J irritates. Not because he is antagonistic, he isn't. Not even because he disagrees with me, since I am sympathetic to his observations. Besides, a politically and religiously oriented blog will attract and greet disagreement.
But he makes me work, forcing me to think introspectively. We published his thoughts about my own beliefs three days ago, and it falls to me to respond. His challenge is as age old as Pilate's "What is truth?" I think the essence of his objection to my beliefs comes toward the end of his comments: "However, for me God is not the answer. God is another question."
I cannot do him justice in summarizing. His comment is here. His capable dialogue with Manifesto Joe is here. I can tell some of what I like about his friendly critique. He starts off in style. Rather than going bare knuckle, attacking at the outset, he congratulates me on managing the difficult mental gymnastics any glimmer of intelligence would require in accepting something so silly as Christianity. He suggests a better approach, which is for me to admit I do not have the answer. "It is foolish to say you have the answer to a puzzle when you do not have enough pieces to work it out."
He suggests a dropping off of weekly worship attendance is explainable. As people become more educated, they are likely to be "less indoctrinated with fables presented as fact." (I being one exception). A modern thinker will reject faith because faith is a false claim of certainty. Admitting we don’t know may be uncomfortable, but belief in God should not transcend reason. Belief should come, not because something seems like it ought to be that way, but rather because it is actually true. Religion can be a positive personal force but, still, belief in a Supreme Being is an absurdity.
I suspect Jesus might be okay with at least one of J's observations. The Apostle Paul devoted much of the first chapter of his letter to the Romans suggesting that much that we see as sinful is really affliction caused by the human habit of building a construct and claiming it to be God. Idolatry is as old as humanity. Claiming we have God in a box, measuring it's dimensions, defining God, is more than absurdity. It leads to tragedy. Paul seems to join in objecting to "filling in the details" as J puts it. But J objects to faith itself. The "evidence of things unseen" is, to my critic, no evidence at all.
Any relationship is transcendent, providing its own inner evidence. I love my wife. I do not see her as a mass of swirling atoms and electrical impulses. There is, in her being, a consciousness that goes beyond matter. I could be wrong in the details of what composes human existence. I could even be wrong about whether, as the psychology professor of my younger days insisted, consciousness is an illusion. But personal experience leads me to a relationship that, I think, would be difficult if I could not accept a transcendence of being.
J is right in that faith is not empirical evidence. I do not expect others to accept personal experience as proof. But might he not surrender to me the right to accept for myself my own internal evidence? It is, after all, God given.
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I cannot let this go. I must respond, or convert to something. Not sure which. In my response to Manifesto, I defended faith a little bit, suggesting that all logical analyses that draw a conclusion finish with faith. However, you were considerably more decisive. Here is what the last two paragraphs of your post said to me:
Knowledge through faith and knowledge through experience are not necessarily mutually exclusive; that perhaps, they can work in cooperation in search of a greater truth. It is faith that forms the higher intelligence needed to allow us to see the quality of something that transcends the sum of its parts. It is the “invisible” stuff on which a relationship is built.
I never explicitly realized that ones relationship with a human is made of the same stuff as ones relationship with God: A mixture of faith and experience. This is an absurd idea that makes perfect sense in its context.
Michelle Branch spoke of one, whom I assumed to be a lover. She may have been talking about Someone Else, but as you pointed out, the principle is the same:
"It's a leap of faith, when you believe there's someone out there. It's a leap of faith when you believe that someone cares."
The object of your love, as your word implied to me, is not completely knowable. There is your perception of her, and then there is the real her. These two entities could be very similar, or they could be completely different. Most likely, she is a marriage of the two, and even this union is in no way monogamous. Even she would see herself as something other than what you see, and other than the exact thing she is. Any relationship you have is always based on your perception of someone else. Any affection you feel is always for your perception of her.
What you have demonstrated is that “transcendence of being,” is axiomatic for everyone; those who consider it logically and those, like me, who accept it on faith without ever thinking to question it. Once one embraces this concept consciously, the distance from the leap of faith in a loved one and the leap of faith in God is not so monumental.
Having never experienced a relationship with God, I still cannot convince myself that there is a Higher Power who has a personal interest my small life. Because of His abstract nature, I am incapable of building a tangible relationship with Him. Feeling His presence is not enough. At least I think it would not be enough. Any move in that direction is met with the relentless heckling of my intellect. I cannot say I feel His absence, either, though, and my intellect never objects to that. Needless to say, until I can better justify divine belief, it will remain aloof.
However, thanks to the last two paragraphs of your response, Mr. Deming, I am one step closer to embracing the concept of the validity of a relationship with God, and to seeing my relationship with my wife as a personal illusion.
P.S. No response is necessary. What you said in two paragraphs outclassed a thousand sermons on the topic. I surrender to you what is yours. I cannot claim it or restrain it; and no matter how much I would like to, I cannot communicate with it. On that front, I surrender.
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