Our Reasonable Faith 1

Here begins a new series by RJS, one of the most faithful participants of this blog, on Tim Keller’s new book.
Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan recently came out with a new book The Reason for God.This book was written to provide “an intelligent platform on which true believers can stand their ground when bombarded by the backlash to religion created by the Age of Skepticism.” (front flap) Over the next few weeks we will look at the arguments for and against Christian faith presented in this book. Before digging into the book itself however, it is useful to consider the relationship between faith and reason and the response of individuals to the real or perceived conflict.

The clash between faith and reason of course, is not a new discovery – it has plagued western civilization for the last several centuries. In our Colleges and Universities today many undergraduate students find their faith tested, often severely. Within the graduate and postdoctoral ranks in secular academia strain and tension is almost unavoidable – in all areas of scholarship and study. Ben Meyer reflects in the introduction to Ch. 5 of The Aims of Jesusthat in the course of debates on faith and history (and we could broaden this to faith and intellectual pursuits in general) we see or have seen four responses to the conflict (I expand somewhat):
(1) Faith requires the renunciation of intelligence. Any elaboration here would detract from my principle point – so I will forbear.
(2) Intellectual integrity requires the renunciation of faith. This is a growing view in our world today. Secular humanism and atheism may not be in ascendancy (Alister McGrath, NT Wright, Tim Keller, and Brian McLaren all make this point in various ways) – but the view has become the de facto operating principle for many; the point of departure. More importantly, the accepted alternatives to atheism or materialism do not usually include orthodox Christian faith.
(3) By the skin of one’s teeth one can hold to both faith and integrity. But within this position there is a constant tension. We bracket off the questions and continue to function – barely. Many stories – both of those who “lost faith” and those who “retained faith” include this approach in the mix.
(4) Intellectual integrity demands faith. A modernistic “evidence that demands a verdict” approach. (Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, Hugh Ross, …)
I would add a fifth response to this taxonomy:
(5) Intellectual integrity is fully compatible with faith but requires honest interaction. There is no proof – some ambiguity remains. Of course honest grappling with all the questions and issues is somewhat unnerving to many. It seems inevitable that some views will be refined or even abandoned in the process and this prospect causes concern. Perhaps it is not true that everything is clear cut. Nonetheless there is a way forward. Exploring the issues does not lead inevitably to deism or liberalism or apostasy.
Faith is a relationship. Grappling with issues of faith is best done in relationship within community. We aren’t made to be loners – from God or even before God. But it sometimes seems that the hardest single thing to do within the community of conservative evangelicalism is to find one’s way from a skin of the teeth faith into a robust and reasoned faith.
A bit of an autobiographical note to start: In my adult journey I (RJS) have moved from 2 to 3, with a long holding pattern in 3, and now on to 5. Neither 1 nor 4 were ever viable options for me. But… the journey is not always easy. Of course this is not the only possible path. I know some who are comfortable in 4, and too many who have found 2 the only plausible option. Some remain in 3 or a variant of 3. I also know some who take a variant of 1 (although they wouldn’t put it quite this way) because it is easiest to “just believe”.
So a couple of questions – and let’s start a conversation…
What is your story – where would you place yourself within this taxonomy?
And… how can we make room in our community, within our local churches, for people to mature into robust Christian faith? Is there a place for honest interaction with all of the issues?

  • Duomai

    Was in 2 during my college days. Came to faith more with 4 kind of approach in my final year. Two years later went back to agnosticism as 4 failed to answer all questions. Now very much in 5.

  • http://www.graysonsinfrance.net Rob G

    I spent years in (1), I think mainly because I was in a fairly “fundamentalist” environment so it was easier to say “whatever the rational or scientific evidence, I choose to believe.” Over a period of time I then moved into (4), and it’s probably only in the last two to four years that I’ve moved firmly into (5).
    I think one of the key things that makes it hard for people to mature into a balanced view on these issues is that most churches require (explicitly or implicitly) their members to see everything through a filter of black and white, in or out, all or nothing. And, of course, it’s not just the church’s “fault” – modern mass media exacerbate the phenomenon by tending to polarise issues.
    It’s much easier for churches to control people and command obedience if they can tramline their thinking in this way. It takes courage and maturity on the part of leaders to give people space to realise that many, many issues lie in the grey areas, even in a thoroughly biblical worldview.

  • Tom Hein

    I heard Tim Keller speak last week at the Exponential Church Planting Conference, and even though I’m an old guy (50 yrs) I’m still engaged in church planting and the work of new churches. Anyway, I’m absolutely thrilled by the work that Tim Keller, his church, and the consortium of churches in New York City who are involved in church planting in that city. The Lord is at work in great ways in the United States and around the world, doing new things in new ways.
    As a student thirty years ago at the university I was somewhere between 2 and 3. During my searching process I settled on 4. Thirty years later, with most of my ministry experience in community with people in #4 I find myself revisiting some of my questions and am now somewhat in #5, which is probably good in my interaction with a younger generation. I don’t have time or energy to rethink everything, but some topics are worth taking the time to re-examine. This blog is a helpful encounter, though I don’t always agree with everything here, as I suppose none of us do. So, thanks for the book review. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Scott M

    I suppose 5. But I’m a little puzzled over the phrase ‘intellectual integrity’. At first it seemed obvious what it must mean, but I’ve been rolling it around my head and it’s become less so. It seems to presuppose a tension between what you believe in fundamental questions of the nature of reality and the working of your mind. The combination of those two words implies that the wholeness of your mind and thoughts is somehow endangered by any sort of spiritual belief or faith — that the two are necessarily in tension. And I’m not sure that I’m willing to concede that as a starting point. I don’t see faith and reason as necessarily existing in any sort of tension, though for the past hundreds of years Western thought has striven to establish just such a tension. When you have one aspect of yourself as a person (your spirituality) somehow threatening the structural wholeness of another aspect of yourself as a person (your reason), it seems that your integrity or wholeness — as a person — has already been compromised.
    And for your last question, I think — almost by definition — that if you cannot honestly interact you don’t have community, whatever it may be that you do have. If you cannot be known for who you are, then the one to whom those others are relating is actually an artificial construct and not a true human being. We wear many masks, but rarely do we seem to learn how to be human with each other. But now we’re heading into a different arena, the aspect of Jesus which heals and restores our ability to relate to one another.

  • Arkanis

    Hi, first time i posted here. Well, cause i find this slightly interesting.
    I spent a while in 4).
    It seems there’s at least 2 categories which you have missing:
    6) Reason and faith contradicts, yet both are chosen. I.e, to live contradictorily, to live paradoxically. The paradoxical nature of christian faith is exalted. Humans simply cannot understand it Some sort of kierkegaard position. Note that it’s not the same as 1 which abandons reason.
    7) they are completely separate categories. To try to measure faith against the criteria of reason is like trying to measure my weigh by the number of cows in sydney. Faith is just in a completely category and trying to compare those two is pure nonsense, not even grammatical, not even false.
    I point these two out because I would side more to them, though 5 is always there.

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    Great catagories! I know realize you didn’t mean to lay this out in a natural progression, but I think 4 should be earlier in the list. Personlly, I’d say I started at 4 – then moved mostly to 2 – then maybe 3 – and now probably 5. 4 is the defacto message within evangelicalism I fear, and frankly, I believe it is dangerous. God invites us to faith. He does not demand it. Why should his creation be such that it demands rather than invites?

  • Diane

    I would be a “5.”:) RSJ, I understand what you are saying about intellectual integrity and faith but would agree with Scott M (#$) that the two are not necessarily in tension. However, I think you are responding to or trying to reflect a society that pits them against one another. If only that were not the starting point …
    I also think 5 can be dangerous, because I have seen people who are quite rigorous about their academic pursuits treat religious pursuits differently, saying they don’t “do” theology. Hence they don’t really grapple with the issues and end up back at #2… but that’s another story.

