FINDING HUMOR, FAITH & JOY IN UNEXPECTED PLACES

MAN UP ~ 11/22/10

There has been a misconception commonly taught that it takes faith to believe in God or the Bible, while all that is required to believe in evolution is common sense based on indisputable facts. I won’t be the first to point out the contradictions about this but— I wanted to add my voice. I do not believe that evolutionary chance is responsible for the existence of humankind or the origin of any other forms of life.  Mainly, this is because I’ve made a choice to believe that the God of the Bible, not chance, is responsible for life and because I don’t believe science has satisfactorily demonstrated, through the use of its own tools— empiricism (knowledge derived from experience, observation and/or experimentation) and rationalism (knowledge derived from logic, reason or mathematics)-- the evidence that transforms theory into fact. As a theory then, evolution still requires faith to believe its descriptions (and the ramifictions) of 'how things came to be.'

Choices are vitally important to the human experience, and the same truths about empiricism and rationalism that are applied to proving evolution likewise apply to proving the Bible— no matter how much you’re able to empirically measure and reasonably deduce, you will always come to a point where faith—a choice to believe something you cannot prove—comes into play. In his book, A Reasonable Faith, Tony Campolo writes about the issue of 'choice' in a separate discussion about existentialism, that “Existentialism is not a philosophy; it is a method of establishing truth in the mind of man. That method is basically through commitment. Consequently, every Christian is a kind of existentialist. When a secularist student asks me why I believe the Bible, I answer, ‘Because I decided to.’ Then I ask, ‘Why is it that you do not believe the Bible?’ The student usually thinks over the question and answers, ‘I guess because I decided not to.’

Reason and arguments can build up a case for or against the Bible and the existence of God, but finally each of us must make a personal decision. Even after Christianity is viewed as a reasonable faith, the individual still must make what Soren Kierkegaard called ‘a leap of faith.’ That leap may be made on the basis of thoughtful arguments and after all other options have been reasonably explored. But ultimately a decision must be made, a commitment must take place.” (12,13 A Reasonable Faith)

I recently had a brief conversation with a childhood friend who has found his way into a philosophy/theory called Evolutionary Metaphysics. From the little I’ve read about this system, what’s really fascinating is what they do in the name of staying purely true to what is empirically and rationally provable: They describe the options of belief, they lay out the basic choices humanity has to choose from when it comes to explaining our existence—but in the end, it seems they refuse to take sides. To which, although I appreciate and respect the brutal honesty of their approach, I say— “Man up!” Here are the concluding few paragraphs of a chapter from their book, entitled “Shattering The Sacred Myths.”

Your choice
It was mentioned at the start of this book, that when it comes to explaining our existence, once all of the myths and misconceptions have been stripped away, there remains only two possibilities.
One possibility is that there is some kind of purposeful creative process that designed the universe and planned the events that led to the evolution of intelligent life. If this is true, then we have a reason and a duty to survive and to progress, to play our part in the grand cosmic scheme. We could have faith that continued technological advancement will lead to social, economic, and moral progress. And we could have hope that humanity can survive by choosing to be thoughtful and cooperative.

The other possibility is that there is no God, no plan, no purpose, life is meaningless, consciousness has no special value, and so human life has no special value either. Our only reason for continuing to struggle through life would be to pursue our instinctual needs and desires, and our only reason for continuing this social and economic progress would be to increase our material wealth and level of luxury. Other than friendly affections or noble ideals, our only justifiable reason for caring about each other would be for the anticipation of some mutual benefit. Without any cosmic purpose worth making personal sacrifices for, this universe will never be anything more than a cosmic battlefield for evolutionary competition and the conscious struggle for power.

These are the only two possibilities. Other writers might claim that there are other possibilities, but if you look closely enough at their explanations, you always find flaws. Their arguments will either be unscientific or be based around some hollow form of reasoning.

In any case, it is up to you to decide which of the two you want to believe. Believing in either possibility requires having faith in some unproven assumption. The only understanding that requires no leap of faith, and so therefore the only understanding in which we can be totally confident, is to keep our minds open to both possibilities. 
~ Shattering The Sacred Myths

To be constantly noncommittal, “Being open to believing anything,” sounds a lot like fear-based paralysis to me. Like an inability to risk, an inability to make a choice. But life is all about risking, about tough decision-making. It’s what forms character and builds maturity and defines personality. I choose, therefore I become. To live as a human is to possess the freedom and ability to make choices that, to a great degree, determine what we become. The real problem with keep[ing] our minds open to both possibilities" is the assumption that this is even possible. I believe the band Rush addressed the true nature of noncommittal indecision quite eloquently: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” By virtue of being endowed with the freedom to choose, Human beings have been stripped of the option of neutrality. You cannot choose but to choose. What you can do is actively choose, or— if you’re deluded, willfully ignorant and/or cowardly— passively choose. But you still have made a choice.

