Is It Possible To Convince An Atheist To Change Their Mind About God?

Thank you, thomashwalker2 for your comment on the recent post titled Ask an Atheist (or Christian) Series – Please Comment With Your Questions. I’ll write a follow-up post in a few days about what it would take to convince me (Russell) that God exists. This post is a more general response to your comment that follows:

It is not possible to prove scientifically that there is a God or that there isn’t a God to a mind that has already decided. Nobody is neutral and unbiased that has lived for even a short period of time. Trying to get an atheist to believe in God by changing their mind is an exercise in futility. People don’t become Christians because they changed their minds or were convinced by studying pile of scholarly data, but by a change of the heart. This isn’t an esoteric statement, but a simplified answer as to how spiritual enlightenment is achieved as opposed to intellectual advancements. There is a physical and a spiritual reality.

Thomas, I would like to seek clarification for a few things you mentioned and ask a question of you. I’ll start with this excerpt. Please forgive and let me know if I misrepresent or misinterpret you. A warning – I fear I’m going to be far too literal more than once in this post as I try to work out my objections to an argument that you might not even be intending to make. I hope that, if nothing else, making it through this will help you (or I) better understand the way I think. 🙂

It is not possible to prove scientifically that there is a God or that there isn’t a God …

I completely agree that it is not possible to prove the nonexistence of everything which might be considered a God (e.g. logically invalidate every God-claim). I also think it is possible to demonstrate that at least some specific God-claims cannot exist as coherent conceptual models in our minds (e.g. if said God’s nature is self-conflicting in a way that solidly breaks fundamental laws of logic as we understand them). Perhaps such a God could still exist outside of our reality, but it would be hard to justify confidence that these types of God-claims reflect something that could exist, since we couldn’t understand them (I’m reminded of Flatland). Also, depending on your meaning of proof (I will resist getting deep into epistemology here), I could think of ways to satisfy a level of certainty approaching proof that a certain type of God does exist (assuming He does and we could distinguish His actions from those of intelligent, advanced natural agents, which isn’t so clear). Lacking sufficient evidence for proof, I can think of many God-claims that are plausible – one or more of which could potentially represent a God that exists and governs the natural order. All of this assumes we have a working definition of the God-claim(s) that we can agree upon. So, I agree with your statement in general, but I thought it worth hinting at my thoughts on some of the more complicated specifics.

Trying to get an atheist to believe in God by changing their mind is an exercise in futility.

I want to spend some time trying to process this concept in words. I’m curious about what I believe is your claim here, but I may be misreading you. Perhaps you can clarify in a response. Here are my initial thoughts.

I’ve heard this sentiment on many sides of the (a)theistic divides. [Christians|Pentecostals|Muslims|Jehova’s Witnesses|Mormons|Atheists|etc.] are beyond convincing with reason because their minds are already made up. I think I understand where you are going – belief in God is often thought to ultimately be a heart/spiritual/God-orchestrated change, not a mental one. I think I understand the argument, but I’m struggling to understand how it is sound. I’m hoping you can help. We would probably both agree that beliefs aren’t always fixed and unchangeable for life. I’ve written about beliefs in many posts here, including how we come to them, how they change, the roadblocks to change, the effect that the certainty of different beliefs has on the framework of other beliefs in our mental model of reality (e.g. the crossword puzzle analogy I came up with to describe this interdependence with other beliefs – which I recently learned was already used widely when discussing coherentism), Bayes’ Theorem, my own feeble attempts at equations to represent the belief cascade, neuroscience, etc. My experience has been that my beliefs are not chosen, but are a consequence of evidences and the relative weight I put on those evidences based upon what I understand at the time.

As for the mind vs heart comments, I think we need to break it down a bit more. I believe things through a combination of factors including heart – which is really just inner/core parts of the brain – and the outer reasoning parts (that structural analogy is oversimplified and there’s a whole lot of overlap in brain functions, but I’m going to use it for this post).

Our predecessors created and repeatedly modified the rules and process of science (the modification is continuing today) as a way to train ourselves, not just to avoid cognitive biases and other logical fallacies (common traps for both the “outer” and “inner-minds,” reason and emotion, working together), but to combat our natural tendency to overly trust the “heart” parts when assessing reality because they are tuned more for achieving survival, comfort, pleasure, pain-avoidance, etc., not objective truth. Might they be right in the spiritual areas? Sure. But how do we measure one person’s subjective spiritual experience from another person’s and objectively justify a statement about who was right? There is efficacy in things like hope which are often believed to have a spiritual source. However, in almost every case, exposing testable spiritual claims to tests continually fails to objectively demonstrate that such claims lead to reliable physical outcomes (beyond the odds of chance by consistently disproving their null hypotheses) – as you alluded to in the idea that we can’t scientifically prove God.

If God can cause a spiritual change in the “heart” portions of the brain to bring about salvation, does that remove the burden of trying to convince non-believers with written words, an open breakfast invitation, and a life well-lived, as my great friend Pascal is doing? I don’t believe you think so. I’m just clarifying. It may be true that we can’t convince people who are certain in their opposing beliefs. However, “heart” changes often start from “head” changes. People think differently. Also, not all atheists are certain in their beliefs. I actually don’t know of any who are. The newest trend is for agnostics to take the label atheist, because it is more accurate and relevant (describing their belief position rather than just their knowledge position). My guess is that most people who call themselves atheists today are what you would traditionally think of as agnostic, because many choose the definition a(without)-theist(god) – which means they lack a positive belief in God claim X, but doesn’t imply that they positively believe their is no God.

Given all this, the notion that it isn’t possible to convince an “atheist” (read this to mean what many people think of as agnostic) to believe in God seems counterproductive. Aren’t these lost souls we’re talking about? Is the cold calculus that it is better to spend time on the low-hanging fruit (which atheists, as opposed to unreached people groups, are not)? How far does The Great Commission reach? If trying to convince atheists is futile, what physical thing other than prayer are you advocating that believers do in order to reach the skeptics? Shouldn’t believers use every possible method available to win people over? Is the solution to pray for them, but if they ask questions or try to engage, just turn away or deflect the argument? I’m honestly just curious. I’m definitely not presuming you’re saying this, but some people I know in the fold feel this way, very strongly. I hear it often in our Sunday School class. It’s anecdotal, but their approach when hypothetically finding out someone is an atheist is to say this conversation isn’t worth my time because nothing can convince the atheist except a “heart change.” They literally will stop all engagement with the person. I know this happens in all belief circles, not just Christian –> atheist. Every reader can likely think of examples.

I wish people (myself included) focused less on being right and more on the value of the process – listening, challenging and being challenged. Where most beliefs are concerned, be it spiritual enlightenment for this God or that, this political platform, that soccer team, etc., the focus is usually on getting the right answer as soon as possible, reaffirming that answer to ourselves to reduce our anxiety, and digging in our heels and holding onto it to preserve it as a system of beliefs grows up around and supported by it. In science, it’s different. The overall process of science is more important than any particular conclusion. Perhaps that’s why I’m struggling with this. I’ll press on.

Evidence shows that many people successfully reason into and out of strong beliefs during their lives (often multiple times) depending on the strength of the data at hand and how their present experiences/knowledge lead them to interpret that data. One could try to claim that it isn’t reasoning they’re using, but rather reasoning is how they describe the “heart” change after they’ve been convinced. Without compelling evidence, however, that claim is either just a change of definitions about what constitutes “reasoning,” or it’s an unjustifiable assertion of the source of complex and conflated mental processes. Either way, isn’t that very statement, that only a heart-change will convince you, an argument itself – one meant to be processed by the mind?

