Archive for the ‘agnosticism’ Tag

Agnostic Sees the Truth   1 comment

The creator of the Markham Clan Debate Circle was Rick, a world-renowned research doctor whose team has been responsible for several treatments for auto-immune system disorders.

When we started this in the 1980s, he was an agnostic. No matter how you asked the question, he truly did not have an opinion on the existence of God. About 15 years ago, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He was in his mid-40s, which makes him a unicorn. Eighty percent of Christians date they’re born-again experience before their 21st birthday and almost all of the rest claim it before their 30th.

Unicorn is a social worker’s term for something that happens rarely, but occasionally.

Rick’s “conversion” was peaceful. It took 10 years, during which time we read about seven books with a Christian bent. Rick listened to the arguments and sometimes he agreed and sometimes he didn’t, but there was a gradual, calm giving into a deist position.

“I always had been fascinated by the human body, so the Design arguments spoke volumes to me,” Rick admitted. “My entire life, however, I’d been told that science didn’t work with God, so I sort of put the topic aside and didn’t really give it serious consideration until we started debating. Acknowledging that God might exist didn’t make me a Christian, though. That was an intellectual exercise when what I really needed was to meet Jesus one on one.”

I knew he’d accepted Christ before he admitted it. His emails changed. His emphasis on certain topics changed. Bai noticed it too, but he thought it was because Rick was serving a sabbatical in Europe at the time.

“We had read ‘Mere Christianity’ maybe six months before that trip, but I reread it on the plane,” he explained. “The second time it felt like Lewis was writing for me.”

Rick’s wife had started attending church for the social aspects when the children were young, but it was a typical “mainstream” church that avoids the gospel message. When they got to Europe, their daughter wanted to try a church a friend in school recommended and this was one of the rare evangelical churches in Paris. Rick went along just for the family unity. He kept going for the music.

“The music transcended the language barrier. My French is okay one on one, but I would have snored through an Episcopal sermon in French. I never realized evangelical churches had cool music.”

Rick made friends through the church and those friends were outspoken about their faith.

“They weren’t pushy. It was something that embodied their lives. A couple of them worked at the hospital where I was doing my research. One of them became a control in our project. And then there was Mrs. Gris. She was a tiny old woman who was terminal … and she was happy about it. So were her husband and half her children. They listened to the prognosis and they rejoiced because she was going home (Christians speak of heaven as home). Her other children were not.”

A part of the research involved looking at extra-medical considerations. The Gris were Baptists, very devout, but some of their children were non-believers. The non-believers saw their mother’s death as an end … a cruel, inexplicable end of everything she was. The Gris’ believing children and the Gris themselves saw her death as a transition into a beautiful eternity where she would no longer be in pain.

“I prayed at her funeral. It was as if God was there, waiting for me. Then I went back to my life and He was just there, quietly walking with me. Suddenly, patients were asking me to pray with them. I don’t know why because France is a pretty secular country and I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done — not even Kate (his wife) – but they somehow knew I was open to prayer.”

Rick never actually told Kate what he had done in the quiet of his heart. His daughter came to them about three weeks later and told them that she had had a salvation experience. He encouraged her and Kate hadn’t discouraged her, but it just didn’t feel right to confess his faith to his family right then. He had decided he would make a public profession on a certain date, but the week before his selected date, Kate stepped out into the aisle on a Sunday morning and walked to the altar. Rick followed her.

“Thinking back, it was fear that kept me from making my belief public. I had a lot of excuses why I was holding it in, but I feared it would change my life too much to handle. What if Kate left me … what if my fellow doctors thought I was crazy? I kept waiting for the right time and it didn’t come until Kate stepped out that morning. I didn’t know she was struggling with the same questions and talking with a friend in the church. She thought I’d think she was crazy, but that day, she felt God saying it would be okay.”

Rick admits he’s had a few colleagues act as if he’s joined a cult, but mostly they get over that after they spend time with him. He’s always been a laid-back guy and his faith is a laid-back faith. It’s not a secret faith. He lives what he believes and let’s that speak for itself. He’s had several colleagues come to him to discuss faith issues. Sometimes patients ask him to pray with them.

