What's God got to do with it?
(With apologies to Tina Turner)
|Dear sir or madam.
First of all, i should say that i thoroughly enjoyed your evolution of truth site. It is very well done, enjoys excellent unity, and appears relatively well organized and researched. Your appreciation for a fusion between physics, mathematics, and observed reality is commendable. Indeed, we are in complete agreement on the subject of the existence of a pervading, if elusive, recognizable order to all things that compose our perceived reality. Your arguments are rational and scientifically sound, if a little unclear in places. It is for these reasons that i cannot understand your desire to convince readers of a divine source for this perceived order. Why bring god into an argument about the observable patterns of the fabric of nature and the universe? I do not see any reason for attributing an elegant and well-designed universe to a divine creator. We should concentrate on what we can know and what we can observe. I doubt very much that a god who has remained anonymous for this long is going to suddenly show up one day, so it would be fruitful to continue our pursuit of Truth free from this unnecessary
I choose to base my speculation and assumptions of the possibly spiritual composition of the universe in what we already know. Our knowledge is increasing at an unprecedented rate. This century, thanks to men like
Schrodinger, Planck, Einstein, and Hawking, we have completely turned our understanding of the origins, history, current observations, and ultimate fate of the universe squarely on its ear. Relativity theories and quantum mechanics have given rise to a profoundly new (but entirely unoriginal, at least in the west) vision of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Obviously it is inherently dangerous to put too much stock in 'popular theories of the day'. This has been documented time and time again (and even in your website), and is obviously irrational and irresponsible. However, it is equally dangerous to put stock in a divine entity, especially one based on the Bible's vision of 'god'. We see the state of degeneracy our culture has attained in the hands of the religious right ruling parties.
To avoid these pitfalls of foolishness, gullibility, and hastiness, we should put our faith in the supreme order of our universe. That way, whether humanity continues to uncover the laws and orders governing the universe or instead finds god, we will be correct either way.
thank you for an engaging and thought-provoking webpage.
Thanks for your kind words about my site. I'd like to respond to the questions you asked. In your letter, you wrote the following:
"I cannot understand your desire to convince readers of a divine source for this perceived order. Why bring god into an argument about the observable patterns of the fabric of nature and the universe? I do not see any reason for attributing an elegant and well-designed universe to a divine creator. We should concentrate on what we can know and what we can observe. I doubt very much that a god who has remained anonymous for this long is going to suddenly show up one day, so it would be fruitful to continue our pursuit of Truth free from this unnecessary assumption."
Not too many years ago, I felt much the same way as you do about this issue. I've always loved science and long considered anything spiritual to be lacking in reason, if not pure bunk. Since that time, however, I've experienced things that I can only explain by not only the existence of God, but by His personal involvement in the lives of those who open their hearts to seeking Him. If I had to guess, that last statement may sound strange to your ears, perhaps even repulsive in a way. I'd ask you to consider, however, just from a basis of observation and logic, whether experiences like mine shouldn't be thought of as evidence of God's existence. What is it that turns a non-believer into a believer? If you observed a vapor trail in an ion chamber showing that a particle changed its course, you would conclude that some force acted upon it. Similarly, the course of my life was changed by a force outside myself. So what was that force? I can't prove to you it was God, but I would bet that if you felt the same impact in your life your views of God would change just as mine have.
God seems "anonymous" and absent to you. I understand that, because that is the way He seemed for the first 38 years of my life. My experience and study now tells me that God was always there, but I wasn't ready, or I was just unwilling, to seek Him. He is no longer unknown to me, nor to millions, or billions, or others who have had very personal, spiritual experiences that have changed their lives and beliefs.
You said, "It would be fruitful to continue our pursuit of Truth free from this unnecessary assumption." What then is your assumption as to the cause or source of the incredible perfection and order that we observe in life and the universe? Is it logical to you that an explosion the size of the big bang created such design, balance and order? Do explosions you've observed first hand create order and design or do they create disorder and randomness? Could it be that the assumption you hold is the one that is wrong, or unnecessary to a pursuit of the Truth?
You said, "We should concentrate on what we can know and what we can observe." What we CAN know is a function of WHERE we are willing to search, right? You won't learn much about fish if you stay on land and above the water. You might even conclude they don't exist. You won't learn much about the supernatural if you stay in the realm of the science, which offers only the best possible "natural" explanation for everything, even if it happens to be wrong.
