God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Showing posts with label Emotions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emotions. Show all posts

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is Faith Emotional or Logical?

So many people, both religious and non-religious, believe that faith is purely emotional, and in most contexts people imply the word "blind" before "faith". While few others believe that faith is logical- that it is firmly grounded on something. Lately, I've been reading the book "Emotional Intelligence" by psychologist Daniel Goleman and a few thoughts came to mind regarding this seeming dichotomy between faith being based on emotion versus being based on reason. Before I go into that connection or disconnection, though, I want to establish what I mean by "faith".

Faith in Time
I hear people all the time say that they "have faith". It seems to inspire them and those around them, but it often leaves me confused. Sure, someone can say that they "have faith". But when I hear this, I am compelled to ask a few questions:

"What do you have faith in?"
"What makes you believe that thing is worth placing your faith in it?"
"Why do you need to put 'faith' in something anyway?"

Monday, September 10, 2012

How and Why The Problem of Evil

Lately two three-letter words have been getting me thinking about the problem of evil. They are simple words that may stand alone in order to ask two unique questions. It seems that when we properly distinguish between these two words, we can see a clear pointer to the truth of Christianity playing out in the lives of every person alive. These two words are "How" and "Why".

How vs. Why and Its Common Confusion
"How" is a question of mechanism. When someone asks this question, they are (presumably) looking for the physical, cause-and-effect series that led to the result. If someone asks how a house is built, the answer would include all the steps from laying the foundation to the final inspection.

"Why" is a question of purpose. When someone asks this question, they are (presumably) looking for the reason that the house was built. If someones asks why a house is built, the answer would normally include the fact that it will provide a living space for a family.

I've noticed that quite often, these two very different questions are confused by both questioner and listener. A lot of times when someone wants to know "how" something took place, they will ask "why" it happened. Likewise, if someone wants to know "why" something happened, they will ask "how" it took place. In some cases the listener will understand the question (regardless of the incorrect word being used) and provide the answer appropriate to the question, but there are other times that the listener does not recognize that someone is asking "why" and they answer "how" instead (because they asked "how"). 

Confusion of the questions can have trivial effects or eternal consequences. Since "why" is a question of purpose, in worldviews where ultimate purpose does not exist, a "why" question is irrational to ask about suffering, evil, and even existence. A person who asks "why" assumes that there is a purpose, and they want to know it. But if a worldview that posits no ultimate purpose is true, then the assumptions in the question contradict reality- that is how a "why" question is irrational on, say, atheism, but is perfectly valid (and compelled) if Christianity is true.

Worldview Implications
In atheism, asking why anything happens cannot be answered because "why" is a question of ultimate purpose, but atheism, a priori, has no ultimate purpose. Now, it can answer "how" something happened. A person could go into all the different laws of physics and chain reactions of cause-and-effect that led to the result that the question is being asked about.

Unlike atheism, theism can answer both questions. Theism can answer "how" something took place and "why" it took place. Atheism uses the scientific disciplines to answer a lot of "how" questions (not all, though that is a topic for another post)- that is the limit of science's ability. If we believe that science will answer all our questions, we are wrong. Science cannot answer our "why" questions. Granted science may be able to answer "how" we can ask "why" questions, but it will never answer "why" we ask "why" questions. It may be able to answer "how" we have a sense of purpose, but it will never answer "why" we have a sense of purpose (more on this below). An attempt to answer "how" when the question is "why" is an attempt to explain away what cannot be explained by naturalistic worldviews.

Applying to The Problem of Evil
For a person who assumes that there is a purpose behind a certain happening (something evil tends to the what the question is about), answering "how" is not sufficient. In fact, it is actually a red herring, intentional or not. The person is looking for comfort in the form of assurance that the suffering was not gratuitous and was not useless. Answering "how" when someone is asking "why" can actually make the situation worse for the person- by implying that the answerer either doesn't understand the pain the person is experiencing as they ask the question or that they have no comfort to offer but are trying to hide that fact by avoiding the actual question.

When we apply this distinction between the two types of questions to the problem of evil, we realize that the logical problem of evil is a "how" question. It asks how an all-loving and all-powerful God and evil can co-exist. It has been recognized generally that this question has been answered. But, that does not mean that the emotional problem of evil is answered. They are two very different questions.

The emotional problem of evil is a "why" question. It questions the ultimate purpose of evil and suffering in the world. Now, let's assume for the moment that when someone asks this question that they are assuming that the evil or suffering they are asking about does have a purpose (meaning that they assume theism). The ultimate purpose behind the evil and suffering in the world is difficult to answer, at best, because of the fact that man does not have the mind of God- man does not necessarily know the purposes behind certain things that happen. But we don't have to always appeal to mystery to answer the emotional problem of evil about certain events.

