Answers for Atheists – Faith or Evidence?

Someone commented on my blog the other day, and I followed the comment to her blog, A is for Atheists. She seemed to have real questions for which she sought real answers and respected those who had a faith, and just wanted to know their thoughts. She had one post called Questions for Christians. I sort of felt led to try to answer those questions. I sent her an e-mail response to her first question, which was, “Is your belief based on faith or evidence?”

I’ve decided to post my responses here as well, although, I will say, I tweaked this one a bit beforehand. It WAS midnight when I wrote it. :-) I decided it could be a little more clear.

Question 1:  Are your beliefs based on faith or evidence?

My beliefs are based on both, which I tend to think is the case for more things than we recognize in our lives. There are many things that we take for granted as truth, but for which we have never seen concrete evidence for ourselves – things that we just trust experts in things that we don’t know about to tell us, hopefully honestly, about. Example: people trust medical doctors every day to treat conditions they have never heard of with medicines that they have never heard of, many without a second thought – this requires faith. And even my own personal distrust of mainstream medicine leads me to seek knowledge from other sources – people that I have deemed reliable – this also requires faith. People trust doctors (or whatever type of medicinal expertise they seek) because they have seen enough evidence to believe that these sources are trying to help them, that they know about things that the individuals don’t and, hopefully, because they have heard testimony or seen evidence that at least some of the things these medicinal experts recommend are effective. So, their faith in the doctors is based in evidence. This evidence does not factually prove that all of the medicines the doctors give them will cure everything that needs curing. The patients don’t read all of the FDA reports for every medicine to check its safety or reliability. So, their attendance to the doctor is based on evidence for some truths which leads to faith in others. That is the point I am trying to get to with my convoluted explanation here. If we tried to live life operating on the same amount of factual evidence and expertise that we ask people to provide for their faith, we would all go insane.

Example:

Man 1: Is your house safe?

Man 2: Yes.

Man 1: How do you know?

Man 2: Because I live in it, and it’s never fallen on me.

Man 1: Did you meet the architect?

Man 2: Not in person, but I know who he is.

Man 1: Did you work with the builders?

Man 2: No, but they have good reputations.

Man 1: Then how do you know they were reliable?

Man 2: Because my house continues to stand, and I trust those who told me they were.

Man 1: Well, I’m not coming in until I see the architect in person.

You get the point. It’s just not possible. If logic required us to KNOW everything in order to BELIEVE anything, then none of us would be able to go through one day of life. This is not to say that the answers are not out there…just that it is impossible for one person to know all of them.

I have seen enough evidence that the Bible is true to make me believe that it IS true. I can’t prove to you that every word in it is true, but I can show you some of the things that prove to me it is more than just a book. Granted these are based on my belief that the different parts of the Bible were written when it is said to be written – if that is under debate for you, let me know, and we will discuss it later – I know some people have doubts about this.

1) In Genesis 5, there is a genealogy listed – Adam through Noah. It’s pretty boring stuff, until you look at the meanings of the names of each of those characters, and list the meanings in sequence in order to read them as a sentence. Here goes: Adam = Man; Seth = Appointed; Enosh = Mortal; Kenan = Sorrow; Mahalalel = Blessed God; Jared = Shall Come Down; Enoch = Teaching; Methuselah = His Death Shall Bring; Lamech = Despairing; Noah = Rest or Comfort. If you read the meanings of the names, it is as follows: Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.

I’m assuming you know the basics of the gospel, and that is the story of our redemption through Christ in a nutshell. Some conspiracy if that was thought up thousands of years before Jesus was even born, and spelled out in the names of men from 10 generations.

2) For this one, you’d probably get a better explanation of it if you followed this link: http://www.khouse.org/articles/1998/73/
It has to do with the genealogy of Jesus himself, and the way he fulfilled a seemingly contradictory prophecy. To try to outline it succinctly, Jesus was prophesied to come through the royal line of David. However, come Jeconiah in Jeremiah 22:30, there is a blood curse placed on the royal line of David that states: “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”

This is a little quandary since Jesus is supposed to come from that line. The solution comes from tracing the genealogies of Jesus listed in the New Testament. In the book of Matthew, it takes us through Jesus legal lineage, which comes down through Joseph, who IS of the royal line of David. However, Jesus was not of Joseph’s biological line, so the blood curse was not applicable to him. The book of Luke takes a turn in the genealogy of Jesus, however, and at David, he splits off and follows Jesus line down through Mary, who is ALSO of the line of David, but not of the line with the curse. Pretty fascinating how that all worked out.

