Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

Background: took a religion quiz where he scored as an atheist, but in the discussion he said that “In belief I’m agnostic, like any good scientist, but I practice a more atheistic religion due to the lack of anything to hang my hat on (see also ‘Good Scientist’).” I replied further down that “It would be scientific to examine the evidence, and then come up with a ‘current working theory’ as to the existence and nature of God, which could of course change as more evidence is discovered and presented.” Then, rgfgompei was a little confused that I said that, saying:

Something confuses me about your comment about using the evidence to come up with a working theory about the existence of God. In the religion I was raised in, a lot of weight was put on faith. We had to have faith in God, we weren’t supposed to question, examine evidence, that was questioning God. Faith, as I always understood it, is belief without proper evidence. So shouldn’t it be a sin to develop a working theory, open to change, that is based on evidence? Or is faith not so important in your version of Christianity (Sadly I’m fairly ignorant about the differences between Catholicism and all the other forms of Christianity).

Faith is quite important to me. I believe that God exists, that he is sovereign and inerrant, and that he gave us his Word, the Bible, to teach us and guide us. However, He wants us to search for Him, and promises that when we seek for Him, we will find Him (Matthew 7:7). One of the ways we can seek for Him is by examining the universe around us. He put this universe here for us, and gave us brains to think with. He doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door. On the contrary, He wants us to think, and consider the possibilities, and realize that He is the only way. If we were all just hard-wired to worship Him like we were robots, then our coming to Him and praising Him really wouldn’t mean anything. So, we need to use these brains He gave us. The field of science was started because people wanted to learn more about the universe that God gave us.

It’s okay to question God sometimes. We don’t understand everything that He does. Yet, He does know what he’s doing, and He is correct. So, we need to have faith in Him, even when we’re questioning that what He’s doing is for the best. I don’t know if this is making much sense, but questioning God, and not having faith in Him all the time, doesn’t mean that you’re a horrible Christian. It just means that you’re human, and can’t see the Big Picture that God does. But you need to be able to get through that, and eventually trust in Him and have faith that He is in fact in charge of everything. And God certainly doesn’t want us to not examine evidence. Why would God put us in world that doesn’t provide us a way to find out that He was the one who made it all?

So, I’ve looked through a lot of evidence, and seen God working in my life firsthand. Based on everything I’ve seen, I believe that the God I was taught existed throughout my childhood in fact does exist, and in the form depicted in the Bible my religion uses. Now, I suppose that someone could present new evidence that might change that. But I’ve seen so much evidence that God is who He says He is, that it would take an awful, awful lot to persuade me that everything I’ve seen in my life is wrong. So, I guess I’ve made a “current working theory”, based on evidence (both scientific and personal), that seems rock-solid and consistent with what I know. So, any new evidence would have to be taken in light of all the evidence that I already have, and any new theory would need to include all of that.

I don’t know if I’m making much sense here, as I feel like I’m just stringing together a bunch of sentences to try to help describe things, and I’m not sure I’ve done that great a job. But feel free to keep on asking questions and I’ll try to clarify what I can. Thanks for reading all this.

27 thoughts on “Faith

  1. Don’t sell yourself short; this is pretty good. :)

    I would suggest, perhaps, it’s not evidence you’ve had, but rather reaffirming life experiences. There’s a difference. If it were evidence, you could sit down and type out a convincing list of facts and experiences that could give pause to a critical eye.

    It’s not difficult to classify your life experiences within the context of what you already know. Every time that happens, you become increasingly convinced and reaffirmed. I would assert that, for the same reasons, people all over the world as as sure of their different faiths as you are of yours.

    Just a working theory… I don’t mean to attack you; I just wanted to make myself understood. Perhaps that’s selfish. :/

  2. I don’t know what Pete’s evidence is, but with mine, I’d be sent to a mental institution, or just generally thought of as a raving lunatic if I did what you suggest. That said, I do believe what I experienced, and if you want to ask me about it sometime, I’ll talk about it in a non-puplic forum.

  3. Actually I think you make perfect sense. The nature of God is extremely personal; that is each person who believes in God will have a different idea of God’s nature. I have seen a lot of evidence that God exists in my own life as well; it would take a preponderance of scientific evidence to make me change my mind on that, and frankly, I don’t think science can prove God’s existence one way or the other so it’s a moot point. I argued with Tom for a pretty long time over his statement that all good scientists are agnostic. FYI one huge difference between Judaism and Christianity is that Jews are taught to question. There are books called Midrash that were written somewhere between the 8th and 11th centuries that are Rabbinical interpretations of the Torah / Talmud, because although it’s the word of God, He speaks in allegory and it has to be interpreted in order for it to be understood fully. For more information, if you’re interested, check out

  4. I remember hearing a sermon sometime recently about how it’s okay to question God, so some branches of Christianity at least teach it as well, although perhaps not as much as Judaism.