Many of us recognize that events that take place in our lives would not have happened if it were not for other events in our past. Notice that I am looking to the cause-and-effect series. I am asking a "how" question of a recent event to answer the "why" question of an event further in the past. If we can see the good that is taking place now (the event that sparks the "how" question), then we can see the purpose for the suffering that we had to endure in the past (the events that spark the "why" question).

The Scope of Evil Events
Now we have to remember that the emotional problem of evil will never be completely answered. We will not be able to see every good thing that comes from every evil event that takes place. What takes place in our lives does not only affect us; it affects those around us, and what happens to them affects those around them, and so on. The implication here is that we may never know the reason that we had to endure some suffering. We also may never know the reason that someone else had to endure suffering. And interestingly enough, the suffering that we see in the past can be part of the cause-and-effect series that has led to what good we have in our own lives today.

Patience is a Virtue
Notice that in order to answer the "why" question of the emotional problem of evil, we must be patient, and we must be actively looking for the paths that led to what is good in our lives today. It is very rare that we will know the purpose behind an evil event right away. Very few of us like to wait. 

We are very impatient; we want everything, and we want it now. We want to know everything, and we want to know it all now. But as you can see, life bears out this truth: "Those who wait on the Lord, will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31a NASB). When we are patient to see what God brings about in our lives or in the lives of others, the emotional weakness that we suffered from a specific event in the past can be lifted when we see that it was part of God's mechanism for bringing about something good in our lives or someone else's life. By that new recognized connection our strength is renewed, and our trust in God is increased for the next time that something evil takes place in our lives (see my posts "What is Faith?" and "Is Faith Emotional or Logical?").

The Purpose Of The Emotional Problem of Evil
Many people see the emotional problem of evil as a huge challenge to the truth of Christianity. It is, if you wish to interpret it that way. One can certainly think that since they don't or can't know everything (see "Dangers of Requiring Complete Knowledge") that God is evil and unfair to you. However, I believe we must ask another "why" question: "Why must we struggle with the emotional problem of evil?" Notice that I didn't ask "how do we..." (I'll let the naturalists attempt to answer that one). The key to answer this question is above- building trust in God. If people did not, first experience evil and suffering, and second, feel the emotional pain from it, we would not struggle with it ("how" the struggle exists). And without the struggle, we would not recognize our own weakness and powerlessness in our lives to avoid evil and suffering. The suffering in life painfully reminds us that we are not in control until the day we die. Without that recognition, we would not be able to recognize our need for Someone who loves us enough to die so that we can eternally escape evil and suffering. The purpose for the existence of the emotional problem of evil is to bring people to Christ and know Him more intimately (see the recent post "Tornadoes, Flat Tires, and Moore").

Conclusion
Atheism does not have the ability to answer our most painful and real question: "why". If we want such answers, we have to recognize that life is not about us, and at best, we are second to One. And with that humble recognition comes a promise: God's love never fails. Only through Christ can we answer "how" and "why" evil exists and why we must suffer the pain of evil.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Fear of Atheism

Introduction
Last week an apologist friend of mine posted a fairly common atheist challenge to a private Facebook group. The specific version is this:
"Why are you so AFRAID of atheism? What is it about thinking you have a big daddy in the sky that you need to believe in that you just can't let go of? Aren't you arguing because REALLY you are AFRAID it is all just a big lie and you know that all your cherished religious beliefs are false?"
This challenge has three individual questions that need to be addressed on their own. Let's look at the first one.

Why are you so AFRAID of atheism?
When I first saw this question I wasn't sure why it was asked. The reason is that it assumes that the theist IS afraid of atheism. Many could put forth reasons for why atheism is nothing to fear. The chief one would be that if God does not exist, then there will be no one to account to after death for the lives we lived. If there is no one to account to, then why not live like you want? Atheism offers a freedom to follow our desires without fear of eternal consequences. As long as we are acting within the confines of the cultural laws, we don't even have to fear consequences while we're alive. Further if we don't like a law, all we have to do is rise against the law, and it will eventually be changed. Cultural relativism rules the day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Compromising the Kingdom

Creationist Apologetics Organization Answers in Genesis- Ken Ham

Introduction

As many of my readers and friends are aware, I am a big proponent of unity within the Church. I like to see interactions among ministries that specialize in certain areas of knowledge and evangelism for the cause of expanding the Kingdom. At the same time, though, I rarely shy aware from difficult theological discussions and differences. I hold certain views that I will accept and address the most difficult challenges against. I've always said that if one has the truth, they should not be afraid to be challenged. Yet we also need to understand and recognize challenges when our views cannot overcome them and adjust or abandon our views as necessary.

Having said that, I believe that when ministries or individuals engage in debates or discussions concerning doctrines on which they disagree, it is of the highest importance that they recognize the points of agreement between them. They can then clearly articulate the disagreement and the reasons, then engage those reasons with the highest level of gentleness, respect, and academic prowess.