3) All of the prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus – quicker to follow a link or two: http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/messianicprophecies.html
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/prophchr.html

From here on out, this is less about the veracity of the Bible specifically, and more about my belief in God in general.

You mention in one of your other posts that you wonder why Christians feel so threatened by evolution. I do not feel threatened by it. I believe if God wanted to cause the universe to form slowly, he could have. And honestly, I don’t know or care whether he did it slowly or in 7 days or not. What I do believe, based on the intricacy of our universe, of the human body and of every system I have ever learned about, is that there is NO WAY it happened by accident, whether slowly or quickly. It is a process of logic to see that things do not accidentally fall into order. You would never stop folding your laundry, and instead, just began throwing it across the room expecting it to fall down on the floor folded neatly. And from everything I know, that would be infinitely more possible than everything we live in every day having occurred by chance. To continue along this thought, as silly as the above analogy sounds, it sounds even more ridiculous to begin expecting your laundry to throw itself across the room and fall into a pattern of order, which is essentially what scientists who purport a purely naturalistic evolution seem to want you to believe.

You also mention in one of your posts that coincidence happens. I fully agree with you that it does. However, I wonder if you recognize how much in your own life, you fully acknowledge things as being caused by intelligence when you have no real proof of that. Think about it – there is the inference of intelligence in order everywhere around us. If you look at someone’s yard, and see 5 of the same type of trees planted in a perfect line, all growing at about the same height, you infer and fully believe that some intelligence planted those trees that way on purpose, because they wanted them to be in order. You never saw anyone plant those trees. Is it possible that those trees could grow that way by simple chance or coincidence? Of course it is. But you would think it silly to assume so, because there is order. I am sure that you understand the complicated nature of the human body, and of the rotations of the planets, the tilt of the earth, the distance of our planet from the sun…in any of those things, there are innumerable things that if changed, even the slightest bit, would make our planet unliveable, our bodies unusable. That is FAR more complicated than 5 trees neatly planted in a straight line, which almost anyone would never give a second thought to being the result of intelligent design. In addition to that, here is a link to a great movie that only addresses ONE tiny thing – the bacterial flagellum – and how the chances of it occurring randomly are basically unfathomable. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5585125669588896670

And then there is my personal experience, possibly the most convincing, at least to me. I am fully aware that you have no reason to care about or believe my personal experience, but I am throwing it out there anyway, because I feel that I couldn’t really make this answer complete without it. I believe that God speaks to us, if we are listening. He does not necessarily speak to me audibly, but I believe he could if he chose.

Here goes: When I was 19, I was going through a particularly difficult time with my belief in God. I was having serious doubts. I used to climb up on my roof to watch the stars. One night I was doing this, and I saw a shooting star. The only prayer I had prayed for months was, “God, if you are real, show me.” So, I’m up on the roof, and I see this shooting star. So, I prayed the same prayer I had been praying for months, but for the first time, I gave God stipulations. I said, “God, if you are real, I want to see ten shooting stars tonight.” Well, the one I had just seen was the ONLY shooting star I had ever seen in my life thus far. Ten shooting stars seemed like a tall order. So, after a few minutes consideration, I lowered my expectations. I said, “OK, God, ten might be a little ridiculous – three shooting stars. I just want you to show me three shooting stars.” I hung out on the roof for a while longer, but what I can tell you, and you can choose to believe or not, is that before I got down, I saw not three, not ten…I saw eleven shooting stars. I had put an expectation on God, and then lowered it because it seemed like I was asking something impossible…and he exceeded it. That’s when this verse became real to me: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20) I learned the next day that there had been a meteor shower the night before, but I didn’t know that…and the fact that it was a major cosmic occurrence only makes it bigger to me – because either God knew that I would be on my roof that night, asking him to show me ten shooting stars, and planned the cosmos out in order to appease my doubt, or else he put me on the roof that night and prompted me to base my belief on him in whether I saw ten shooting stars or not, all because he knew that there would be more than that. Or what I really believe, is that God did both of these things, he was working in me and working in the cosmos concurrently, and brought us together at this portentous moment.