  5. Oh, yes. It’s my understanding that, like Jacob, the Jews feel it is their privilege to really *wrestle* with God.

  6. My evidence isn’t so much largely visible miraculous experiences you might see on the Twilight Zone, but just continual answers to prayers, so much so that it just couldn’t be a coincidence. (Partically on my first trip to Costa Rica, where I think that God really first made Himself real to me.)

    As for scientific evidence, here’s what I see:
    Energy and matter can’t be created or destroyed within the normal laws of nature.
    Much evidence points to the Universe having a beginning at a particular time and place.
    The matter and energy to start the Universe must have come from somewhere outside of the Universe.
    (And here’s where it becomes more my speculation, but I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that fits the facts.)
    An entity outside the Universe must exist, who was intelligent enough to start it and give it physical laws that would keep it going.
    I call this entity God, and I figure that He created the universe and us so that He could interact with us.

  7. My evidence is largely based on meditative experiences; the problem is I wasn’t trying to meditate any of those instances.

  8. It’s interesting. Even the most stalwart sociological statistician would be hard pressed to come up with meaningful statistics about the effectiveness of prayer. Do you really think that people with unrelated faiths can’t make the same claims? Aren’t these answered prayers really just the self-affirming life experiences I talked about previously?

    “An actor that exists outside of any known context made it happen,” is a wonderful cop-out, because it can be used to explain anything. It may be accurate in this case, but I’m sure people have been erroneously using that explanation for everything from crop growth to earthquakes. As such, the argument doesn’t stand alone very well.

    There is a lack of scientific consensus on the nature of the beginnings (if any) of the universe, and I find it far more productive to let the scientific community continue to gather evidence and make testable predictions than to sit here on my amateur arse trying to waffle out specious claims based on my layman understanding of physics. Certainty is not a virtue.

    “But conservation…” Okay, you made me do this. It only makes sense to define the total energy of a system in a space-time that is flat. During the big bang, space-time wasn’t flat, nor can you find an asymptotic approximation to it. Scientists are still working on the problem. You can’t claim that modern science has given you a well-stated contradiction that needs God to resolve it; it hasn’t. Not yet. Keep waiting for it if you like.

    I still think your only valid claim to Christianity lies in the dictation of the Holy Spirit, which I, unlike others we both know, can accept as a reasonable argument, even if it’s impenetrably ill-adapted to scientific inquiry.

  9. Both the Big Bang and the Primordial Soup theories have been adaquately proven in my opinion. We know that at the start of the universe, it lacked oxygen. When all of the elements that did exist were combined in a vacuum, all of the amino acids necessary for life were spontaneously created. This is enough proof for me. As for the effectiveness of prayer, I have seen evidence of it curing people who are deemed terminally ill from cancer and were only receiving hospice treatment, so they should have died. People held prayer circles for them and they fully recovered; I really don’t know how I feel about this since I know medically cancer doesn’t go away without chemo or radiation. They weren’t on any cancer treatment, except pain killers. It doesn’t make sense otherwise. There wasn’t just one instance either. There’s also the debate as to how much truth there is to these stories.

  10. Should be reproducable and documentable, eh? Or would a God withhold his mercy if a scientist was watching?

    I’ll buy the Big Bang. My point was that the nature of the Big Bang hasn’t been fully ascertained, and that Pete can’t hope to back his suppositions with scientific consensus.

  11. Oh, I think that the Big Bang as currently taught is mostly wrong, yes. But I do think that the universe began at a point in time, and something needed to give it that mass and energy.

  12. There are serious issues with the experiments that generated amino acids. I think even the evolutionists admit to some of them. The initial conditions (which we’re not sure are in fact like Earth used to be) that can create amino acids would also destroy them, so they need to be moved to another chamber as soon as they are created. I don’t think they’ve managed to make all of the amino acids needed for life, although I’m not sure of that. I do know that the experiments create both left-handed and right-handed amino acids, wereas proteins need to be all one or all the other.

    And even if one did manage to create ‘life’ in a laboratory, I think that all you’ve proven is that it takes intelligence to create life. :)

  13. And I’m just pointing out that you can’t rely on scientific consensus to stand in your corner on that point, and that I think it’s rather disingenuous to try to invent cosmology with little better than a layman’s understanding of physics. No offense; I make no claim to understand physics better than you.

  14. Conditions under the primordial soup hypothesis had nothing to do with intelligence but with the physical conditions and chemical compounds, dear. You’re totally missing the scale, though. No, scientists weren’t able to generate all the necessary amino acids, but the run time of their experiments was rather limited (I don’t remember how long the experiment ran for, but it wasn’t longer than a few weeks; in reality, you could have thousands of years for this) and so was the area and numbers of molecules (in the lab, they didn’t have a significant fraction of the surface of the earth to utilize; furthermore, they might’ve been working with a couple of trillion of molecules, whereas in reality, the number of molecules available would’ve been unimaginably large–to me anyway). Because of the limited time, selection on the resulting compounds was also limited. All in all, the comparison of scales changes the odds a lot.

