Thursday, October 9, 2014

Faith and Science: God Is Not a Trickster

A friend and I were talking some time ago about faith and the part God plays in giving us trials of faith.  He said something that I appreciated greatly and want to share with everyone now: 

Personally, I think there's an obvious difference between taking a leap of faith into the unknown, in cases where it still makes some sense compared to the alternatives, versus stubbornly believing in something in spite of solid logic and evidence strongly suggesting that it is false (young earth creationism, a global flood, etc.).
It's hard for me to imagine why God would expect me to ignore or deny overwhelming reasons to doubt a specific belief simply to test my faith in a sneaky and deliberately confusing way. That would basically make God an unfair and illogical trickster. 

I agree with my friend.  There is enough ambiguity in our world that requires faith naturally without requiring that God plant dinosaur bones to test our faith, for example.  There isn't a conflict between faith and science, unless we choose to create one. 


Richard Alger said...


Mark said...

I agree with that to an extent but as you may know there are an abundance of people using that exact same argument to claim that there is no basis for belief in the Book of Mormon.

How do you respond to that?

Papa D said...

Easy, Mark: Lack of evidence does not equal fiction. After all, we have LOTS of things that are believed to be historically accurate for which we have no proof.

My main point is that we don't need to reject or fight established scientific reality just because people in past couldn't understand what we now understand. We, of all people, with our unique theology that absolutely is not anti-science, ought to be accepting of new discoveries and scientific advancement.

Mark said...

I agree with you Ray, I'm just alerting you that this is out there.

You may be aware of it already, but, for example, I had someone who we both know state on another thread that those who believe in the BoM use the exact same arguments to justify their belief as the young earth creationists use to justify their belief. I disagreed with him but that attitude seems prevalent.

Jeffrey said...

"There isn't a conflict between faith and science, unless we choose to create one."

I LOVED this sentence! It basically sums up my feelings on a lot of so called "issues" dealing with faith and science.

Way to go Papa!

Papa D said...

I know, Mark, and it drives me nuts in that particular case. (The collective) "we" make so many things far more complicated than they have to be.

Mark said...

Ok, but how do you answer the people who see it that way?

It seems to me that you can either attempt to answer every scientific argument that supposedly makes the BoM story a scientific impossibility, or you can state the simple fact that the spirit bears witness of the truth of the BoM and leave it at that. But if you do the latter, you are opening yourself up to charges that you are simply making the same claims as the young earthers: that faith trumps science.

Papa D said...

How I answer depends totally on the attitude of the person asking. I have heard just about every criticism imaginable, and none of them is a deal-breaker - meaning there is a reasonable answer for each. If the asker is sincere, I patiently share my answers; if not, I simply say what I did in my second sentence above.

Paul said...

Not to imply that it should be a "deal breaker", but this really is the line of thought that allows anyone to believe anything. The only distinction for anyone, any topic, is that their particular irrational belief is part of their culture, heritage, or merely a pet subject. Again, that doesn't mean it can't be perfectly valid in application (there's a cliche about a broken clock) but it is a logical template that I could apply to any belief for which there is no proof. So it doesn't seem remotely compelling to me.

Should it?

Mark said...

No Paul, and that's where the science based people and the faith based people are talking past each other. No person's faith, even where it is supported by personal revelation, is remotely designed to prove anything to anyone else. It is only for the person who receives it.

So if you ask me why I believe in the BoM, and make some appeals to a lack of scientific evidence supporting such belief, and I answer that I believe because there is no scientific proof (nor can there be) that my belief is not valid, and on top of that, I have received a spiritual witness of the truth of it, then that answers your question doesn't it? But if what you're really asking (as always seems to be the case) is: Why should I, Paul, believe in the BoM, then you have not been answered, because the only answer to that is that you can receive the same spiritual witness I received. And if you have (as is often the case) already decided that there is no such thing as spiritual witnesses of anything, and the only thing that is going to be compelling to you is some kind of scientific or reason-based proof, then there is nothing anyone can do and the conversation is over.

Paul said...

I see what you mean. I just get lost because that indicates that truth exists individually; what is true to me (there is a chubby angel in my stomach who guides my actions and confirms his existence by spiritual witness) but not true to you (you discount the possibility of chubby stomach angels and have sought no witness) is still always legitimately true to me and not you -- because I can always remind you that you have no proof against my chubby buddy. I you asked the right way, you would know the chubby truth, and if you don't know, you didn't ask the right way.

This kind of truth seems meaningless, and available to anyone for anything they want to believe. I give people room to believe it if it works for them, I just haven't been able to understand how it works for them.

Papa D said...

For things that can't yet be proven, I grant people the right to believe whatever they want. Rarely will I argue about it, unless I believe it is causing serious harm to others - like flying a plane into buildings in the name of God.

On the other hand, for things that I believe can be proven scientifically, asserting otherwise based solely on religious belief is something I don't mind challenging - if pushed or if the belief threatens me in a real way. That's why I understand completely why some people can't take my own religion seriously, for example, since some people really are rejected, threatened and/or harmed by some of what is taught actively within my church - much of which I personally don't believe as commonly taught.

Papa D said...

I believe in absolute truth; I just don't believe we can understand much of it nearly as well as we tend to think we can. "We see through a glass, darkly," and the other accompanying limitations on what won't fade away, are a core belief of mine - so I have NO problem with saying that truth, as we understand it, is truth, as we understand it, and varies individually. There are some things I hold as universal and eternal, but they tend to be principle-based rather than factually inerrant.

I simply believe in evolution of understanding and in science as one field in which "on-going revelation" occurs.

Mark said...

Paul, I don't think truth exists individually. I just think some truths are spiritual, and God has reserved those spiritual truths (like the fact of his existence) to spiritual proofs. In other words, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of God (as well as some other spiritual truths). Those truths must be arrived at only one way, through spiritual means.

The apostle Paul teaches this concept in 1 Corinthians 2 better than it's taught anywhere.