Would you be willing to conduct a little "scientific" study or experiment in this area? What I'd like to suggest is that you take a couple of weeks, maybe even a couple of months, to study and search into the places where you might find God. Nothing I say or do will convince you of His existence. That is something that each of us must do on our own, but you will know Him when you find Him. So where do you look? The best place I know is in the words of Jesus, found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Maybe you're like I was. People could quote Buddha, Mohammed, Gandi or Confucius and that was fine. A quote from Jesus? Now that made me feel uncomfortable - until I studied his words for myself for the first time and found insights into life, into myself, into relationships and into God, that I'd never found anywhere else.
I know nothing of your background. Perhaps you might say, "I've already done that" or "why would I want to do that?" If God is still anonymous to you, all I can say is that you may need to try again, just as you might have to go out more than once to the lake to find fish. If you've fished before, you know you won't find fish if you approach them the wrong way - loudly, abruptly, impatiently, etc. So it is with God. If you are to learn anything from God and experience His presence, it must be as a child - quiet, humble, and seeking to learn from one far greater than yourself.
Your comment that "We see the state of degeneracy our culture has attained in the hands of the religious right ruling parties" suggests to me that you don't know the Jesus I know, or the God I know. Do you have disdain for the self-righteous religious? You'll be amazed at how much you share in your thoughts with Jesus. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jerusalem, were the ONLY ones who Jesus attacked (see, for example Matthew 23), and they were the ones who had him crucified. To this day, those that claim the loudest to represent God are often the ones furthest from what we see of God's nature, as revealed in scriptures and in the words of Jesus. Even so, I have to challenge your logic on our degenerating culture. Are the problems we see in society, problems like drugs, violence, crime, divorce, greed and murder, the platform of any church? Or is it the result of people who have put their own interests ahead of others, and are living their lives in complete contradiction to the teachings of the Bible? Jesus said this:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)
Wouldn't it be just as logical to say that the decline in society's values is directly correlated to its decline in spirituality, to the point that even the religious don't have it right? I always thought religion was for the simple and produced nothing but hypocrisy and ritual. In studying Jesus, I found that his words made more sense than anything any church or religious person had ever told me. By understanding the words, character and life of Jesus you will be in a far better position to determine what is consistent with his teaching and what are the things done falsely in his name.
So here is my suggestion to you:
Spend some time studying and seeking in the places that God can be found before you decide He doesn't exist. That is only logical and scientific. It's important to not only approach this study with an open heart and mind, but to have materials that give a solid background in what you are reading. Here are links to a few items that I would recommend:
The Gospel of Luke. Luke was a doctor and his gospel is a well documented account based on his inquiry into the events surrounding Jesus' life. This particular book is a study guide which has the text of the gospel plus many notes that cover the historical, cultural, theological and practical implications of the material covered.
Mere Christianity, a rational treatment by C.S. Lewis, a professor at Oxford who set out to debunk Christian belief and became one of the century's greatest Christian writers.
Show Me God, by Fred Heeren, a skeptic, featuring interviews from top cosmologists and astrophysicists like Hawking and others.
You may find that God is anything but anonymous. You may find instead that He appeared to us in human form, changed the course of history to the point that our calendar is based on His birth, and that He continues to change the course of lives today. This pursuit has been the source of the greatest growth and experiences in my life, which, quite simply, is why I ask people who visit my site to consider the implication that this order and perfection may be evidence of God, for that has profound implications in the choices we make in living our lives. I only wish I'd had someone to point me in this direction twenty years earlier.
In the words of Oswald Chambers:
Until we know Jesus, God is merely a concept, and we can't have faith in Him. But once we hear Jesus say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9) we immediately have something that is real, and our faith is limitless.
I'd like to know what you think about what I have said, and if you are interested in the study and pursuit I have suggested. I'd be very happy to continue this correspondence and to help, or to share, in any way I can.
Best regards and Merry Christmas,
Gary at evolutionoftruth.com
P.S. I have an extra copy of the Gospel of Luke shown above that I'd be happy to send you for free. Mere Christianity should be found in any library.
P.P.S. Ultimately it is only God who can give you faith in God, but you might be interested in another site that I have just launched that gives yet another perspective on evidence for intelligent design. It's at:
2nd letter received
I am impressed with your expedient response and personal attention to my comments. I find myself submitting email feedback into sites that pique my interest more and more these days, and it is always nice to recieve a lengthly and personal reply.