I was convinced that the Bible was trustworthy partially because of all the scholarly data I believed, in addition to the heart change. It came together. As a young child, that scholarly data was essentially in the form of my natural trust in my parents and authority figures who told me Christ was real (and loved me and was always with me – just what any child in similar circumstances would long to believe). If I’d been born in Iran I would very likely have believed in Muhammed, peace be upon him. In my early adult years scholarly data played a large role in convincing me about new areas of belief and faith. It also provided a buttress against doubt, as did worship music.

Worship music is still surreal to this day. It’s both compelling and haunting. I find it interesting that such a high percentage of Christian music is about reaffirming the worshipper that God is real. As a skeptic, lately I’ve wondered if He desires worship because He desires it, or if we project upon an anthopromophipsed God-figure that He desires worship partially so that we can fulfill our own need to convince ourselves through yearning, song that he is real. An evolution of faiths, if you will. The ones that had or adapted a way to fight off doubt (and won the birth rate race) survived and the others did not. Either way, worship touches the “heart” and I want to engage in it, but I can’t because the “mind” won’t be quiet about the fallacies it perceives.

Mind/heart is a nice historic analogy, but isn’t it all really just the head? The mind at work, making complex decisions based upon many arguing systems, some of which are more traditionally heart (emotion/survival) driven and some of which are prefrontal cortex/reasoning driven, but most of which have intricate dependencies and overlapping functions? Aren’t beliefs arrived at (at least in part) by the strength of argumentation relevant to the mind based on what it can process at certain stages in life? In the end, whether there’s a spirit world fighting for our hearts (manipulating the neurochemistry in our lower/back/middle-brain regions) or not, we know that argumentation is demonstrably effective and convinces people of things – and isn’t limited to just the prefrontal cortex. Chemical responses from other parts of the brain can influence, support, overwhelm and overcome it. And those parts are susceptible to the effects of relevant argumentation. When the “heart” is changed, by any means, it can rarely if ever be demonstrated that the agent of change was outside of the scope of what constitutes an “argument for the mind” (e.g. a car crash kills a friend and the emotion helps to convince someone to wear a seatbelt from now on – it’s still an argument to be evaluated, but one backed by the added power of emotion/heart portions of the brain which can tip the scales in favor of seatbelts).

Phrased in this language, it sounds like your stance is that in order for something to be convincing, it must originate from a change in the structural arrangement of the specific neurons in the emotional sections of their brain (what we call the “heart”). I know you’re not being this specific. Haha. I’m just getting it out. I’m unclear of how one could elicit such a thought from those areas of the brain without also involving at least some of the physiology in the non-emotional areas (since they overlap so much and are so interdependent). The traditional theistic thinking is that’s where the spiritual element steps in and tweaks the neurochemistry to make such a thought or belief occur. I don’t even have a problem with that. It might happen. However, it seems clear to me that unless someone is pulling my spiritual strings consistently at the right times, my beliefs are highly correlated with the arguments I hear. As such, it’s hard for me to say that rational argumentation isn’t a valid means of effecting and emotional/heart position. I’m of the view, and my guess is that you would agree, that we should not dismiss discussing facts and evidences just because they sometimes don’t work. That doesn’t make them futile.

Also, your statement sounds like you’re advocating giving up. Again, it’s very possible I’m misreading you. I apologize for that. I don’t want you to give up on me. I want to have faith and be able to believe as you, Pascal, and the other believing readers do. If you are giving up on engaging with atheists, I urge you to reconsider. Successful argumentation of any form results in “planting seeds.” You can’t know what argument will be effective for an individual until you make it. I’ve heard many stories of atheists who turn to Christ (and people in other belief circles that moved to still others) based largely on the information and arguments they heard. The “heart” probably changed along with their change of mind, but many of them describe decisions that were based upon the arguments. They were convinced.

It’s also not about proof. Science doesn’t prove things, only disproves them. Just because things can’t be proved doesn’t mean evidence isn’t helpful in justifying belief for or against them.

Consider engaging non-believers in these issues, or at least be supportive of and promote those believers who do. At the end of the day, the fisherman will bring home more fish than the ostrich. Yes, I thought that line up myself. Yes, you can use it. 🙂

This is what I’m asking myself based on some possible implications from similar comments I’ve heard. Why would we want to put trust in something that is immune to challenges against its veracity? What does it say about a belief system if it can’t be swayed by evidence? How much confidence should we have in a set of beliefs that we can’t be reasoned into, but must be convinced of by our most untrustworthy brain regions (those that constitute the “heart”) until we believe strongly enough to push past the doubts of our more trustworthy regions – just long enough for pattern matching, confirmation bias, argumentum ad populum (among many others) to kick in and keep it going? If science and the philosophers of science through the ages have told us that we should avoid these logical fallacies if we want the best chance of finding answers that accord with both transcendent logic and physical reality, should we ignore their warnings and give our mind free reign to follow our “heart” just because the topic is related to the supernatural? The supernatural is a philosophical realm that is technically unknowable by definition. I’m of the opinion we should bring to bear all the tools we have acquired over the last 2500 years for keeping our beliefs in proportion with the evidence, especially when it comes to unknowable things. If not, we may find ourselves committing murder and suicide with a bomb in order to demonstrate that our beliefs are worthy. Or we may end up with the strong opinion that those who think differently aren’t worth the effort it takes to learn from and reason with them.

There is a physical and a spiritual reality.

Almost certainly and maybe. We can be most certain in the existence of a physical reality of some sort (if only conceptual depending on your philosophy, e.g. solipsism, some forms of rationalism, etc.). I think most people would agree with high confidence that there is a physical reality. What we consider the spiritual reality may exist, and some or all of it may even be definable under the umbrella of physical reality if we could understand it. There are many ways to define it, so I don’t want to assume too much on your meaning. This is getting very long so I won’t get into examples. If you count transcendent reality as spiritual reality, then I agree that there is a spiritual plane of existence (though I wouldn’t call it that). If you mean something beyond laws of logic, numbers, etc., (and I think you do) it seems a tough subject to have high confidence in. It seems to be, by definition, something we can’t grasp, or can’t learn enough about to understand and that which is very difficult to distinguish from the imagination. It’s also unfortunate that beliefs or actions that are claimed to have been spiritually influenced have failed to be demonstrably different in nature from beliefs or actions that are perfectly explainable by natural, non-spiritual influences. If the only way it communicates with us is through our heart – which is an inner, older, and less-trustworthy part of our mind – and if that just happens to be the same exact way our subjective imaginations, dreams (literally sleeping dreams and waking aspirations), fears, loves, hurts and hopes manifest to our conscious/thinking outer reasoning brain – how are we to distinguish the bad taco from the numinous?

Just because the thought that bubbles up to our conscious mind is in line with scripture doesn’t mean we can trust it is from the spiritual realm, right? I’m suspicious when the information claimed to have been given to different people from the spiritual realm doesn’t seem to agree. The physical reality, at a base level, is very likely real. Without a good understanding of what is from this spiritual realm and what isn’t, it’s hard to have high confidence that the spiritual reality you’re speaking of is a real thing, possessing authority and handing us certain thoughts or beliefs. It might be. I have hope, but unfortunately, not enough confidence for belief.