  • http://beyondwordsworth.com Beyond Words KJH

    Like Diane, I assume you mean that #4 intellectual integrity demands evidence for faith? Scott M’s words haunt me. “If you cannot honestly interact you don’t have community, whatever it may be that you do have. If you cannot be known for who you are, then the one to whom those others are relating is actually an artificial construct and not a true human being.”
    I am at #5 and hanging on to community by the skin of my teeth. I just keep quiet most of the time. Is this going to prove toxic for me in the long run? I’ve never tried to discuss my views on Genesis, evolution, etc because my faith community is firmly in #3 and #4–and I’ve even been told not to blog about anything that’s divisive.
    I tried to build some bridges last night at youth group. We watched the movie “The Privileged Planet.” You must realize that the movie “Expelled” is a really big deal in my community because part of its premise is based astronomy professor and ID proponent Guillermo Gonzales who failed to gain tenure at Iowa State University (in my city). I reminded people how much we trust and rely on science and research, that there are many scientists who don’t fall into the extreme fundamentalist atheistic camp, and that even some scientists they might look up to (like the local hero, Gonzales) don’t take a six-day view of creation.
    I hope we can make room for people to move beyond these battle lines. There are other missional tasks the church must engage that require our time, energy, creativity, intelligence and compassion.
    If we are indeed intelligent observers designed to seek and find the Designer, as “The Privileged Planet” proposes, surely the Designer intends us to use our intelligence to benefit each other and the created world and not just sit around having abstract discussions about the awesome universe created in six days while nursing hard feelings against those who disagree with us.

  • Karl

    I started out as a believer in 4 verging toward 5, then for a few years after grad school was in 3 with fears I might be headed to 2, and have for a while now been in 5.

  • Andy Cornett

    I was going to say I am a weird mix of #5 and #1, but I kind of like #6 (Arkanis #4). I’ve never held to #2, but sometimes been at home in #3. I find #4 baffling, unless you can understand it in a Chestertonian/Lewis-like sense where Christianity turns out to both the most Real, Reasonable and True. I love the paradoxical nature of our faith – including the Incarnation which lies at the very heart of it. The tension comes in our limited, lived experience of what we observe and believe, but at the heart of things (often unseen and unaccessible to us) lies a glorious, joyful harmony.

  • VanSkaamper

    RJS, how do you treat what Paul says in Romans 1 regarding creation? Where would you put Paul on your scale?

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    arkanis – good thoughts. i especially liked the #6 you proposed. i think it’s kind of where i’m at now. the arguments go back and forth (one just y’day over at BTW that went haywire after i pointed them to a post here – man, was THAT stupid…) and what once had to be ‘a’ OR ‘b’ turns out to really be ‘a’ AND ‘b’.
    God is sovereign; man has free will…
    Jesus was fully God, and fully human…
    we are to cling to truth – and practice grace…
    heaven and hell in the same creation…
    the more we give, the more we have…
    we lose to win….
    submit to triumph…
    i liked keller’s book – did a loooooooooong review of it over at my blog – and felt that we’re finally seeing some people stake out positions that may not necessarily be in the center, but certainly accept the tension at the extremes.
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  • Jimmie

    RE: This book was written to provide “an intelligent platform on which true believers…”. I always cringe when I see someone use the phrase “true believers”.
    Are we saying that we must possess “faith” and “intellectual integrity” to be a “true believer”?

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    My point with 5 is that there is no necessary compromise of wholeness. Of course no simple taxonomy will capture all nuance. Not knowing you except through comments on this blog (although for a couple of years now) I think you fit well within what I mean by 5.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    These categories sound a lot like the ones H. Richard Niebuhr brings up in Christ and Culture. I think Arkanis (#5) brings up the two categories you omit–faith and reason in paradox (Luther), and faith above reason (Aquinas). I think you should add Arkanis’ thoughts to the list because they have wide historical precedent in Christendom.
    I thought about this a lot earlier this year, and landed with Aquinas. I think that God is the author of all truth, so we have nothing to fear from academic inquiry. Were we to have fully redeemed reasoning abililities, all of our reasoning would lead us to God. However, we are fallen creatures, and the fall has affected our entire person, including our ability to reason. Sometimes, our academic persuits will come in conflict with our theological systems. This is either because: (1) we misunderstood God’s revelation in the first place and our theological system needs revision, or (2) our academic “discoveries” are actually errant and will be corrected at a later time. (We need to be open to both of these possibilities.) Never will redeemed reason contradict revelation.

  • RJS

    Van Skaamper (#11),
    Paul – 5 of course, although some could argue for a position closer to 4. But Paul was in a different era and situation. What I mean by 4 is a kind of modernistic absolutism within our 20th-21st century church that I don’t see in Paul, and that wouldn’t have been appropriate or expected in his first century context.

  • Terry

    A spiritual life, from a young age, firmly centered on 4. Then, the crisis of a lifetime, with 3 being the result — something that was/is very difficult while serving in a #4-type pastorate. Also something that I never dreamed possible, being so sure of my 4ness. But, on to 5. And I’ll be honest and say that 5 continues to be a struggle, though a spiritually healthy one.
    We’ve made room in our congregation, and I am certainly the one who has cleared the chairs. But to say “here’s how we do it,” I need to think that through beyond a short (and certainly correct) ‘follow the lead of the Spirit.’

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    I started out at 3 (well, technically I started out at 0: “Questions?! What are those?”); now I’m probably somewhere between 4 & 5. It may be I have a lot of, like RJS said yesterday, “I believe because I’m a Christian,” but I’ve accepted there are things I’m not going to understand.
    That said a great many of the things people struggle with I simply don’t see the contradiction. Though Christianity has its problems, and I do have my questions, I could no more become an atheist than I could a turnip. That position just strains credulity in my mind.

  • http://www.blackstrapcovenant.com Steve Menshenfriend

    What a great list of positions. Thanks for helping me think through this issue a bit more. I always experience a little “cognitive dissonance” when someone I admire/respect take a hard line on the relationship between faith and reason (what ever that hard line may be.) These catagories help me to think about where I am and where I’d like to move. Thanks again.

  • Dana Ames

    Jimmie #13,
    I share your trepidation at those terms. However, they come from the front flap, which is written by the publisher (marketing division?) rather than the author.
    Interestingly, I see myself coming full circle… Having been raised Roman Catholic, I think as a teenager I was closer to #5; there is actually room in RC for discussion. In the context of the Jesus Movement I veered toward #1 for a short time but was always uncomfortable with it. Then in college and with F. Schaeffer the pendulum swung to #4, and I stayed there for quite a while. Then to #3 in my late 30s. Now at #5 again, with a dollop each of of Arkanis’ #6 and #7 within that fairly firm #5.
    To me, maturity happens in an environment of honesty and love; it is something that happens primarily because of relationship.
    Dana

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    I am probably a bit odd in this, but I am so glad that I was raised in the Catholic faith. As I experienced it, they didn’t see faith and reason as being at odds. If anything, some of their more objectionable beliefs seem to have come out of people sitting around and thinking too much. So, although I left the RCC over a decade ago, position #5 has pretty consistently been my MO. I have gone through some times where under the influence of certain faith communities, I dabbled with positions 1 and 3 for a minute, but I always come back to #5. Unfortunately, I haven’t been very successful in finding a community which functions out of position 5, which is part of why I spend so much time on the internet!

  • a pastor

    Hey, I have been struggling mightily in 3 for a while and want to get to 5. Those of you who made it out of 3 how did you get there? which of your views had to be abandoned in order to get there?

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John W Frye

    I was groomed in a conservative evangelicalism #4 and have dabbled (played with) Arkanis’ #6 and #7 while hopefully on a journey toward RJS’s #5.
    As a seasoned pastor I’ve seen an exodus of young thinkers from the confines of #4. I think that is why Arkanis’ #7 looks appealing to many.

  • Rick

    A Pastor #22-
    Although some will probably provide better answers, I found that my journey from 4, to 3, to 5 (actually 4.75) was a humble realization that I was trying to impose (force) my 20th/21st century mindset on the authors of Scripture, the early church, and Almighty God. Sometimes their perspectives and intents are clear, sometimes they become clearer after learning more about the circumstances, and sometimes I simply have to accept that I am a imperfect eikon who cannot expect to know everything.

