite get us to a means by which to assess exclusivity. It does though offer means to consider qualitative differences. Which faith offers the greatest fulfillment of the cosmos’ longings?

    I’d suggest there are other qualitative characteristics too. Here might be some: Healing, forgiveness, graciousness, redemption, justice, protection, universality. And it is worth noting that my list is subjective too. These are ideals that I subjectively value. If another person or group of persons has a different list, they have different values from mine.

    Now to consider these values a bit, we can exercise some examples. Can I find a certain kind of longing and hope to possibly be filled even on the Trump Train? But is that version of a Messiah a bringer of healing to all? Redemption to a broken world? Graciousness to Americans and more?

    As we give exercise to examples, we often discover these characteristics are more descriptive than prescriptive in their nature. Are they indeed “properly basic?”

    It is in this context, that Christianity, for me, is a profound disappointment. We’re two thousand years in. As claimed, the Incarnation passed through our material and human existence. What should be the impact? To dig down a little deeper theologically, I can deeply understand the paradox of the Incarnation of not only a God-as-man, but in the form of a baby in a manager in Galilee in first-century Palestine. And I also can grok the paradoxical Essence of a Triune God, the kind of God allowing himself to be humbled and broken in kenotic sacrifice as an example of a new Way of Being, in hope of bringing forth a Kingdom.

    But what I cannot comprehend is that after two thousand years, these loftiest of other-way-of-knowing-related claims have produced only some good. Honestly and looking ahead, my mind is more centered on the significance of the sixth extinction, climate change, the forth-coming dissipation of petroleum energy, a huge human population, limited supply of fresh water for all, and need for compassion for and collaboration with others to existentially address all this.

    By some measure, through Jesus of Nazareth and the ensuing religion of Christianity, a “longing” has been fulfilled; there has been great “participation.” In fact, there are now around two billion adherents to the faith. Perhaps even the characteristics on the other-way-of-knowing list are not beyond study. While the truth of non-material claims can not be measured, the effects of the beliefs in them can be considered and studied.

    To me, simply, neither these two billion adherents nor their leaders really seem all that differentiated from their peer adherents of Allah, Brahma, and more in sacred task of transforming the world.

    I get that I can’t prove or disprove God or any God or really anything non-material that’s at least logically consistent. (Yawn.) But I also get that Christianity isn’t really transforming the world through compassion essentially better than anything or anyone else.

    To me there is a sacred goodness in characteristics of the way and Christianity’s “wins” over the centuries are attributable to this. But I see no reason to believe that Jesus of Nazareth has been, is, or will be the means of grace or hope of glory.

    Let us have both a precision of mind and openness of heart in dialoging on these matters.

  • Wes Smith says:

    Thanks for this post. You’ve concisely and clearly explained the way I understand my faith and conviction in the existence of God. As a United Methodist, part of how I articulate this is in the language of experience (1 part of what Albert Outler named the “Wesleyan quadrilateral”). This emphasis on experience is important at a simple, direct level (participating in corporate worship, daily prayer, ‘seeing/hearing’ God in others, etc.), but it’s also important in a much deeper way. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about subjectivity, hermeneutics, revelation, and Jesus as mediator (in the sense that Jesus is the medium through which God is known – does the Spirit now occupy that space? The Spirit? The gathered Body of Christ? All, or none, of the above?).

    As an admittedly poor psychology major in college, I was particularly fascinated with neurology and how humans process and interpret information/stimuli. At the same time, I was taking philosophy and religion courses and was drawn to finding ways to explain my ongoing relationship/wrestling match with God-Jesus-Spirit. The intersection of these (with a lot of other stuff thrown in there for good measure, such as Barth’s furious response to 19th century liberals on issues related to mediated/unmediated experience) was very compelling in my theological studies and has been fascinating to observe on a practical level in pastoral ministry in the conservative south, especially in this political and cultural moment.

    Sorry for the aimless rambling and thanks again for your post!

  • Wes Smith says:

    Thanks for this post. You’ve concisely and clearly explained the way I understand my faith and conviction in the existence of God. As a United Methodist, part of how I articulate this is in the language of experience (1 part of what Albert Outler named the “Wesleyan quadrilateral”). This emphasis on experience is important at a simple, direct level (participating in corporate worship, daily prayer, ‘seeing/hearing’ God in others, etc.), but it’s also important in a much deeper way. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about subjectivity, hermeneutics, revelation, and Jesus as mediator (in the sense that Jesus is the medium through which God is known – does the Spirit now occupy that space? The Spirit? The gathered Body of Christ? All, or none, of the above?).

    As an admittedly poor psychology major in college, I was particularly fascinated with neurology and how humans process and interpret information/stimuli. At the same time, I was taking philosophy and religion courses and was drawn to finding ways to explain my ongoing relationship/wrestling match with God-Jesus-Spirit. The intersection of these (with a lot of other stuff thrown in there for good measure, such as Barth’s furious response to 19th century liberals on issues related to mediated/unmediated experience) was very compelling in my theological studies and has been fascinating to observe on a practical level in pastoral ministry in the conservative south, especially in this political and cultural moment.

    Sorry for the aimless rambling and thanks again for your post!

  • Joseph says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m loosely affiliated with an international church (evangelical) in Beijing; and it is quite stark to me here how the Western mind (American in particular) shapes and engages with Christian faith. Culturally, we tend to have a project-based approach toward church life. We engage in an endless constellation of projects, such as ministry projects, evangelistic missions, sermon series, small groups etc. The social architecture of the church, from leadership to prayer groups, all functions along protocols and vetting systems based on doctrinal beliefs, trust-building with leaders, participation in activities, meetings and conferences, etc. The coding and operation of these systems is communicated in the sermons and recommended literature. It seems like deep human contact or contact with God can exist only within the framework of these projects, based on the protocols of the overarching system.

    The way we organize socially as spiritual communities reflects how we organize the project of faith internally. What I have noticed especially in connection with your point about knowing God outside of our default rationalism, Pete, is that both as a church and as individual Christians in the West, we find it difficult knowing how to spend time in silence, or in solitude, away from our faith projects or church systems. We don’t know how to break down the ideologies of our false identities or how to welcome others with conflicting ideologies or identities. We don’t have the tools to give up what makes sense to us without putting up ideological fences and safety nets around everything. Our Western universe has given rise to marvelous things (as you mentioned) but it has blinded us to other dimensions of the soul that reveal a much larger reality outside of our ability to reason or carry out prescribed functions. And if you don’t fit into the system?

    Then, good luck finding a girlfriend.

    I love your books, btw.

    • Gary says:

      I love this observation, especially about “projects” and their being emphatically contrasted to silence and solitude.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you Joseph. I find cultural differences to be fascinating and rich sources in discovering what is possible within the human experience. And I echo your sentiments on the value of a more actively contemplative way of life.

      That said, I can see the contemplative Hindu or Buddhist saying the exact same thing. With the exact same merit. Which then opens up the question of what reality it what “knowing” we are engaged in. Thoughts,

      -Tim

      • Gary says:

        It may be a way of knowing, but not necessarily yielding as many as true things as possible and as few as false things as possible. Simply, the method yields divergent knowings, perhaps even a different sin of certainty.

        • Tim says:

          Gary,

          Well that seems to me to be more of a way of “guessing” then? There can be various degrees of “certainty,” of course. But when you reach the point where there is little to differentiate between different “encounters” or transcendent “perceptions” yielding incompatible truth claims, then you are not just dealing with a measure of uncertainty to be tolerated, but rather a total lack of confidence in whether what you believe corresponds to actual reality.

          -Tim

          • Gary says:

            As long as the genes replicate, it’s worked.

            One of the things I’ve yet to see in Dr Enns’ and other Evangelical’s take up of evolution is a robust address of its implications to thinking.

            To me it seems, the more beliefs correspond to reality, the better the organism is adapted to survive and reproduce. But… It comes at a high cost–that of calories to feed the brain. And there are child-rearing costs to and constraints concerning size of head vs. size of pelvis. Furthermore, I believe it just to consider that biases are adaptive. For instance, some have hypothesized the benefit of aggressive agency detection.

            For me, I often think about thinking in this context more than either a historically analytical school or even Continental. In this context, for practical reasons, some times it’s time to stop thinking and to take action based upon the best information and limited brain’s computational power and time available.

            Because of these aspects, thinking is a collaborative engagement. The human mind cannot think alone. We go crazy in solitary confinement, when stranded on an island, when lost in the wilderness solo.

            “Did you see the same thing I saw?” “Does it mean that same thing to you?”

            Asking whether the enemy, or lunch, or nothing is moving in the bush over there is something we do together. As is our collaborative aspects of the scientific method. As is our deference in religious spheres to authorities’ revelations.

            Another man’s spiritual experience cannot be denied.

            We struggle with and within the limits of what we can come to know. Too much struggle is maladaptive. This is perhaps another way to look at the sin of certainty.

          • Bev Mitchell says:

            Gary,

            “Too much struggle is maladaptive.”

            I like your emphasis here. Relationship is key, whether we are thinking about non-living parts of the cosmos, the living world, human-human relationships or human-divine relationships. How we study and understand these relationships, and their separate parts, and the enjoyment of the results of that understanding, are very important, fulfilling, stretching etc. But, that we ourselves interact, relate, care, love is even more important. Failures in relationships abound, and there is no need to belabour this with current examples. These failures in relationships (failure to relate, especially failure to love) are far more damaging than our many failures to understand, our sessions of doubt or even our failures to understand how we know. To paraphrase a much more succinct statement on the matter “faith without works is a setup for very damaging failure.” There are emergent properties associated with all healthy relationships, and these are put at risk when we struggle with knowing and doubting to maladaptive degrees.

          • Tim says:

            I’m not certain as to where you’re taking your evolutionary train of thought. But regarding “a man’s spiritual experience cannot be denied,” well the experience may not perhaps but certainly the interpretation of it can.

            If I have the experience of perceiving spiraling motion when looking upon a static optical illusion, you cannot deny that I have the experience of perceiving motion. But you can deny that my experience reflects actual motion in reality. So I would never presume to tell someone like Pete or the Dali Lama that their experiences are not in their subjective sense “real.” Only that any confidence they glean from those experiences to then conclude what they believe they “encountered” they actually in fact have, well, that I would claim is highly suspect and demonstrably so. Objectively and factually so.

            No different than if we observed sight to function so unreliably that 10 different people looking at the same event saw 10 substantially different things and this happened again and again and again and was in fact the norm. We would then be wise to doubt the veracity of our own sight. And I would suggest this hypothetical is realized in all actuality within “spiritual” perception. And it would be wise to recognize that I think.