In repect to your comments, I must inquire about your specific ideas of Christianity and God himself. Firstly, i must submit that I myself am a spiritual 'amateur' if you will. That is, I am agnostic and wary about organized religions. However, this does not detract from my personal spiritual orientation and inner need to find god. I am a seeker of Truth. I am not adverse to spirituality, but instead feel the need to criticize the practices and occasionally unreasonable or downright evil doctirnes of the Christians, Jews, Islam, Hindu, and all other widely popular faiths. I needn't mention the more bizarre small cult groups. The truth about these organizations is that they have hindered social evolution and repressed the scientific investigation of the universe for countless centuries. The Crusades, the
Inquistion, fanatical Jihads all represent the (obviously extrreme) inherent danger in popular religious righteousness.
The belief in one's self to be right and backed by a god is a sure precursor to destruction and butchery. Righteousness is the twisted offspring of otherwise healthy spirituality. Righteousness gives rise to warfare and death, and evangelism gives way to assimilation and
annhiliation. Would you not agree from what you know about Native and Inuit spirituality that theirs was at least as rich, joyful, and rational as that of Christianity? Yet it is Christianity that is responsible for the destruction of these once proud and vital cultures. They deserved a better fate than to be slowly absorbed by god-fearing white men. It was Christian Jesuits who knowingly and purposefully infected entire nations of Natives(the Hurons come to mind) with foregin smallpox and other viral diseases. Where was the moral compass of the supposedly "civilized" and "evolved" bishops and noblemen responsible for the loss of millions of spiritually refined and socially well-adjusted native populations? What possible notion of righteousness could spawn such senseless yet designed destruction?
Ok, i agree the everyday modern Christian is not responsible for the history and past activities of theocratic empires. But isn't the mindset, the surety of purpose and moral obligation, the real issue? Is there any difference between a Christian nation imposing its will on a weaker one and a soup kitchen forcefeeding less fortunate folks monotheistic propaganda in exchange for a meal? I am the first to agree that spritualism is a fundamental part of any balanced and healthy heart and mind. But when religion becomes an 'opium for the masses' and an agent of large scale destruction, we must call into question the belief in self- righteousness and purity of
It is too bad that the teachings of Jesus the Christ had to fall into the hands of such lunatics. I am somewhat familiar with the gospels, epistles, and most importantly, Revelation of John. I cannot find much fault in the specific doctirnes of Christ. Obviously teachings of peace, knowing one's
neighbour, foregiveness, etc are rational and healthy. However, i fail to see how the acts and teachings of Christ are any greater than other such prophets throughout history. I must decline worship of that particular historical figure.
So what about God himself? I must ask you what your conception of this God is. Christians like to speak of a compassionate God that exercises fairness and justice. God as i have read about him in the Bible is quite a fellow. He is decidedly patriarchal, and vengeful to boot. He grew angry with and destroyed the world once. Then he promised to do it again. Only the righteous are to survive
judgement. There's that word again. Revelation specifies (i think) 144,000 people to be saved on that final eschatological day. Therefore it is imperative to be on the side of the righteous.Everyone else dies an infinite death in infinite suffering and torment. I could not feel comfortable with this notion even if i was on the chosen side of the righteous. No thanks.
As for 'looking for god', i can assure you that this pursuit is in no way imcompatible with my desire to 'find Truth'. In fact they are one and the same. I am ready to accept a creation theory, and indeed probably agree with you that the more we learn about the true order of the universe, the more our findings will imply creation. However, i am also forced to reason that the order and structure of the universe is as it is simply because it could not be any other way. A universe that did not have or follow rules could not exist. A universe without rules could not form energy, atoms, molecules, elements, planets, stars, or life. The universe could not work in any other way than it does. We are here, existing, as a result of our satisfying the conditions and obeying the laws of the universe. If we were in conflict with the proerties of the universe, we would not, nor ever could, exist.
Obviously, neither of us has the capacity to prove or disprove the theories we are discussing. And by the sounds of it, you are a rational, well-adjusted fellow. I can also assume that you are a fairly decent person, if you truly follow and adhere to the edicts of Christ. But i warn you against growing complacent and smug in your faith as so many before you have. It is a dangerous thing to accept one worldview and reject othjer
possibilites. Do not become blind the Truth, even it disagrees with your personal ideas. The obstruction of the seeking of Truth is the greates evil on this earth. This is the inforgiveable crime that the Chruch has committed all too often, and why i cannot accept it.