  • mariam

    This faith/reason debate is one that is very timely for me because it is a debate which is simmering in our household right now. My husband attended a lecture by Richard Dawkins yesterday. He had tried to get me to come along in much the same way a wife will try to drag her husband off to church, but like the reluctant husband I had other things that I just had to get done. However, we talked about it later that evening and what I argued was that the “religion” and “God” that Dawkins was attacking were straw men – that Dawkins was taking an extreme position against a particular type of religion populated by extremists. People like Dawkins and my husband see a slippery slope that starts with a willingness to ignore scientific fact, logic, and reason, the same way that conservative Christians see a slippery slope which starts with questioning the absolute authority of either the Church or the Bible. Both groups see that slope descending into a society without rules, without with civilization, into chaos. At one point my husband said, rather tremulously, “well, I don’t know if YOU still believe in evolution or not but…” and I said “Yes, I still believe that scientific evidence supports evolution, what sort of bizarre transformation do you imagine has taken place?” He looked so relieved. It was as if he feared I had developed a secret life where I had completely taken leave of my senses. My husband is certainly at 2, often at 1. He finds religion an unthinking, dangerous means of controlling weaker minds and a threat to the common good. My husband is a very moral person – a honest person with a great deal of integrity who rarely puts an ethical foot wrong. Even with the help of the Holy Spirit, and the “rules” of my Christian faith, I have trouble being that “good”. His morality is based on reason – it is what makes him trustworthy. The tendency of the faithful to turn off their reason is what truly frightens him about religion.
    I have come to Christianity differently from many on this blog, who were raised in Christian homes or communities. I don’t have that background. I see my faith as more like accepting a group of assumptions. There could be a God or there could not be. There is no “proof” either way. I choose to assume God exists. Jesus may have been a real historical figure and he may be more myth than man. I choose to believe that he is/was a real person. The Bible is authoritative for me (with caveats) because it is the sacred writing of our faith, written or chosen from among sacred writings by the founders of our faith. I choose to accept these things because I want to follow Christ and accepting these things is part and parcel of what it means to be part of the Christian community. For me a choice to believe is not abandoning reason because I chose faith for rational reasons – I wanted to be part of the solution that Christ offers to the world. I need help and guidance to be an ethical person. I need strength to accept suffering and courage and encouragement to help make changes to lessen suffering. I need to find a way of forgiving myself and others and starting over.
    My own problem has not been between faith and reason – I do not feel any conflict within myself between my faith and reason. Most of the time I am at 5 with some 6 thrown in. I have a strong tolerance for contradiction – I think it is a function of our mortal, limited understanding of the infinite and eternal. My problem has been between other people’s faith and my reasononing and therefore being part of the larger body of Christ. Not a problem in my own little corner of Christianity which allows for a great deal of diversity of belief but it does become a problem sometimes when I try and engage with the larger Church. I do not have a problem with people believing things I personally don’t believe or think are irrational or untrue because I don’t think any of us is in possession of the perfect truth, and that we bring each bring our own irrationalities and emotions to our understanding of God, and that God is quite OK with that. My problem arises when I am told that I am not allowed to be part of the body of Christ unless I am willing to renounce reason. Then I find myself uncomfortably back on Richard Dawkin’s side of the fence in 2, which is where I started out.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Wow, great questions, RJS!
    I guess I would consider myself somewhere between 5 and 6 — and am more and more grateful for growing up in a home with a church-planting Dad who was also somewhere between 5 and 6. (Thanks, Arkanis #5, for these helpful clarifications.)
    To bring the Jesus Creed into this, I think that’s exactly what it means to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength — that it is a dance between that can be seen and what must be believed. And you’ll never really understand the dance if you stay on the sidelines (thanks, Scott M. for the thoughts about community — right on!) analyzing the steps but never trying them out. ;)
    Blessings, all.

  • http://societyvs.wordpress.com/ societyvs

    “What is your story – where would you place yourself within this taxonomy?”
    I am a 5 on this list – I think a reasonable faith is quite logical and we need to leave room for ‘mystery’ and lack of a fuller understanding. It leaves me open to change and I think that is a good place to be.
    “And… how can we make room in our community, within our local churches, for people to mature into robust Christian faith?”
    Room must be made with understanding that various views on this faith exist and not everyone is the same…some like the very mystical aspects – some like the very modern views and how we can use the teachings in a 21st century. The key seems to be tolerance and needing differences?
    “Is there a place for honest interaction with all of the issues?”
    Yes…I haven’t found it yet (only in blogs) but it must be possible. I look at the Rabbinical studies and how they banter one to another and vary on issues – and it’s still all a community of people. I think Christianity needs to follow a model something like that – where we vary on issues but our faith values are what is important.

  • http://societyvs.wordpress.com/ societyvs

    Mariam – loved your explanation and your story!

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Love this question.
    I think I may be in category 6 (renounced faith in order to maintain intellectual integrity) and am now hovering over number 5 (finding a way through rejoining community to maintain both faith and intellectual integrity).

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    P.S. I made up category 6 as the natural opposite to category 1. I know you didn’t include it.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Julie…thanks for the clarification, because the rest of us have been using a “6″ from Arkanis in comment #5 above — and it isn’t like what you’re suggesting. I thought, “wait a minute, that’s not what a six is?…. 8)
    Hello, Mariam…still praying, sister.
    Blessings….

  • Mike K

    Good news for pastor #22 looking to move from #3 to #5…if you are reading this blog and interacting with the ideas you have already moved…or at least on the way to moving.

  • RJS

    A pastor (#22)
    You ask an interesting set of questions – and I think it varies depending on the starting point. Many people here will tell different stories.
    For me – I actually have abandoned only a few of my views, although some were refined and are continuing to be refined because I now find that I enjoy thinking about theology and atonement and what it means to be living as part of the Church and how it should impact my life and so on.
    I came from a relatively conservative evangelical background – but not a legalistic background nor a fundamentalist background. The biggest stumbling block for me was a theology or doctrine of scripture that seemed to require a position akin to 1 in my taxonomy above. The break was a realization that I believe the Bible because I am a Christian – I am not a Christian because I believe the Bible. This was foundational because it gave me a freedom to think through issues without being paralyzed by slippery slope or domino effect arguments. I no longer felt as though my study would lead inevitably to a choice between 1 and 2.
    I know that some here will be incredulous – but letting go of inerrancy and infallibility as doctrinal statements actually gave me the freedom to grow as a Christian to a much deeper orthodox faith. It has also given me a greater appreciation for scripture, preserved by God, for us, through the work of the Spirit in the church, suitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, to teach us God’s story.
    Of course there is a good bit more to my journey than this – but this is enough for a start.

  • Diane

    Yes Mariam, wonderful comment eloquently put. I too came to Christ from a non-Christian household (nominally Lutheran but waiting impatiently for all that “neurotic superstition” to die.) I think coming from that background changes your relationship to faith because you do come to it more intentionally (or believe you do). I too agree that the problems start when one is asked to renounce reason …

  • Nancy

    Mariam, I can relate. Although I did happen to grow up in a family that attended a Lutheran church, I wandered away from any faith at all in early adulthood. When I came around to believeing in God again, it was exactly as you described above. I found I preferred belief over unbelief. I did not jump right back into Christianity but eventually decided to align myself with a church in order to provide some sort of religious training to my children. It seems God was able to work with that and I would put myself now at 5 and 6.

  • Derek

    To posit the idea that Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel have not and/or do not engage in honest debate and interaction is absurd. Both of these men come from an agnostic background; both were intent upon using reason and scientific inquiry to completely discredit Christianity – and they both continue to have honest dialogue with a great number of people.
    I would argue that those who want to create this false dichotomy between #4 and #5 are those who cannot accept strong, clear declarations of truth, for fear that they might sound dogmatic and narrow minded.

  • http://deleted mariam

    29. Julie
    and am now hovering over number 5 (finding a way through rejoining community to maintain both faith and intellectual integrity) That’s good to hear (I think). I look forward to hearing more about this phase of your journey.
    31. Peggy
    Thank you for your prayers, sister.
    34. RJS
    but letting go of inerrancy and infallibility as doctrinal statements actually gave me the freedom to grow as a Christian to a much deeper orthodox faith. It has also given me a greater appreciation for scripture, preserved by God, for usAmen to that. I started from a position of a very low view of scripture (partly in reaction to the literalists and inerrantists) but my appreciation and respect for scripture grows as I spend more time with it and consider the depth and variety of interpretation that it can support.
    34. Diane
    you do come to it more intentionally (or believe you do) I think I know what you mean by the bit in brackets. God may provide the path for us while we are unawares and sometimes it seems as if we are drawn inexorably down that path (I can think of so many ways in which “seek and you will find” were true in very unlikely ways for me) but there is indeed intention and choice in my faith. God may never give up on us, may chase us down to the end of eternity and may light a path that even a blind man can see but in the end the decision to choose God is ours. The circumstances that brought me to God may not have been in my control but my choice to believe was. God and creation pay a very high price for our free will, so I think that the fact that we must turn and choose Him must be in some way important to God.
    35. Nancy
    It wasn’t quite like preferring belief over unbelief. For me it was more like unbelief was dead and empty and belief offered hope and possibility. In less dire circumstances I might have slowly edged towards belief – but maybe not. I truly regret that my children have had virtually no exposure to Christian beliefs. For that reason I wish I’d come to faith a bit earlier.
    ‘night, gals.