            – Tim

  • Joseph says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m loosely affiliated with an international church (evangelical) in Beijing; and it is quite stark to me here how the Western mind (American in particular) shapes and engages with Christian faith. Culturally, we tend to have a project-based approach toward church life. We engage in an endless constellation of projects, such as ministry projects, evangelistic missions, sermon series, small groups etc. The social architecture of the church, from leadership to prayer groups, all functions along protocols and vetting systems based on doctrinal beliefs, trust-building with leaders, participation in activities, meetings and conferences, etc. The coding and operation of these systems is communicated in the sermons and recommended literature. It seems like deep human contact or contact with God can exist only within the framework of these projects, based on the protocols of the overarching system.

    The way we organize socially as spiritual communities reflects how we organize the project of faith internally. What I have noticed especially in connection with your point about knowing God outside of our default rationalism, Pete, is that both as a church and as individual Christians in the West, we find it difficult knowing how to spend time in silence, or in solitude, away from our faith projects or church systems. We don’t know how to break down the ideologies of our false identities or how to welcome others with conflicting ideologies or identities. We don’t have the tools to give up what makes sense to us without putting up ideological fences and safety nets around everything. Our Western universe has given rise to marvelous things (as you mentioned) but it has blinded us to other dimensions of the soul that reveal a much larger reality outside of our ability to reason or carry out prescribed functions. And if you don’t fit into the system?

    Then, good luck finding a girlfriend.

    I love your books, btw.

    • Gary says:

      I love this observation, especially about “projects” and their being emphatically contrasted to silence and solitude.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you Joseph. I find cultural differences to be fascinating and rich sources in discovering what is possible within the human experience. And I echo your sentiments on the value of a more contemplative way of life.

      That said, I can see the contemplative Hindu or Buddhist saying the exact same thing. With the exact same merit. Which then opens up the question of what reality it what “knowing” we are engaged in. Thoughts?

      -Tim

      • Gary says:

        It may be a way of knowing, but not necessarily yielding as many as true things as possible and as few as false things as possible. Simply, the method yields divergent knowings, perhaps even a different sin of certainty.

        • Tim says:

          Gary,

          Well that seems to me to be more of a way of “guessing” then? There can be various degrees of “certainty,” of course. But when you reach the point where there is little to differentiate between different “encounters” or transcendent “perceptions” yielding incompatible truth claims, then you are not just dealing with a measure of uncertainty to be tolerated, but rather a total lack of confidence in whether what you believe corresponds to actual reality.

          -Tim

          • Gary says:

            As long as the genes replicate, it’s worked.

            One of the things I’ve yet to see in Dr Enns’ and other Evangelical’s take up of evolution is a robust address of its implications to thinking.

            To me it seems, the more beliefs correspond to reality, the better the organism is adapted to survive and reproduce. But… It comes at a high cost–that of calories to feed the brain. And there are child-rearing costs to and constraints concerning size of head vs. size of pelvis. Furthermore, I believe it just to consider that biases are adaptive. For instance, some have hypothesized the benefit of aggressive agency detection.

            For me, I often think about thinking in this context more than either a historically analytical school or even Continental. In this context, for practical reasons, some times it’s time to stop thinking and to take action based upon the best information and limited brain’s computational power and time available.

            Because of these aspects, thinking is a collaborative engagement. The human mind cannot think alone. We go crazy in solitary confinement, when stranded on an island, when lost in the wilderness solo.

            “Did you see the same thing I saw?” “Does it mean that same thing to you?”

            Asking whether the enemy, or lunch, or nothing is moving in the bush over there is something we do together. As is our collaborative aspects of the scientific method. As is our deference in religious spheres to authorities’ revelations.

            Another man’s spiritual experience cannot be denied.

            We struggle with and within the limits of what we can come to know. Too much struggle is maladaptive. This is perhaps another way to look at the sin of certainty.

  • Marshall says:

    When people insist that the Apostles’ Creed is where you have to start, it’s no wonder that you wind up with some people who don’t believe in God and other people who don’t believe in the World. Evidence used that way is a foundationalist dead end, but that’s not the only way of interpreting Experience, of which scientific experiments are one kind. Rule out experience and you’re forcing yourself into mysticism. Open your eyes to what there is to see, or let Jesus open them for you (Mark 8, by daubing mud) and I there’s not that much problem.

  • Marshall says:

    When people insist that the Apostles’ Creed is where you have to start, it’s no wonder that you wind up with some people who don’t believe in God and other people who don’t believe in the World. Evidence used that way is a foundationalist dead end, but that’s not the only way of interpreting Experience, of which scientific experiments are one kind. Rule out experience and you’re forcing yourself into mysticism. Open your eyes to what there is to see, or let Jesus open them for you (Mark 8, by daubing mud) and I there’s not that much problem.

  • DonaldByronJohnson says:

    Why do I believe in God? One big reason is that I am convinced I would already be dead many times over without God’s guidance. Perhaps less than that, I would be more arrogant, less loving, poorer, and have no progeny. Given all this and more, my personal choice is simply to continue to acknowledge God’s blessings upon my life and therefore acknowledge God. I know other’s mileage may vary.

  • DonaldByronJohnson says:

    Why do I believe in God? One big reason is that I am convinced I would already be dead many times over without God’s guidance. Perhaps less than that, I would be more arrogant, less loving, poorer, and have no progeny. Given all this and more, my personal choice is simply to continue to acknowledge God’s blessings upon my life and therefore acknowledge God. I know other’s mileage may vary.

  • charlesburchfield says:

    IMHO knowing God is as relevant as your next breath, I mean, who gave you that breath? perhaps the matter of knowing God is based on one’s necessity to survive. Perhaps it’s one’s urge for drinking mother’s milk when one is first born (who gave you a mother? who made you need milk?), having that preverbal felt sense of wonder, well-being & delight, sitting in the little Cave of flesh of oneself, hearing the birds twittering in spring sunshine for the first time, the thrill of having learned one’s ABCs and the letters becoming words & the words becoming sentences when one is 6 years old, the gift and thrill of one’s sexuality(Intense pleasure!) in being with another person expressing love in one’s flesh. There are surely myriad of ways of knowing God In the provIsIons that are avaIlable to each one of us, As one is riding the Starlight Express propelled through time experiencing mAturity, old Age And deAth. And even one’s blindness to this And lAck of understanding the necessity of grAtitude for thAt Is not a barricade to the reality of the creator of one’s flesh & spirit. even if our lack of understanding gives us a sense that our existence is meaningless and that, if one could, one would not choose existence.
    Pages turning
    pages we were years from learning
    straight into the night our hearts were flung
    better bring your own redemption when you come
    to the barricades of heaven where I’m from.
    ~ Jackson Browne

    • Gary says:

      Wonder of breathing and wonder of stars and wonder of babies are indeed wonders. If this is my basis, I’m as comfortable (maybe more comfortable) with a Great Spirit of native Americans as I am with a YHWH of Israel.

    • Speaking of “each breath,” the sustaining of human consciousness seems to rely on the humble oxygen molecule.

      • Paul D. says:

        Heh, that brings back memories of being taught as a child that every breath I took was the providential, direct action of Jesus.

  • IMHO knowing God is as relevant as your next breath, I mean, who gave you that breath? perhaps the matter of knowing God is based on one’s necessity to survive. Perhaps it’s one’s urge for drinking mother’s milk when one is first born (who gave you a mother? who made you need milk?), having that preverbal felt sense of wonder, well-being & delight, sitting in the little Cave of flesh of oneself, hearing the birds twittering in spring sunshine for the first time, the thrill of having learned one’s ABCs and the letters becoming words & the words becoming sentences when one is 6 years old, the gift and thrill of one’s sexuality(Intense pleasure!) in being with another person expressing love in one’s flesh. There are surely myriad of ways of knowing God In the provIsIons that are avaIlable to each one of us, As one is riding the Starlight Express propelled through time experiencing mAturity, old Age And deAth. And even one’s blindness to this And lAck of understanding the necessity of grAtitude for thAt Is not a barricade to the reality of the creator of one’s flesh & spirit. even if our lack of understanding gives us a sense that our existence is meaningless and that, if one could, one would not choose existence.
    Pages turning
    pages we were years from learning
    straight into the night our hearts were flung
    better bring your own redemption when you come
    to the barricades of heaven where I’m from.
    ~ Jackson Browne

    • Gary says:

      Wonder of breathing and wonder of stars and wonder of babies are indeed wonders. If this is my basis, I’m as comfortable (maybe more comfortable) with a Great Spirit of native Americans as I am with a YHWH of Israel.

    • Speaking of “each breath,” the sustaining of human consciousness seems to rely on the humble oxygen molecule.

      • Paul D. says:

        Heh, that brings back memories of being taught as a child that every breath I took was the providential, direct action of Jesus.

  • David Taylor says:

    I think the Mystics have something important to say. However, I think you are confusing or conflating the experience of God with the existence of God. Historically, I understand the Mystics predate the Enlightenment or Modernity, but I think it was Friedrich Schleiermacher who cut a swath through the rough underbrush of Empiricism to find a spiritual path that was immediate and subjective. Most Evangelicals find themselves on that path when their “evidence” takes a beating and they retreat to the world of mystery. It sounds like you are on that path. Faced with the incoherence of a fundamentalist/evangelical reaction to modernity, I have no problem accepting Pascal’s Wager and embracing your mystical/existential explanation. Fideism is a rich and credible approach to knowing God. I am not embarrassed by it at all. However, today, philosophers who reject Cartesian or Substance Dualism acknowledge that subjective states like color, pain, and thoughts are objectively real using empirical tools. Their work involves moving from the phenomenon through the perceptual equipment to the physical biology that makes subjective states objectively real. I think there is a model there where the subjective, but real experience of God is the starting point for understanding the perceptual equipment, which will help us to acknowledge the existence of a real Being that makes the subjective states or experiences real. All this is to say, I am not ready to leave the hope and realism of modernity behind yet, but if I do it won’t be atheism.

  • David Taylor says:

    I think the Mystics have something important to say. However, I think you are confusing or conflating the experience of God with the existence of God. Historically, I understand the Mystics predate the Enlightenment or Modernity, but I think it was Friedrich Schleiermacher who cut a swath through the rough underbrush of Empiricism to find a spiritual path that was immediate and subjective. Most Evangelicals find themselves on that path when their “evidence” takes a beating and they retreat to the world of mystery. It sounds like you are on that path. Faced with the incoherence of a fundamentalist/evangelical reaction to modernity, I have no problem accepting Pascal’s Wager and embracing your mystical/existential explanation. Fideism is a rich and credible approach to knowing God. I am not embarrassed by it at all. However, today, philosophers who reject Cartesian or Substance Dualism acknowledge that subjective states like color, pain, and thoughts are objectively real using empirical tools. Their work involves moving from the phenomenon through the perceptual equipment to the physical biology that makes subjective states objectively real. I think there is a model there where the subjective, but real experience of God is the starting point for understanding the perceptual equipment, which will help us to acknowledge the existence of a real Being that makes the subjective states or experiences real. All this is to say, I am not ready to leave the hope and realism of modernity behind yet, but if I do it won’t be atheism.

