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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How Bad Things Can Be Good

Well, I am moved.  I have been moved for 2 weeks, but it does not quite seem like it.  I didn’t have internet for the first week and a half, and I’ve been playing catch-up otherwise.  I am somewhat calmed down from my frenzy, although I still have tons of things I want to do.  My place is unpacked and settled if not quite how I envision it when I finish all of my projects.

There were several things that happened around the move that reminded me that even things that get on your nerves can be positive sometimes.  To put it God’s way, “All things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  That is something that is easy to forget when things happen that are frustrating or annoying or not how you planned or due to someone else’s mistakes. 

Situation 1:  I work for a caterer, you know.  And at this job, I do almost all of the office work, some serving at events, a smattering of food preparation, and if there are no males around, anything you would get the “guy” to do, i.e. taking out the trash, breaking down the boxes, climbing the ladders, carrying the heavy things.  I don’t mind doing this stuff when I’m there.  However, it can be a point of contention for me when it comes to the boxes.  These are not like packing boxes – they are boxes made to transport fruit and stapled and folded and doubled, etc.  They’re tough boxes.  No one else wants to break them down.  So, for a while there, I would come to work after not being there for a few days and there would be stacks of un-broken down boxes all waiting for me.  Doing it when I’m there is one thing.  Having stacks of boxes that will not be taken by the trash pick-up left outside getting gross for me to breakdown when I get there is another thing.  It started getting on my nerves.  I mentioned it to my boss.  You know, that it would be good if someone else would break down the boxes when I am not there.  She mentioned it to the other girls, and it has drastically improved, but there are still the days where I come in to random un-broken down boxes lying around.  The day before I moved I worked for my caterer, and this is what I found.  Only this time, I had run out of packing boxes when I only had a few small things (read, difficult to carry individually) to pack.  There were just enough un-broken down boxes at my caterer’s to fit all of those little odds and ends I needed to pack.  And so, what usually gets on my nerves was, that day, exactly the thing that I needed. 

This next thing actually involves something that is annoying to someone else and not me, because it involves their things and not mine.  It counts, though, as an example for what I am talking about.  The day of the move, we used my boyfriend’s band bus, my caterer’s van and various friend’s cars.  The fun part was that the power steering went out on the band bus the night before on the way back from their band’s show.  If you’ve ever driven a car when the power steering went out, you can imagine the difficulty that presents in a bus.  My boyfriend was trying to figure out if it was a quick fix of adding power steering fluid, so he took the catering van to the store to get some.  (I just drove the van home from work, so I did not even have my car.)  He came back and that was not the issue, so he just had to drive the bus with no power steering.  Because of this and the fact that I moved to a place on a very curvy road, he decided he would leave before the rest of us because he would have to be driving so slowly and he didn’t want anyone else to have to wait.  He left, and then about 10 minutes later, the rest of us were about to get into our respective vehicles and head out when it occurred to me that he never gave the keys for the catering van back to me after taking it to the store.  Uh-oh.  I said, “I hope he left the keys to the van in the ignition.”  Someone looked.  He didn’t.  Uh-oh.  This meant that he and I would have to come back later and then take the van & unpack it by ourselves because everyone else was not coming back to my old place.  Not the end of the world, but definitely an annoyance.  Well, my catering boss finally a couple of months ago had multiple extra sets made of her keys because they would frequently be accidentally taken home by whomever drove to whatever event we had going on.  This was, of course, not good when she needed to drive her vehicles the next day only to find there were no keys.  The day of my move, one of my catering co-workers was helping me.  When we realized I had no keys to “Bertha,” as the catering van is affectionately dubbed, this friend pipes up, “Wait!  I think I accidentally took a set of Bertha keys home the other day…I think they’re still in my car!”  She runs to her car, and emerges, triumphantly, with a set of Bertha keys.  Moving crisis averted all because of something that is a continual frustration to my boss…forgetting to return keys.

The third situation involves my cat.  I think I have mentioned his obsession with the linen closet before.  Well, while I was taking a shower the morning of the move, he managed to get in there, and I thought, “That’s not actually a bad idea.”  And I closed him in so I would be able to find him when it was time to leave with him.  Since he is indoor/outdoor, with all the commotion of people moving everything and doors being open constantly, I knew he would disappear somewhere outside and I wouldn’t be able to find him when it was time to go.  He did not mind being shut in there, so this is not like a punishment if you are worrying about him.  So, we loaded the bulk of my things and only left my cat and some cleaning supplies at the old place.  I don’t like to take him in the initial run because he gets freaked out driving anyway, and I would have to leave him in the carrier until everything was inside and doors closed.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking him to an entirely new place, not giving him a chance to get acclimated and then him running around outside.  Anyway, after we unloaded everything at the new place, we went back to my old house to do a final cleaning and pick up the cat.  He is a terrible traveler – always gets sick or goes to the bathroom in his carrier…he’s just terrified.  My boyfriend recommended tying his collar to my porch so that we could maybe get him to go to the bathroom before we got in the car, but still be able to find him when we needed to leave.  I decided it was worth a try.  I think it was not such a good idea.  🙂  Try tying up a cat who has never been tied up before.  He was NOT happy.  But he was out there, and I was cleaning inside, when I was informed that he had made a break for it.  I went outside to find that he did not just slip out of his collar.  He BROKE it.  OK, tying up not such a good plan.  Of course, then he was mad and disappeared and would not come when I called him.  I had to leave, though, because I had some pieces of furniture that I had bought to pick up from people while I still had the van, and I also needed to get some necessities at the store before heading back.  These errands were kind of lengthy, because I had to drive about an hour out of my way to pick up the furniture and I had two different things to pick up, plus you know how things just take longer than you think they will.  It ended up taking us about 4 hours before we were ready to go back to my new place, at which point we stopped back by my old house, my cat came running, and I scooped him up & took off.  And it all worked out beautifully.  I don’t think driving my terrified cat around for 4 hours would have been a very good idea, or at least it would not have been very positive.  Initially, I was frustrated that I had to go back and get him.  In the end, it was the best scenario. 

Now, these are all sort of petty situations.  There was nothing severely detrimental.  But they were clear pictures of how things I think of as bad can end up being good.  The bottom line is that if it happens in petty things, it can happen in important things as well.  And I am sure that most of the time we are not able to see the full circle of events enough to understand this.  These events were clustered and it was spread out in front of me like a lesson plan so I could see the beginning and the end of how it all worked together.  I’m hoping that I can translate this into a little bit of faith…that I would be able to accept events calmly as they come and not freak out about whatever difficulties they bring…that instead of waiting until, if ever, I can understand how they work for good, I will trust God’s word and know that what He said in Romans 8:28 is true.  Because it is.