Archive for the ‘skepticism’ Tag

A Message to Non-Believers   1 comment

Before you get into a lather about how I “don’t understand” you, let me explain something.

I used to be you! I was raised in a non-Christian household in the very secular state of Alaska. I think my family went to church three times while I was growing up — once for a funeral, once for a wedding, and once because Easter fell on my dad’s mom’s birthday and he wanted to honor her memory … or something like that. My parents were not atheists. More like agnostic-edging-toward-deist-not-interested-in-god-ruining-their-fun American “Christians”. They didn’t give God much thought and neither did I until fog grounded a bush plane in the Alaska wilderness and the only choices for reading materials were the Bible (in German), Zane Grey novels and Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is ThereI really hated westerns and I can’t read German, so ….

I read the book in two days and I was challenged to question the presuppositions I’d been raised with. I wasn’t hostile toward God; I just never really thought much about metaphysics. I was a cultural “christian” in that I (sort of) knew the Christmas and Easter stories, but I largely accepted without examination that Jesus was at best a great man who lived a long time ago and at worst was a myth. Because I lived in a very secular state, I didn’t know any faithful Christians personally and the few that I had met turned me off because they seemed really fake to me. I grew up with an old joke about Christians as my basic impression:

“I’m perfect. I don’t drink, smoke or swear. God loves me! Dammit, I left my cigarettes on the bar next to my empty beer.”

Funny, but it turned out not to be true!

Francis Schaeffer’s book gave me pause because he explained why belief is a more reasonable response to the world than nonbelief. But it only gave me pause. I was still skeptical and for the next 16 months, I investigated the evidence for Christianity’s claims. By maintaining an open mind and by treating those faithful Christians who came into my life with respect rather than derision, I eventually came to a place where enough of my objections were answered satisfactorily to where I had to admit that the only thing standing between me and knowing if Christianity’s claims were true was my own unbelief.

I could choose to go on not believing or I could lay aside my objections for a moment and let God show me why belief was the most reasonable response to the world. It took 16 months to get to that point, so it was not a “leap of faith”. I had thoroughly investigated the subject before I accepted salvation.

During those 16 months I learned some things.

  • Christians are human beings who are not perfect. And most of them don’t claim to be.
  • Faithful Christians are generally consistent in what they believe from the Bible, but they struggle to reconcile their faith with their culture, which sometimes leads to perceived inconsistencies.
  • The Bible is surprisingly consistent with itself, but misconceptions abound among both believers and nonbelievers, with the nonbelievers holding the greater share of them.
  • American “cultural christianity” is mostly unfamiliar with the actual teachings of the Bible.
  • The Bible and science do not (contrary to popular belief) disagree about the world. Science properly cannot make any claims to understanding the metaphysical claims of the Bible and the Bible is a book of faith and history, not science. Those claiming that science has proven there is no God (or gods) are mistaken in their claims because they try to make science authoritative outside of the observation of the physical universe, which is its proper field of research.
  • Archaeology has so far been supportive of the Bible’s claims

Because I am not a true believer in science — and never was — I can see theories for what they are — someone’s opinion about the collected evidence. Materialistic scientism arrives at one theory about the origins of the universe and life on the planet by viewing the evidence through the lens of certain presuppositions. Intelligent design (it wasn’t called that in the 1970s, but it was around) has another theory also based on their examination of the evidence colored by their own presuppositions. There are extremes of both groups of theorists who try to take the evidence where it cannot go. Not being a true believer in materialism, I could have faith in God and still respect science for what it does well – collect evidence.

Archaeology hasn’t proven the Bible, but it has not found substantial evidence against the Biblical claims. The same summer I read Schaeffer’s book, I read an article in a magazine about how the Bible was crap because, among other things, Nineveh had never existed. Archaeologists had been looking for it for a century without success, so the writer insisted the Bible was lying about Jonah and, therefore the whole Bible was in question. I believed that claim without examination all during my investigative period. Within days of deciding to let God show me that my objections were misapplied, archaeologists announced that Nineveh had been found.  They’d been looking in the wrong places for a really long time and someone more or less stumbled upon it where they weren’t actually looking. Coincidence? Maybe, but it added evidence to the mountain that I was now scaling. Contrary to popular belief at the time, archaeology was actually confirming many of the claims of the Bible.

I came to the Bible and the claims of Christianity as a skeptic, but I had been challenged to approach the subject with an open mind. An open mind demands proof, but not absolute proof. Absolute proof is the province of a closed mind, a mind that is made up and will not be changed even by overwhelming evidence. I did not require overwhelming evidence. I only needed my reasonable questions answered. Essentially, when my collected evidence spoke more for God’s existence and, particularly for the claims of Jesus Christ, than it did against, I set aside my skepticism and let God answer the rest of my objections.

And, He did!

So, yes, I do understand skepticism, but no, I don’t think skeptics are right.