  • “In other words, ‘I don’t believe in God because I see no evidence for God’ or ‘I believe in God because the evidence proves it’ are both nonsensical claims for me.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    The more I learn about the cosmos and humanity’s journey of understanding it, the more the term “evidence” seems to be an oxymoron. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s that our knowing is ultimately so relative.

    Looking forward to the upcoming title!

  • “In other words, ‘I don’t believe in God because I see no evidence for God’ or ‘I believe in God because the evidence proves it’ are both nonsensical claims for me.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    The more I learn about the cosmos and humanity’s journey of understanding it, the more the term “evidence” seems to be an oxymoron. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s that our knowing is ultimately so relative.

    Looking forward to the upcoming title!

  • Beau Quilter says:

    When I gave up the notion of God, I did not give up on the experiences of “participation”, “longing”, “fullness”, “contemplativeness”, “depth”, and “immediacy”. However, I tend to apply such experiences to relationships that I have with the people that surround me – not to the deities of ancient cultures.

    • Derek says:

      Interesting Beau, thanks. I tend to experience *both* God and people in the manner described. Although, both people and God can be disappointing in ways – myself included.

  • Beau Quilter says:

    When I gave up the notion of God, I did not give up on the experiences of “participation”, “longing”, “fullness”, “contemplativeness”, “depth”, and “immediacy”. However, I tend to apply such experiences to relationships that I have with the people that surround me – not to the deities of ancient cultures.

    • Derek says:

      Interesting Beau, thanks. I tend to experience *both* God and people in the manner described. Although, both people and God can be disappointing in ways – myself included.

  • DMH says:

    Perhaps the thing that could hold rationality, mysticism, intuition, etc… all together is love- as a way of knowing. I’m trying to think through/explore this. Haven’t found much written on it…

    • Gary says:

      Then here you go! James KA Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom. Specifically on love as a way of knowing.

    • Try the works of John Hick, former Evangelical who became a fascinating philosopher of religion and sought a common transcendental basis for them all. Also check out The Inner Eye of Love by a Jesuit named William Johnson, or try books by Dom Bede Griffiths, a fellow convert with C. S. Lewis but who spent his life in India dialoguing with people of other religions. Or read my own my testimony where I mention the effect that finding and fully acknowledging goodness in people of all beliefs or none had on me,

      Google Babinski Agnosticism

    • Clay Crouch says:

      You’re closer than you think. I suggest you read Richard Rohr.

  • DMH says:

    Perhaps the thing that could hold rationality, mysticism, intuition, etc… all together is love- as a way of knowing. I’m trying to think through/explore this. Haven’t found much written on it…

    • Gary says:

      Then here you go! James KA Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom. Specifically on love as a way of knowing.

    • Try the works of John Hick, former Evangelical who became a fascinating philosopher of religion and sought a common transcendental basis for them all. Also check out The Inner Eye of Love by a Jesuit named William Johnson, or try books by Dom Bede Griffiths, a fellow convert with C. S. Lewis but who spent his life in India dialoguing with people of other religions. Or read my own my testimony where I mention the effect that finding and fully acknowledging goodness in people of all beliefs or none had on me,

      Google Babinski Agnosticism

    • Clay Crouch says:

      You’re closer than you think. I suggest you read Richard Rohr.

  • Hi Pete, Living with uncertainty is a relative thing. Some people live with more uncertainty than you do. I suspect that leaving the Westminster cocoon could be unsettling, but you are still ensconced cozily in the moderate to liberal Christian cocoon. But lacking a definitive first hand revelation of God and with all of your questions, at what point does one cease asking yet more questions, and perhaps start to view all religions as limited expressions or interpretations of God like prof. of religious philosophy John Hick eventually did after growing up Evangelical? Or become a universalist mystic, or a philosophical theist rather than a religious one, and continue to question just what kind of God really exists, and what we can know for sure about who or what “God” is? Or even what the cosmos is? I mean, I continue to wonder about such questions after leaving Evangelicalism.

    • Pete E. says:

      You don’t really know my story, Ed.

      • I love nothing more than learning about people’s stories and would love to learn more about yours.

        I have been following your story since the Westminster brouhaha (and enjoyed and endorsed your books to others online) but I don’t recall reading your whole story from your youth, which I am sure would be interesting, probably some overlap with Randal Rauser’s and my own Evangelical Christian youth. I also visited Westminster Seminary in my early 20s and purchased some books in the store there, caught a glimpse of Cornelius Van Til, and later I exchanged emails with Paul Seely on biblical cosmology, a WTS graduate. And I learned about the history of all these relatively young fundamentalist Christian colleges founded in the 1920s like WTS, during the fndamentalist-modernist controversy. Even Yale was founded by some conservative ministers displeased at the growing moderation, liberalism and “theological excesses” as they say it, happening at Havard. Even today Christians keep founding relatively new and youthful institutions devoted to walling themselves up against questions, like Liberty Christian U, or Tim LaHay’s Heritage Christian U, or Patrick Henry U, or all the televangelist stations on TV. Or the mega church movement, to try and get and sustain even a greater Jesus high.

        • Casey Dayton says:

          Edward, you assume that people can’t hold doubt while maintaining a vibrant Christian faith – that is simply not true. The Bible (NT and OT) both contain stories of humans having doubt while also trusting God (Elijah, Peter, Thomas, hell, all of them for that matter). You can hold your views and that is simply fine (I respect them) but just because you cannot see the “reasons” for people maintaining a doubting christian faith – does not mean you are right and everyone else should take a step further and doubt the whole thing… That is an over simplification of the complexity of the christian faith…

        • Casey Dayton says:

          I also would want to point out that the Christian religion has to do with a person named Jesus (as christians we believe this Jesus is still transforming lives and he’s on the loose), in other words it is not just a simple “have faith” or “belief” – The Christian faith is a living trust that Jesus Christ (messiah) will rescue (has – will in the future) the world for a global renewal (earth and heaven). There are great books written by the likes of Brennan Manning on trusting God and there are great books written on eschatology (Jurgen Moltmann, N. T. Wright, etc) about God’s salvation extending from the ends of the earth.

          Many people arrive at different conclusions (that is fine) and see things differently – doubt is a complex subject that will not fully be flushed out in this conversation. There are a variety of reasons (speaking myself) that I believe while having doubt – and disparaging my trust in God (Jesus) does not solve the dilemma (my own opinion) but creates more problems ( I was not raised Christian either – in fact I did not become a Christian until a few years ago). I am married and trust my wife – but like anything, marriage is a complete trust that the other person will be faithful (for better or worse) – we live in the tensions of trusting people everyday (even strangers we do not know who drive vehicles). The Christian trusts God even when things do not always make sense – this tensions exists in the Christian message and story (but it exists in everyone’s story) – the four Gospels are not shy in displaying this reality. The reason many do not talk more about these issues are beyond me (I say that knowing that many do in fact talk about these tensions – Pete is one of them). But in essence our “Christian” hope is a trust that God will in fact be good to his word (which is trust – now verifying the identity of God through science observation seems impossible – but there are many things, and I say many things we cannot fully grasp by using human studies, judgments, experimentation, etc).

          Anyhow, as I have stated before – I respect your thoughts and journey, but I do not think it has to be every “doubters” Journey.

          • Depending on how you interpret God’s word, I hope He is not “good to it” in the sense of damning nonbelievers to an eternity of torment.

            And I am not sure about the analogy concerning trusting your wife, unless you wake up everyday lying literally next to a flesh and blood Jesus who literally speaks with you or even makes you breakfast some mornings.

  • Hi Pete, Living with uncertainty is a relative thing. Some people live with more uncertainty than you do. I suspect that leaving the Westminster cocoon could be unsettling, but you are still ensconced cozily in the moderate to liberal Christian cocoon. But lacking a definitive first hand revelation of God and with all of your questions, at what point does one cease asking yet more questions, and perhaps start to view all religions as limited expressions or interpretations of God like prof. of religious philosophy John Hick eventually did after growing up Evangelical? Or become a universalist mystic, or a philosophical theist rather than a religious one, and continue to question just what kind of God really exists, and what we can know for sure about who or what “God” is? Or even what the cosmos is? I mean, I continue to wonder about such questions after leaving Evangelicalism.

    • Pete E. says:

      You don’t really know my story, Ed.

      • I love nothing more than learning about people’s stories and would love to learn more about yours.

        I have been following your story since the Westminster brouhaha (and enjoyed and endorsed your books to others online) but I don’t recall reading your whole story from your youth, which I am sure would be interesting, probably some overlap with Randal Rauser’s and my own Evangelical Christian youth. I also visited Westminster Seminary in my early 20s and purchased some books in the store there, caught a glimpse of Cornelius Van Til, and later I exchanged emails with Paul Seely on biblical cosmology, a WTS graduate. And I learned about the history of all these relatively young fundamentalist Christian colleges founded in the 1920s like WTS, during the fndamentalist-modernist controversy. Even Yale was founded by some conservative ministers displeased at the growing moderation, liberalism and “theological excesses” as they say it, happening at Havard. Even today Christians keep founding relatively new and youthful institutions devoted to walling themselves up against questions, like Liberty Christian U, or Tim LaHay’s Heritage Christian U, or Patrick Henry U, or all the televangelist stations on TV. Or the mega church movement, to try and get and sustain even a greater Jesus high.

        • Kc dayton says:

          Edward, you assume that people can’t hold doubt while maintaining a vibrant Christian faith – that is simply not true. The Bible (NT and OT) both contain stories of humans having doubt while also trusting God (Elijah, Peter, Thomas, hell, all of them for that matter). You can hold your views and that is simply fine (I respect them) but just because you cannot see the “reasons” for people maintaining a doubting christian faith – does not mean you are right and everyone else should take a step further and doubt the whole thing… That is an over simplification of the complexity of the christian faith…

        • Kc dayton says:

          I also would want to point out that the Christian religion has to do with a person named Jesus (as christians we believe this Jesus is still transforming lives and he’s on the loose), in other words it is not just a simple “have faith” or “belief” – The Christian faith is a living trust that Jesus Christ (messiah) will rescue (has – will in the future) the world for a global renewal (earth and heaven). There are great books written by the likes of Brennan Manning on trusting God and there are great books written on eschatology (Jurgen Moltmann, N. T. Wright, etc) about God’s salvation extending from the ends of the earth.

