|Q113 : A Young Man Struggles with Faith
I wish to offer, in advance, my apologies if I come across as demeaning at all — I don't wish to offend you in any way, and I will try to choose my words carefully. I don't believe I will come off as offensive, but just in case, I apologize.
I am the young man, almost 17 years old and extremely conflicted within myself. I have been raised with a belief in Christianity, and have dedicated myself to the ways of God and the message of the cross with great zealous in my younger years, but now that I have grown to think for myself instead of following the scriptures without question and blindly eating out of my pastor's hand, I have begun to rethink my whole system of beliefs. As I got older, I became more observant and analytical; I began to see myriads upon myriads of reasons not to believe the Bible's inspiration. I have seen through two lenses — that of the Bible and that of logic — and the evidence seems to fit better through the looking glass of logic. As I stated before, there are many reasons to support this, and I may elaborate on them later.
Evolutionist presented me with evidence such as the presence of vestigial organs and seemingly useless features in certain animals that are said to lead to the conclusion of evolution. For example, ostriches have hollowed bones like flying birds, yet ostriches don't fly, so they are essentially useless, as far as I know. Things like this made sense to me, and as I listened more and more to these teachings, the more I saw the Bible through a more mythological lens — especially Genesis.
Through it all, I have not completely given up on my beliefs, but I feel as though that is only because of the pressure from my mother. In spite of all the evidence to stand against the Bible, I still cling to it by a thread because of a desire to reduce the friction. If God is there and He wants me to believe, I wouldn't think He would want me to base my faith on something so blind, but I don't believe I have any other choice. If I am not to believe out of cowardice and oppression, then I don't think I can believe at all.
In the past I have tried to turn to Christian apologetics in order to counter-debate the reasoning behind the science of evolution, but I feel as though these apologetics either haven't studied evolution to a thorough extent, have misinterpreted what they have read about, or have compromised the evidence to encompass what they want to believe. I suppose that is not necessarily true for all, but I do believe there is a factor of fear to consider — the fear of abandoning the ways of God and cast into Hell. Therefore, these certain people will more reluctantly embrace evidence that contradicts their beliefs.
At any rate, I await your response and hope you may be able to enlighten me through a new way of thinking.
|A113 : by Tony Garland
The Bible never upholds the idea that we are to follow blindly.
'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. (Mr 12:30)
A true, legitimate worship of God will engage all of our faculties to their utmost in the pursuit of truth. This includes our mind. But Scripture also warns us about the deception of pride and assuming that we know more than others who have spent much more time than we may have looking at the same issues. So caution is advised here.
Like you, I myself am “observant and analytical.” At age 15, I was building complex electronic projects. By 16, I had obtained advanced licenses in radio communication. Upon graduating from high school, I undertook a 4-year degree in electrical engineering—which is certainly an “analytical” pursuit which includes numerous years of study in college-level mathematics, physics, and chemistry. For the past 30 years, I've been working as an engineer developing complex hardware and software products. You can see my analytical engineering background at my consulting websitea.
So we are both analytical. But being analytical is not incompatible with belief in the Bible. It has not led me to discard the evidence that Scripture is inspired. Quite the opposite: it was a factor in my coming to faith.
My background is almost the opposite of yours. I was raised as a complete agnostic and without training or encouragement toward religion or the Bible. I was completely steeped in the rationalistic world view which says that “all there is all we can see.” More than that, I was a committed evolutionist who believed that Darwinism was an adequate explanation for all that I saw. At your age, I was debating my Christian friends to show them how stupid and illogical the Bible was — as “anyone could see” at face value, or so I was sure. For years I had a very strong distaste for the name “Jesus.”
It took quite a number of years before my cock-sure attitude about origins began to crumble. By the time I reached 30, I had become convinced that evolution was a bankrupt theory that could not explain the complex systems all around us. It took several more years before I had started checking out the Bible to see whether it was reliable.