“I feel like it has helped my research. It’s not that I’m smarter. It’s that I’m less arrogant. I know now that no matter how smart I am, God will always be smarter. Sometimes, when I just let go of a problem and admit I don’t know the answer, God reveals the answer. Could that be put down to human intuition? Only if you don’t believe in God.”

Posted June 17, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Interview with A Former Atheist   4 comments

The Markham clan discussion group started with reasonable adults who wanted to understand one another … or at least convince each other that we were reasonable.

But we didn’t start out like that. Rick is older and grew up in Seattle, while Bai, David and myself were all kids together here in Fairbanks. Growing up, Bai and David’s mom was Catholic, but the family quit going within a year of arriving in Fairbanks and so the boys didn’t really grow up with that tradition. Toward the end of high school, I became interested in Christianity and Bai dated one of my Christian friends in college before he became a Christian himself. He and I both agree we were something akin to rational deists before we came to Christ. We didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ, but we also both saw evidence for the existence of the metaphysical before our salvation experience, so when God called us, we wanted evidence, but we didn’t demand proof because we already knew something besides the physical existed.

In high school, David dabbled in Eastern Mysticism and researched Catholicism. He announced that he thought Christianity was cannibalism because of the whole transubstantiation dogma. He was surprised to find out that I (the only evangelical he knew) agreed. The Bible describes a memorial feast. There’s no actual blood or flesh involved in the bread and wine/juice no matter how many magic words a priest says. It’s all symbolism.

In college, David was surrounded by atheists professors and was particularly drawn to a philosphy professor who was an avowed Christian hater. I’d had the same professor a few years before and found him charismatic and intelligent, and managed to get a B out of his class without renouncing my faith. David never really needled me about my faith probably because there’s nearly five years age difference, so we weren’t close friends in college. The few conversations we had were reasonable enough, though I found myself having to correct his misperceptions about Christianity a lot. When Bai accepted Christ, however, David exploded. He became determined to prove to Bai, if not me, that Christianity was unintelligent delusional crap! He played the battering ram for years before Rick suggested a reasonable discussion over the controllable environment of email.

A few years ago when he announced he’d become an agnostic, in my capacity as chronicler of our group, I asked him why?

Why have to decided that agnosticism is a more reasonable response than atheism?

“I got tired of being angry all the time against people who were irritated by me, but who I knew wished me absolutely well. If I needed a kidney, Bai would be the first one to offer. Rick would figure out how to cure my kidney disease before I needed the kidney. You were there when (his wife) went into labor and I was half a world away. No matter how much I wanted to say your beliefs turned you into monsters, that wasn’t true. You’re all good people.

Then there the questions I see in my own profession. Rick especially helped me to see that too much certainty is not a scientific way to view the world. Evidence is not proof. Evidence can be interpreted different ways and sometimes the pet theories of yesterday turn out to be ridiculous in the next generation. I still think my view of the evidence is the best way to view it, but I wouldn’t be shocked (now) if I was proven wrong.”

What sort of evidence would constitute proof for you of God?

“Honestly, although I say I don’t know if God exists, it would still take something very definite to convince me of his existence. If he really does come back, I’ll believe in him then — I think.”

So at least one ticket on the Post-Tribulation Believers’ Express?

“Yeah, I know — that’s what you guys don’t want for me, but unless I can see, feel, touch God in the physical world, I don’t see myself accepting a phantom as real. I put God with the multiverse theory of universal origins. You may want it to be true, but there’s no evidence. It’s just conjecture, so I’m abstaining until some more evidence shows up.”

What drives you crazy about Christians?

“Your certainty. I used to call that arrogance or non-thinking, but I can’t call Rick non-thinking and you, Brad and Bai have not been arrogant to me. Your certainty in the face of so much opposition is hard to grasp. I see the same evidence you guys see, but you come to different conclusions. I used to think you had to go through some delusional mental gymnastics to do that, but over the last 20 years, I’ve recognized that you don’t. “

So, how do you see things differently from when you said you were an atheist?