          Many people arrive at different conclusions (that is fine) and see things differently – doubt is a complex subject that will not fully be flushed out in this conversation. There are a variety of reasons (speaking myself) that I believe while having doubt – and disparaging my trust in God (Jesus) does not solve the dilemma (my own opinion) but creates more problems ( I was not raised Christian either – in fact I did not become a Christian until a few years ago). I am married and trust my wife – but like anything, marriage is a complete trust that the other person will be faithful (for better or worse) – we live in the tensions of trusting people everyday (even strangers we do not know who drive vehicles). The Christian trusts God even when things do not always make sense – this tensions exists in the Christian message and story (but it exists in everyone’s story) – the four Gospels are not shy in displaying this reality. The reason many do not talk more about these issues are beyond me (I say that knowing that many do in fact talk about these tensions – Pete is one of them). But in essence our “Christian” hope is a trust that God will in fact be good to his word (which is trust – now verifying the identity of God through science observation seems impossible – but there are many things, and I say many things we cannot fully grasp by using human studies, judgments, experimentation, etc).

          Anyhow, as I have stated before – I respect your thoughts and journey, but I do not think it has to be every “doubters” Journey.

          • Depending on how you interpret God’s word, I hope He is not “good to it” in the sense of damning nonbelievers to an eternity of torment.

            And I am not sure about the analogy concerning trusting your wife, unless you wake up everyday lying literally next to a flesh and blood Jesus who literally speaks with you or even makes you breakfast some mornings.

  • “Evidence based knowledge” may not be necessary for a person to believe in God, but it sure would be handy when it comes to rival claims about God between people in different religions, denominations and mystical sects, not to mention between various schools of non-religious philosophical theists, agnostics and atheists.

    • Pete E. says:

      You’re still rooting your argument in the same notion of the proper locus of religious conviction.

      • Tim says:

        Not if he’s using “evidence” in the sense I’ve advocated for in this thread Pete. Only if he means it in the wooden empiricist sense.

        -Tim

        • Pete E. says:

          Which I think is the case, but I don’t want to speak for Ed.

          • Tim says:

            Got you. I’d be interested to know then what your thoughts are with the more broad, inclusive sense of evidence then. Though I certainly don’t want to edge into Edward’s post to restate it here. Thanks Pete!

            -Tim

          • Thanks Pete, I expressed my full view in a direct response above.

      • Not sure what the phrase, “proper locus of religious conviction” means, because based on my own interactions with a wide variety of folks I have noticed that people don’t have the same attraction to mystical or spiritual thinking. I have met lifelong atheists who never got high on Jesus in their youth like you or I did. I think there are multiple reality tunnels and people make many different claims concerning their personal experiences. Most people seem to have never seen or heard a literal voice of God like Abraham or Noah allegedly received. Instead it looks like people have a wide variety of reality tunnels and interpretations. Catholics see Angels, Mary and Jesus, Protestants usually just see Angels and Jesus, and one Protestant apparently saw a talking Bible in his NDE, while another claims to have been to heaven dozens of times and seen images from everything In Revelation, and Mormons have their own NDE bulletin, Betty Eade had a bestseller about meeting a Mormon Jesus who was not God, universalist NDEs, then there are Hindu and Buddhist visions and NDEs, like seeing a talking Buddhist turtle god, while native Americans have totem animal visions, and New Agers and some other folks claims to have seen Angels, UFOs, aliens of different species.

        And there are also periods of painful disillusionment and depression that look like withdrawal symptoms that even Christians suffer after at least partially self-Inducing and sustaining a high on Jesus for years. And the crash can be hard, just look at Mother Teresa’s painful decades long crash after getting high on Jesus in her teen years. After I became more of a questioner, and more curious about a lot of things I no longer experienced such manic-depression. I have posts on my blog, Scrivenings, about depressions and suicide among Christians, and their gullibility, i.e., religious affinity fraud.

      • Gary says:

        I think “the proper locus of religious conviction” can help one find meaning in a religion better than help one find a religion. I also think such proper locus can help one find meaning, less in understanding reality and more, in creating or otherwise affecting reality.

        I think the fruit are the realities that a religion has caused to create.

        Across religions, the evidences are the grapes and figs.

        Whatever the proper loci are, watch out. Many say, “Lord, Lord.” Small is the gate and narrow is the road.

        The evidences exist.

      • “Religious conviction” without “evidence based knowledge” is why there are so many religions, denominations, sects and cults… and demonizations of one by the other.

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      Hey Ed; I can definitely understand what you’re saying and that’s why many people go thru many religions while on this “path of truth”.
      The only reason I could see us being ” worried” about being wrong about a certain “path/religion/idea/concept” would be because God (our Creator) might reject us if we chose the wrong path.

      But may I pose this:
      How could God (if He does exist) reject anyone who was honestly searching?
      I don’t think God would. That’s why all we need to focus on is “the Way”; which is your way that you’re honestly seeking God.

      What does is look like to seek God?
      I’m pretty sure it looks like what we are doing on here (if our intentions are purely to seek and accept).

      🙂

      Alot of us have reached the point where the only left left to do is bring people together despite our differences.

      • Bringing people together seems easier when their differences are not discussed. But one alternative is to have a church, mosque, and a Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu temple, close together on every corner with no one’s sign larger or higher than the rest, to remind ourselves we can indeed all truly get along.

        • Pete E. says:

          Ed, these posts are certainly charging you up. What gives? Why the need to respond ?

          • All of life is a response. And it seems that these books coming out by Evangelicals who are now more tentative or moderate or courageously admitting they have doubts are a bit disingenuous, since they all seem to rely on being certain that the God of the Christian Bible exists regardless of one’s doubts. Just trust in Him.

          • I think there are many different kinds of trust in God, not just the Christian God of the Bible. There is an even less certain, less dogmatic, less religious, kind of trust. Call it a transcendental trust like Thoreau had, or like John Hick in our own day.

            Let God alone if need be. Methinks, if I loved him more, I should keep him–I should keep myself, rather–at a more respectful distance. It is not when I am going to meet him, but when I am just turning away and leaving him alone, that I discover that God is. I say, God. I am not sure that is the name. You will know whom I mean…

            Doubt may have “some divinity” about it…

            Atheism may be comparatively popular with God himself…

            When a pious visitor inquired sweetly, “Henry, have you made your peace with God?” he replied, “We have never quarreled.”

            Henry David Thoreau as quoted in Henry David Thoreau: What Manner of Man? By Edward Wagenknecht

            There is also the Alan Watts definition of the difference between having beliefs and having faith. Having beliefs was like always clinging tightly to something in the water to keep one afloat, always being afraid of letting go and learning to swim in the sea of faith. Also try googling “sea of faith.”

            Robert Anton Wilson pointed out how many people cling tightly to a single reality tunnel and don’t dare to seek all the ways their tunnel overlaps with that of others. Instead only their book features inspired writings–the truth and stories necessary to believe, and of course conservatives, moderates and liberals differ concerning what that book really means or what the most essential and necessary lessons are.

            And so it goes.

            So if you want to write a book that really speaks about accepting uncertainty you have not done so.

            As for your book’s title, The Sin of Certainty, you seem pretty certain that “sin” exists, though I suspect humans don’t really need that’ll added theological term since it seems more like a metaphor for any selfish behavior people of all religions or none already view in a negative fashion. While specific “sins” against a particular God, prophet, holy book, holy place, or sacrament, are as diverse as could be.

          • Doesn’t everyone including yourself feel an urge to respond given an open forum and divergent points of view? Why do you write books attempting to make more conservative Evangelical’s rethink their perspective on the authority of the Bible? I would like you to rethink your own perspective a bit more, perhaps move a bit more toward universalism and religious pluralism like John Hick, but even that would not be nearly as far away from your present point of view as the distance you have already come from fundamentalism to your present point of view. Bravo for that! And for doing it at Westminster Theological Seminary, just as Paul Seely did. Do you know many others like yourselves?

  • “Evidence based knowledge” may not be necessary for a person to believe in God, but it sure would be handy when it comes to rival claims about God between people in different religions, denominations and mystical sects, not to mention between various schools of non-religious philosophical theists, agnostics and atheists.

    • Pete E. says:

      You’re still rooting your argument in the same notion of the proper locus of religious conviction.

      • Tim says:

        Not if he’s using “evidence” in the sense I’ve advocated for in this thread Pete. Only if he means it in the wooden empiricist sense.

        -Tim

        • Pete E. says:

          Which I think is the case, but I don’t want to speak for Ed.

          • Tim says:

            Got you. I’d be interested to know then what your thoughts are with the more broad, inclusive sense of evidence then. Though I certainly don’t want to edge into Edward’s post to restate it here. Thanks Pete!

            -Tim

          • Thanks Pete, I expressed my full view in a direct response above.

      • Not sure what the phrase, “proper locus of religious conviction” means, because based on my own interactions with a wide variety of folks I have noticed that people don’t have the same attraction to mystical or spiritual thinking. I have met lifelong atheists who never got high on Jesus in their youth like you or I did. I think there are multiple reality tunnels and people make many different claims concerning their personal experiences. Most people seem to have never seen or heard a literal voice of God like Abraham or Noah allegedly received. Instead it looks like people have a wide variety of reality tunnels and interpretations. Catholics see Angels, Mary and Jesus, Protestants usually just see Angels and Jesus, and one Protestant apparently saw a talking Bible in his NDE, while another claims to have been to heaven dozens of times and seen images from everything In Revelation, and Mormons have their own NDE bulletin, Betty Eade had a bestseller about meeting a Mormon Jesus who was not God, universalist NDEs, then there are Hindu and Buddhist visions and NDEs, like seeing a talking Buddhist turtle god, while native Americans have totem animal visions, and New Agers and some other folks claims to have seen Angels, UFOs, aliens of different species.

        And there are also periods of painful disillusionment and depression that look like withdrawal symptoms that even Christians suffer after at least partially self-Inducing and sustaining a high on Jesus for years. And the crash can be hard, just look at Mother Teresa’s painful decades long crash after getting high on Jesus in her teen years. After I became more of a questioner, and more curious about a lot of things I no longer experienced such manic-depression. I have posts on my blog, Scrivenings, about depressions and suicide among Christians, and their gullibility, i.e., religious affinity fraud.

      • Gary says:

        I think “the proper locus of religious conviction” can help one find meaning in a religion better than help one find a religion. I also think such proper locus can help one find meaning, less in understanding reality and more, in creating or otherwise affecting reality.

