Dear Russell (and welcomed guests who join us),
This will be personal. It won’t be an attack. We know each other too well for that now. Eighteen months have multiplied at least twice as many hours of face to face conversation that focus on our similarities and explore our differences. It won’t be an attack because I don’t find you or your words offensive. As we said yesterday, I think this dialogue is healthy for Skeptics and Christians alike. I capitalized skeptics not out of grammatical convention, but out of respect.
Why have I been evasive? I can honestly admit to asking myself that question before you or CC pressed the issue. I had a sense of anticipation, even apprehension when you foreshadowed your concerns about biblical contradiction. I’ve been reading the Bible for thirty five years now. What would you point out that I had missed? Did I see the differences in genealogy in Matthew and Luke? Yes. I remember asking a trusted teacher in middle school. Did I question the sequence of Paul’s conversion in Acts and Galatians? Yes. High school. Did I know about Deuteronomy 20? Dear God – – this is genocide – – how could you be good? College. Did I know about Hebrew Scripture wrath and Christian New Testament grace in apparent conflict? That probably harkened back to childhood at the feet of my mother or in my father’s lap as he read Taylor’s Bible Stories. How I loved that book, rebound with duct tape, and the father who read it to me. What would you say? Gays or abortionists deserving special hell? Post-college angst. Creation supposedly versus science? Five years. Election supposedly versus free will? Twenty years and not done. Thankfully you haven’t gone there yet. I will.
Why do I still believe and why have I not met you tit for tat, query for answer? I’m in love. There. I said it. The Bible has always been a love letter to me. Even if, especially because, it argues with itself. Thats a very Jewish, very Christian, very human thing to do. I’m in love. The wizard carpenter of Nazareth is so real to me that I call him big brother God. And being in love I know that I may not be thinking clearly. Is that metacognition?
Your approach is that of rationalism. I would suggest that you are employing strong rationalism. By that I mean that you are applying the requirement of empiric proof. Hypothesis generation, appropriate testing, collection of data, interpretation of results, conclusion yielding hypothesis refinement and generation. What work of philosophy or history survives this approach? We can’t even talk about Socrates or Aristotle.
I can and will accept the arguments of science for the questions that science answers. That includes age of the universe and earth. That includes evolutionary biology writ large. But I disagree with Hawking that philosophy is not necessary. I know that I am at risk of taking his quote out of context. Please forgive me. I do write and think differently from you. I read and derive, digest and integrate, and then write with the risk that I got it wrong. Necessity has never been the arbiter of truth. Necessity is the mother of invention, and perhaps that points to our wrong turn. We do need philosophy – – love of wisdom – – and we act like, live like, we do. You have a philosophy. I just don’t know what it is yet. Science was never a philosophy. It was and is a method seeking explanation. Philosophy seeks meaning.
To CC who wants to know why I like NT Wright – – what do I think of his writing and why? I accept the question as fair and I’m honored to know that my opinion matters to you. I’ll start with this as I start my third book from him. He loves Christ and he writes like the controversy surrounding inerrancy and infallibility doesn’t surprise him. He writes like a worthy interlocutor of Professor Erhman. I realize that I am not. So I’m happy to read Wright (insert homophonic pun here) and report.
Russell – – I’m only going to quote and answer you once in this post. I am going to do my best to slow down and take your questions about Romans 1 seriously – – just not in this post. Here is the quote that I’ll challenge.
The first five words of the Bible claim something – – In the beginning God created. I disagree with you that the natural explanation is more likely than the supernatural claim. My specific, small belief, is this. God is. Past, present, future – – defying time and bending the bounds of my intellect. God spoke. Bang. The haunting question of who and what happened before the Bang has captured my imagination since second grade.
You are probabilistic in your beliefs as am I. You might argue that we’re all that way whether we recognize it or not. If you argued that, I would agree again. But here we reach an important distinction. You acknowledge that: (a) you might be wrong and will not claim epistemological certitude (I agree and the same applies to me), (b) we still have to decide if beliefs are to be useful and operationalized (I agree and the same applies to me).
Here’s my straw man that only you can knock down:
1) You do not believe in a supernatural
2) I do
I realize that I’ve stripped the nuance from your probabilistic epistemology. If I am wrong about number 1, demonstrate my error empirically by replying with one supernatural belief that you currently hold (more likely true than untrue). Your humility inspires me and I want to imitate it. Your life inspires me and I want to imitate it. Come clean. Do you currently believe that a supernatural is more probable than not? We can and will continue if you answer either way. It just frames the discussion better for us and for our five readers. And maybe I’m proposing an inappropriate binary branch point. A complex fractal algorithm may be better. But I don’t exactly know what that is. Insert wry smile.
Back to Romans – – I will circle back and answer your several posts line line by line later. For those interested in Romans 2, it will be a while before we go there.
I love God. Scripture is precious to me because it has changed me. That was a miracle – – not a bending of the laws of physics or quantum chaos, but a reshaping of my nature and the genesis of hope when I was hopeless. I love God with my whole heart, whole mind, whole soul (energy or ethereal). I love him and I know that my love could have blinded me. Is scripture reliable? Yes. Do I think it contradicts? It appears to sometimes. Is it absurd? Never. As we go deeper I’ll explain why I view paradox and contradiction differently.
I love you too. You’re like the brother that I didn’t have. Lets both bless our families with engaged husbands and fathers this weekend. You for very good non-theistic reasons, me for very good theistic reasons. You’ve given me enough to think about for a long time. I’ll be back in a few days.