Unfortunately, this week I read an article by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis (AiG) that meets none of these standards. Now, before you continue reading this post, please read Ham's article "Compromise Being Spread;" the rest of this post assumes you have read it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reasons In and Out of a Worldview

"I believe that anyone sincerely seeking Truth is going to find it. The problem is, most people are not looking for Truth, they are looking for evidence to support their assumptions. It takes a lot of humility to actually pursue Truth sincerely."- Rachel Oja*

In so many of my interactions with people, I have found that they have already made a commitment one way or the other to certain worldviews and are looking for intellectual reasons to either maintain that commitment, be public about the commitment or escape another commitment. I know people who are ready to accept any worldview except for X and others who are committed to accepting any form of worldview Y. Some are currently in worldview Z but are looking for intellectual reasons to either remain in or to get out.

I have found that Christianity is not immune to this observation. Some people are looking to get in but need intellectual reasons, while other are looking to get out but need intellectual reasons. I have seen people leave Christianity because someone asked them "well, who created God?". I have seen people come to Christianity for "fire insurance". Neither of those being logical reasons.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Can We Be Good Without God?

One word and one phrase need clarification in this question. "Good" and "without God".

I want to look at the phrase "without God". My first clarifying question would be "do you mean 'without God's existence' or 'without believing in God'?" The answer to this question will determine how my unasked question about the meaning of "good" will be answered.

If the atheist answers "without God's existence," then it is quite easy. The answer is "yes" and "no"- both meaning the same thing and being just as valid as the other. Since atheists must base their morals on sociocultural contract theory, "good" (which is a moral term) has no objective, intercultural definition. So, one person in one culture may answer the question "yes" (basing his answer on the "goodness" of general behavior), and another person in another culture may answer the question "no" (same basis). If God does not actually exist, this answer does not change even if someone believes that He exists.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Challenging One's Own Worldview


Something that I have noticed a lot in society today: people hold positions and swear that they never question or challenge their views (many believe that is a sign of how strongly they hold them). Unfortunately, for many of these people, you can easily believe that. Many of these same people are afraid that if they challenge their view, that they will find that it may not be the best or it may not even be true. I knew many Christians as I grew up who were like this. They tended to accuse others of not having "faith" because they questioned or challenged Christianity (see my post "Is 'Blind Faith' Biblical" for my answer to these people).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 12 of 12

Well, we are finally at the end of my Psychology Class series. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the link for the introduction post. If you haven't read the series, nothing in this post will make sense.

In the introduction, I promised that I would conclude by explaining my own behavior with regard to my requirement to take this class (plus two more). As I was going through the class, I noticed one peculiar thing about the psychological theorists: they would develop a theory and seemed to apply it to everyone, except themselves. The Behavioral theorists performed experiments and theorized that all behavior was the result of the environment. My question to them is simply this: "What environmental factors caused you to do the experiment?" The theorists never attempted to answer such a question. These theorists seemed to act as if they, themselves, were "immune" to or "above" their own behavioral theories. I've noticed this with some other theorists in other disciplines, but I won't go into those right now. This is why I felt that it is important that after I posted the series, that I analyze myself based on what I have posted.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 10 of 12

In Part 9 I provided a primer for this week's post (if you haven't read it, you might get lost on this one). This post is another "Reflection on Learning" assignment. As before, the question is in red. Let's get right to it:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 8 of 12

About four weeks ago, I posted a forum post from my PSY300 class (start back at the intro to the series if you have no clue what I'm talking about). The last three weeks have been spent posting charts to help explain the processes described in that forum post. While finishing the writing of last week's post (just a few minutes ago), I noticed an answer to challenge from atheists to theistic moral argument for God's existence- "Can I be good without God?" After I finish with this tangent, I'll get back on track.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 7 of 12

For the last couple weeks, I have been posting charts describing the discussion in Part 4. Last week I posted a chart showing assumptions that must be made before we can make reliable observation about the world around. I also demonstrated how emotions can sabotage this process. I explained how the updated chart connected to the chart from the previous week. Finally, I pointed out that all paths lead to an end point of either a true belief or a false belief. This will be the final set of charts for this series. I will have one more post describing some implications of the processes on these charts next week. Then I will continue posting material submitted to my psychology class the week after.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 6 of 12

Last week I posted a chart to help explain the critical part emotions play in our cognitive processes. These charts map out the discussion in Part 4. This week's chart will show the flow from required assumptions to reliable observations.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 5 of 12

In Part 4 I discussed how emotions and reason interact in the brain. I had mentioned that to really communicate what I was thinking, I would have to do the "nerdy" thing and create a flowchart....well, I did. :) You will want to read Part 4 as a refresher before continuing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 4 of 12

In Part 3 I posted the first of my "Reflection on Learning" assignments that I saw as pertinent to the discussion. Today will be a post that I placed in the class forum about a simple comment my professor made in the previous session. I started it out with quite a bit of context for the benefit of the other students, so I won't go into it up here.