    Proteins, sugars, etc., don’t “need” to be either left- or right-handed. It’s just that most extant lifeforms tend to have a preference.

  15. Don’t forget that human brains have this pesky tendency to search for patterns where none actually exist and aren’t that good at doing logic. Have you really done a rigorous study of what percentage of your prayers (of various importance) has been answered? But of course if a particular prayer doesn’t get answered, that’s OK too. You must’ve not deserved it, or God must’ve had “other plans” for you. Convenient, ain’t it? But can you actually figure it out? No.

    Don’t forget that there are huge numbers of Buddhists, Animists, Muslims, Jews, and so on, who feel that their religion “works better” than yours does (and nowadays, more and more of them have heard of your religion). But which one, if any, works at all? It only makes sense that using the assumptions found in a given religion to justify some aspect of that particular religion is going to work splendidly well. ;)

    Think that the recent prosperity of the U.S., with a predominantly Christian population, indicates that Christianity is the one true religion? Don’t forget that the U.S. hasn’t been around for much longer than 200 years, and with the currently growing deficit, who knows how much longer its prosperity is going to last? Relatively speaking, ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, & co. were prosperous for much longer. Heh, Rome didn’t “fall” till after it became Christian. ;)

  16. Yeh. No offense, Pete, but it seems awfully egotistical to balance your perceptions and certainty against the perceptions and certainty of so many others. If you were a humbler man, it would take “an awful, awful lot to persuade” you that everything you think is right, and that so many others are just deluded.

  17. Who says there’s only one true religion and that God cares (I hate the phrase God loves everyone) how anyone lives their life? As far as I’m concerned, Atheism is close enough to a religon for God. BTW, Jews make it a practice to NOT say our religion is the right one. We really don’t assume we’re correct. Our focus is on THIS life, not the next one, so it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. The only thing that’s taught about the afterlife is that everyone goes to God and receives sort of a moral reckoning and then either you’re reincarnated or you hang around the spirit world. I don’t know how many people still believe in a Messiah that’s going to come; probably the Messianic and the Chassidic, but not even all of the Orthodox that I know. The Chosen people thing is that we’re Chosen to for the Torah. That’s it, though some say we’re also Chosen to be persecuted.

  18. In case you didn’t realize it yet, I don’t care about people’s religious affiliations or lack thereof (as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs down my throat).

  19. I know, I said the former stuff for Pete’s benefit and the latter part for your’s since you included Jews in your list of people who think their religion works better. Typical Jews (I’m sure there are outliers) don’t assume we know better than everyone else; the chance that we might be wrong is built into the religion.

  20. In Eva’s defense, is that enlightened reformist view really representative of even half the world’s Jewish population?

  21. I’d say that most Jews, unless Orthodox, Chasidic, or Messianic; are agnostic, since belief in God isn’t even fundamental to the cultural aspects of the relgion. Most contemporary Jews identify as being Jewish because of the traditions, NOT because of our beliefs, which are actually far and few between (the Rabbi asked everyone why we identified as Jews – every single person said the traditions involved, though some said other stuff as well). I was like that too and then I had a few experiences that made me change my mind in my Junior and Senior years of college. In case this doesn’t answer your question, the focus of Friday night services is on welcoming Shabbat; the focus of Saturday services is on the Torah. There’s NO discussion of life after death involved. The only time the words angels and Heaven ever appear in a service is on Yom Kippur, in the line “Even the angels in Heaven are judged.” That means they’re judged for the coming year; not for eternity. The focus really is on THIS life, so it’s hard to say “yeah we know better than all those other religions” because the religion let’s you make up your own mind about what happens. I only found out the Torah’s view point on life after death when I was doing my own research last fall; that’s how I realized that my belief in reincarnation (which I figured placed me more as a pagan than as a Jew) actually fit. Life after death was never discussed in all my years of Sunday School, except by my ultra-Orthodox teacher in 5th grade so we got the Messianic view point, which NO ONE else believes (my parents called her Crazy Kranz if that gives you any idea). If I had to guess, the reason why people convert or become Jews-for-Jesus is that they want something to believe in; they want to be told what to think. Personally, I like to be able to think for myself.

  22. I’m sure we’ve all encountered or thought of this simple paradox:

    If our universe exists, how did it come into existance?

    If it was created, then there was a creator.

    If there was a creator, how did the creator come into existance?

    If you believe in a creator, does this paradox not bug you?

  23. Well, I think that strict believers “resolve” this paradox by employing faith. The creator was the first thing in existence, and it didn’t need to be created. Period (or “full stop” if you prefer). No further discussion welcome. Logic isn’t going to work (but I guess there’s no harm in trying!).

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