Thomas, after writing all this, my guess is that we actually probably agree on most points, but I got caught on some specific wording that confused me. You didn’t even ask a question. Haha. Thanks for reading all this, if you did. 🙂

My question for you, Pascal, and anyone else who made it this far is this:

How do you confidently distinguish the spiritual from the imaginary?

If you can share a simple way to do this that seems reliable, it might be the beginning of an argument that could convince an atheist to believe.

Gentleness and respect,
–Russell

43 comments

  1. ‘Also, your statement sounds like you’re advocating giving up. Again, it’s very possible I’m misreading you. I apologize for that. I don’t want you to give up on me. I want to have faith and be able to believe as you, Pascal, and the other believing readers do. If you are giving up on engaging with atheists, I urge you to reconsider. Successful argumentation of any form results in “planting seeds.” You can’t know what argument will be effective for an individual until you make it. I’ve heard many stories of atheists who turn to Christ (and people in other belief circles that moved to still others) based largely on the information and arguments they heard. The “heart” probably changed along with their change of mind, but many of them describe decisions that were based upon the arguments. They were convinced.’

    Among a few other paragraphs this one stood out. And had me wondering if someone who has had no religious exposure would feel the same way. Obviously you are addressing the points as a previous believer. And obviously you wont be able to answer categorically from the perspective of a non-exposed atheist.

    I just had a conversation – bordering on discussion/argument with my christian mother after she asked about what I was reading. She doesn’t understand why an atheist would hold your position. As someone who once believed and now doesn’t why would you want to be open to hearing arguments, why wouldn’t you just say well I now believe this, FULL STOP. I think I managed to give her some understanding but maybe you have some reason more then you have actually put in this paragraph. I fully understand what you are saying and feel the same way. Though early on in this direction I flip and change between wanting believers to leave me alone and wanting them to discuss with me their ideas, thoughts, beliefs.

    Hope I have made sense, in my own writing and in understanding yours.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi JJ,

        Haha. No worries. I fixed it for you. I just type blockquote (surrounded by standard “less than” and “greater than” tag signs) before the quote and /blockquote (surrounded by the same tag signs) after the quote. 🙂

        I’ll try to address your question when I get some free time this weekend. Thanks!

        Gentleness and respect,
        –Russell

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi JJ,

        I’ll try to address your questions (and your mother’s) now.

        I don’t know if atheists who hadn’t been previous believers would feel the same way, but it’s certainly possible that some would. Either way, since it seems that at least some atheists who were previous believers would be susceptible to argumentation, current believers don’t have a strong reason to avoid providing argumentation upon hearing that someone is an atheist.

        To your mom who wants to know why some atheists are still open to Christian arguments, I have several responses. Of the top of my head in less than three minutes (I’m about to be playing with my adorable little girls while my wife works) it might be best to refer you to something that I’ve already written that covers part of that topic. I wrote a post called Calling All Christians – Help An Atheist Believe. In the comments section I provided a response to Mike with 6 points. Some of them are relevant. I’ll be happy to provide more follow-up later if either of you would like it.

        For now, the short version is that I’m an agnostic, weak atheist. I don’t hold a positive belief that no God exists. I just lack belief in each God claim I’ve heard that interacts with reality – due to incoherence or insufficient evidence. On top of that, I was raised to believe in God and it seems to be a natural propensity for human coping that is difficult to fight at times. I have the desire to worship, but haven’t found a way to hold the Christian God as a coherent concept that might exist and be the target of that worship. I also haven’t found the Bible to be trustworthy.

        I’m open to arguments from any faith because 1) I would love to hear argumentation that is strong enough to allow my mind to give way to my heart, 2) my life is going well now, but I predict the absolute need for strong hope if sufficiently difficult times come in the future, and 3) I’m not sure that humans will ever be capable of knowing what lies beneath all the layers of reality – reaching to an ultimate source if there is one. I’m not at all prepared to give up the search. It’s a very short life. I expect to be wrong about the ultimate meaning/cause when I reach the end, but I don’t want to be. I desperately don’t want to be. We awoke to a mystery of existence. A giant puzzle that many of us refuse to sit down with because we lack interest or we think we already have it all figured out. I’m very interested and I know that I can’t see the picture in the puzzle. I’m not putting it down, which means I’ll always be open to argumentation from people of faith.

        I hope that makes sense. 🙂

        Gentleness and respect,
        –Russell

        Liked by 2 people

        1. HI, Thank you for taking the time to respond, especially when your girls are waiting!
          All that you have said there makes sense. And what you have said is close to or right along the lines of the way I’m thinking/leaning at the present. Caught in a spot between heart and mind.
          Until recently I had no fear of the end but that has crept up on me over the last few months. Has almost stopped me in my tracks. But even that hasn’t been able to tip the scales to belief.
          My mum is hurting – I just recently told her of my position – she is fearful. And she doesn’t understand. Hopefully, at a different time, I will be able to share some of what you have written here.
          Thanks again.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I am posting this a second time. The first time I may have done it incorrectly.
    Russell,
    WOW! You are thorough and your ability to articulate your thoughts is exceptional. I will engage in this discussion by taking a different approach. I have found that addressing an atheist is radically different than an agnostic. Talking to an atheist about the God of the Bible and Jesus is putting the cart before the horse. I will begin by quoting a famous agnostic as he expresses his feelings about God.

    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
    We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
    Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.
    When the solution is simple, God is answering.
    God does not play dice with the universe” – Albert Einstein

    I will be back shortly.

    Thomas

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    1. I’m glad that you’ll be back Thomas. You’re certainly welcome here. I didn’t know that people like Russell were out there, and yes – – the responses are very thorough and always well thought out. I can vouch for the fact that his faith was genuine and deep. My belief is that it is still so. I consider doubt the ally of faith rather than the enemy. I do not think Russell is apostate and I do think that we need to listen well. He’s a true friend and I appreciate your respectful, thoughtful approach to him and any others who visit.

      Blessings —
      Pascal
      –1:16

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    2. HI Thomas,

      Thank you! I’ve been a fan of Einstein for some time. I’m very interested in reading more of his work. If you’re interested, Einstein’s entire set of publications (30,000 unique documents written by and to him – scientific papers, letters, diaries, lecture notes, and interviews) are being transcribed, annotated and translated into free electronic volumes by Caltech and others. It’s an amazing resource that I intend to consume in small, dense bites over the years. His quotes about God are often misunderstood, and I have a natural tendency to resist the argument from authority, but I do feel a sense of agreement with the God musings of many astrophysicists and cosmologists.

      Einstein was emotionally invested, as many scientists are, in some variant of Laplace’s concept of determinism. He was also very opposed to the hypotheses that were appearing to explain the emerging field of quantum mechanics and its “spooky action at a distance.” In recent decades, determinism has been on somewhat shaky ground due to John Bell’s experiments that show that if we accept determinism, we essentially have to give up special relativity. Hawking Radiation adds a further problem for determinism. Hawking’s view on the last part of your Einstein quote was summed up in Hawking’s article called, Does God Play Dice?. The article describes much of what I’m talking about. Here’s a quote.

      Thus it seems Einstein was doubly wrong when he said, God does not play dice. Not only does God definitely play dice, but He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.