The other problem when it comes to keep[ing] our minds open to both possibilities" is that one of those possibilities, according to the Bible, actually requires, it necessitates— an active, risky choice of the will for it to “count” in your favor. One of those ‘possibilities’ (that there is a God behind the purposeful, creative process that designed the universe) does not allow for noncommittal, according to what the Bible says about God. If that possibility is true, as the Bible claims it is, then without an active choice of faith to believe in that particular possibility, the most proudly open mind in the world is actually already blindly biased. “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” And that is the position of Scripture— To not actively choose belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a passive choice— to reject him:  John 3:36
”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
Finishing a thought on the issue of choice, Tony Campolo concludes—“We recognize that no one has limitless options (or total freedom), but that each man is able to determine the course of his life by the commitments he makes out of his available alternatives. We believe that ultimately, each man will be judged by what he decides about Jesus” (74 A Reasonable Faith).

Regardless of what empiricism and rationalism can or cannot prove when applied to the claims of evolution, God and the Bible, in each case there awaits the inescapable need for faith. In this world, there will always be a need for faith— which is why I challenge you to be brave, take a risk, man up and proactively make your choice regarding what you believe in that cannot be proven, or else— your silence has already made the choice for you. 

Surrounded By Grace,
Josh

19 comments:

  1. Wow, Josh! This is a powerful essay that really sets it out there for any/all to understand that it nis truly up to us to take a stand, that leap of faith and not be double minded, unstable people that waver like a wave of the sea driven and tossed with the wind! Thank you! Jackie

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  2. i completely see your point, and yet still wholeheartedly disagree. i don't disagree that indecision is a passive decision in terms of biblical ideology, but the original question that you're discussing precedes the need for and validity of biblically ideological answers. the whole idea of "manning up" and taking a blind leap of faith is infantile and dangerous. i'd rather fall under your fallacious definition of cowardice than to go about boldly chasing windmills.

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  3. Thank you for your comment; I appreciate the feedback!

    You're right; my original issue- that it takes faith to believe in evolution just as it takes faith to believe in God or the Bible- doesn't require that we bring up 'Biblical ideology' regarding the choice of each person. BUT- I brought it up because I think people have a right to know what the Bible says about the importance of their choice, even if they don't necessarily put any stock in the Bible! I believe in consequence-informed decision-making.

    It's fine that you don't believe the Bible holds any authority and, therefore, that what it has to say on the matter and consequences of 'passive decision' is moot. Well and good; that in itself is an active choice, which is what I am calling for in the end! Well done. Just understand that this is also a 'bold' leap of faith, only in a different direction.

    A point of contention would be your use of the phrase 'blind leap of faith.' There's a difference between 'blind faith' and 'reasonable faith.' A blind leap of faith is jumping off a cliff you don't know the height of, for reasons you don't understand, because someone you've never met makes claims about something you've never tested. A 'reasonable leap of faith' is jumping off a cliff after you've investigated what you've been told about it, for reasons that make sense to you, by someone who has your best interest at heart, whose claims have always proved trustworthy in the experience of others you trust.

    Your Quixotic Blog host,
    Josh :)

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  4. in the end...it all requires faith.....

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  5. Yes, faith! And whether 'blind' or 'reasonable,' a leap, nonetheless.

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  6. i checked back in out of curiosity to see if there was a response, and there was so......

    yes, there's a choice to not make a choice, and in turn choosing not to make that leap of faith but rather to say i'll just keep walking along this analogous cliff until the leap is small enough that it doesn't require faith to make. in other words, continue to assess the "evidence" and gather information until the truth is clear enough that it doesn't require any leap of faith at all. this takes some a certain degree of confidence in your theories as you test them, but not faith that they are right until they've been proven. will this happen in my lifetime? probably not, but the point is that a leap of faith is not necessary. it is very possible to say, "i simply don't know, i accept that and i'm not going to commit to guesswork out of fear of that unknown."

    if everyone just went by your "man up, make a decision and stick to it" philosophy, we would probably still be believing that diseases were caused by angry spirits instead of microbes, and if you sailed too far in one direction you'd fall of the face of the earth. the people that have discovered truths about the reality we live in throughout history did so by keeping an open, curious mind. if there is a willful god that has given us this mind he either a) wants us to use it to its full extent or b) is playing an extremely cruel joke at our expense with this whole faith business.

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  7. i posted a somewhat lengthy response on here earlier today.....did you really remove it or was there some technological glitch? i really hope you would be "man" enough to leave it up and respond.........kidding........but yeah, where did it go?

