A fresh challenge

I have enjoyed my discussions with Simple Faith but there’s a new challenge on the horizon, so I’ll have to say goodbye to him meantime and address the issues raised by a guy who calls himself Skeptic. I suspect he’s American with a spelling like that, as our UK spelling is usually sceptic. Anyway, this is what he says. ‘I read your blog with interest but I’d rather you cut to the chase and tell us really what makes you so sure that there’s a God, an afterlife and all that. Most intelligent people just don’t believe that crap any longer. We’re born, we live, we die and that’s the end of it. Give me one good reason to think otherwise and I might change my mind. By the way I’m a university professor, so don’t talk to me like a child!’ I decided to write my reply to him in this blog. This is it:

Sunset on the B8033 near Braco
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Dear Skeptic,
I’ve no idea who you are or what you’re a professor of. If you’re a professor of English, you’d probably cuff me for ending the last sentence with a preposition! But maybe that’s an old rule. You ask me to ‘cut to the chase.’ I’m sorry if I’ve been long-winded. You seem to imply that faith is a simple matter and not only that but that only stupid people have faith. Naturally, as a person of faith I don’t believe either of these comments!

Come to think of it, I don’t believe you’re a professor of English. Such people are usually aware of the nuance and tone of statements, and the slightly abusive use of the word ‘crap’ in relation to believers gives the lie to the idea that you are a professor of English. In any case, I want to keep the discussion rational and civilized, so I’ll definitely avoid rising to your bait. You ask me to tell why I’m sure there’s a God, an afterlife and so on. Here then are the main reasons why I believe:

Three main headings

The reasons can be placed under three headings which would be 1) personal experiences 2) God’s revelation of himself in history 3) God’s revelation of himself in ‘nature.’ Being a professor, you’ll understand that these headings cover a multitude of sub-headings and I’ll only be able to cover a fraction of them in this note. Indeed, I can only deal with some issues belonging to the first heading today.

(Photo: Scott Murray)

So, the personal experiences. First, I should come clean on what my worldview is, namely, Creation – Fall – Redemption. Creation means that all reality came from a source ‘outside’ of time. I place quotes round ‘outside’ because we all have to use metaphors of the world of time to ‘speak’ about the noumenal (see my previous blog). Strictly speaking we can’t ‘speak’ about the noumenal, but all of reality strongly points to it.

Faith – what puts all in perspective
But, importantly, God, the primary noumenal consciousness, can reveal himself to ordinary folk and has revealed himself in history in Jesus Christ. For some fortunate people faith is a simple thing, not for me. For me, faith, humanly speaking, comes after reflection. Of course faith is a gift of God, but then viewed correctly, all created reality is the gift of God. Faith is just another free gift, but not everyone accepts what’s free.

Remember Dooyeweerd’s 15 aspects. I came to faith after thinking hard about the other 14 aspects, including the physical, logical-analytical and aesthetic. Faith is the last aspect, what puts all the other aspects in perspective. I almost got side-tracked by other aspects, for example, poetry and philosophy and science. All these studies are useful in themselves, but they don’t necessarily lead to faith.

Incredible mesh of events

All the credit must go to God for leading me to faith. If you read my blog, as you’ve said you have, you’ll know very well what I’m talking about. An incredible mesh of events, going back many years, including, importantly, trans-physical events, proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that a noumenal realm exists. But I can go further. All that happened to me and my wife demonstrated that God is love. To you, a skeptic, this might sound a very strange notion when one considers all the suffering and misery of the world. We are all faced with that reality. Personally, it only makes sense if there is a God who can see things from an absolutist/eternal perspective. This life, for everyone, is only a part of the journey.

The role of intuition

Another thing that’s important for me is intuition. Fortunately, everyone has it. It’s the ability, to put it crudely, to know by ‘instinct’ that this reality couldn’t have created itself. We are all born with this ability to a greater or lesser degree. I believe that’s why some people find it easy to believe in God. We are made in his image which is why it is impossible to be rid of the idea of God (although the image has been severely defiled). I can’t rid myself of this idea, this instinct, however hard I try. So that’s an important reason for me believing in God. It’s what some philosophers call a basic belief.

Winter sunset above Stirling
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Faith and practice

But faith isn’t just belief. Practice always follows from true faith, in fact, they’re like the two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. It’s in the practice of faith – or practising the believing – that you find out the believing is true. But then I hear you say, ‘But then what makes one faith/belief better than another? Isn’t that the truth of postmodernism, “Believe what you will?” Not at all. Reality works according to very specific and refined temporal laws which come from God the Source of all things. If it wasn’t for these laws, there would be no meaning, no perception, nothing. We can acknowledge God and live with meaning or we can deny his existence and live ultimately meaningless lives. God revealed the true meaning of existence in Christ. The experience of Christ’s redemption and forgiveness is the final experience, the proof for me of God’s existence. But more of that later.
Sorry for being so long-winded – again!
Maol Ìosa