      I strongly suspect that your point has little or nothing to do with the science behind the statement, but the fact that Einstein used expressions like “the intuitive mind,” “sacred gift,” capital T “Truth,” and “God.” I employ these words quite liberally in hypothetical discussions as part of a way to reason about the universe. In Einstein’s time, it was a bit more of a requirement to do so than it is today. As we both know, he certainly wasn’t talking about the Christian God, but more of a label for the laws of the universe (the ones affirmed by his possibly-false deterministic worldview). From Wikipedia:

      Albert Einstein’s religious views have been studied extensively. He said he believed in the “pantheistic” God of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal god, a belief he criticized. He also called himself an agnostic, while disassociating himself from the label atheist, preferring, he said, “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

      An attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. That is exactly my view. I think Einstein may have accepted the atheist label today given the cultural shift for people to accurately represent themselves in the belief spectrum, not just the vague knowledge spectrum – and the now-accepted distinction between positive and negative atheism.

      You said:

      I have found that addressing an atheist is radically different than an agnostic.

      I salute you for the excellent observation that different tactics are needed for people with different beliefs. What tends to happen is that believers, unknowingly unaware of these distinctions, lump all atheists in with the Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc., types who are usually agnostic strong atheists or gnostic atheists. So when the believers put forth their arguments stating why it is a fallacy to believe that no God exists, the common atheist (agnostic negative or weak atheist who simply lacks belief in a God) tends to see a straw man argument. Your statement isn’t incorrect the way it is phrased based on some people’s understanding and connotation of atheist vs agnostic. However, with the more recent shift in how those terms are used, I interpret it this way: “I have found that addressing a positive atheist is radically different than an negative atheist.”

      I just wrote the post Faith Poll: What Do You Believe? as a response to clarify how I see this distinction.

      You also said:

      Talking to an atheist about the God of the Bible and Jesus is putting the cart before the horse.

      As a negative/weak atheist who doesn’t positively affirm the statement “there is no God,” I’m actually more interested in arguments for the Bible than I am in arguments for deism or pantheism. I don’t have a problem accepting that some God might exist. I’m just looking for a version of that God that I can both understand as being internally coherent, and that is also backed by sufficient evidence to justify belief. I’ll write more about what it would take for me to believe in a God in a future post (probably 2-3 posts away).

      Thank you again, again, for the great quote from Einstein. I look forward to future discussions! 🙂

      Gentleness and respect,
      –Russell

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  3. Russell,

    Have you read this by Einstein:

    “The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”

    I like your comment: “I don’t have a problem accepting that some God might exist. I’m just looking for a version of that God that I can both understand as being internally coherent, and that is also backed by sufficient evidence to justify belief.”

    Einstein found the evidence you seek in the orderliness of the Universe. This has been explained in the Bible: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:20 (KJV).

    Understanding a fraction of what Einstein knew about the universe should lead a person to consider a designer or creator. It would be like uncovering the pyramids and concluding that the hot, arid winds over a period of years formed these amazing wonders of the world. God is revealing Himself through His handiwork.
    Thomas

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      1. Hi makagut,

        Welcome, and thank you for your excellent question! Was it directed at me or Thomas? I’ll be happy to answer it, but I’m also interested in his explanation if that’s what you were hoping for.

        Gentleness and respect,
        –Russell

        Like

  4. Hi Thomas,

    The universe we see seems to have some order. However, we’d expect to be present in the ordered parts (not the disordered parts) and the existence of pockets of order in a larger set of disorder (e.g. some of the multiverse theories which post-date Einstein) does not seem to necessitate that there was a mind that consciously created it.

    Understanding a fraction of what Einstein knew about the universe should lead a person to consider a designer or creator. It would be like uncovering the pyramids and concluding that the hot, arid winds over a period of years formed these amazing wonders of the world.

    I do consider a designer or creator. I don’t think your pyramid analogy is correct because we have an expectation of the conditions, probabilities, pressures, etc., involved in building the pyramids. We have very little understanding of the conditions, probabilities, etc., outside of our universe, or what the default state or behavior of nature and nothing are.

    For the sake of discussions I’ve always been comfortable granting deism and assuming there is a mind that created the order (since I’m about 50/50 on the existence of such an ultimate cause, see iMultiverse). Deism doesn’t make any claims about meaning, how we should live, an afterlife, etc. It also doesn’t make any claims that are testable, even philosophical or meta-physical claims that could be logically contradictory or self-refuting. As such, it’s hard to have much confidence in it.

    In the end, even if I accept a very low confidence in Einstein’s pantheistic God (which was as much a label for order in the universe as anything meaningful about theology) that doesn’t change anything for me. The meaningful question is how can I get from deism/pantheism to a God that has intentions for humanity – e.g. something like the Christian God which I think you’re supporting?

    Gentleness and respect,
    –Russell

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Russell,
    I consider it an honor that you read and respond to my posts. It is obvious that you are well-read intellect. I hope my responses don’t bore you.

    Your comment about the universe having some pockets of order in a larger set of disorder took me by surprise. You possess an extensive amount of knowledge concerning a wide range of topics. I know of no one that had a better understanding of the cosmos and how things functioned than Einstein. And yet, he claimed to be at a level no further advanced than kindergarten. Myself, I have an above average understanding of soil and plant science. I have studied under some notable soil scientists over the past ten years. The one thing consistent with these men and others in this field of study is that mankind knows very little how and why the soils function the way they do. Where we are smart enough to understand we see order, but because there is so much we don’t understand we should not categorize it as disorder.

    Earth is not a planet but a home for humans. The designer obviously made it this way. No other planet in the known universe could sustain life. Did the creator/designer do this to make an obvious point? “The obvious is the most obscure” I guess was His point.

    I don’t understand how a deists and agnostics can take a small step toward spiritual enlightenment by claiming the existence of a God/creator, and then know with certainty the mind and intent of this God – this powerful entity doesn’t want anything to do with His creation. This should not be the conclusion one should come to. Logically, the creator would want to be involved.

    The true journey consists not in seeking new landscapes,
    but in having new eyes. —Proust

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    1. Hi Thomas,

      Of course your responses are not a bore! 🙂 And I think you overestimate my intellect, but thank you.

      I know of no one that had a better understanding of the cosmos and how things functioned than Einstein. And yet, he claimed to be at a level no further advanced than kindergarten.

      By my estimation, many astrophysicists, particle physicists, theoretical physicists and cosmologists working today know as much or more than Einstein did about some (or in some cases, most) areas the universe – not for reasons of intelligence, but by virtue of them inheriting his work to build from. Newton may have been smarter than Einstein, but he didn’t have Einstein’s starting point. Who knows, Hawking may be the smartest of them all, or not.

      If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton

      I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

      Many of today’s astrophysicists hold Einstein’s view of order, but to say that anyone living is as advanced as a kindergartener in their knowledge of the universe feels far too presumptuous, in my opinion. We might be as advanced as the worker ant in the kindergartner’s class ant colony who discovered a pattern to the colony’s plastic walls. Forgive if the analogy is incorrect. I’m not very knowledgable in soil or ants. My point is that I have even less certainty than Einstein did about being close to the last layer of the onion. In Einstein’s day the puzzles of the universe seem to be unraveling faster and faster. It looked as if we’d reach a single theory that explained everything within their lifetimes. That’s what Einstein committed the latter part of his life to, and what Stephen Hawking and many other’s continue today. We’ve run into several things in recent decades that have hinted at an order that may be, in principle, unknowable. I won’t get into those right now. I may make a post soon about why I will never believe there is no God. Why we should all hold our meager scientific understanding – our knowledge of the universe – in tentative humility.