        I think the fruit are the realities that a religion has caused to create.

        Across religions, the evidences are the grapes and figs.

        Whatever the proper loci are, watch out. Many say, “Lord, Lord.” Small is the gate and narrow is the road.

        The evidences exist.

      • “Religious conviction” without “evidence based knowledge” is why there are so many religions, denominations, sects and cults… and demonizations of one by the other.

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      Hey Ed; I can definitely understand what you’re saying and that’s why many people go thru many religions while on this “path of truth”.
      The only reason I could see us being ” worried” about being wrong about a certain “path/religion/idea/concept” would be because God (our Creator) might reject us if we chose the wrong path.

      But may I pose this:
      How could God (if He does exist) reject anyone who was honestly searching?
      I don’t think God would. That’s why all we need to focus on is “the Way”; which is your way that you’re honestly seeking God.

      What does is look like to seek God?
      I’m pretty sure it looks like what we are doing on here (if our intentions are purely to seek and accept).

      🙂

      Alot of us have reached the point where the only left left to do is bring people together despite our differences.

      • Bringing people together seems easier when their differences are not discussed. But one alternative is to have a church, mosque, and a Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu temple, close together on every corner with no one’s sign larger or higher than the rest, to remind ourselves we can indeed all truly get along.

  • Veritas says:

    Thanks for this insight. I have asked many people who say that they don’t believe, what evidence would be sufficient for them to believe that God exists, and I think the opposite, what evidence would be sufficient to convince me that God does not exist…
    Your explanation, though a bit slippery to grab with my hands, is similar to some of my conclusions, though none have given me their answer. I suspect it is because they are not comfortable with any other way of knowing.

    From this, I have a question for you; isn’t it also completely reasonable (and rational) to look at the fruits of other people’s experience to see that their belief and faith are grounded in the truth?

    I would take as examples of this people such as Jesus and the profound impact on the entire world for the good, that his “truth” has produced, and by extension, His Apostles and their experience. In opposition to this you may place the fruits of others and their understanding of God. (Isn’t this another example of a way of knowing?)

  • Veritas says:

    Thanks for this insight. I have asked many people who say that they don’t believe, what evidence would be sufficient for them to believe that God exists, and I think the opposite, what evidence would be sufficient to convince me that God does not exist…
    Your explanation, though a bit slippery to grab with my hands, is similar to some of my conclusions, though none have given me their answer. I suspect it is because they are not comfortable with any other way of knowing.

    From this, I have a question for you; isn’t it also completely reasonable (and rational) to look at the fruits of other people’s experience to see that their belief and faith are grounded in the truth?

    I would take as examples of this people such as Jesus and the profound impact on the entire world for the good, that his “truth” has produced, and by extension, His Apostles and their experience. In opposition to this you may place the fruits of others and their understanding of God. (Isn’t this another example of a way of knowing?)

  • Irenaeus says:

    You just need to go a little further, Peter. Scientists tend to understand everything through the lens of our basic five senses which reside in our body and soul. But our access to the world of the Spirit is made possible by the existence of our own spirit.

    The Christian scriptures are clear that we can indeed experience God if we respond to Him when He “calls” us. This happens not in our mind, but in our spirit. It is vitally important that we respond with a “yes” when He calls, and this is why humility is sooo important. Many miss it here because they want to be in control of any such relationship.

    The good news is that those who humble themselves and say yes when He calls do experience Him in an undeniable complete way. Such soon discover that He is indeed a God Who communicates and is very capable of laying out a clear path for us to follow.

    True mystics do experience God in a tangible manner that is more real than anything that could ever be experienced through the five senses – although those senses may be secondarily affected.

    As revealed clearly in the scriptures, God is raising up out of this raging cauldron of sin pain and suffering adopted sons(and daughters) who will embrace the process of being transformed by their tests and trials into those who will be worthy of ruling and reigning with Him throughout eternity. The universe is a really big place.

    Proud men who reject His call are incredibly stupid and foolish beyond measure.

    • Gary says:

      Oh raca!

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      Legitttttttt. What are you reading good Sir, that I may know too?

    • chosen1mic says:

      No- before the 70’s it was safe for white little girls and boys to walk down the street – correct yourself- thee was never a time in any country where there was absolute peace- even in the Bible

    • Paul D. says:

      People who call others “incredibly stupid and foolish beyond measure” for not sharing their own religious positions ought to take a look in the mirror.

  • Irenaeus says:

    You just need to go a little further, Peter. Scientists tend to understand everything through the lens of our basic five senses which reside in our body and soul. But our access to the world of the Spirit is made possible by the existence of our own spirit.

    The Christian scriptures are clear that we can indeed experience God if we respond to Him when He “calls” us. This happens not in our mind, but in our spirit. It is vitally important that we respond with a “yes” when He calls, and this is why humility is sooo important. Many miss it here because they want to be in control of any such relationship.

    The good news is that those who humble themselves and say yes when He calls do experience Him in an undeniable complete way. Such soon discover that He is indeed a God Who communicates and is very capable of laying out a clear path for us to follow.

    True mystics do experience God in a tangible manner that is more real than anything that could ever be experienced through the five senses – although those senses may be secondarily affected.

    As revealed clearly in the scriptures, God is raising up out of this raging cauldron of sin pain and suffering adopted sons(and daughters) who will embrace the process of being transformed by their tests and trials into those who will be worthy of ruling and reigning with Him throughout eternity. The universe is a really big place.

    Proud men who reject His call are incredibly stupid and foolish beyond measure.

    • Gary says:

      Oh raca!

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      Legitttttttt. What are you reading good Sir, that I may know too?

    • chosen1mic says:

      No- before the 70’s it was safe for white little girls and boys to walk down the street – correct yourself- thee was never a time in any country where there was absolute peace- even in the Bible

    • Paul D. says:

      People who call others “incredibly stupid and foolish beyond measure” for not sharing their own religious positions ought to take a look in the mirror.

  • 4WIW says:

    800 spiritually empty words. Evidence: The heavens declare the glory of God. Eye-witness accounts on Mount Sinai, the Mount of transfiguration, the road to Damascus and on and on. But it takes the work of the Spirit of God in one’s life to actually believe and rely upon these evidences. So sad to have so much education without conviction. Basis for my response: 2 Peter 1:15 to 2 Peter 2:2.

    • Dre'as Sanchez says:

      How sure are you that those are eyewitness accounts…. wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that it’s possibly an I witness account…..”the sin of certainty”. …

      With all due respect my guess is you don’t really engage with non-believers in person? Maybe even online? Most people who are not believers are not believers because this side has so much certainty over things that we should not be saying we have “so much” certainty over.

      Try an approach that says “we’re really not sure but most likely in my opinion this is the one I think it is”…. just try it – i bet you gain their trust better.

      Then once that person starts walking with God –God (should) will reveal the truth to them.

  • Really, evidence is simply a modern, western way of coming to belief or faith or knowledge? I suggest maybe you read your Bible again. There are multitudes of examples of God giving evidence to his people so they might believe, or trust him. Evidence presented to our reasoning faculties is one way of knowing, not the only way, which is obvious. Scientism and that we can only know things based on empirical evidence or data is also obviously wrong. And there is no one way to come to belief or faith in God, and in Christ our Savior. Some come by more rational means, others emotional, others mystical, Who am I, or you, to say any one way is the right way. So I’m not really sure what your point is.

  • Really, evidence is simply a modern, western way of coming to belief or faith or knowledge? I suggest maybe you read your Bible again. There are multitudes of examples of God giving evidence to his people so they might believe, or trust him. Evidence presented to our reasoning faculties is one way of knowing, not the only way, which is obvious. Scientism and that we can only know things based on empirical evidence or data is also obviously wrong. And there is no one way to come to belief or faith in God, and in Christ our Savior. Some come by more rational means, others emotional, others mystical, Who am I, or you, to say any one way is the right way. So I’m not really sure what your point is.

  • Gleich Zeit says:

    Thanks for an honest perspective which does not offer more than can be proven. I’d take the liberty of summarizing that your belief in God, to the extent you do, is based on faith, not fact. I think that if all religious believers could accept such limitations, and find in the penumbra thereof, that there is no certainty, and therefore, no grounds for believing to the exclusion of other faiths, we’d find less conflict in this world. Folks could believe, and demonstrate how what they believe causes them to live, and treat their fellow men and women. Instead, we have too many that believe theirs is the only truth, and are so confident its inerrancy, they feel compelled to enforce it in a world where evidence is really necessary to develop societal mores.

    • 4WIW says:

      I presume you are referring to Islam in your final sentence?

      • Gleich Zeit says:

        Certainly, too many Islamists (by no means all) are tragically attempting to force their beliefs on others, and the result is ISIS, AQ, Boko Haram, and too many other groups. However, there are many Christians in our country who also want to enforce solely biblical beliefs here too. Ted Cruz proudly stated that any president who doesn’t pray on his knees to Jesus Christ every day isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief. Do you think JFK could have won with that campaign statement? How have we regressed so far in 56 years? http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/cruz-any-president-who-doesnt-begin-every-day-his-knees-isnt-fit-be-commander-chief-nation

        • 4WIW says:

          Praying is not the same as imposing a religion on others. No Muslim ever imposed Islamic law on others by praying 5 times a day. However, as my 5th grade social studies book (circa ~1958) commented on Islam, “Muslims converted North Africa at the edge of the sword.” JFK probably did not comment much on his Catholicism because at that time there remained a significant amount of anti-Catholic bigotry in our country. He was after all, our first RC President. Thankfully it is much less today. Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants have much in common and face common enemies in terms of secular humanism and all of the other anti-Christian hate groups and religions of the world. Joyfully I can say that as a conservative Presbyterian, some of my closest friends are devout Roman Catholics. That is a blessing from God.

    • Gary says:

      Many don’t understand that the contentions among faiths is fought (and will be won in the end) not on the grounds of being right, but on the grounds of making the world right.

      That’s not to say that understanding the world as-is doesn’t matter; it does. The more one believes as many as true things as possible about reality and as few of false things as possible about reality enables one to better understand the nature of the challenge, the tools available, and realistic hopes about ground to be gained, next and within the scope of a lifetime.

      When a faith fights the fight of certainty of an understanding the world as-is putting iron age as-is foundations against present-day as-is understandings, the battle is already conceded. At best, such persons’ hopes could make an iron-age reality better.

      Concepts of God can propel or retard in this context.

      Differing, I believe there are grounds for excluding one’s own or other faiths. Here are a couple ways:

      1) Do they insist on making incorrect statements about the world as-is? If so, they can be dismissed with their faulty foundations, but offered opportunity to reconsider their understandings and emphases to get back in the race.