This all happened while working for years as a practicing software engineer. One of the “analytical” things which opened my eyes to the bankruptcy of evolution was information theory. Since I was spending much of my time in the information sciences (software development), I began to have increasing doubts about how chance could actually explain the sophisticated encoded systems found in biology. If just a single-bit flipped in our software because of “undirected random chance,” did it ever lead to a more sophisticated feature? In the statistically overwhelming majority of cases, accidental changes in the code rendered it severely or completely dysfunctional.
On every engineering project we would focus the considerable intellect of a team of highly trained professionals to produce a highly-tuned “complex system.” Yet, in their most advanced operations, these systems couldn't come close to the sophistication found in a simple natural system as represented by a hummingbird or butterfly.
Clearly, if the combined intelligence of our team was required to get all the bits and bytes “just so,” not to mention the combined complexity of all the hardware parts and software tools like compilers behind the scenes, but what we produced was incomparable to what is found in the simplest of biological systems, then one is led inexorably to a simple, but profound realization: information can only be produced by intelligence. This allowed me to finally see information for what it truly is: evidence of the intelligence behind the scenes which produced it. I'm speaking here about true complexity, which goes far beyond that achievable by chance.
At the same time that I was realizing how much intelligence, sophistication, and carefully-applied processes it required for our teams to produce systems that paled in comparison with the complexity of biology, I also was beginning to take a closer look at the Bible.
Christianity is not a mindless religion which ignores the evidence. Some of the greatest minds ever to grace this planet (Blaise Paschal and Isaac Newton, to name but two) have found plenty of objective evidence to believe in the reliability of the Bible. Some of them are incredibly sophisticated thinkers, both in the sciences and in law and philosophy.
I certainly don't view my stance on God and the Bible as being based on “something so blind” as you put it. I believe your explanation is overly simplistic. It could even be considered an intellectual affront by those believers who know more about many things than you do, whose faith embraces sound principles having to do both with observations in the world as well as those derived from a systematic, detailed investigation of the Scriptures, both in English and the original languages.
Now its my turn to hope I don't offend you, yet wanting to be direct in my communications— I find it disconcerting that, at the age of 17, anyone can be so cock-sure in what they know. How much can a 17 year-old really have studied? Advanced mathematics? Engineering systems? Biological systems? The original languages of Scripture? Systematic theology? Can anyone really consider themselves a reliable guide on Darwinism and microbiology (not to mention astrophysics) at your tender age? With all due respect, unless you are a unique genius, I doubt it.
I don't think that fear or “brainwashing,” as you put it, biases thinking people toward the Bible in the face of supposed contrary evidence. As a skeptic, I had no real fear about judgment—I never even thought much about hell. For one thing, I didn't believe it was a real place. I didn't care about Christianity or “Any-anity” and, to me all religions seemed peopled by hypocrites trying to push their views on one another. But something happened to rock my boat and force me to look at some hard facts:
- The world around us cannot be explained by Darwinism. The informational content (unknown to Darwin) is way beyond chance + anything.
- The moral world around us fits completely with the moral message of the Bible. Sin is all around us yet we are blind to our own plight. The problem isn't in the environment (social systems, education, etc.): it is us—our very nature! History continually demonstrates this (though we prefer not to see).
- Passages within the Bible contain true prophecy which can be demonstrated to have been written well in advance of the time when the events came to pass. Well-known Messianic passages, such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, are both extant within the Dead Sea Scrolls dated over 100 years before the birth of Christ—something that anyone can investigate and read.
I'm guessing that you are going through a transition period where the faith of your parents (or mother)—which you've perhaps uncritically accepted up to now—is undergoing a test. This is the critical juncture like that in a relay race where the baton is being handed from one runner to the next and is so easily dropped.
You are being weaned off of “easy-believism” and are now faced with the difficult task of reconstructing your faith. Its a bit like when the caterpillar enters the cocoon for a long dark period, but then later re-emerges as a butterfly. You have to reexamine and reanalyze where you are and come up with your own reasons for what you believe and why.