      Myself, I have an above average understanding of soil and plant science. I have studied under some notable soil scientists over the past ten years. The one thing consistent with these men and others in this field of study is that mankind knows very little how and why the soils function the way they do. Where we are smart enough to understand we see order, but because there is so much we don’t understand we should not categorize it as disorder.

      When I use the word chaos or disorder, it is always meant lightly, with the presumption that it could be ultimately ordered but we don’t yet have sufficient patterned data to develop the algorithms and tools to understand that order (like weather patterns before satellites, barometers, weather science, etc.). I often use words like order and chaos/disorder for simplicity so I have a way of describing, not what is known to be disordered in principle, but what currently appears to be disordered to us now (so as to distinguish it from the patterns and laws of nature we do have some familiarity with). You are correct that we cannot say it is disordered. I agree with your soil science friends. I said “seems to have some order,” but should also have said, “seemingly disordered parts,” for accuracy.

      Earth is not a planet but a home for humans.

      I must say that Earth is a planet. It is also a home for humans. 🙂

      The designer obviously made it this way.

      I wish it was obvious to me that a mind intentionally designed our planet for the purpose of humans. If it was, I’d definitely be at least a deist and possibly more, not an atheist. It used to be obvious when I was told that in the church and repeated it to others multiple times. However, when I started checking those beliefs against evidence so I could provide rational justification to others for them, something changed. I learned more about chemistry, fundamental/minimal biology, mathematical modeling, simulations, the possibilities of abiogenesis or panspermia, the tenacity and variation of life, the ranges of conditions at which it could exist, it’s likelihood in other places, Earth’s often less-than-hospital environment, etc. The more I learned, the less convinced I became that I could justify that logic alone demonstrates the a designer obviously made Earth, and it made it for the purpose of humans. In addition, the designer hypothesis had a few things going against it (at least my particular Christian version of that hypothesis did). In order to explain why the earth was so inhospitable at certain times and places, I invoked The Fall of Man in which the land is cursed by God because of man’s disobedience. This curse was embedded in a narrative that contradicts much of the rest of modern science. To hold the curse as the explanation for natural disasters, I’d have to challenge the serious, strong conclusions of serious science and scientific consensus across many fields of study. If I gave up The Fall narrative and turned it allegorical, I’d have to lose some confidence in the basis for the redemption/salvation message in the Christian Bible – Christ came to redeem humanity to God after the curse given in The Fall narrative – but this might now be metaphorical, reducing my confidence in other areas of the Bible). Metaphorical or not, the claims proposed in The Fall of Man narrative (in order to explain how the Earth isn’t perfectly designed by a perfect creator for human life) are seriously subject to Occam’s Razor and put the weight of justification on the side of it not being designed (at least not in the way described by the Christian Bible). When one sees the holy texts and messages derived from direct revelation as untrustworthy, it becomes very difficult for them to apply the explanations in those stories to what they see in nature. It’s just hard to do, no matter how badly I might want to.

      No other planet in the known universe could sustain life.

      That is incorrect. We don’t know if life exists on other planets, but most scientists suspect it does. Advanced, intelligent life is less probable, but still likely somewhere in the known universe. There are many planets we know of in our solar system that could sustain life, which is one of the reasons we currently have rovers on Mars and are looking hard at Europa, Enceladus, Io, Titan and others.

      Did the creator/designer do this to make an obvious point? “The obvious is the most obscure” I guess was His point.

      If a creator/designer exists or existed, and if it did this to make a point, I would be reluctant to say much with confidence about what his point would be. I could make guesses, but not find conviction from such guesses.

      I don’t understand how a deists and agnostics can take a small step toward spiritual enlightenment by claiming the existence of a God/creator, and then know with certainty the mind and intent of this God – this powerful entity doesn’t want anything to do with His creation.

      I don’t know of any deist or agnostic that claims to know with certainty the mind and intent of this God. Agnostic means without knowledge. They aren’t claiming to know anything related to God or his purposes. Deist’s believe there is something out there, some ultimate cause or prime mover, or free agent that at one point might have had a will for nature to exist – but they are deists and not theists usually or primarily because they lack belief in one of the theistic claims they’ve heard. It’s the theistic claims that assert the ability you are rejecting – the ability to know with certainty the mind and intent of this God. I’m sure there are some out there that call themselves deists or agnostics that claim to know that God exists and wants nothing to do with creation. However, if they called themselves agnostics or deists, they would be mislabeling themselves. They would really be gnostic theists (the same theological belief position as Christians are hoping for).

      This should not be the conclusion one should come to. Logically, the creator would want to be involved.

      I can see how people who think there must be a creator might logically conclude that he does not want to be involved. Consider this. If a father sired a child and was never heard from again in a tangible way that showed evidentially that he was involved with his child, would it be illogical for the child to conclude that the father wants nothing to do with his creation? This isn’t an argument for what is, but for what the child would be allowed to believe and still be considered rational. My wife, CC, who author’s The Counterfeit Christian blog, wrote about this, but I can’t find the relevant post or comment. I may link to it later.

      Gentleness and respect,
      –Russell

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  6. Hi makegutu,
    Your question, Is there order in the universe or is it our subjective view of the universe?

    Subjective – 1.Dependent on or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world.

    LAWS OF PHYSICS
    The basic laws of physics fall into two categories: classical physics that deals with the observable world (classical mechanics), and atomic physics that deals with the interactions between elementary and sub atomic particles (quantum mechanics). The basic laws of both are listed here in alphabetical order. Some laws apply only to one or the other category; some belong to both. A few of the laws listed may have little impact on petrophysics and some may have been left off the list for any number of reasons.
    Ampere’s Law

    Archimedes’ Principle

    Avogadro’s Hypothesis (1811)