  • http://tonyj.net/2008/05/02/around-the-horn-3/ Anonymous

    Around the Horn « Tony Jones

    [...] Second Base: Scot has a guest blogger? Â Yes! Â RJS is blogging through Tim Keller’s book. [...]

  • Ranger

    This one’s tough to answer. For instance, I’m currently recovering from one of those faith crises. So for about a week or two a few weeks back I was in #2, then worked my way back into #3, and now back in #5 (where I was before – although more stretched than before). But here’s why it’s hard:
    1. I want to be in #1 because it’s easier and at times I’m somewhat jealous of those who simply experience God without all of the doubts and questions, haha.
    2. I am rather firmly in #5, and spend a lot of time learning both from the book of nature and the book of scripture as Augustine would put it, but also from the book of others and relationships. Since relationships tend to bring good and bad, I both learn from relationships, but also get messed up whenever I allow my relationships to cause me to study or even “believe” things simply because those I respect believe them.
    3. At the same time, at times I feel like I’m in #6, but it’s not really the same as #1, nor that they contradict, but more of what Ricoeur called the “second naivety.”
    4. Furthermore, I don’t know how much these categories are completely separated because I still learn a lot from those who are #4. For instance, I love listening to the podcasts over at the Veritas Forum. I also have learned a good deal from J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, et. al. I’d even include in this “evidentialist” group some of the finer scholars on Christian origins such as Wright, Hengel, et. al. who argue evidentially for the resurrection of our Lord.
    So yeah, I’m a mixture and I suspect most of us are when we really think about it.

  • RJS

    Derek (#36),
    Interesting comment – I do not want to give the impression that either McDowell or Strobel are dishonest in their debate and interaction – or less than sincere in their faith.
    But when I read their books, or listen to them, or to Hugh Ross or William Lane Craig, and we could add others to this list, I find some of their arguments less than convincing to me – and I start to pick at what I find to be the underlying flaws in logic. What this now leads me to is a comfort with a level of ambiguity – God did not create a world where he beats us over the head with undeniable evidence. He talks and we have to listen. The idea that intellectual integrity demands faith suggests that all should be crystal clear – and follow from reason – like a good mathematical proof.
    And as many here have pointed out – this post does not give a perfect taxonomy, I am still thinking through Arkanis additions (#5) and other great comments. But it has and can lead to good conversation and reflection.

  • Ranger

    “But when I read their books, or listen to them, or to Hugh Ross or William Lane Craig, and we could add others to this list, I find some of their arguments less than convincing to me – and I start to pick at what I find to be the underlying flaws in logic.”
    I completely agree.
    With that said, I still strongly value what they do. I think what I value is different from what they think they are doing though. For instance, Alvin Plantinga talks about Christianity as a “warranted” belief. He says he can give 30 or 40 good arguments for the existence of God, but none of them are airtight and likewise none of the ones against God are either.
    None of Plantinga’s, or for that matter more popular philosophers or apologists, are going to prove God. I think part of the problem with this group (although Plantinga does not make this error) is that some think that they can prove God and that any rational thinker when thinking clearly necessarily must believe in Him. That is the clear influence of modernism IMO, but that does not mean we cannot learn from their ideas.
    I learn from them more as ways of pointing to a Creator, or pointing to an eternal realm, while not being foolproof by any means nor (in the case of the philosophers) necessarily pointing to the Christian God at all. They are clues to God, but not by any means irrefutable.
    I think the same can be applied to those studying Christian origins. Historically they put the pieces together that suggest believing in the resurrection of Jesus is a warranted belief, but not a necessary one by any means. So we learn from those in #4, but bring that knowledge into #5 (and #6), while still interacting with the fears and struggles of #3, and the doubts brought on by lingering attachment to #2.

  • Scott M

    RJS wrote:

    The break was a realization that I believe the Bible because I am a Christian – I am not a Christian because I believe the Bible.

    I guess that’s one difference for me. Having lived on both sides of that equation (Christian and not — though with a very conscious spirituality), I never had the slightest impulse to believe it was or could be any other way. Until you have decided that Jesus of Nazareth, though crucified, actually is the living Lord of all creation, why would you grant any authority at all to the Bible? The attitude that the Bible somehow “proves” the faith has always perplexed me. When I incorporated elements of Hinduism in my spirituality, I took the Vedas seriously. I did not take Christian sacred texts seriously, even though I certainly knew a fair amount about them.
    I suppose when you get that one backwards, you do send yourself spiraling in all sorts of strange directions.
    Since a lot of people seem to like it, I went back and looked at the added #6 again. I strive for wholeness even if it seems a difficult goal to ever achieve. And number six seems to want to set my reason and spirituality in conflict and then say that’s OK. While I don’t particularly have any difficulty holding two views at once even if they don’t seem to reconcile, I would not call that a contradiction — any more than I would call the physical reality of the wave-particle duality of a photon a contradiction. It’s reasonable even if it cannot be ‘reconciled’.
    There is much about God which I’m willing to affirm is true and reasonable even when it seems beyond comprehension. In fact, I would be concerned if I found myself worshiping a God whom I could completely grasp — since such a God could be no larger than me. And I also hold that there are things which even as we say God is this, we must hold with it what God is not. And if we lose that tension, we will slip toward error in both understanding and action. But this is not unreasonable, not does it mean that my faith or spirituality somehow contradicts my reason. If you live with aspects of yourself at war with each other, even if you call a truce you are not approaching wholeness.

  • Derek

    RJS – I appreciate the caveats you added, but I still say that you have ultimately created a straw man with #4.
    McDowell, Craig and Strobel (I have not read Hugh Ross, so I remain mum on him) will be the first to say that they do not offer airtight arguments. They offer reasonable and compelling evidence. They will all tell you that scientific inquiry and reason have limits. Further, they agree with Scot, that God is far bigger than our capacity to understand or comprehend.
    In reality, their arguments address belief set #7 (Faith in God and logic/science/reason are incompatible).

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    I grew up with 4, strove towards 5, and have been beaten back to 3, sometimes maybe wavering too close to 2.
    Derek — the problem is that lots of the evidence these folks offer isn’t really reasonable or compelling once you really dig into the issues. Some of it maybe is, but lots of it just isn’t. On the whole evolution / ID debate, I hate to say it, but many of their arguments are just lame. They’re convincing only until you really dig into the counterarguments, IMHO.
    Here is a big problem from my experience: 5 is a nice thought, but getting to 5 usually seems to involve abandoning some aspect of traditional, orthodox Christian faith — whether the issue is “what about people who haven’t heard the gospel,” or “what about evolution,” or “what about the problem of evil” — probably the “big three” intellectual propblems with our faith. Is 5 really saying, “it’s possible to have intellectual integrity and faith — but not orthodox Christian faith”?

  • Scott M

    dopderbeck, I’m confused what you consider “orthodox Christian faith” to be? None of the three questions you cite are in any way new (at least if you reframe the second one to discuss how to understand the Genesis creation accounts rather than narrowing it to ‘evolution’). I might even suggest that ‘problem of evil’ has always been a more immediately pressing issue to those who are dying for the faith than it has ever been for most of us. And orthodox Christianity has always been up to the task of answering those questions and in ways very different from any other answer. The waters of Christian belief are much deeper and wider than many seem to understand. And I don’t get that at all.
    Certainly, if I felt that Christianity had no answer or had poor answers for the question of evil or was unjust or provided a false picture of the true nature of reality (which seem to lie just below the surface of the three you specifically named) I would not be Christian. But the further I dive into this faith, the deeper the well becomes. Christianity is an incredibly rich, multi-hued, variegated, and complex faith with a God who transcends it all even as he comes near and makes himself known. It’s really quite amazing. Sometimes I think some lifelong Christians somehow miss that aspect.
    The deeper I go, the more awestruck I become.