      2) Do their beliefs about God or Gods or whatever bring us to harming the other or the world, or bring us to healing and redeeming?

      With this, I think we’d not only find less conflict but more hope realized.

      I find much of the tradition of Christianity over the last 2,000 years–and most acutely in the generations of my life in America–to have failed what I consider to be the best centerings of the apocalyptic hope of Jesus of Nazareth.

      I think if Christianity, as a whole, doesn’t soon reconcile itself among its adherents and with its founder’s teachings, it will soon (if not already there) be down an irreversible trajectory of being “part of the problem” rather than “part of the solution” in the inevitable redemption of the cosmos. I think the sooner the Church heals the Great Schism and returns to the even the faith of Jesus certainly before Constantine and possibly before Paul, the better she will be on a cosmic mission.

      Does God exist? It just begs the question, which one? If the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does exist, watch out. And make sure you bring your oil along with your lamps as the bridegroom is a long time in coming yet always arrives soon.

      Good concepts of God and faiths are ripe with irony and paradox in their making the world right.

      • Dre'as Sanchez says:

        You made some very good points. Christianity is already becoming irrelevant to the younger millennials. Read article the other day that said they refused to accept myth as fact. So true.

        I think the answer is bringing up the conversations more and trying to find what we have in common with each other.
        And the one thing that every single wisdom tradition or religious group teaches is “the way”.

        ” the way” is the path of becoming a new person because one is allowing God to lead you in a sense.

  • Gleich Zeit says:

    Thanks for an honest perspective which does not offer more than can be proven. I’d take the liberty of summarizing that your belief in God, to the extent you do, is based on faith, not fact. I think that if all religious believers could accept such limitations, and find in the penumbra thereof, that there is no certainty, and therefore, no grounds for believing to the exclusion of other faiths, we’d find less conflict in this world. Folks could believe, and demonstrate how what they believe causes them to live, and treat their fellow men and women. Instead, we have too many that believe theirs is the only truth, and are so confident its inerrancy, they feel compelled to enforce it in a world where evidence is really necessary to develop societal mores.

    • 4WIW says:

      I presume you are referring to Islam in your final sentence?

      • Gleich Zeit says:

        Certainly, too many Islamists (by no means all) are tragically attempting to force their beliefs on others, and the result is ISIS, AQ, Boko Haram, and too many other groups. However, there are many Christians in our country who also want to enforce solely biblical beliefs here too. Ted Cruz proudly stated that any president who doesn’t pray on his knees to Jesus Christ every day isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief. Do you think JFK could have won with that campaign statement? How have we regressed so far in 56 years? http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/cruz-any-president-who-doesnt-begin-every-day-his-knees-isnt-fit-be-commander-chief-nation

        • 4WIW says:

          Praying is not the same as imposing a religion on others. No Muslim ever imposed Islamic law on others by praying 5 times a day. However, as my 5th grade social studies book (circa ~1958) commented on Islam, “Muslims converted North Africa at the edge of the sword.” JFK probably did not comment much on his Catholicism because at that time there remained a significant amount of anti-Catholic bigotry in our country. He was after all, our first RC President. Thankfully it is much less today. Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants have much in common and face common enemies in terms of secular humanism and all of the other anti-Christian hate groups and religions of the world. Joyfully I can say that as a conservative Presbyterian, some of my closest friends are devout Roman Catholics. That is a blessing from God.

    • Gary says:

      Many don’t understand that the contentions among faiths are fought (and will be won in the end) not on the grounds of being right, but on the grounds of making the world right.

      That’s not to say that understanding the world as-is doesn’t matter; it does. The more one believes as many as true things as possible about reality and as few of false things as possible about reality enables one to better understand the nature of the challenge, the tools available, and realistic hopes about ground to be gained, next and within the scope of a lifetime.

      When a faith fights the fight of certainty of an understanding the world as-is putting iron age as-is foundations against present-day as-is understandings, the battle is already conceded. At best, such persons’ hopes could make an iron-age reality better.

      Concepts of God can propel or retard in this context.

      Differing, I believe there are grounds for excluding one’s own or other faiths. Here are a couple ways:

      1) Do they insist on making incorrect statements about the world as-is? If so, they can be dismissed with their faulty foundations, but offered opportunity to reconsider their understandings and emphases to get back in the race.

      2) Do their beliefs about God or Gods or whatever bring us to harming the other or the world, or bring us to healing and redeeming?

      With this, I think we’d not only find less conflict but more hope realized.

      I find much of the tradition of Christianity over the last 2,000 years–and most acutely in the generations of my life in America–to have failed what I consider to be the best centerings of the apocalyptic hope of Jesus of Nazareth.

      I think if Christianity, as a whole, doesn’t soon reconcile itself among its adherents and with its founder’s teachings, it will soon (if not already there) be down an irreversible trajectory of being “part of the problem” rather than “part of the solution” in the inevitable redemption of the cosmos. I think the sooner the Church heals the Great Schism and returns to the even the faith of Jesus certainly before Constantine and possibly before Paul, the better she will be on a cosmic mission.

      Does God exist? It just begs the question, which one? If the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does exist, watch out. And make sure you bring your oil along with your lamps as the bridegroom is a long time in coming yet always arrives soon.

      Good concepts of God and faiths are ripe with irony and paradox in their making the world right.

      • Dre'as Sanchez says:

        You made some very good points. Christianity is already becoming irrelevant to the younger millennials. Read article the other day that said they refused to accept myth as fact. So true.

        I think the answer is bringing up the conversations more and trying to find what we have in common with each other.
        And the one thing that every single wisdom tradition or religious group teaches is “the way”.

        ” the way” is the path of becoming a new person because one is allowing God to lead you in a sense.

  • BobC says:

    This is very simple. God is just another word for magic. Magic is not real therefore magical deities are impossible.

    The question “Is God real?” is equal to the question “Is magic real?”. Theists believe magic is real. Agnostics can’t figure it out. Normal people can figure it out. Magic is not real. The idea there is magic in the universe is ridiculous, childish, and completely impossible.

    The moronic Magic-Man-Fantasy was the human race’s greatest mistake.

  • BobC says:

    This is very simple. God is just another word for magic. Magic is not real therefore magical deities are impossible.

    The question “Is God real?” is equal to the question “Is magic real?”. Theists believe magic is real. Agnostics can’t figure it out. Normal people can figure it out. Magic is not real. The idea there is magic in the universe is ridiculous, childish, and completely impossible.

    The moronic Magic-Man-Fantasy was the human race’s greatest mistake.

  • 4WIW says:

    Interesting article. I am sincerely interested in your thoughts on two ideas. First, let me say that I hold to the position that without faith one cannot please God – His words, not mine. What are your thoughts on passages like 1 John 5:13, which indicate explicitly that it is possible for a person to “know” with rational certainty whether or not there is a God and whether or not they can truly believe in Jesus being the Messiah. Now I understand that that rational certainty is a gift from God, but would you say that 1 John 5:13 is false or irrational or not to be trusted? On another point, both in John’s writings and Peter’s writings there are statements of eye-witness testimonies. Usually we treat eye-witness testimonies as valid proofs of an experience, especially when they corroborate key elements of the same story (granted one can misinterpret what their senses tell them). Again, while it takes a God-given faith to believe the substance of Peter and John’s testimonies, are we to take from your article that we should not put trust in the authenticity of their writings? If yes, then how are we to treat the writings from the same period by men such as Josephus or Pliny. What about more recent writings such as the Gettysburg Address? Are we to have doubts that Lincoln actually wrote it – there are no living eye-witnesses needless to say.

    One final question. For those who hold the view that the Bible contains an ever-expanding revelation of the truth and knowledge of God from beginning to end, what is to be taken away from your article?
    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    • Muzi Cindi says:

      “….without faith one cannot please God – His words, not mine”.
      How do you know these are HIS words? Who said God is a HE?

      • 4WIW says:

        2 Peter 1:15 and following say “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit..”

        So we have an eyewitness account of a historical event in which God reveals His great pleasure in His Son, Jesus Christ. Now one can doubt that the man, Peter ever lived, but there are extra-biblical references to him as being the head of the church. In Roman Catholicism, Peter is seen as the first vicar of the church and so on. My point is that we ought to consider seriously the word of an eyewitness, especially when the eye witness is a confirmed historical figure. Now as to whether what the historical eyewitness claims he experienced is a real supernatural phenomenon – well that is where faith comes in. And it is that faith that is pleasing to God, and further that faith is a gift from God in the first place. To the person without that God-Given faith, none of this makes any sense or is believable. Such is life.

        • Andrew Dowling says:

          There are multiple (a lot!) attestations that Lincoln composed the Gettysburg Address. There is none for 11 Peter, a writing a majority of critical scholarship places at some point in the 2nd century long after Peter’s death (Wikipedia’s page on it is a decent starting point showing the various arguments).

          Also, your point about eyewitness testimony is inaccurate. It’s generally NOT considered trustworthy; if it was then Bigfoot and alien abductions would be accepted beyond the fringe as accurate descriptions of reality/history.

          • Dre'as Sanchez says:

            Good point. Out of curiosity may I know your position on 2nd Peter

          • Andrew Dowling says:

            Sorry for the late reply. My personal thought is that 11 Peter is one of the later books of the NT; likely written circa 125-150 AD. There is no external mention of the writing until Origen in the 3rd century.

        • Muzi Cindi says:

          Are you willing to also consider; Hindu scriptures, Muslim scriptures, Buddhist, scriptures, Taoists scriptures, etc?

          • 4WIW says:

            In view of all that is eternal it would not be worth much to consider them other than to satisfy academic curiosity. It goes without saying that the writings you mentioned can contain interesting concepts, but they do not reveal the God of the universe anymore than an Agatha Christy mystery, which I dearly enjoy. I would encourage you to ask God to show you His truth from His book. You never know, He might answer you in a marvelous and loving way. That is what He did for me over 50 years ago.

        • Dre'as Sanchez says:

          “We have an eye witness account”

          So 2 Peter was written by Peter….how sure are you on that? And if Peter didn’t write it and the author was not present; is it still considered an eyewitness testimony?