    Bernoulli’s Equation In an irrotational fluid, the sum of the static pressure, the weight of the fluid per unit mass times the height, and half the density times the velocity squared is constant throughout the fluid.
    Biot-Savart LawA law which describes the contributions to a magnetic field by an electric current. It is analogous to Coulomb’s law.
    Boyle’s Law (1662); Mariotte’s law (1676) The product of the pressure and the volume of an ideal gas at constant temperature is a constant.
    Bragg’s Law (1912) When a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal surface in which the layers of atoms or ions are regularly separated, the maximum intensity of the reflected ray occurs when the complement of the angle of incidence, theta, the wavelength of the X-rays, lambda, and the distance between layers of atoms or ions, d, are related by the equation 2 d sin theta = n lambda,
    Brownian Motion (1827) The continuous random motion of solid microscopic particles when suspended in a fluid medium due to the consequence of ongoing bombardment by atoms and molecules.
    Casimir EffectA quantum mechanical effect, where two very large plates placed close to each other will experience an attractive force, in the absence of other forces. The cause is virtual particle-antiparticle pair creation in the vicinity of the plates. Also, the speed of light will be increased in the region between the two plates, in the direction perpendicular to them.
    Causality Principle The principle that cause must always preceed effect. More formally, if an event A (“the cause”) somehow influences an event B (“the effect”) which occurs later in time, then event B cannot in turn have an influence on event A. That is, event B must occur at a later time t than event A, and further, all frames must agree upon this ordering.
    Centrifugal Pseudoforce A pseudoforce on an object when it is moving in uniform circular motion. The “force” is directed outward from the center of motion.
    Charles’ Law (1787) The volume of an ideal gas at constant pressure is proportional to the thermodynamic temperature of that gas.
    Cherenkov RadiationRadiation emitted by a massive particle which is moving faster than light in the medium through which it is traveling. No particle can travel faster than light in vacuum, but the speed of light in other media, such as water, glass, etc., are considerably lower. Cherenkov radiation is the electromagnetic analogue of the sonic boom, though Cherenkov radiation is a shockwave set up in the electromagnetic field.
    Complementarity PrincipleThe principle that a given system cannot exhibit both wave-like behavior and particle-like behavior at the same time. That is, certain experiments will reveal the wave-like nature of a system, and certain experiments will reveal the particle-like nature of a system, but no experiment will reveal both simultaneously.
    Compton Effect (1923) An effect that demonstrates that photons (the quantum of electromagnetic radiation) have momentum. A photon fired at a stationary particle, such as an electron, will impart momentum to the electron and, since its energy has been decreased, will experience a corresponding decrease in frequency.
    Conservation Laws
    Conservation of mass-energy The total mass-energy of a closed system remains constant. Conservation of electric charge The total electric charge of a closed system remains constant. Conservation of linear momentum The total linear momentum of a closed system remains constant. Conservation of angular momentum The total angular momentum of a closed system remains constant.
    There are several other laws that deal with particle physics, such as conservation of baryon number, of strangeness, etc., which are conserved in some fundamental interactions (such as the electromagnetic interaction) but not others (such as the weak interaction).

    Constancy Principle One of the postulates of A. Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which puts forth that the speed of light in vacuum is measured as the same speed to all observers, regardless of their relative motion.
    Continuity EquationAn equation which states that a fluid flowing through a pipe flows at a rate which is inversely proportional to the cross-sectional area of the pipe. It is in essence a restatement of the conservation of mass during constant flow.
    Copernican Principle (1624) The idea, suggested by Copernicus, that the Sun, not the Earth, is at the center of the Universe. We now know that neither idea is correct.
    Coriolis Pseudoforce (1835) A pseudoforce which arises because of motion relative to a frame of reference which is itself rotating relative to a second, inertial frame. The magnitude of the Coriolis “force” is dependent on the speed of the object relative to the noninertial frame, and the direction of the “force” is orthogonal to the object’s velocity.
    Correspondence PrincipleThe principle that when a new, more general theory is put forth, it must reduce to the more specialized (and usually simpler) theory under normal circumstances. There are correspondence principles for general relativity to special relativity and special relativity to Newtonian mechanics, but the most widely known correspondence principle is that of quantum mechanics to classical mechanics.
    Coulomb’s Law The primary law for electrostatics, analogous to Newton’s law of universal gravitation. It states that the force between two point charges is proportional to the algebraic product of their respective charges as well as proportional to the inverse square of the distance between them.
    Curie’s Law The susceptibility of an isotropic paramagnetic substance is related to its thermodynamic temperature T by the equation KHI = C / T.
    Curie-Weiss LawA more general form of Curie’s Law, which states that the susceptibility of a paramagnetic substance is related to its thermodynamic temperature T by the equation KHI = C/T – W, where W is the Weiss constant. Dalton’s Law of partial pressures The total pressure of a mixture of ideal gases is equal to the sum of the partial pressures of its components; that is, the sum of the pressures that each component would exert if it were present alone and occupied the same volume as the mixture.
    Doppler Effect Waves emitted by a moving object as received by an observer will be blueshifted (compressed) if approaching, redshifted (elongated) if receding. It occurs both in sound as well as electromagnetic phenomena.
    Dulong-Petit Law (1819) The molar heat capacity is approximately equal to the three times the ideal gas constant: Einstein Field Equation The cornerstone of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, relating the gravitational tensor G to the
    stress-energy tensor T by the simple equation G = 8 pi T.
    Einstein’s Mass-Energy Equation The energy E of a particle is equal to its mass M times the square of the speed of light c, giving rise to the best known physics equation in the Universe: E = M c2.
    Equivalence Principle The basic postulate of A. Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which posits that an acceleration is fundamentally indistinguishable from a gravitational field.

    . . . and the list goes on. What we see (Plants, Trees, oceans) are just a small part of creation. It took the designer to create the above laws so that his children could fly, make tires, have electricity, medicines, plastics, etc.. Subjective?
    Thomas

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  7. Subjective – 1.Dependent on or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world.
    If you define subjective differently than what I posted give me your definition.
    Do you believe in The Law of Gravity and do you consider your belief to be subjective?

    Like

    1. My knowledge of the law of gravity is in its effects and not what it is. Am not sure the law of gravity require believers, only understanding what it explains.
      The world is my idea, it exists to me as an idea

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  8. Hi Russell,

    Your posts are rich with content and depth and I am a very slow reader so I’m still working through some of the ones which peak my interest. This particular one was very good, and I have to say I’ve found out that we were not twins separated at birth, because you have way more patience than I do, and apparently can read way faster than I can. 😉 You’ve written the kind of response that I would like to be able to write, but instead I usually default to something of this sort: “well if you don’t think an atheist can be convinced then I suppose there isn’t too much that we have to talk about regarding that subject (but there’s always weather, sports, or whatever else you might be interested in talking about)”

    I’d like to ask you something about what you wrote in a comment above:

    To hold the curse as the explanation for natural disasters, I’d have to challenge the serious, strong conclusions of serious science and scientific consensus across many fields of study.

    What strong scientific consensus goes against believing there was/is a curse?

    Also you talk some about the possibility of a mind creating everything (which I have also not ruled out by any means). What are your thoughts though that this solution doesn’t really seem to resolve the question it’s trying to answer? What I mean is that the question for us is how could there exist such a complex and ordered universe (or multiverse) without a creator. But it seems to me that a creative mind which knows everything it needs to know to purposefully create what we all see (and in the traditional theistic belief even knows every fact that could possibly be known) would require even more of an explanation. So to me instead of resolving the issue we only create a more difficult issue to resolve. I’m almost beyond doubt you’ve thought this through, I’m just curious what your thoughts are on that.

    I’ll try and get to your other posts hopefully by next weekend at which time I’ll likely be even more behind on your blog. 🙂 Your more personal post about what you and your wife are going through I will surely get to soon, but I want to take the time to truly digest what you wrote.

    Thanks,
    Howie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Thomas!

      Thank you. I watched the video. I appreciate the reference. I’m familiar with these arguments. I disagreed with what seemed like (by rough approximation) 3/4 of the statements he made. I do wish it was more compelling, but I can’t reason myself into the position that God is more likely than 50/50 given universal/fine-tuning arguments alone. I’ll be willing to watch just about anything you send, though. I enjoy absorbing information through videos like this. Feel free to send me anything else or bring up any topic you feel is relevant.

      Thanks!

      Gentleness and respect,
      —Russell

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thomas,

      Thank you so much for being here and for engaging my friend. I also watched the video. It presents the fine tuning argument in an easily digestible form. However, the argument leans on argument from authority and does not present the competing hypothesis of the multiverse. I can’t consider it honest scholarship for those reasons.

      This argument will not hold water with Russell or Howie because they read and understand cosmology at a much higher level. It would be like me trying to explain second derivatives when my competence stops at arithmetic (it actually does).