Another more recent occurrence is as follows: It happened in May. I had been purposely trying to make sure I “listened” to promptings (i.e. from God) that seemed outside of the range of what I would naturally do if I were just going about my daily life as usual. I had a few friends coming over for supper – I was not sure how many. I kind of just threw the invitation out there. So, I was cooking a Thai chicken pasta. When it came time to put it all together and I got to the chicken, I hesitated. I felt like I was supposed to leave some out in case a vegetarian came. I have never in my life worried about whether I had a vegetarian dish when having people over. Not because I am discriminatory against vegetarians, mind you, I’m more vegetarian than carnivore myself half the time – just because I never think of it. When I first felt like that was what I was supposed to do, I thought I was just being silly and I actually went to add the chicken anyway, but I felt it stronger. So, I thought, “Well, it won’t hurt to leave some pasta out,” so I pulled some out, and added chicken to the rest. Two people ended up coming over for dinner that night. One was a friend of mine, and one was her friend, whom I did not even know. Her friend turned out to be a vegetarian, and there was no way I could have known that. My story above about the stars had a rather large, overarching purpose that anyone can see why, if there IS a God, he would want to do something like that in order to secure my belief in him. It benefited HIM to show me those eleven shooting stars. But this? It was just proof to me that he cares. He cared that this woman got to eat a portion of my main dish.

The things I’ve discussed here are in no way the only evidences that have led to my faith. They are just the ones I felt compelled to elucidate here. I’d be happy to hear thoughts, criticisms and questions.

As a disclaimer, I do not necessarily promote the websites I have linked to as far as doctrine or any other specific beliefs. I am just using them as a reference for factual information.

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8 Comments

  1. throughthejourney said,

    July 16, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I think that is Awesome that you posted this blog! It it took boldness to do that and I commend you for it. I am encouraged by it as well. :) God bless.

  2. bobbi jo said,

    July 24, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    where did you get your info regarding the geneology of Jesus? I’m just currious.

  3. skoembs said,

    July 28, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Having experience using artificial neural networks, I can honestly say that trial-and-error systems with large computing power (or time) are much more powerful than an ‘intelligent’ design… same applies to evolution – don’t let the appearance of order fool you into thinking that the underlying ‘system’ must be complex.

  4. tastethesea said,

    July 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    These systems with massive computing power. Who created them? People with intelligence. And it is not the appearance of order, it IS order.

  5. August 1, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Excellent work! It’s refreshing to learn of rational intelligent Christians. I like your arguments and your writing style. (Btw, I don’t think your explanation at the beginning is convoluted; these are complex issues requiring complex answers.)
    I gave a Bible study on faith that overlaps with your article here. An audio recording of my study (it’s called “Living by Faith”) is posted on my web site at http://www.alancoughlin.com.
    Keep up the good work!

  6. Kelli said,

    August 15, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    So thrilled to see this website and even more thrilled to hear of someone else being empowered and inspired by shooting stars… I was recently reunited with someone from my past who I have always felt was my true soulmate in life—however our paths went separate ways many years ago.. we have our own lives now and have desperately been trying to stay apart. He is currently in another country right now for over a month and I received a last minute text from him before he left that I wasn’t able to read and still have no idea what it read. At 4 in the morning something just made me walk outside and look up at the heavens –typically it would have been my 2 labs needing out but, this night it was nothing more than a gut reaction to walk outside…Within in minutes after sitting down and looking up I thanked God for giving me the chance to see him after all this time and started to cry…within seconds I saw a shooting star—I then thanked his Mother who I had prayed to over the last year to give me a sign that he was happy and another star shot across the sky…My heart was racing and I asked the question if he too was feeling all the feelings I was feeling —the heartache and such and I saw 2 more within seconds–that night I saw 8 and each one was within seconds of me asking heatfelt questions —I sat for 10 minutes or more at moments without asking and would see nothing—-I know there are skeptics who would say this was a meteor shower and only coincidence but, what is wrong with just believing beyond our imagination in something that is in itself unexplainable and so intuitive..Faith in something way beyond our control and realm of thinking..I believe it was God talking to me to help me find comfort in knowing we will overcome this time in our lives and to let me know he too was thinking of me right at that given moment..

  7. Faithbeme said,

    October 21, 2008 at 9:22 am

    A comment I would like add is why is it not possible to believe in something we cant see, touch, smell, or hear that is just there? There are Thefts, Murders, and Tons of Unsolved Mystery’s that happen EVERYDAY. And further more Science comes in to these cases and finds NOTHING. No DNA, No Prints, No Weapon, etc.. NOTHING. Can we conclude by the Agnostic Logic than that these Cases just happen??? That even though they can conclude without a doubt it was a theft or murder that occurred? At least with my circumstance GOD has left his prints everywhere and evidence that if one truly wished to find could if only to stop looking with a bi est attitude.

  8. Faithbeme said,

    October 21, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I’m sorry when I said can we conclude than that these cases just happen, I meant ” Can we conclude than that these cases are just not real or never happened?”


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