  • 4WIW says:

    Interesting article. I am sincerely interested in your thoughts on two ideas. First, let me say that I hold to the position that without faith one cannot please God – His words, not mine. What are your thoughts on passages like 1 John 5:13, which indicate explicitly that it is possible for a person to “know” with rational certainty whether or not there is a God and whether or not they can truly believe in Jesus being the Messiah. Now I understand that that rational certainty is a gift from God, but would you say that 1 John 5:13 is false or irrational or not to be trusted? On another point, both in John’s writings and Peter’s writings there are statements of eye-witness testimonies. Usually we treat eye-witness testimonies as valid proofs of an experience, especially when they corroborate key elements of the same story (granted one can misinterpret what their senses tell them). Again, while it takes a God-given faith to believe the substance of Peter and John’s testimonies, are we to take from your article that we should not put trust in the authenticity of their writings? If yes, then how are we to treat the writings from the same period by men such as Josephus or Pliny. What about more recent writings such as the Gettysburg Address? Are we to have doubts that Lincoln actually wrote it – there are no living eye-witnesses needless to say.

    One final question. For those who hold the view that the Bible contains an ever-expanding revelation of the truth and knowledge of God from beginning to end, what is to be taken away from your article?
    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    • Muzi Cindi says:

      “….without faith one cannot please God – His words, not mine”.
      How do you know these are HIS words? Who said God is a HE?

      • 4WIW says:

        2 Peter 1:15 and following say “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit..”

        So we have an eyewitness account of a historical event in which God reveals His great pleasure in His Son, Jesus Christ. Now one can doubt that the man, Peter ever lived, but there are extra-biblical references to him as being the head of the church. In Roman Catholicism, Peter is seen as the first vicar of the church and so on. My point is that we ought to consider seriously the word of an eyewitness, especially when the eye witness is a confirmed historical figure. Now as to whether what the historical eyewitness claims he experienced is a real supernatural phenomenon – well that is where faith comes in. And it is that faith that is pleasing to God, and further that faith is a gift from God in the first place. To the person without that God-Given faith, none of this makes any sense or is believable. Such is life.

        • Andrew Dowling says:

          There are multiple (a lot!) attestations that Lincoln composed the Gettysburg Address. There is none for 11 Peter, a writing a majority of critical scholarship places at some point in the 2nd century long after Peter’s death (Wikipedia’s page on it is a decent starting point showing the various arguments).

          Also, your point about eyewitness testimony is inaccurate. It’s generally NOT considered trustworthy; if it was then Bigfoot and alien abductions would be accepted beyond the fringe as accurate descriptions of reality/history.

          • Dre'as Sanchez says:

            Good point. Out of curiosity may I know your position on 2nd Peter

          • Andrew Dowling says:

            Sorry for the late reply. My personal thought is that 11 Peter is one of the later books of the NT; likely written circa 125-150 AD. There is no external mention of the writing until Origen in the 3rd century.

        • Muzi Cindi says:

          Are you willing to also consider; Hindu scriptures, Muslim scriptures, Buddhist, scriptures, Taoists scriptures, etc?

          • 4WIW says:

            In view of all that is eternal it would not be worth much to consider them other than to satisfy academic curiosity. It goes without saying that the writings you mentioned can contain interesting concepts, but they do not reveal the God of the universe anymore than an Agatha Christy mystery, which I dearly enjoy. I would encourage you to ask God to show you His truth from His book. You never know, He might answer you in a marvelous and loving way. That is what He did for me over 50 years ago.

        • Dre'as Sanchez says:

          “We have an eye witness account”

          So 2 Peter was written by Peter….how sure are you on that? And if Peter didn’t write it and the author was not present; is it still considered an eyewitness testimony?

  • Per the book’s blurb, “The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path because it is only this way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God.”

    Enns knows what path God prefers?

    And what religion, denomination, sect or cult doesn’t seek to inculcate a sense of “trust and intimacy” toward its depictions of “God,” holy prophets or holy writings?

    What religion, denomination, sect or cult doesn’t seek to also inculcate an acceptance of “mystery and paradox?”

    • Pete E. says:

      You presume too much Ed. I think you are conflating your own journey with mine. I would never ever suggest this is a unique property of Xty. Also, be sure to read the book rather than a blurb to see what I am after.

      • Presume? I only presume that people’s experiences of God are a mixed bag that lay along a very wide spectrum.

        Though I do see you headed in the general direction of Frank Schaeffer author of the recent book, Why I am an atheist who still believes in God. Or at least you have come near enough to listen and understand much of what Frank has to say.

        I also suspect that you and Frank probably share many criticisms of your more conservative Christian pasts.

        • Pete E. says:

          You are presuming that I am naive about other religions.

          • Occam Razor says:

            Pete: I much prefer your brand of Christianity to others, and the world would be a better place if more people thought like you. But what is your source of the claim that God “prefers” paradox and mystery?

            How do you know more of what God prefers more than Franklin Graham or Mennonites? Or Osama bin Ladin or Warren Jeff’s for that matter.

          • Pete E. says:

            I’m not sure the world would be a better place if more people thought like me, though do you mind if I out this on my resume? But as for the title, in the publishing world, titles are meant to be succinct and attract attention (which obviously worked).The book explains what I mean.

          • I didn’t say anything about your knowledge of other religions. I said that when it comes to experiences, people’s experience of Allah or Yahweh or Jesus or Krishna or Buddha lay along a wide spectrum. Their experiences of the numinous, or visions or miracles also range far and wide, including the claims of Catholics who see the sun dance, or claim saints cured them or just the saint’s bones, or the visionary experiences of native Americans, New Agers, UFO abductees (whatever they are experiencing), and wide range of different NDE experiences that don’t seem to point in the direction of any one religion being the only true one.

        • Dre'as Sanchez says:

          Interesting title. An Atheist that believes in God. Probably a different version of God I would presume.

          • Frank Schaeffer is an interesting fellow, son of the Apologist Francis Schaeffer, and co-founder with his dad and other prominent Evangelicals in the 1970s of America’s Religious Right and also the Right to Life Movement.

      • I read the first chapter or whatever was free that you sent. But if you are after people of all religions, denominations, sects and cults saying, “We don’t really know, but why change because this seems to be working alright?” Fine. But does anyone really need to write a book to make explicit what every religious person implicitly practices in terms of maintaining their beliefs and holy practices?

  • Per the book’s blurb, “The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path because it is only this way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God.”

    Enns knows what path God prefers?

    And what religion, denomination, sect or cult doesn’t seek to inculcate a sense of “trust and intimacy” toward its depictions of “God,” holy prophets or holy writings?

    What religion, denomination, sect or cult doesn’t seek to also inculcate an acceptance of “mystery and paradox?”

    • Pete E. says:

      You presume too much Ed. I think you are conflating your own journey with mine. I would never ever suggest this is a unique property of Xty. Also, be sure to read the book rather than a blurb to see what I am after.

      • Presume? I only presume that people’s experiences of God are a mixed bag that lay along a very wide spectrum.

        Though I do see you headed in the general direction of Frank Schaeffer author of the recent book, Why I am an atheist who still believes in God. Or at least you have come near enough to listen and understand much of what Frank has to say.

        I also suspect that you and Frank probably share many criticisms of your more conservative Christian pasts.

        • Pete E. says:

          You are presuming that I am naive about other religions.

          • Occam Razor says:

            Pete: I much prefer your brand of Christianity to others, and the world would be a better place if more people thought like you. But what is your source of the claim that God “prefers” paradox and mystery?

            How do you know more of what God prefers more than Franklin Graham or Mennonites? Or Osama bin Ladin or Warren Jeff’s for that matter.

          • Pete E. says:

            I’m not sure the world would be a better place if more people thought like me, though do you mind if I out this on my resume? But as for the title, in the publishing world, titles are meant to be succinct and attract attention (which obviously worked).The book explains what I mean.

          • I didn’t say anything about your knowledge of other religions. I said that when it comes to experiences, people’s experience of Allah or Yahweh or Jesus or Krishna or Buddha lay along a wide spectrum. Their experiences of the numinous, or visions or miracles also range far and wide, including the claims of Catholics who see the sun dance, or claim saints cured them or just the saint’s bones, or the visionary experiences of native Americans, New Agers, UFO abductees (whatever they are experiencing), and wide range of different NDE experiences that don’t seem to point in the direction of any one religion being the only true one.

        • Dre'as Sanchez says:

          Interesting title. An Atheist that believes in God. Probably a different version of God I would presume.

          • Frank Schaeffer is an interesting fellow, son of the Apologist Francis Schaeffer, and co-founder with his dad and other prominent Evangelicals in the 1970s of America’s Religious Right and also the Right to Life Movement.

      • I read the first chapter or whatever was free that you sent. But if you are after people of all religions, denominations, sects and cults saying, “We don’t really know, but why change because this seems to be working alright?” Fine. But does anyone really need to write a book to make explicit what every religious person implicitly practices in terms of maintaining their beliefs and holy practices?

  • Dre'as Sanchez says:

    How sure are you that those are eyewitness accounts…. wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that it’s possibly an I witness account…..”the sin of certainty”. …

    With all due respect my guess is you don’t really engage with non-believers in person? Maybe even online? Most people who are not believers are not believers because this side has so much certainty over things that we should not be saying we have “so much” certainty over.

    Try an approach that says “we’re really not sure but most likely in my opinion this is the one I think it is”…. just try it – i bet you gain their trust better.

    Then once that person starts walking with God –God (should) will reveal the truth to them.

  • newenglandsun says:

    “Rather, knowledge of God is described by terms like:

    participation

    longing

    fullness

    transrational

    contemplative

    apprehension uncluttered by thought

    defying compelling verbal expression

    depth

    immediacy”
    Yep. Knowing God is a life-long participation. This is historically what the Church has always taught.

    In regards to one’s intelligence, I am reading St Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle” right now and in the first parts of it she refers to herself as stupid and if they (the nuns she is writing to) understand what she is saying, it is not herself that is speaking but it is God through her. If only she knew in her lifetime that more than just those nuns was going to be reading her works but many people would be influenced and inspired by her theology. It isn’t about intellectual knowing and many people butcher Christianity when they think it is I’m afraid.

  • newenglandsun says:

    “Rather, knowledge of God is described by terms like:

    participation

    longing

    fullness

    transrational

    contemplative

    apprehension uncluttered by thought

    defying compelling verbal expression

    depth

    immediacy”
    Yep. Knowing God is a life-long participation. This is historically what the Church has always taught.

    In regards to one’s intelligence, I am reading St Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle” right now and in the first parts of it she refers to herself as stupid and if they (the nuns she is writing to) understand what she is saying, it is not herself that is speaking but it is God through her. If only she knew in her lifetime that more than just those nuns was going to be reading her works but many people would be influenced and inspired by her theology. It isn’t about intellectual knowing and many people butcher Christianity when they think it is I’m afraid.

  • Gary says:

    In asking “does God exist?,” I’ve heard it said that two very large questions are revealed or not. One, what does “God” mean? And two, what does “exist” mean?

    Here in this comment thread, we haven’t really talked about the latter.