      I think that good science must remain good science and good theology must remain good theology. We should be equally critical of both to ensure high quality. Science does not claim to make or refute supernatural claims. Those who do so misuse it. Theology does not claim to make mechanistic claims. Those who do so misuse it.

      Please keep reading and writing with us. I hope that we are free to disagree on some things yet find our common ground. For the record and if it needs restating – – I subscribe to: “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” completely.

      Blessings,
      Pascal
      –1:16

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Let me change direction again. I don’t think that I could find enough scientific evidence to convince, nor the right people with the proper credentials.

        A couple of years ago I entered a discussion with a Catholic priest concerning Mother Mary. Was Mary born without sin and therefore holy? Much was discussed and when I asked if Mary’s father was holy, because he would have had to be for her to be holy, the discussions ended. He wrote me back and said, “If I were to agree with you Tom, Catholicism would no longer be. The doctrine of Mary is more than a belief but a foundational theological building block. No true catholic could ever denounce the sinless nature of Mary and her holiness, because they would no longer be catholic. If Jesus came down and told us we were wrong, we would have stop believing in Him.” Last time someone disagreed with Catholicism he was excommunicated – Martin Luther.

        My point is, humans have tendencies to hang on to their beliefs “come hell or high water.” What we believe becomes who we are. Much is invested (Education, Degrees, Time, Money, Ego) in who we are, and consequently, it becomes harder to make changes or accept a different belief. It doesn’t just change our mind it changes who we are. That is scary.

        Russell, if you became a Christian what impact would that have on you personal life, your professional life, and your relationships?

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        1. I think he would start tithing again. That’s about it.

          You said this:

          “My point is, humans have tendencies to hang on to their beliefs “come hell or high water.” What we believe becomes who we are. Much is invested (Education, Degrees, Time, Money, Ego) in who we are, and consequently, it becomes harder to make changes or accept a different belief. It doesn’t just change our mind it changes who we are. That is scary.”

          I agree. That was something we encountered on the “other side”—with fellow Christians when we still believed.

          Would you be willing to answer your own question? What would change for you if you no longer believed? Professionally, personally, relationally.

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          1. You asked: “What would change for you if you no longer believed?”

            Everything! If nothing significantly changed in my life, I would have to ask myself “How much did I really believe?” True conviction in what we believe in, is why there is a noticeable change in our personal life as well as our professional and personal relationships. No change; it is a passing fancy.

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            1. I could not agree with you more—that’s the answer I wanted to see. When I consider this for many believers in my life, I don’t think they would look much different without belief than they do now.

              I changed for the better ultimately (after a period of rebellion) when I went from belief to non-belief—because I love people more now than my fundamentalist upbringing allowed. That’s why I can say I don’t think Russell and I would change much if we came back to belief—we’d hold on to that love of others and just add back evangelism (more like Pascal’s version than anything preachy) and tithing.

              I do realize that my family’s faith and the faith I grew up with were broken—authentic, but deeply flawed. I care more about looking like Jesus now than I did then. Is that because there is still a spirit at work within me, sanctifying me even when I no longer acknowledge it?

              Oh, I hope so. But I don’t believe so.

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      2. Pascal, I don’t think I can express how much I appreciate this comment of yours. It’s not because you included me in it (although that certainly makes me feel good), but because you’ve reached across to Russell and myself and understood us even when you hold an opposing viewpoint. And frankly there wasn’t even any need for you to reply but you did, and I don’t think what you did was easy. By the way, I have a detailed post and reference page on my blog about fine tuning so you are correct that I have thought through it, but I’m not interested in debating that here. I’m not an expert myself. There are plenty of responses one can find on the internet to that video.

        Again, thank you very much Pascal.

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  9. I will concede in my attempt to find scientific evidence to prove the existence of God. It is not possible. That which is physical and that which is spiritual are different life forms; which is why God says that:
    “we speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought: but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world hath known: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory: but as it is written, things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” 1 Cor 2:6-16 (ASV).

    Man likes to complicate things. If there is a God that loves His creation and wants to be involved in our lives and He promises in His word, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” Matt 7:7 (ASV) – then just ask (knock) Him to reveal Himself to you.

    Jesus asked His disciples whom do men say He is:
    “Now when Jesus had come into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he said, questioning his disciples, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some say, John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He says to them, But who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter made answer and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus made answer and said to him, A blessing on you, Simon Bar-jonah: because this knowledge has not come to you from flesh and blood, but from my Father in heaven” Matt 16:13-17 (BBE).

    You will not need scientific proof, mathematical calculations, or agreement from the scientific and academic world to find God. Go to the source. If He is real He will answer you: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” Matt 7:7 (ASV).

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    1. You say that man likes to complicate things. I’m not sure that these men are complicating things the way you seem to be implying. I feel like Russell knows that the supernatural cannot be encompassed in a scientific explanation involving only natural laws. And I don’t recall hearing him demand scientific proof, although you have been responding from that angle.

      What I do know is that Russell has spent countless hours in prayer that God would reveal himself in some way—even if only a personal one—or that he would answer his honest prayer for faith.

      You offered a bit of a scientific experiment of your own. As a software architect’s wife, I have become adept at finding “if, then” statements, even in paragraph form. You said that IF there is a real God who loves us and made a promise to reveal himself when we ask him to, THEN he will reveal himself to us when we ask.

      Russell has asked. I have asked. Where is God? Is there a timeline for this? If it is a true revelation of God, it is not veiled in a mystery or buried in hidden wisdom. How do we attain the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2)?

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  10. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Russell, even though I have only met him through this blog. I may be just paranoid, but did I offend anyone? If I did please accept my apology. Russell is the kindness and most respectful intellectual I have ever met. Because of Russell’s humble heart it is but a matter of time God will answer.
    cc – you claim to know that Russell has spent countless hours in prayer that God would reveal himself in some way—even if only a personal one—or that he would answer his honest prayer for faith.

    If what you say about Russell is true then God will answer him. God operates outside the confines of time. It seem a long time but God waits for the right time when “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” James 5:16 (KJV).

    Just keep asking HIM!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have offended no one, friend—we’re all so glad you’re here. Sometimes it can be difficult to clearly portray that using this form of communication.

      What I say about Russell is true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I’ve seen the words he hasn’t written here. We’ll wait as long as it takes. Until then, we can’t believe.

      Will God answer because of his humble heart? What about atheists without humbled hearts? How can God be revealed to them? Would we expect that they should have humble hearts in order to receive the message clearly—even though they do not know the God who humbles hearts?

      If the God of the Bible is the true God, my heart is burdened for those who do not know him (myself included)—even the ones with arrogant hearts and spiteful words. Does His reach go that far—even to them?

      Liked by 2 people

  11. CC asked: “Will God answer because of his humble heart? God says: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite”
    Isaiah 57:15 (ASV).

    CC asked: “What about atheists without humbled hearts? How can God be revealed to them? Would we expect that they should have humble hearts in order to receive the message clearly—even though they do not know the God who humbles hearts?”