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    the problem is that lots of the evidence these folks offer isn’t really reasonable or compelling once you really dig into the issues … On the whole evolution / ID debate, I hate to say it, but many of their arguments are just lame. They’re convincing only until you really dig into the counterarguments…
    worse, they’re OVERLY convincing to 80% of the people in the church, who elevate them to the status of great Christian DEFENFDERS OF THE FAITH (sound of trumpets) !!! – like they all should be wearing justice league of america logos and tights or something. there’s this guy in the church i used to go to that goes around to all the SBC churches in the area with a power point slide show about how the earth was created 6-10000 years ago, there was a global flood, and everything science is telling you is a lie and they know it. and now comes ben stein’s “expelled.”
    i appreciated Keller’s book primarily because it’s position was, you know what, some of these opposing views make a lot of sense, and you need to listen to them, and then dig a little deeper, and realize there’s going to be some tension that exists – always.
    and all these “debates” they’re holding these days across the fruity plains – what are they accomplishing? at one of them, will one side’s argument wind up being so convincing that everyone says, “hmmmm. you know what? we never thought of that before. sonovagun. i guess that’s it, then.”
    i wrote somewhere the other day that the journey isn’t from unknowing to absolute certainity, it’s from unknowing to absolute certainty and then BACK TO unknowing – but with humility. the student, at that point, is finally ready for the Teacher to appear.
    it’s like Scott M. wrote: “The deeper I go, the more awestruck I become.” and part of that awestruckness (there’s a word for ya…) is the recognition of how little we really know.
    it’s why we go through our teens and twenties – our years of absolute certainity – and come out on the other side realizing, you know what – i’m just another bozo on the bus like everybody else.
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  • Derek

    doderbeck – You’re entitled to your opinion, though I wonder how any reasonable person can examine the recent findings in DNA research and regarding what we’re learning about the structure of living cells (e.g. irreducible complexity) and not at least admit that ID proponents have a compelling case.
    But I digress. Back to the topic at hand, I really love what Blaise Pascal had to say about this topic nearly 400 years ago:

    If [God] had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, he could have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence, as he will appear on the last day. . . .This is not the way he wished to appear when he came in mildness, because so many men had shown themselves unworthy of his clemency, that he wished to deprive them of the good they did not desire. It was therefore not right that he should appear in a manner divine and absolutely capable of convincing all men, but neither was it right that his coming should be so hidden that he could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought him. He wished to make himself perfectly recognizable to them. Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    ScottM — you ask an excellent question — for me personally anyway, the 10 zillion dollar question.
    One definition is creedal orthodoxy, which relates to the basic ecumenical creeds of the early church. I think — I think — the questions I raised can be answered flexibily within the framework of creedal orthodoxy — though this involves, I think, perhaps reading those confessions with some very different presuppositions than the people who crafted them.
    Another definition is confessional orthodoxy, which relates to the particular confessions of certain churches. I don’t think the questions I raised can be answered without straying from confessional orthodoxy in most settings. For example, there is simply no way to deal with the problem of evolution in the context of the Westminster Confession, without amending the Confession.
    Maybe yet another definition is “evangelical” orthodoxy. I don’t think the questions I raised are adquately addressed by evangelical orthodoxy. Inerrancy, verbal plenary inspiration, exclusivism, and a literal Adam/literal fall, IMHO all hallmarks of evangelical orthodoxy, require either a (1) or (3) response, in my personal experience.
    Perhaps yet another definition is something along the lines of what Roger Olson proposes, which is I guess conversional orthodoxy — centered most basically on a transforming relationship with Christ. I think it’s possible to get to (5) in that case. But this requires accepting Olson’s (and others’) thesis that conversional orthodoxy at root is enough. Olson takes pains to distinguish this from liberalism, but getting there seems awfully hard sometimes to those of us schooled in (4).

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Derek said: though I wonder how any reasonable person can examine the recent findings in DNA research and regarding what we’re learning about the structure of living cells (e.g. irreducible complexity) and not at least admit that ID proponents have a compelling case.
    I respond: nearly every working scientist, Christian or not, who I know rejects ID in no uncertain terms, for what seem to me to be sound empirical and philosophical reasons.
    In any event, ID doesn’t really answer the hard questions about evolution, the Bible, and Christian faith. Evangelical apologists seem ignorant of this problem, which drives me bonkers. All ID says is that the development of life is so complex that it must be designed. But most of them — Michael Behe included — believe the design was accomplished mostly by evolution! The big theological problems posed by evolution — death in the creation before man’s sin, the lack of an identifiable “Adam” or a clear “fall” — are not addressed in the least by ID. Mike Behe himself (whom I personally admire, BTW, even if I don’t completely agree with him) would be kicked out of any orthodox evangelical camp because of his acceptance of common descent, including the common descent of man from hominid ancestors. So, I’d go so far as to say that evangelical apologists who use Behe and irreducible complexity as evidence against evolution are either ignorant or disingenuous.

  • Derek

    dopderbeck – “Group think” exists on both sides.

  • http://microclesia.com John L

    RJS, we’re raising the same tensions Pascal addressed beautifully and convincingly some 300 years ago, and who would have probably picked a blend of 4&5. Good to see the conversation still active :-)
    I pick #6 – an overwhelming awe of life and creation, seeking every possible avenue of understanding – science, spirit, and anything else that draws us closer together, and closer to the Center of creation. With humility as a guide, I see no conflict whatsoever between faith and reason.

  • http://danbrennan.typepad.com/ Dan Brennan

    RJS,
    Com’in late…but you wrote:
    “The biggest stumbling block for me was a theology or doctrine of scripture that seemed to require a position akin to 1 in my taxonomy above. The break was a realization that I believe the Bible because I am a Christian – I am not a Christian because I believe the Bible. This was foundational because it gave me a freedom to think through issues without being paralyzed by slippery slope or domino effect arguments.”
    Yes, very much so. I went from 4 to 5. As you know I have no science in my background, but it took me reading some philosophy of science books to discover that all that is within the evangelical doctrine of scripture, is not all scripture. But you have to travel through the shadow of 3 to get from 4 to 5.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Derek (#50) — if the response is just “group think,” then I think we’re back at (1) in RJS’ categories. I can ignore all the evidence and arguments and call it “group think.” It relieves me of all the tension. Honestly, I think this is a perfectly appropriate view for many people, and I think God accomplishes His purposes through many people to whom He has given the ability to take that sort of approach. I just can’t do it that way, however.

  • Derek

    dopderbeck – We all seem to agree that some Christians are capable of “group think”. Yet, as I read the strident reaction in your comments, I don’t sense that you are willing to acknowledge that this herd mentality exists in intellectual and scientific circles.
    In point of fact, many scientists DO find major problems with the Darwinian evolution and it’s offshoots. This is simply not debatable.
    I don’t want to get us far off the track here on ID. That is probably best left on another post somewhere. However, I will say this: We have heard from the great defenders of Darwinian evolution, regarding irreducible complexity and what they have offered us is concepts like punctuated equilibrium (which raises more questions than answers) and speculations about alien life forms embedding a signature in our DNA.
    All of which is to say, all of these explanations require faith. Nobody has airtight answers, which was Pascal’s point.

  • RJS

    Derek,
    At risk of continuing this digression from the main point.
    Your statement may not be debatable – but the problems with ID and evolution and their significance are debatable and debated. It is not simply “group think” (a rather dismissive term).
    You know – I consider myself a reasonable person and a Christian (and a scientifically literate person). It is exactly “recent findings in DNA research” that cause the most significant problems with irreducible complexity and other ID proposals in my mind.
    I also think that dopderbeck is right; ID is something of a red herring and doesn’t actually address the important theological questions.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Derek — forgive me if my tone seemed strident. I honestly didn’t intend my comments to be angry or strident. All I mean is, the way you’re approaching it is helpful to some people, but I personally don’t find it helpful.

  • Derek

    RJS – for the record, I didn’t bring up ID – it was brought up by dopderbeck (IMHO, the way it was brought up is the red herring). If you find the “orthodoxy” of the scientific community’s explanations regarding the incredible complexity of DNA and living cells compelling (e.g. crystals, aliens, punctuated equilibrium), that is up to you. You have more faith than I do.

  • RJS

    Derek,
    I am a member of the scientific community and establishment; I do research at the interface of chemistry, physics and biology. It isn’t a matter of faith as much as a desire to interact honestly with all of the evidence.
    You do not have to agree with me – but please don’t dismiss me as “unreasonable” (Comment #47) or simply a slave to the “herd mentality” existing in intellectual and scientific circles (comment #54). Stick to the real issues.

  • Derek

    RJS – If you look more carefully at my comments, you will see I was not slurring everyone in the non-ID community. I was simply saying that you can find elements of herd mentality this in both camps.
    ID has been dismissed out-of-hand, without dialogue or inquiry, by a great number of people in the scientific community.