    But in the former–it seems–some individuals cannot ask the “does ‘God’ exist?” question without deeply wondering about “which God???” While others can ask the question and seem to do so with little reason to give thought to which God.

    I’m more so now in my life in the former group of people.

    I’m familiar with various concepts of God. When asked, “do you believe ‘God exists?’,’ I can’t help but response with, “what do you mean by ‘God?'”

    Some have thought it to be evasiveness. Not really. “God” means many different things to people. I’d suggest that this is even true among the authors of Scripture and with general trends by the centuries as well as across Fowler’s stages of faith as well as by denomination and religion.

    One of the things I wonder is how these two general groups not talk past each other. And there seems to be a bit of a one-way mirror phenomenon going on. People who can conceive N concepts of God seem more adapt at considering the one concept of God of the person who can conceive one concept of God than people who can conceive one concept of God making sense of the N concepts of God of the other’s schema.

    I’d suggest if participation, longing, …, and immediacy are ways of “knowing God,” that they would more need to be means of recursively traversing an infinite regress of fractal complexity than means of simply and linearly knowing a static being.

    While some would say the orthodox Nature of God and his Oneness pertains to Being, I think most more linearly worship something that is more a manner of /a/ being than Being.

    I think the wrong way of knowing Peter refers to as “rational analysis” possibly could be better worded as “non-paradoxical.”

    In some ways (at least today), I can’t help but think the answer to the “does ‘God’ exist?” riddle is the Zen’s “無.”

    • Hasnain Mohammed says:

      Human faculties of conception, perception and learning, and attributes of volition, intuition and apprehension cannot catch sight of His Person or fathom the extent of His Might and Glory. Reason and sagacity cannot visualise Him. His Attributes cannot be fixed, limited or defined.

      There is no difference between His Person and His Attributes, and His Attributes should not be differentiated or distinguished from His Person. Whoever accepts His Attributes to be other than His Person then actually forsakes the idea of Unity of God and believes in duality ( He and His Attributes).

      Such a person in fact believes Him to exist in Parts. One who holds such a faith cannot form a true concept of God, he is *IGNORANT* and will always try to believe in some *creation* of his *imagination* as his god. Intelligence, understanding and attainment cannot attain the depth of knowledge to study or scrutinise the Godhead. None can fully understand or explain His Being however hard he my try. There do not exist words in any language to specify or define His qualities, peculiarities, characteristics and singularities. He has not permitted human mind to grasp the Essence of His Being **YET** He has not prevented them from realising His Presence.

      In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. 1 Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
      2 Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
      3 He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
      4 And there is none **like** unto Him.
      The Quran Chapter 112

      Things are compound elements atoms etc, made of parts. Every compound elements etc possesses shape and colour that attracts the senses. Therefore, that which is felt or known by the senses, having shape and colour, cannot be God. Your argument for disbelief is foolish, because God cannot be like any of the things perceived by the senses, nor can He be said to bear any resemblance to anything which has to undergo an ordeal of change and decay.
      For, everything is under the one and the same law-the law of transformation and decline. God, our creator cannot be perceivable by the five senses for, He is not a thing-which is compound elements etc or created. If He was visible to the eye, and perceivable to the senses, He would have resembled the things that are visible and perceivable to the senses on account of their being compound and created and in that case He would no longer have remained a creator.
      http://www.al-islam.org/tradition-myrobalan-fruit-hadith-al-halila-imam-jafar-al-sadiq/hadith

  • Gary says:

    In asking “does God exist?,” I’ve heard it said that two very large questions are revealed or not. One, what does “God” mean? And two, what does “exist” mean?

    Here in this comment thread, we haven’t really talked about the latter.

    But in the former–it seems–some individuals cannot ask the “does ‘God’ exist?” question without deeply wondering about “which God???” While others can ask the question and seem to do so with little reason to give thought to which God.

    I’m more so now in my life in the former group of people.

    I’m familiar with various concepts of God. When asked, “do you believe ‘God exists?’,’ I can’t help but response with, “what do you mean by ‘God?'”

    Some have thought it to be evasiveness. Not really. “God” means many different things to people. I’d suggest that this is even true among the authors of Scripture and with general trends by the centuries as well as across Fowler’s stages of faith as well as by denomination and religion.

    One of the things I wonder is how these two general groups not talk past each other. And there seems to be a bit of a one-way mirror phenomenon going on. People who can conceive N concepts of God seem more adapt at considering the one concept of God of the person who can conceive one concept of God than people who can conceive one concept of God making sense of the N concepts of God of the other’s schema.

    I’d suggest if participation, longing, …, and immediacy are ways of “knowing God,” that they would more need to be means of recursively traversing an infinite regress of fractal complexity than means of simply and linearly knowing a static being.

    While some would say the orthodox Nature of God and his Oneness pertains to Being, I think most more linearly worship something that is more a manner of /a/ being than Being.

    I think the wrong way of knowing Peter refers to as “rational analysis” possibly could be better worded as “non-paradoxical.”

    In some ways (at least today), I can’t help but think the answer to the “does ‘God’ exist?” riddle is the Zen’s “無.”

    • Hasnain Mohammed says:

      Human faculties of conception, perception and learning, and attributes of volition, intuition and apprehension cannot catch sight of His Person or fathom the extent of His Might and Glory. Reason and sagacity cannot visualise Him. His Attributes cannot be fixed, limited or defined.

      There is no difference between His Person and His Attributes, and His Attributes should not be differentiated or distinguished from His Person. Whoever accepts His Attributes to be other than His Person then actually forsakes the idea of Unity of God and believes in duality ( He and His Attributes).

      Such a person in fact believes Him to exist in Parts. One who holds such a faith cannot form a true concept of God, he is *IGNORANT* and will always try to believe in some *creation* of his *imagination* as his god. Intelligence, understanding and attainment cannot attain the depth of knowledge to study or scrutinise the Godhead. None can fully understand or explain His Being however hard he my try. There do not exist words in any language to specify or define His qualities, peculiarities, characteristics and singularities. He has not permitted human mind to grasp the Essence of His Being **YET** He has not prevented them from realising His Presence.

      In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. 1 Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
      2 Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
      3 He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
      4 And there is none **like** unto Him.
      The Quran Chapter 112

      Things are compound elements atoms etc, made of parts. Every compound elements etc possesses shape and colour that attracts the senses. Therefore, that which is felt or known by the senses, having shape and colour, cannot be God. Your argument for disbelief is foolish, because God cannot be like any of the things perceived by the senses, nor can He be said to bear any resemblance to anything which has to undergo an ordeal of change and decay.
      For, everything is under the one and the same law-the law of transformation and decline. God, our creator cannot be perceivable by the five senses for, He is not a thing-which is compound elements etc or created. If He was visible to the eye, and perceivable to the senses, He would have resembled the things that are visible and perceivable to the senses on account of their being compound and created and in that case He would no longer have remained a creator.
      http://www.al-islam.org/tradition-myrobalan-fruit-hadith-al-halila-imam-jafar-al-sadiq/hadith

  • Paul D. says:

    If labels have to be used, I wonder if you would identify, or at least sympathize, with igtheism, which holds that every theological position assumes too much about the concept of God.

  • Paul D. says:

    If labels have to be used, I wonder if you would identify, or at least sympathize, with igtheism, which holds that every theological position assumes too much about the concept of God.

  • Robert F says:

    You use the word sin in your title; I haven’t read your book, but I hope that in the discussion in the book you avoid much use of the term. I think that if the objective is to free people from reifying and trusting their own beliefs rather than trusting the living God, invoking the word sin frequently, which is an evangelical habit, is counterproductive. It loads making sure we hold the correct beliefs with too much weight; we then shore up our set of beliefs in a fortress of impregnability, making them the source of our trust and so-called certainty rather trusting in the living God.

  • Robert F says:

    You use the word sin in your title; I haven’t read your book, but I hope that in the discussion in the book you avoid much use of the term. I think that if the objective is to free people from reifying and trusting their own beliefs rather than trusting the living God, invoking the word sin frequently, which is an evangelical habit, is counterproductive. It loads making sure we hold the correct beliefs with too much weight; we then shore up our set of beliefs in a fortress of impregnability, making them the source of our trust and so-called certainty rather trusting in the living God.

  • Joshua Andrew Jourdain says:

    Sorry, curious. I agree that post-enlightenment empiricism is never going to lead to genuine interaction with the creator, but what about prayer? (As ridiculous as it may sound in our context) I was on a run and received a word of prophecy to deliver to an old friend. It went something like this: Your desire to employ empiricism as a means of knowing God; you are like a person in the middle of a realm with night-vision goggles, microscopes, radar equipment, headphones and such. Instead, he needs to go the edge of the realm and scratch against the edges. That instead, my friend needed to see realia like a man in a soviet prison who goes to the very cell wall and taps a message in morse. If he receives no answer, fine. But if he gets a response in morse, he doesn’t need to empirically see what’s on the other side to begin the process of “knowing” the other side. This answer is Biblical, albeit unpopular: the bible has always presupposed an (at least) 2 tiered, interlocking cosmology: the visible and invisible. The realm of the elohim and the realm of the seen (1 sam 28.13). Personally, I talk to God, make intercession, and he orchestrates reality beyond the sphere of my influence or capability to manipulate the results. What do you think of people like George Müller?

  • Joshua Andrew Jourdain says:

    Sorry, curious. I agree that post-enlightenment empiricism is never going to lead to genuine interaction with the creator, but what about prayer? (As ridiculous as it may sound in our context) I was on a run and received a word of prophecy to deliver to an old friend. It went something like this: Your desire to employ empiricism as a means of knowing God; you are like a person in the middle of a realm with night-vision goggles, microscopes, radar equipment, headphones and such. Instead, he needs to go the edge of the realm and scratch against the edges. That instead, my friend needed to see realia like a man in a soviet prison who goes to the very cell wall and taps a message in morse. If he receives no answer, fine. But if he gets a response in morse, he doesn’t need to empirically see what’s on the other side to begin the process of “knowing” the other side. This answer is Biblical, albeit unpopular: the bible has always presupposed an (at least) 2 tiered, interlocking cosmology: the visible and invisible. The realm of the elohim and the realm of the seen (1 sam 28.13). Personally, I talk to God, make intercession, and he orchestrates reality beyond the sphere of my influence or capability to manipulate the results. What do you think of people like George Müller?

  • Dr. Jamin Hübner says:

    “The rule that clarity is the standard of truth subsequently achieved dominance in the Enlightenment…” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1 vol edition, 486)

  • Dr. Jamin Hübner says:

    “The rule that clarity is the standard of truth subsequently achieved dominance in the Enlightenment…” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1 vol edition, 486)

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