    Jesus said: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted” Matt 23:12 (ASV)

    Let God sum up why seeking understanding of a spiritual God via human intellect will never happen:

    “For Christ sent me, not to give baptism, but to be a preacher of the good news: not with wise words, for fear that the cross of Christ might be made of no value. 18 For the word of the cross seems foolish to those who are on the way to destruction; but to us who are on the way to salvation it is the power of God. As it says in the holy Writings, I will put an end to the wisdom of the wise, and will put on one side the designs of those who have knowledge. Where is the wise? where is he who has knowledge of the law? where is the man of this world who has a love of discussion? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For because, by the purpose of God, the world, with all its wisdom, had not the knowledge of God, it was God’s pleasure, by so foolish a thing as preaching, to give salvation to those who had faith in him. Seeing that the Jews make request for signs, and the Greeks are looking for knowledge: But we give the good news of Christ on the cross, a hard thing to the Jews, and a foolish thing to the Gentiles; But to those of God’s selection, Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. Because what seems foolish in God is wiser than men; and what seems feeble in God is stronger than men. For you see God’s design for you, my brothers, that he has not taken a great number of the wise after the flesh, not the strong, not the noble: But God made selection of the foolish things of this world so that he might put the wise to shame; and the feeble things that he might put to shame the strong; And the low things of the world, and the things without honour, did God make selection of, yes, even the things which are not, so that he might make as nothing the things which are: So that no flesh might have glory before God. But God has given you a place in Christ Jesus, through whom God has given us wisdom and righteousness and salvation, and made us holy: So that, as it is said in the holy Writings, Whoever has a desire for glory, let his glory be in the Lord” 1 Cor 1:17-31 (BBE)

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    1. Five words break my heart: “to those of God’s selection…”

      Do you get what I’m saying? Why would anyone have a reason to be humble of their own accord? Does salvation depend upon our attitude of humility first, or on God’s grace? If it depends on Him, not us—what about those he never humbles? Are they vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Is this God good?

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    1. Thanks for the link—I read the chapter. I became very concerned with the Doctrine of Election in 9th grade and have studied it from many angles since then.

      While I think we may disagree on the interpretation of some scriptures, those are minor things, and you cover the topic quite thoroughly for a brief chapter. The truth is, we could fill volumes in a back and forth on this.

      I’m not okay with both or either camp. If my eternal destiny depends on a choice I’m supposed to humbly make without more information than I have, I can’t get there. If it depends on God’s sovereign choice to soften or harden my heart, I can’t get there then either—unless he decides to soften it. Why would he create me if he didn’t plan to choose me? He actually does answer that question: vessels of wrath prepared for destruction to reveal his wrath and power. Not a good God.

      Argument 1 doesn’t work for me. Argument 2 doesn’t work for me. And they seem too mutually exclusive to ever work together—unless we appeal to “the mystery,” and that’s a cop-out. I keep hearing “No, it’s not this OR this; it’s this AND this” or “Does he choose us, or do we choose Him?—the answer is YES.”

      “and”…”yes”…NO.

      NO.

      If there is a God who gave me a heart of love, a desire for justice, and command over language and rhetoric, I fear I would offend him if I accept arguments like these.

      I am not a Calvinist. I am not an Arminianist. Based on the later portion of the chapter you linked to (regarding Hebrews 6), I guess I am an Ehrmanist.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Five words break my heart: “to those of God’s selection…”

    Your heart is broken due to a misinterpretation of “to those of God’s selection.” God will select all who accept the way HE chose to make people right before Him. There are many today that think it should be this way and that way and this is pride. Israel was guilty of this arrogance:
    “For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with Himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their way of getting right with God by trying to obey the law” (Romans 10:3).

    Anyone that “. . . [believes] in their heart Jesus is Lord,you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. Too simple; God used this to confound the wise in their conceit.

    So if you “refuse to accept God’s way, [and you] cling to your way of getting right with God” God will not chose you. Why can’t the God that created all things have the right to write the rule book?

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    1. There is no misinterpretation, friend. I get it. You said “God will select all who accept the way HE chose to make people right before Him.”

      Is that supposed to reassure me that he is good and just and faithful? He will only choose those who accept his way, but they would only accept his way if they had reason to trust him. They can only be expected to trust him if he first proves himself worthy of trust through some revelation—or through a softening of their hearts. He will apparently only offer the softened heart to those he chooses, which happen to be the ones who accept his way of saving them. It’s a circle. A big one, but a circle nonetheless.

      We can summarize it like this: He will only choose you IF you accept him (after he chooses you to be one who accepts him).

      How could I accept his way if I don’t know him? How could I accept it if I have no justifiable reason to trust? Why should I be expected to lay down “pride” or “conceit” for a God who doesn’t first reach out to me and show me that it’s a safe move?

      I am prone to be prideful about many things—my appearance, my profession, my blog stats—but not this. With this, I am lost. I want to be wrong. I want to be able to say that I know nothing except for Christ. I want to offer deference and say that he must become greater; I must become less. This just isn’t about my pride.

      Can the creator write the rules? Oh yes, he can. But if these are the rules he writes, he is not good.

      That, my friend, is what breaks my heart.

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  13. CC said: “How could I accept his way if I don’t know him? How could I accept it if I have no justifiable reason to trust? Why should I be expected to lay down “pride” or “conceit” for a God who doesn’t first reach out to me and show me that it’s a safe move?”

    It seems from your writing that you aren’t interested in getting to know Him, but to prove He doesn’t exist.

    No justifiable reason to trust?

    The God of the Bible offered up His Son to pay a penalty I deserved. The heavenly Father watched His Son brutally mocked, beaten, tortured and crucified for your sake. God offered up His Son because of a love that defies human logic; and His Son willing died on my behalf. However, how do we know it was God’s Son?

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    1. “It seems from your writing that you aren’t interested in getting to know Him, but to prove He doesn’t exist.”

      I’m sorry if it came across that way. That’s not at all true—I addressed that further in the paragraph after the one you quoted.

      I don’t want to prove that he doesn’t exist. First of all, that’s impossible. Second, the burden of proof is not on me—it is on those who make a claim about the existence of God (or his goodness, or his love). All I’m saying is that I have not seen evidence to justify belief, and that’s something I would like to see before accepting his ways. If I knew him, none of this would matter.

      Your last paragraph is full of justifiable reasons—if we could know that it contained the truth. But if I havent reached a place of belief in God, I cannot accept that these words of men are his revelation to us.

      I want to know Christ. I ultimately don’t care about being labeled in a political affiliation or a religious denomination or a psychological category or as a member of the camp of one theologian or another or one scientist or another. All of these things are worthless compared to knowing Christ and being changed by knowing him…if he would only let me.

      This seems like a good time for me to graciously and respectfully step back from the conversation. I fear that I’m coming across in ways I don’t intend to. Even if I had perfect answers and saw every debate through until I won it, I still wouldn’t know Christ. And although you believe in a God who doesn’t include me, I don’t think your beliefs are dangerous. So why would I fight? Maybe my tender heart just feels defeated, but I really don’t see a reason to continue. It’s not about winning; it’s not about proving; it’s about knowing him—and I don’t.

      Thanks for the conversation.

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  14. Thank you for the dialog, but what makes my heart is your comment, “And although you believe in a God who doesn’t include me . . .”

    God doesn’t owe us anything. Our creator has provided all the evidence we need to see Him. “The true journey [for truth] consists not in seeking new [historical data] landscapes,but in having new eyes.” —Proust

    I will say goodbye with these words: God loves you deeply. More than anyone has or ever will. Please keep praying for God to show you He is real. If you are persistent He will reward your faith.

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