But be encouraged! When you cross over this valley to the other side, your faith will be even stronger and, most importantly, it will be your own! Yet, this process needs to occur with great humility, honesty and reliance upon God. It would also be a mistake to ignore the spiritual realm as if you were able to do this unaffected by the desire of your own flesh to reject God and adopt the prevailing influence of the culture (αεον [aeon] “world” or “age”] 1Cor. 1:20).
Also, there is the issue of whether one's heart is actively turned away from God. All the apologetic evidence in the world can't overturn a heart of rejection. God has chosen faith as the means by which He must be approached. Not a blind, silly faith. But still a faith which includes a willingness to admit our own inability and to trust in many areas where we don't have all the answers.
As usual, Jesus said it best:
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Mt 13:10-13)
We must remember that the Bible says we are involved in a spiritual war for the allegiance of the hearts of men. It is not a neutral playing-field where unbiased scientists and philosophers simply apply untainted minds and hearts to the available evidence. As Charles Clough has well said, “Athiests can't find God for the same reason that criminals can't find policemen.” (See http://www.bibleframework.com).
If the Bible is true and if man is truly intent in throwing off the shackles of his creator, then it is to be expected that His Word would be the foremost target under attack. This is why the opening chapters of Genesis (and their counterpart in the NT, Revelation) are most frequently attacked.
Your appeal to logic is to be encouraged and applauded here: if Adam and Eve are not historical persons in a real garden who really rebelled against God, then the Bible is untrue and Jesus and redemptive history are fables or worse. Your connecting the if with the then is completely valid—this is simply using the best logic available (all your mind) when seeking God.
But how to go about evaluating the precondition? If you conduct your investigation by drinking at polluted wells (those who are flippant about God's Word and the historicity of Genesis), then it is only natural that you'll be influenced in the direction of doubting Genesis. Once Genesis is gone, the rest of the Bible is irrelevant.
“Without Adam, without the original sin, Jesus Christ is reduced to a man with a mission on the wrong planet. Sin becomes not an ugly fate due to man's disobedience, but only the struggle of instincts. Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing! Christianity, if it is to survive, must have Adam and the original sin and the fall from grace or it cannot have Jesus the redeemer who restores to those who believe what Adam's disobedience took away.”
— Bozarth, G.R., The Meaning of Evolution, American Atheist, 1978, 20:30.
You also sail, “For example, ostriches have hollowed bones like flying birds, yet ostriches don't fly, so they are essentially useless, as far as I know.”
The all-important part of this statement is the last phrase: as far as I know. This is the key issue in our day. How much do we really know about these matters? There is considerable disagreement about what really constitutes a vestigial organ and whether we really understand their perhaps subtle purposes. See Jerry Bergman’s book Vestigial Organs Are Fully Functional: A History and Evaluation of the Vestigial Organ Origins Conceptb for more on this.
Do those scientists who reject the God of the Bible really know as much as their pronouncements would have us think (e.g., is “junk DNA” really junk)? I think the evidence is against their claims and in favor of a Creator who is infinitely more sophisticated in His design. I expect that what they write-off as “junk” today will one day be seen for what it is: incredible sophistication—so sophisticated we couldn't even begin to understand what it was for. Evidence is already accumulating in this direction:
The discovery that the vast majority of the information stored in DNA is not primary protein-coding information but secondary meta-information, demolishes the neo-Darwinian argument that it arose by some random (independent) process. Meta-information is inextricably dependent upon the information it refers to so an independent origin is impossible.
— Alex Williams, “Astonishing DNA complexity demolishes neo-Darinism”, Journal of Creation, 21(3) 2007, 111-117, p. 117.
. . . a new study has brought the notion of Junk DNA closer to the dustbin of discarded evolutionary speculations. Faulkner et al. have put junk DNA on the run by claiming that retrotransposons (supposedly the remains of ancient viruses that inserted themselves into the genomes of humans and other species) are highly functional after all.