“I don’t know that I do. I think it’s more my attitude. Before I was very zealous. My ‘faith’ in science and materialism was so absolute, I felt I needed to beat you into believing it. It was a crusade. And, now I don’t feel so messianic. I don’t know that I’m right. I don’t know that you are either.”

So do you think some of this new softness comes from the birth of your son?

“Cheap shot, but yeah. It’s hard not to wonder about miracles when your wife gets pregnant when she’s supposed to be unable to conceive and then she goes into labor a month early and you just happen to show up with a midwife. And, he’s gorgeous and healthy! I know the pregnancy was medically possible because it happened and the midwife was a mountain-biking coincidence, but wow …. Yeah, that definitely made me think. But I’m not going soft-headed.”

Just soft-hearted?

“Maybe. Being a parent does make you think about the future and even eternity. Is my atheism best serving my child?  Just as I am now planning more time at home, which means less time in the field, I also want to be less angry and argumentative. And, when I think about the cold, material world that I believe in, I’m not sure I want that for Dylan. If there’s an alternative, I might prefer that for him.”

Does that mean you’ll let him spend time with his heretic relatives?

The answer was “yes” and Dylan is on our son’s babysitting list for the summer and our son is a 15-year-old who lives his faith. To the extent that you can have a theological conversation with a four-year-old, they’re talking about it.

As I’ve said, I have no problem with agnostics. Of course, I live my faith in front of them and they can accept that or not. The Markham Clan Discussion Group continues to this day and David remains the sharp counterpoint who can be counted on for a non-believing perspective. We’ve also added a cousin who is an engineer. He’s afraid to call himself an atheist, but he’s definitely a non-believer.

Posted June 16, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Missing Connections   Leave a comment

David has slowly come to admit that paleontology can’t explain some of the gaps in the fossil record. In his more-atheistic youth, he was sure paleontology would soon answer his questions. These days, he admits, it doesn’t look like it will.

To the layman, that means paleontologists are still operating in the realm of theory, but that doesn’t prevent many who don’t enjoy mystery in their world from acting as though scientists have found iron-clad proof of what they desperately want to be true.

Most scientists know what they have is evidence, not proof. That’s why discerning readers will note the small disclaimers found throughout evolutionary literature. For example, when parts of a foot, hand, pelvis and skull were uncovered in a South African cave in 2008, it was hailed by the media as a “missing link” between modern man and the ancient ancestor we supposedly share with apes. ABC News called Australopithecus sediba it a “game changer” because the cave the remains were found in dated to 1,977,000 years. The media announced the fossils were that old as well.

Of course, if you’ve got your reason cap on today, you recognize that a cave almost always predates someone living in it, but that gets lost in the shuffle of announcing a big discovery that seems to silence skeptics of evolution. Nobody notices the small words that disclaim that this is an unproven theory. The finding is a “strong confirmation of evolutionary theory”, but it isn’t proof because the actual events were not observed and are not repeatable.

Such disclaimers are often skipped over by Americans when reading about science because our public school system guides our youth to believe in experts, especially scientists, regardless of the evidence. We are taught that a theory is the same thing as a certainty if it comes from an “expert”. We ignore the disclaimers that serve as quiet admission that the “experts” haven’t found proof, just evidence they hope confirms their theory.

So what happens when an “expert” realizes that if macroevolution ever occurred, there should be millions of transitional fossil forms documenting the evolution of the various species?

Darwin himself expected to find an enormous number of these once that we knew to look for them. Yet, after more than a century of fossil mining and analyzing the geologic strata, the “experts” have found only sporadic and questionable fossils that even the evolutionary community cannot agree upon.

If atheistic explanations for the origin of the universe were true, we should be witnessing the spontaneous generation of life and matter all over the place. Or maybe at least once somewhere. We’d see transitional forms between different varieties of living organisms. But science hasn’t found that, even as they continue to hold out hope that they will.

David now calls himself an agnostic because he recognizes the truth of the following statement.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and being convinced of what we do not see.” Hebrews 13:1

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