  • RJS

    dopderbeck,
    Are these three problems equal in your mind?
    Death in the creation before man’s sin
    The lack of an identifiable “Adam”
    The absence of a clear “fall”

    I don’t find death in creation such a problem – the death introduced by the fall need not be complete biological death or all organisms. Frankly it is hard for me to imagine any world before the fall without bacterial and animal death.
    The lack of an identifiable Adam is another issue worth discussing.
    I do think however, that the Fall is absolutely essential. How do we think about this?

  • Scott M

    Now, I’m puzzling in my head what could possibly be meant by a “clear Fall”? It sounds like an attempt to reduce the Fall to a specific event tied and rooted in a specific point in time. The Fall then becomes this thing that happened a long, long time ago totally out of my control which affects me now today. Poor me. I need help.
    I don’t think that’s an adequate view of what we blithely call “the Fall” in Christian discourse. No, if we are the Eikons of the creator God, intended to reflect that God onto and into the fabric of that creation, then it must go deeper than some merely historical event. When I choose to worship other gods, I begin to reshape the image with which I was created in their likeness. And what I reflect becomes distorted and wrong. When I choose not to love the other, I reflect that lack of love for another holy Eikon of God onto them and into the interstices of reality. No, “the Fall” is something in which I fully and willfully participate — with all the damage and destruction that entails — every time I fail to love God and love others. It is not something done to me by some distant ancestor. I do this to myself. This permeates scripture, but one place it seems abundantly clear to me is in Romans 1.
    And so we are dead. It is not merely physical death which plagues us, though in Christ we are set free from the chains of Hades. No, if Christ is our only source of life, then when we turn from him we cut ourselves off from life itself. Again I must turn to Paul. He talks more about death and life than the topics more typically attributed to him. And so when I partake of Christ, through death and rebirth in baptism, through his body and blood, in prayer and fasting, I partake of life itself. The Spirit indwelling me begins the process of restoration back into the life of God himself.
    Yet if that is what it means to follow Jesus, then when I consume from any other source, I am taking into myself death and (by definition), antichrist. And the earth itself groans under that weight (Romans 8). How could it do any less? A clear Fall? Good Lord, look around! How much clearer could it possibly be?

  • http://microclesia.com John L

    RJS asks: Are these three problems equal in your mind?
    - Death in the creation before man’s sin
    - The lack of an identifiable “Adam”
    - The absence of a clear “fall”
    Tracking with RJS on this one. The fall, whether as grand metaphor or actual event in history, is about as central to J/Xnty as we can get. Without a “fallen nature” the cross would be meaningless.
    Beyond that, it shouldn’t matter if Adam/Eve were actual persons in time-space, or a metaphor of “spiritual unity broken into duality.” We reflect the reality of a fallen, dualistic nature in most everything we think and do.

  • Ranger

    Dan Brennan said: “But you have to travel through the shadow of 3 to get from 4 to 5.”
    That’s so true! It’s the difficult reality of our discipleship. And those times in three and two are so hard, and you often think, “Am I being dishonest? Do I really believe any of this? Can I be true to my experience, secular and spiritual knowledge all at the same time?” I’ve been there, and in those times I’ve often learned more about the fallacy of my presumptions and assumptions that I brought to my faith and not about the fallacy of my faith itself. Afterwards, my faith is always deeper, more authentic and more nourishing. Has anyone else experienced this same path?
    SIDEBAR: This transition is especially hard for those who grew up in extremely fundamentalist situations (and I don’t use that term loosely, but mean real, true and often proud of the term fundamentalists). I was fortunate enough to not grow up in one of these situations being raised as a moderate Baptist, yet I have seen many friends fall prey to the real world after coming out of their fundamentalist shells. They almost don’t know how to cope with the challenges of real life because they haven’t been taught how to think through information and challenges, but only how to accept information (often based on faulty assumptions to begin with). Therefore when faced with questions such as ID (which they see as liberal), theistic evolution, naturalism, et. al. they simply can’t cope and give up on faith altogether or retreat back into their shell fearing having to face anyone outside of it. It’s really sad and breaks my heart every time I see it happen. (END OF SIDEBAR)
    I think the questions concerning Adam, the fall, etc. are fine examples of letting an issue that is secondary cloud our faith as though it is primary. These questions should and need to be asked as we go deeper in faith, but they are not essential to the heart of the faith itself.
    Personally, I don’t know if there was an actual, historical Adam or Eve, and science nor history will ever prove this definitively one way or the other. With that said, I don’t think the purpose of Genesis is 2-3 is to tell us the historical events anyways, but the reality of the theological truth. When an ancient Jew would have read this story they didn’t look at it as a family history, but as a theological story. In my opinion that is how we should look at things as well.
    I’ve heard people say that if there was no first Adam (literally) then there was no need for a second Adam in Christ. This misses the point completely! Was there a point when sin entered the world? Obviously there was, and if you have any doubt just read Scott M’s wonderful comment above! There was a point when people who have the unique characteristic of being able to relate to God broke the covenant of this relationship through sin (for more on this topic read Aberdeen neuropsychologist Malcom Jeeves’ interesting insights). That is the point of the story theologically, whether or not the story is historically true.
    There are many esteemed, and even conservative, theologians who would argue that Genesis 1 gives the themes of creation including the origins of humanity as coming from God and in his image, but doesn’t teach the creation of Adam and Eve. From this perspective, Adam and Eve are the special starting point when God breathed spiritual life into humanity and desired to begin his special plan of relationship, fall and redemption. I’m personally not fully in this camp, but know many who are, especially among those who hold to a full-bodied theistic evolution (there are many kinds as I’m sure you know).
    To be honest, I’m not sure where I fall in these discussions of the Genesis accounts because I primarily view them as literary, theological stories that may or may not have been historical events. Looking at them historically may be something that our still relatively modernistic minds demand, but that doesn’t matter ultimately. It in no way causes the gospel to mean anything less or challenges in the least my beliefs in the historicity and importance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, nor does it challenge my belief in the divine authority of Scripture. If you have any doubt of this consider delving into the thousands and thousands of pages that Augustine wrote on the early chapters of Genesis and you will begin to see that our faith goes much deeper than these questions and in fact often the questions we ask are the problem themselves.
    It’s discussions like these that in fact do not cause us to lose faith or become radical liberals like some of us fear, but instead causes us to ponder the deeper meanings in the text and grow closer to our Lord.

  • RJS

    Ranger,

    That’s so true! It’s the difficult reality of our discipleship. And those times in three and two are so hard, and you often think, “Am I being dishonest? Do I really believe any of this? Can I be true to my experience, secular and spiritual knowledge all at the same time?” I’ve been there, and in those times I’ve often learned more about the fallacy of my presumptions and assumptions that I brought to my faith and not about the fallacy of my faith itself. Afterwards, my faith is always deeper, more authentic and more nourishing. Has anyone else experienced this same path?

    Your first paragraph here hits dead on. I think what “5″ looks like for each of us may differ somewhat – we see this in many of the comments above. For most of us here, certainly for me, it is an orthodox Christian faith. This is the path I’ve been trying to describe and it gives an accurate picture of my journey.
    But … to even begin the process we have to be willing to start asking questions. And it is extremely helpful, although not essential, to find a safe place within the Christian community to ask questions, engage in civil but honest conversation, and wrestle with all of the various issues.
    When no safe or honest place is found amongst Christians the only options are to suppress questions (seldom healthy or ultimately possible), to go it on your own with books and such, or to turn to those who will listen and talk -often starting down the path to a confirmed loss of faith.
    Like you, I have also found that these discussions ultimately (but not always quickly or painlessly) lead to a deeper faith.

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    … to even begin the process we have to be willing to start asking questions … to engage in civil but honest conversation, and wrestle with all of the various issues.
    i sat in borders’ y’day evening and read the first few pages of “why we’re not emergent”, a recent book by two guys pretty steeped in reformed theology. one of the authors is a young pastor who has grown up in the church, has had a solid faith his entire life, and has probably live a life we wish everyone could follow.
    and yet, maybe not.
    i hesitate saying anything negative about living a God-centered life from cradle-to-grave – i mean, i would like to think that’s what Jesus himself did, right? but people in positions of church leadership who need to have a certainty empathy for people in their struggles – where does it come from? far be it from me to say there’s only one path to maturity (since i’ve been down many and remain quite immature, thank you very much), but somehow there has to be that wilderness experience or that Gethsemane moment where one’s faith reaches the point where it may at best be hanging only by a fraying thread.
    we tend to argue about which should take priority – revealed ‘truth’ or our reason or our experience. to me, it’s a three-legged stool of sorts that is a bit unsteady with any leg missing. they may be a bit uneven at times – and that’s when you have to fold a couple of napkins or sugar packets and stick it under one of the legs (at least a hundred hidden metaphors and analogies in that…) to make it sit balanced…
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  • http://legerity.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/a-reason-for-god/ Anonymous

    A Reason for God… « fresh expressions…

    [...] 3, 2008 A Reason for God… Posted by John under Tim Keller | Tags: Christianity Today, Reason for God, Scot McKnight, TimKeller |   Scot McKnight, over at Jesus Creed is busy posting a review of Tim Keller’s new book A Reason for God, [...]