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  8. Anonymous... I honestly have no idea; I don't ever remove responses unless they are vulgar or completely off topic, neither of which applied to yours, I'm sure. My sincere apologies for the glitch and please, if it comes back to you and you have the time, repost what you had written at your earliest convenience.

    Thanks and apologies,
    Josh

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  9. While I agree with most of this post I also think it's important to not make this an issue of either putting your faith in science or the bible. Science, after all, isn't some abstract thing floating around out there - it's just a process that works really really well to understand the physical universe. If God is the author of both the Bible and Creation shouldn't we be able to trust both?


    IL

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  10. Absolutely, it's not a choice between 'science or the Bible'- after all, God is the Author of both, as I think you pointed out! He's the One who created all of the 'laws' modern man has discovered and harnesses to better the world he finds himself in and discover more about it!

    I think you may have misunderstood; the challenge was to make a choice about what you believe when it comes to 'how things came to be.' Whether you choose to believe we and our world came about by evolutionary chance or that we and our world were created by God with a purpose-- either way-- in the end it comes down to faith: a choice to believe something you cannot prove. The luxury we do not have is to stay neutral in our choices and expect neutral results.

    Your misunderstanding may be rooted in equating 'evolution' with 'science.' If I seemed to make this equation, I apologize. One is a theory; the other is a means of studying the world (and the validity of a theory) using the God-given tools of empiricism and rationalism. Thanks for the comment!

    Josh

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  11. What is chance? Would God building a universe in which not only life but intelligent life is an inevitable consequence of natural laws be "chance"?

    Wind is caused by "chance" differences in the heating and cooling of the earth's surface, yet we can still say that God "gives" us wind by virtue of Him being the author of creation. If we can say that God "created" wind because He created an earth in which uneven heating of the earth's surface would cause its atmosphere to circulate why can't we say that God "created" life because He created an earth in which various chemicals could interact to eventually become rudimentary DNA? Getting into evolution, why couldn't we say that God "created" the diversity of life by creating living things that change over time?




    IL

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  12. I can't help but notice that you still seem to be equating scientific fact with evolutionary theory. Your statement, "an inevitable consequence of natural laws" is misleading, making it sound as though there is obvious and abundant scientific evidence to back up the "inevitability" of complex organisms developing from simple organisms. This just isn't the reality of the evidence. If this were so, it would be called the Evolutionary Fact.

    By 'chance,' I mean an undirected accident, which is what I believe most people probably think of (this is an assumption) when they hear that word in relation to "how things came to be' according to the evolutionary theory. This is pretty close to one of two definitions I read recently in the dictionary: "The occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design."

    The other definition I read described "chance" as "A possibility of something happening." At this point we're talking about likelihood, we're talking about probabilities. Could it happen-? we're asking. If your question is 'could creation happen by means of the evolutionary process?' I'd have to answer 'No' for two different reasons:
    1) Most importantly, this doesn't seem to be Biblically supported (In Genesis, God creates "everything according to its kind;" so that you would seem to start with the basic 'horse-kind' of creature, the basic 'dog-kind' creature, the basic 'feline-kind' of creature. And from that point to today, there has been a fantastic amount of change 'within kind' (micro-evolution) to give us the diversity of life we have today. This kind of change is readily observable and easily documented).
    2) The second reason I'd say "no" to this possibility is because, as far as science can prove, God did not create "an earth in which various chemicals could interact to eventually become rudimentary DNA." So far as science can prove, neither this nor the creation of 'kinds' by an all-powerful Creator has ever happened. Hence the ever-present necessity for faith.

    Your abundance of 'why not?' questions has prompted me to ask one of my own. Why can't we say God created everything 'according to its kind' as I explained it above, instead of coming from something else?

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  13. In science theories never graduate into "facts". Germ theory, for example, is the theory that microorganisms cause some diseases. This theory has, of course, an enormous amount of evidence supporting it yet is still called a "theory". When people talk about scientific "facts" what they usually are referring to are scientific laws. It's important to keep in mind that in science laws and theories are very different things; laws describe things whereas theories explain them. Laws never become theories. Theories never become laws.

    Evolution is both a fact (law) and a theory; we can observe the fact evolution by observing how living things change over time. We can then take this fact and use it to explain the diversity of life in what is known as the theory of evolution.

    For example, if I want to explain why human chromosome 2 looks exactly like two chimpanzee chromosomes that have fused together I can use the fact of evolution (that populations of living things change over time) to explain this by saying that at some point human beings and chimps had a common ancestor with 48 chromosomes and that one of the evolutionary ancestors of all modern humans had a chromosomal fusion.