Accusations of Fundamentalism   Leave a comment

I do enjoy discussing my faith with nonbelievers because I find that at least 80% of the people I interact with know very little of what faithful Christians actually believe. How can you judge something you know nothing real about?

Most people, even those raised in church, have never read the Bible. They know what they think they know from snatches of conversations they’ve overheard, media discourse on television (usually by people who are as ignorant of the Bible as they are, but pretend not to be) and a televion show or movie. Even many churchgoers learn their theology from these sources.

I came to Christ as a young adult and I started my journey toward faith by having my presuppositions challenged. If I really believed that God could not be known or proven, on what did I base my belief? I’d learned it from adults who had never questioned their own presuppositions – my mom, teachers, a whole Alaskan culture that was highly secular. I knew some people who went to church, but I learned later, once I knew what to look for, that I had never known anyone who had faith … until I happened to reluctantly read Francis Shaffer’s “The God Who Is There.” What can I say? It was the only English I language book in a remote Alaska cabin hemmed in by fog. I recognized it later as a God thing.

The point is, if someone hasn’t challenged their own presuppositions, one way or another, I don’t think they have any claim to “truth” or freedom of thought.

Ignorance of any subject is no crime, but people who see their ignorance as a virtue and accuse me of closed-minded fundamentalism are displaying incredible arrogance.

Yes, I subscribe to the fundamentals of Biblical Christian faith. There’s nothing wrong or stupid about that. Without Newton’s fundamentals, physics would not be where it is today. Knowledge of the fundamentals of electricity allows my husband Brad and his fellow electricians to do their jobs without killing themselves. Beware the man who wants to build a great structure without knowing anything about foundations.

Belief does not close one’s mind. Jesus said “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” He later claimed to be that Truth.  I know the Truth and it has given me freedom of thought as well as assurance that I will never learn anything that will disprove Jesus as God. So I read books, talk to atheists, challenge my presuppositions occasionally (about yearly) and review my foundations because I can and because it’s a really good way to strengthen my faith.

How do I do this? Let me introduce you to my family.

 

Big Brother Wants to Follow Your Car   4 comments

I brought this up in a comment the other day. It’s out there, folks! It’s not so much that I object to a tax on miles driven; it’s one way to pay for road projects that the gasoline tax isn’t covering.

What I object to is the transponders that will send back location data to the state.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100359287

I’m not a terrorist or a criminal, but I do not want government able to track my movements. It’s wrong! And it’s dangerous, because people may surmise things from that data that simply isn’t true and use it in prosecutions of law-abiding American citizens. We don’t think that can happen here, but it can. It used to be against the law for the government to monitor your communications without a warrant. It’s not anymore. It used to be against the law for law enforcement to trick you into committing a crime. It’s not anymore. Once the information is available on a government data base, it will be used. It’s as simple and as unconstitutional as that. Yes, many cell phones currently track location as well. That’s not a reason to accept this. In fact, it’s a good reason to disable the GPS on your phone.

The Law of Unintended Consequences   3 comments

Oh, yeah! Here’s a great idea!

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/scientist-sees-global-warming-remedy-inside-steaming-volcano-calderas

Let’s reverse global warming by mimicking the effects of volcanoes.

I think it’s an interesting idea and certainly more sensible that the usual suggestion of just stop using fossil fuels and rely on renewables. Renewables are unreliable and low efficiency, hydro ruins rivers and salmon habitat, and the average American is inexplicably terrified of nuclear. Fossil fuels are here to stay for the long-term future because they work.

And seriously, there’s mounting evidence that global climate change is driven by a natural cycle of solar variation. It’s always seemed like hubris to think that humans could nudge that behemoth even a little bit and you can’t blame the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming Period on fossil fuels. The article, from The Alaska Dispatch, brings that up – Alaskans wouldn’t object to a little global warming. It also acknowledges that there are a lot of costs associated with subsiding permafrost soils, rising sea levels (if they ever do rise; they really haven’t yet), and the comments mention the acidification of the oceans (which is more a prediction than a measurable effect at this point.

But, this … can anyone say “unintended consequences”? I remember the winter after Mt. Penatuba blew up – it snowed 12 feet in Interior Alaska. Snow doesn’t melt here, so that was 12 feet on the ground come April. We shoveled snow two or three days every week all winter long. Then we had no summer – it snowed in mid-May, rained all summer and then snowed again September 10 – a full month ahead of schedule. Seeding the clouds to stop/slow global warming seems a lot like the science that said “prevent forest fires at all costs” that led to a 100-year store of dead wood in our forests that resulted in several out-of-control forest fires in the last decade.

Sometimes we humans really need to pause and realize that we are not that bright and maybe we ought to just leave some things alone, learn to adapt, relax and stop acting like we’re God. We aren’t. We can’t control the sun, climate change is probably out of our control too. Stop panicking and trying to push the boulder up the hill. Adapt! In a couple of centuries or next year the climate will start to cool and then we can adapt the other way. It’s what we as a species do best, so let’s do it.

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