I'm sorry it has taken so long to reply to your letter. I've been away
from home and busy with visiting family for the holidays. I'd like to
thank you for considering what I had to say. From what I see, you have
an open mind and are sincerely seeking to grow and to find the truth.
I'll respond to your comments and questions as best I can.
Your letter highlighted many of the reasons why many people reject
religion, and, in particular, organized religion. I understand where
you're coming from on this because at one time I felt much the same as
you do now. These feelings were strongest in me when I was in my late
teens and early twenties. By the time I hit my late twenties and
thirties, I was still an agnostic but the demands of career and family
put concerns of spiritual issues very far down on my list of
priorities and interests.
You're absolutely right in that as one looks back over history one can
see many horrible, thoughtless things done in the name of most of the
world's religions, Christianity included. While you can point to the
negatives, a balanced view of the impacts of religion and spirituality
on mankind will point to many positives as well. Many are found in
humanitarian efforts. Others are seen in scientific discoveries by
those whose faith in God led them to insights not seen by others (Kepler's
discovery of the elliptical nature of orbits, for example). Others yet
are found in advances in law and government. The laws of the
Israelites (given by God to Moses, according to scriptures that are
the basis for Judaism, Christianity and Islam) in Exodus, Deuteronomy
and Leviticus provided a foundation for much of Western civilization.
The concept of marriage, certainly a stabilizing force in human
civilization and family relationships, is found in the book of
Genesis. The U.S. Constitution was said by its authors to be
incomplete without the Bible as its foundation. It's important to keep
a balanced perspective on the impact of spirituality on mankind, just
in the name of accuracy and truth.
There's a much more important understanding to have in all this,
however, and one that I never understood myself until I studied the
Bible in depth. You can name many wrongful things done in the name of
"Christianity," but if you understand the Bible and the
message of Jesus Christ, you will find that these things are in
contradiction to the commands given us by Jesus. Once I understood the
Bible, I came to understand that the things I so detested about
religion weren't Christian at all, they were just the acts of
misguided men who either didn't understand the message that Christ
gave us, or, if they did understand it, they fell short of it, or
betrayed its meaning. The only way to know what is of Christ and what
is of man is to have your own understanding of Christ's teachings. You
noted yourself that you "cannot find much fault in the specific
doctrines of Christ." That is the key. Suppose that Jesus Christ
truly is the Son of God, sent to show us the way and to reconcile
man's broken relationship with God. True Christianity then means
following Jesus Christ as the path to restoring our relationship with
God. Anything short of that cannot be attributed to Christ, or to
Christianity, but only to the many failings of man, such as pride,
self-righteousness, self-centeredness, greed, hate, lust, etc.
Remember too that horrible things have been done not only in the name
of religion, but also in the name of government, economics, corporate
profits, education, etc. Still, you wouldn't suggest that government
is bad because of the self-centered, misguided interests of those who
use it for personal gain.
You said, "I fail to see how the acts and teachings of Christ are
any greater than other such prophets throughout history. I must
decline worship of that particular historical figure." I, in
turn, have to ask, "Is this a fully informed decision?" Have
you really studied the account of Jesus' life and all that he said and
did? If you did, I do not understand why you would not see him as
being quite different than any person before or after him. How many
can you name who had a greater impact than he did? Is there anyone
else in history who performed the miracles he did, or, most
importantly, was resurrected to life after being put to death by
crucifixion? If this account is true, it is unlike anything else in
human history and certainly should make anyone take note of Christ's
life and message. So how do you know whether this account is true?
That too is a matter of personal study, decision and faith, but I
would contend that many a logical mind, having investigated the
matter, has found the truth of Christ's resurrection to be the most
reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. Some people
believe it just because it was prophesized in scripture hundreds of
years before it happened. Others look to the circumstantial evidence
and the conclusions that one draws from it. If you read the account of
the disciples after the crucifixion, you find they were scared and
scattered, denying that they even knew Jesus, out of fear for their
lives. What was it then that happened that completely turned them
around, following their faith in Christ to the point that all but one
(John) died a martyr? Was it the appearance and message of the
resurrected Christ? If not, why didn't they just give it up when he
died and go on with their lives? How do we explain the growth of the
early Christian church if Jesus was just a wandering teacher, executed
after a short, three-year ministry in a place where most of his own
people rejected him? How do we explain the accounts of millions since,
including an agnostic like myself, who claim to have had life-changing
experiences involving Jesus? These are all questions that you must
study and answer for yourself. I can only tell you is that I believe
it to be worth the pursuit. If you just discount Jesus without looking
beyond the surface, you will be missing an understanding of one of the
most incredible lives ever lived, in terms of its message to humanity
and its impact on human history and civilization. You may also be
missing an encounter with your God, Creator and Savior. I still
recommend a reading of the books I referenced in my last letter. In
this study you will also find the answers for some of the things that
seem inconsistent with the vengeful God of the Old Testament with the
God of grace and love in the New Testament. Read the Bible in its
entirety and you will find the story of man's fallen relationship with
God and God's attempt to come to us to reconcile and restore that
relationship. It is a story unlike that of any other religion, most of
which are stories of MAN'S attempts to describe and find God. It's not
God, however, that is lost. It's us.