    It's certainly true that the Bible doesn't describe evolution. . .but then the Bible doesn't describe a lot of natural phenomena accurately, probably because that's simply not why it was written. The creation account was written to be understood by it's original audience, and its original audience thought of animal classifications in a pretty simplistic way.

    Micro and macroevolution are essentially the same, macro is simply micro over time, and both have been observed and documented.

    As for your second reason, science doesn't so much prove things as it disproves things and keeps an open mind about those things it can't disprove. I certainly concede that an all-powerful Creator could have created all living things in distinct "kinds". . .but this would necessitate that Creator doing so in an expressly deceptive way so as to make living things look exactly like they evolved and nothing like they were created distinct from each other a few thousand years ago.




    IL

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  14. I would be very interested to hear about the 'enormous amount of evidence' that exists to prove the 'law' of macro-evolution, the proof that we evolved from another 'kind' that was less complex than ourselves and could be traced back through time to those first, rudimentary DNA. Otherwise I can't agree that micro and macro are essentially the same because one is abundantly observable in the form of diversity within kind while the other seems remarkably lacking in such basic ways as transitional examples/evidence.

    As we seem to be wandering further and further from the thrust of my original post, let me just reiterate that the main point was a challenge to choose between the two basic options of 'purposeless accident' or 'Divine design.'

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  15. I just want to say upfront that I do agree from the thrust of your original post, I'm just pointing out that one needn't say that life is a "purposeless accident" simply because it evolved over time. Many Christians acknowledge the evolution of life as "Divine design".

    Before I can get into micro and macro evolution it's important to define a few things. Science is full of technical terms with very specific meanings and people often get confused by mixing them up. "Micro" evolution refers to evolution below the species level, whereas "macro" evolution refers to evolution at or above the species level. Note that both micro and macro evolution use the exact same mechanisms, random mutations being selected for or against by natural selection, the only difference is the degree of change over different lengths of time.

    "Species" generally refers to groups of critters that naturally interbreed. So an example of macroevolution would be a "parent" population splitting into two isolated "daughter" populations which would evolve separately in different environments until they could no longer naturally interbreed. This has been observed and documented in numerous instances, here's a few examples:

    Greenish Warbler:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1123973.stm

    Spartina Cordgrass
    http://www.life.illinois.edu/bio100/lectures/s04lects/25s04jk-macro.html#Example

    London Underground Mosquito
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_1_110/ai_70770157/

    As these daughter populations continue to change over time there's nothing at all stopping them from becoming more and more distinct from the original.

    Furthermore, there's the issue of what we should expect to see if living things evolved: a series of transitional traits in the fossil record resembling a branching tree as populations split and evolve in different directions. That happens to be exactly what we do see when we look at the fossil record:

    http://evogeneao.com/images/Evo_large.gif

    In addition, if evolution were true we would expect to find very close genetic similarities between critters with recent common ancestors such as human beings and the other great apes. Again, this is exactly what we see when we look at genetics:

    http://en.wikicaptions.org/wiki/Youtube:SF2N2lbb3dk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

    So not only have we observed macroevolution, but using evolution as an explanation of the diversity of life also explains lots of other really cool stuff like why we share the same "knockout" mutation that causes scurvy with great apes but not with guniea pigs, why non-placental mammals are only found in Australia, why pollen isn't ever found prior to the Jurassic, why some dinosaurs have feathers, and why some whales have vestigial legs. All this and more makes complete and perfect sense if life evolved, but makes no sense whatsoever if life was created in distinct and absolute categories synonymously.




    IL

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  16. Great, thanks!

    I'll look over these and address them in a new blog post as soon as I'm able. I appreciate the specifics and the web addresses, that makes it much more of an efficient study.

    Grateful,
    Josh

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  17. In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself. C.S.Lewis

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  18. Beautiful quote. Love it.

    Josh

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  19. In response to the 'Anonymous' comment from November 26, 2010 7:14 AM (This guest's post was "lost" in my blog spam box until I found it today) ~

    For the honest man who seeks to escape the need for faith in life, his world must become impossibly small. His surety becomes limited, by definition, to only those things which he himself has observed and tested and experienced, to only those facts and theories he himself has deduced and reasoned and calculated and proven to be true. Because otherwise—even if he is resolved not to believe in something supernatural, such as God, he still must choose whether or not he believes in the discoveries and claims of his fellow man, claims which he himself has not tested and proven to be true. We give our faith to whomever we give authority to. Unless, of course, we hold for ourselves alone the right to authority. When we do that, when we alone claim to be the authors of truth, we alone claim to be God. For the honest man, his choice is simple: faith in himself, as the captain and god of his own soul, or faith outside himself—but either direction, it is and always will be a choice of faith. Because life is faith.

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