Sunday, October 24, 2010

Theological Indeterminacy and the Ultimate

Is there an end to which we are determined? Is there a teleological purpose to our existence? Can we deduce where we came from and where we are headed based on empirical evidence? Can we get "oughts" from all of the "is's" before our eyes? I don't believe we can. So then, from what basis can we determine the ultimate purpose of existence? I accept Christianity as a true statement of reality, both historical and spiritual. And yet I know that the basis of my belief is not provable in a modern sense.

I'm grateful for the scientific revolution. I'm alive because of it. As someone born with several "defects" at birth I know that antibiotics and modern surgical techniques gave me a chance at life that others before me never had. And yet I also know that the same scientific revolution is driven by a sense that the world makes sense, and that sense was driven by a Christian sense of the coherence of God.

My options are:

anti theism



theisms of various types (Judaism, Islam, Unitarianism, etc)




Why do I choose Christianity over all of these others? I will admit that several of these other options are appealing. I accept that atheism and agnosticism are both legitimate options intellectually. And as an avowed theist, both because of personal experience and philosophical reasons, I believe that the gamut of human experience has made clear that humanity has experienced realities beyond the normally explicable. And I also considered quite seriously Judaism as a teenager, primarily because of the ethical impulse.

I've not been attracted by anti-theism or by pantheism or polytheism since in each of them I'm struck by their lack of ethical centers. In each of them I find a poly-ethical reality that ultimately leaves everyone doing what's right in their own eyes. Maybe that's a bias that's shaped my perspective. I'm sure it has. But I suspect that this spiritual/religious perspective has allowed me to see various ethical systems as competing beliefs vying for a place at the public table.

Acknowledging the good points of philosophical atheists and agnostics moderates my theism quite a bit. I recognize that my convictions are held in light of equally held convictions by those who differ deeply from me. Yet I believe that the Christian message is a better one in the end.


I didn't grow up going to church. But I did watch the Billy Graham Crusades on TV whenever they were on. That's how I learned the Gospel. I also watched the various specials about the poor, starving children on TV, whether Christian or otherwise. I would cry and break open my piggy bank when watching them. Thankfully I was steeped in compassion by my parents and siblings, even though they were all very deeply broken. That brokenness itself served as a means of healing for me. I saw through them our common brokenness and the grace that could seep through.

When I later read through the New Testament I saw the same broken grace. It was in reading that that God made sense. The cross as God's way of speaking, self emptying love, tears down walls. That makes sense.


Brendan said...

Well put. We can't prove faith, but it makes sense of everything else. Thanks for sharing this from the perspective of your story, since that is how we all come to our (lack of) faith: through people, books, and events.

John Dao said...

I don't believe Agnosticism is a valid option. It's all the benefits(?) of atheism without any of the commitment. Agnostics have less faith than atheists do (as faith to believe God is not takes a lot of effort when to us, God clearly is!)

To borrow from William James, "First of all some issues are alive or dead for a person, like live or dead wires for an electrician. Secondly, some decisions are forced or avoidable, and thirdly some are momentous or trivial."

The decision to believe or not to believe is not one you cannot NOT make. It is live (it is not irrelevant), forced (as there is a time coming when it is too late to choose), and momentous (has huge significance). To delay belief/non-belief because of doubt is to forfeit all benefits and goodness of it.

Like marriage: "to delay it indefinitely because one could not be perfectly sure that it would not lead to a divorce, would forfeit the good of the marriage"

To not choose is a ridiculous position.

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