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Re: #62 and 63: For me personally, animal death before the fall is no longer a huge issue. I think about what the creation would have to look like without any death at all — including bacteria and plankton — and realize there would be no continuity at all between the pre- and post-fall creations in that case.
    For me, though, the idea of a literal Adam and a real “fall” are tied together. I understand the notion that we could still view this as a sort of story of everyman. But for me, things start to unravel at that point. You have to deal with the New Testament’s use of the Eden narrative, and then you have to start asking some deeper questions about justification and the atonement.
    I think this is a place where conservatives do have something of a point — this starts to look like the kind of liberal theology that is emptied of anything distinctively “Christian.” Eden and Fall as merely the story of everyman is in fact a basic neoorthodox/liberal theology move. I wonder how this really represents the Christian story of creation-fall-atonement-redemption.
    And personally, I don’t know whether this is a boundary that’s “safe” to push against. Certainly there are many conservatives who would see this as close to betraying the gospel. That’s why for me this is one question that tends to bump me back and forth between (5) and (3). The fate of the billions who’ve never heard the gospel is another, and that’s a whole nother can of worms.

  • http://microclesia.com John L

    doperback – jesus taught us to betray (our airtight opinions about) religion.

  • Derek

    And the serpent told us to ask “Has God really said … ?”

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    jesus taught us to betray (our airtight opinions about) religion.
    And the serpent told us to ask “Has God really said … ?”
    and when nicodemus came at night, Jesus lambasted him up and down and told him to go home and stop asking so many questions.
    and when Jesus faced Thomas, he kept his hands behind his back and said, “Sorry, Didy-man, you’re just gonna have to guess which hand it’s in…”.
    i think both of those are in hezekiah chapter 6, if i’m not mistaken.
    at the very – VERY – most BASIC level, we cannot prove the existence of God. ergo, no one can PROVE that the Bible is this unproven God’s ‘word’.
    Muslims with bombs strapped to their bodies are pictures of absolute certainty.
    Jesus on the cross is a picture of humble faith in great uncertainty.
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  • Derek

    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

  • a pastor

    thanks rjs for you response #33 to my post #22. and thanks rick for your answer too. Yeah i had to scrap inerrancy awhile back or else i would have been finished off much earlier. Not that i necessarily reject the possibility. After all, the originals could be inerrant but we can’t know that. It’s just that I don’t need them to be inerrant in order to trust them. Nor do they need to be inerrant in order for them to be inspired or authoritative. Calvinist dogma recently unraveled for me as well (mainly the idea of supra/pre-lapsarian sorting out of souls). I’m having trouble with hell right now but scripture won’t let me abandon it. It’s hard to see how a gospel is good news when believing it means billions of people are writhing in fire for eternity. Perhaps that’s why it takes a miracle of God for us to have faith in the gospel. it of course would be worse news if i threw away faith for that reason(my struggle with hell) and then go to hell with everyone else. Thanks for providing a space for me to hash it out.

  • Scott M

    Of course, I would not just say that there is a point where sin entered the world. There may be. Or it may be that the effects of sin on creation transcend a linear experience called time. I’m ambivalent on that point.
    However, I would stress that no matter what, each and every one of us recapitulates the Fall personally, directly, individually, and corporately. It is not some distant event involving other people. It is as close to each of us as our next breath. We have all partaken of and participated in the Fall. Until you are willing to confess that, I’m not sure you have gone far enough. And having made ourselves of partakers of the first Adam, our only hope is to partake of the second Adam. We need a new source, a source which can provide life. And in Jesus we don’t just find a trickle. We bathe in torrential rivers of living water. Jesus is not just a little bit stronger, a little bit more than the first Adam. He utterly transcends in every way. The first Adam cannot stand before him. Grace, the power of God to become what we ought to be, is not just barely more powerful than evil. Evil cannot stand before its unleashed power.
    Here is the question which illustrates the heart which is lacking in most Protestant discourse. If there had been no sin, would the Incarnation still have been necessary? Yes, it’s a hypothetical and I’m not generally all that fond of them. But this one drives right to the heart of the matter.

  • Derek

    Scot, my question would be, didn’t the Incarnation already exist before the Fall?

    When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[a] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. – Genesis 3:8
    It seems to me that the Incarnation was only really necessary after God’s judgment was rendered:

    So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden – Genesis 3:23

  • RJS

    a pastor (#72)
    I like that way of putting it – scripture need not be inerrant to be trustworthy, inspired, or authoritative. So rather than focusing on inerrancy I can focus on reading scripture as we have it. This is more or less my position anyway.
    We will get to Keller’s chapter on Hell – not next week, but probably the following week. I hope that it will lead to a good discussion.

  • Scott M

    And suddenly this series takes on a new dimension for me. I’ve long known, of course, that I have a different perspective on the creation accounts, on women, and a variety of things with many of the people in our particularly church. But I always assumed these were matters over which it was alright to hold varying views. It appears I may have been mistaken.
    During the sermon this morning, the pastor told a story of a ‘false teacher’ several years ago who was told to leave and several went with him. One man couldn’t decide what to do and the pastor told him he had to choose. Either he stood with us or he stood with that man. (I actually know many of the people involved, both those who left and those who chose to stay. As is usually the case, reality is much messier and more complicated. But the standing for or against statement is important for the context.)
    The sermon was on the passage in Mark 3 about the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit to provide additional context. And after the story above, the pastor rattled off a list of things in the same format and structure, but the one that’s relevant here is the one that if you don’t accept “the Lord’s doctrine of creation 6,000 years ago then you’re standing against Jesus.” That stunned me. I mean, I knew he was a part of the YEC crowd, but it had never occurred to me that he equated disagreement with him on that point as ‘standing against Jesus.’
    So now I don’t know what to do. That seems to remove all breathing space, all room for varied opinions. I’m never going to believe the YEC opinion. And while I’m happy to let them believe what they would in that arena, I don’t want my children told this is the only perspective a Christian can hold. And, since I teach 8th grade boys, it places me in a difficult position. How can I do that within the context of our church if I’m ‘standing against Jesus’ from the perspective of those in the church?

  • Derek

    Scot – You are indeed in a very difficult situation. I am a YEC as well. Still, I think that if I were in this situation, I would very humbly and gently but firmly talk to him about “In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity”.

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    This is a tough situation – no doubt about it. And I don’t know what to say, because if he really believes YEC is a non-negotiable it is likely to be a no-win situation.

  • Derek

    Scott M – Where do you think a person’s belief about origins amounts to an abandonment of authentic and/or orthodox Christianity? I would imagine you’re wrestling with this question right now, as am I.

  • Scott M

    I’m not sure I understand your question, Derek. For my part, I perceive the god of the YEC perspective to be a trickster god. It’s a god who creates a universe which by everything we perceive is billions of years old six thousand years ago and then demands that his creation disbelieve all they can sense and know and instead believe what he says. It’s a god who deliberately tries to deceive his creation and provides a limited path of special knowledge to the true faith. (The path of secret or special knowledge sounds more like the mystery cults than anything else.) I can’t for the life of me imagine why I would ever willingly choose to follow such a god. And it doesn’t look much like the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth to me. It certainly doesn’t look like the God who comes near and who wants to be known.
    I’m not wrestling with that question at all. Nor will I be wrestling with it. It’s a perfectly settled question for me. I am wrestling with whether or not there is any space at all left for me in my present church and whether or not it is appropriate for me to teach and lead students within this church (which is really the only reason I can see for me to still be there).

  • Derek

    Scott M – Are you saying that your pastor should allow any and all views of origins to be taught? If not, what would constitute something that is “out of bounds”?
    Here’s my own conviction, though I’m still thinking it through, as I mentioned:
    I believe that there will be many in heaven who have believed that Darwinian evolution and the Genesis account can be “blended” (even though I am pretty sure they will find out they are wrong and that the Biblical account is much more literal than they thought).
    But I do think that if you cannot accept the concept of God as creator – again, even if he did use evolutionary mechanisms – then you might be a person who respects Christianity, but you are probably not a Christian.