Try to read and understand the Bible not from man's mortal
perspective, but from God's perspective, where life is eternal and
holy. Then you will see God's efforts to maintain the delicate balance
of creating mankind as a pure, loving and holy people and yet giving
us the freedom of choice to select our individual interests over that
of our neighbor and our Creator. In some ways, it's like raising a
child. Sometimes love is demonstrated by warmth and support. Sometimes
it must be demonstrated by what seems to the child as harsh
discipline. It is all done in love, in hopes that the child will
learn, and someday chose, of his own free will, the right path in life
and come to love in return. Now play that out on the scale of God's
relationship with mankind over the centuries and you get a glimpse the
story unveiled in the Bible.
I'll close with an analogy. I can tell from your writing that you are
intelligent and rational, but it seems that you haven't studied and
understood religion and God at a level where it makes a great deal of
sense to you. That's OK. I didn't start my study until I was 38. Some
people never start. So here's the analogy, which I hope any good
Canadian will relate to. Suppose you were taken to see a hockey game
for the first time in your life and had no prior understanding of the
game. What you would see on the ice would undoubtedly be very
confusing. It might be clear that the overall objective was to get the
little black thing in the net, but everything else would be pretty
confusing. You'd hear whistles being blown and play stopping for no
apparent reason (e.g., icing). You'd see people coming in and out of
large boxes (benches) and small boxes (penalty boxes) with no apparent
logic. You'd see people pushing each other and hitting each other with
sticks. You might even see gloves being thrown on the ice, and grown
men striking each other until blood was drawn. You might very well
conclude that hockey is confusing, irrational and barbaric, and want
nothing to do with it. In watching that one game, you might not notice
any real difference between a rookie and a Wayne Gretsky.
I think that our understanding of God and spirituality is much the
same. You can take a distant, cursory view from the outside and
conclude that there is nothing there of much sense or value. This, to
me, is agnosticism. You can learn the rules of the game and at least
have it make some sense to you as an observer. This is religion as we
see it for the masses. You can put on a jersey, go down on the ice and
try to learn a little from all the guys. This is a spirituality that
tries to encompass all religions. Or, you can get one on one with
Wayne Gretsky, a living legend, and ask him to teach you everything he
knows about the game and commit to integrating his words, his
maneuvers and his wisdom into the very fabric of the way you play the
game, continually seeking his help in coming as close as you can to
achieving the high standard he set for the game. This is Christianity,
but it's Jesus Christ, the LIVING Savior, you follow, and it's not
just a game, but your life. Learn his ways and all those doing stupid
things in the name of religion will seem no closer to God than the
guys with their gloves on their ice seem to the game of hockey.
I hope this gives you a little different perspective on Christ, and
Christianity, than you get from reports in the media. Still, I'm just
one Christian and have only been one myself for about seven years.
While it's good to read of other's thoughts and experiences, each of
us must experience coming to God on our own. One common thread is that
you must shift from a heart and mind that expects God to come to you
on your terms and instead come to know humility before God and a
submission of your will to His. In saying, "I must decline
worship of that particular historical figure" you might think
that you are just being open-minded. If God, however, has indeed
chosen to reach us through Jesus Christ as His anointed one, His
Messiah, then your statement would represent close-mindedness and a
hardened heart to the way and will of God. My own decision to study
and follow Christ has been the most incredible experience of growth in
my life. It has given me insights into myself, human nature and God
that I might otherwise never have known. This has helped me greatly as
a husband, a father and a friend, and even opened up opportunities in
my career. Most importantly, it has helped me to know and to love my
God. I hope, and will pray, that your life will be touched by the same
kind of experience. Let me know if I can help in any way.