  • Scott M

    It wouldn’t be an issue for me if I didn’t love those students deeply. And I keep having parents tell me their student has told them I really helped them and thanking me for it, so I must not be totally wrong in what I’m doing. Nor do I bring creation discussions into my ministry. I simply tell the students there are many Christian views and given that it’s better for them to first talk about it with their parents. I’m not after controversy. I would very much like to see these students move on to college or work with the seeds of a faith which can endure. My particular denomination has a pretty miserable track record at that. And frankly, seeing what they are usually offered, I can understand why.
    I’m struggling because, told in the context of real people who were told to leave the church if they were going to stand against ‘us’ using as its basis the text in Mark 3 about the unpardonable sin, the implication of choosing to ‘stand against Jesus’ in any of those categories is tantamount to an instruction to change your view or get out. I’m not struggling with my view on origins. I’m struggling with whether or not to stay.
    This is the church where I completed a very long journey of conversion. While I’ve experienced many churches over the years, this is the only one I’ve really been a part of after some pretty bad experiences with Christians as a teen. This is the only one my two kids who are still at home really know. And they may not have deep connections here, but they know people and are known. I have friends here. And I think I really do some good. Yet I feel like I’ve just been told to get out because I don’t believe in the trickster god of the YEC perspective.
    I texted the youth pastor during the service and told him to have someone cover my class and we would talk later. He simply responded, “Will do.” Then I went to lunch with my daughter, enjoyed time with my kids today, and took the two still at home to dinner (the older had spent the night with a friend). My wife won’t be back from spending time with her brother until tomorrow. I’ll discuss it with her. I’m pretty close friends with our student minister and I’m sure he picked up on that and already knows why I took off. But I don’t know what to say to him now. That’s my struggle. Not YEC.

  • Scott M

    Hmmm. Derek, I don’t believe I’m interested in talking with you anymore. Have a good life.

  • Derek

    No problem, Scott M – no insults towards you were intended, so I apologize if something I said communicated that. I personally find it hard to believe that any pastor truly intends on kicking people out of the church for not believing in YEC. Hopefully you will discover that he just got carried away in his message today and will amend and/or apologize for his statement.
    I appreciate your heart and desire to minister to young people – I’m glad you intend on having a meaningful discussion with your youth pastor about this.

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    Scott M (#76):
    That is a really tough situation. Derek’s approach in #77 is right – but what if we can’t agree on essential vs. inessential? I recently posed a question on my blog as to “Whether your church would allow you to publically support evolution” (see: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/03/would-your-church-allow-you-to-publicly.html) and there was some good discussion. Ironically, about a month later, one of the commenters had to resign as an elder in his church because of his acceptance of evolution – see: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/when-views-on-evolution-divide-church.html .

  • RJS

    Steve,
    It is an interesting set of comments on your blog. I’m not in leadership of a church and never have been. The leadership of the church I attend is not dogmatic on the issue and there are a range of opinions. But Derek is right about the core – we all believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth – we disagree about God’s method. Frankly I am probably at one extreme in the church, but try to open conversation and exploration of options and historic Christian interpretations rather than push my opinions.
    My main concern here is more along the line of Scott M’s – I have been embedded in secular academia for some 27 years now. I want to see our youth move on to college with the seeds of a faith which can endure – and our students in college and beyond to see a pathway to a faith which both endures and grows.

  • Brad Cooper

    RJS,
    I must agree with Derek (#36). You have completely misrepresented McDowell and Strobel (and I think Hugh Ross) by setting #4 against #5. Having read about 95% of everything that McDowell has written on apologetics (and heard him speak in various formats), I am quite confident that he fits in #5.
    I don’t believe that anyone of them would say that all of the evidence gathered in Christian apologetics leaves us without any questions or doubts to grapple with. I am confident that all of those named would confess that there are many unanswered and even unanswerable questions. The task that these men have taken on and the service which they provide to the church and to the world is to show that that which is proclaimed in the Scriptures is reasonable and logical and is supported by the best evidence.
    Forgive me if I now misrepresent what you have presented (because I truly appreciate the work you have done here on this extremely important and relevant issue….among the most important issues at the present):
    I think that the problem with ambiguity is not with the nature of the evidence but with the nature of our sin-tainted minds. I believe that this is what is clearly proclaimed by the Holy Spirit in Romans 1:18-20:
    “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who SUPPRESS THE TRUTH BY THEIR WICKEDNESS, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because GOD HAS MADE IT PLAIN to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been CLEARLY SEEN, being understood from what has been made, so that men are WITHOUT EXCUSE.” (NIV)
    Thanks, RJS. May our Lord Jesus bless your work, your ministry and your life as you continue to lay it down for him.

  • Brad Cooper

    RJS, Let me clarify my remarks in the previous post:
    With regards to the essential facts concerning Christianity–the existence of God, the life and death and resurrection of Christ, there can be no doubt. There is no ambiguity except that which is produced by sin. God has made these clear (Rom. 1:18-20; Luke 1:4; etc.). Whether one believes that these things are true or not is not the kind of faith that God is seeking (James 2:19). Saving faith demands trusting the God who is there and has made himself clearly known. Following his will, even when you don’t understand. Here is where ambiguities arise that are not necessarily a matter of sin but rather of finitude: theodicy, etc…..
    Time prevents me from elaborating. Perhaps this helps…..
    Peace.

  • RJS

    Brad,
    It’s good to hear from you again.
    Meyer had 1-4 above (without the names attached to 4 so blame me alone for the names) and I felt none really described me anymore – so added 5. There is a difference between “demands” and “fully compatible with” and this is the distinction I most wanted to make. All of this has made for an interesting conversation though.

  • RJS

    Brad,
    And I like your clarification.

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    brad wrote:
    With regards to the essential facts concerning Christianity–the existence of God, the life and death and resurrection of Christ, there can be no doubt. There is no ambiguity except that which is produced by sin.
    i don’t agree with that. it’s generally in the depths of our sin that we begin sensing that there is something greater than we are that has to provice salvation. plus, my doubts and questions about God are not sin-based any more than Nicodemus’ questions or the woman at the well’s questions were. “come let us reason together” could have been “do as i say, not as i do”, but God would have gotten about as far with us as we get with our teenagers when using the same approach.
    denying the “T” in TULIP doesn’t mean i have to lessen God’s grace.
    if God faced the same challenge in winning the faith of each believer i suspect He’d get pretty bored. there are some tough nuts to crack, and i would wager that He enjoys letting people learn things about Him in different ways, and find answers to their unique – unique in terms of the individual, not in terms of something new that God has never heard before – questions.
    we put too many limits on the way God and man relate – the fact remains that He’s been relating to man since the dawn of history, and for much of this time it’s been without the Bible, without the church, without TBN, without Lifeway bookstores, without large CD and tape mailing enterprises, without chik tracts, etc. etc. just because He chose a particular path to reveal Himself to the world does not mean He hasn’t sought and enjoyed relationships with people since the Garden.
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    uh, that should be “provide”, not “provice”…
    hate it when that happens…
    me

  • Brad Cooper

    RJS,
    Thanks for the feedback. This is a topic that I have recently been seeing the need to reflect on more and your comments and this forum are very helpful.
    Mike,
    Thanks for interacting with me. I hear what you’re saying and I think you have some valid points. Let me offer some feedback, though: It is not our sin that pushes us towards God. Rather it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit concerning our sin–both in inner conviction and in the witness of Scripture against our sin that. Our sin nature by itself pushes us farther away. By God’s awesome grace, he intercedes in spite of us.
    Peace.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    I suppose I would identify most with #5 with a dash of #7. There are logical limits to logic. Logic can tell you what is going on when we hear a beautiful tune but it can’t tell us what beauty is and what it is like to experience beauty. And why do we marry someone? We surly have our reasons but in the end it goes way beyond rationality. Same with faith, we can have reasons for trusting God but in the end it extends beyond mere calculation. But intellectual integrity requires us to reasonably grapple with what reasons there are.

  • Brad Cooper

    Mike (#91),
    Let me add that I agree that our doubts and questions are not necessarily sinful. In fact, they are often, as you note, part of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to resolve the lack of faith that was initiated by sin. Without the raising of questions and the acknowleding of doubts the ambiguities that arise could not be resolved and real faith would not be possible.
    RJS has made an excellent point….that we must consider what we can do to create an atmosphere within evangelical churches where discussion of our doubts and questions can be encouraged and resolution facilitated.


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