— Robert W. Carter, “The slow, painful death of junk DNA”, Journal of Creation, 23(3) 2009, 11-12, p. 12.
How much hangs in the balance here? Not just eternal life to come, but also ultimate meaning in this life:
“Without [God] the world is only an ‘all-devouring grave’ an ‘eternal cud-chewing monster,’ a giant organism, which down to the smallest and minutest details is, indeed, regulated with exactness and with a purpose, but in its vastness and totality has as its every motto that it is without goal and without purpose.”
— Erich Sauer, The Dawn Of World Redemption (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's Publishing Company, c1964, 1951), 18.
“By ridding oneself of God, Nietzsche argued, people are finally free. They are without any referent beyond themselves for meaning. But this absolute autonomy has its dark side. In a universe with no final unity, the human being is like a person floating in outer space, with neither spacecraft nor planet in sight and two hours of oxygen in his tank before he dies.”
— J. Scott Horrell, “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Toward a Trinitarian Worldview”, Roy B. Zuck, ed., Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, n.d.). Vol. 166 No. 662 April-June 2009, 131-146, p. 136.
“Atheists often say that they can truly live a happy, fulfilling life. Yet this is a lie, a deception which damns millions of souls to darkness. . . . Simply put, atheism destroys the possibility of personal identity, choice, and objective and subjective meaning. Atheism inescapably leads to naturalism, and from naturalism follows atheism’s great skeleton which its followers try to keep hidden; determinism. Determinism is inescapable if one is a naturalist, as all that exists is material and has come about by purely natural processes. This means then, that the mind of man, our greatest treasure, is reducible to material bound by physical laws; namely, our thoughts, feelings, and actions are reducible to reactions of chemicals in the brain. Few people realize, then, that this destroys all that makes us human. Namely; if our thoughts, feelings, and actions are simply chemical reactions in the brain, those reactions are simply the by-products of prior reactions forming an unbreakable chain which leads to the very beginning of the universe. This means then, that whatever we do, we do because we have to. We cannot do anything other than what we do, it simply isn’t possible. All actions are the result of prior actions in an unbreakable chain. We are no different than a cog in a watch or a falling domino. . . . There is no difference between the embrace of a loving husband and the violence of a vicious rapist, the actions of a doctor trying to save a life and the mass murderer who kills at whim, the actions of our greatest leaders and the inaction of a lazy sluggard. Both are totally the same in atheism.” —Suicidal atheist converts to Christ [http://creation.com/suicidal-atheist-converts-to-christ]
Stepping off the cliff of Biblical revelation to the “nothingness” alternative has incredibly sobering consequences!
Some links I could suggest as possibly being of interest if you are truly open to the idea that rejecting the faith of your youth would be a mistake:
- If you haven't read much by him yet, I'd also point you in the direction of the writings and thought of the late Dr. Francis Schaefferc.
- A Christian colleague of mine who is gifted in philosophy and apologetics has a thoughtful blogd.
- A group of scientists (including some very smart cookies) who take the Bible at face value and also do good sciencee.
- An excellent 12-part DVD series which tackles issues related to the Christian worldviewf.
- The Discovery Instituteg has many resources associated with intelligent design.
- Ravi Zachariash is a clear and powerful apologetics-oriented teacher.
- A key contributor to the intelligent design movement is Willam Dembski (perhaps you've heard of him?) who has advanced degrees both in mathematics and theology. I have three books of his on my shelf which I can recommend: The Design Inference, Mere Creation - Science, Faith & Intelligent Design, Intelligent Design- The Bridge Between Science & Theology. He has written quite a few of books on the topici. One of the main contributions he makes is in the mathematical considerations of the limits of chance in feigning intelligence. Is there a point at which the complexity of information can be objectively assessed and found to be beyond chance causality? He says yes. (The Darwinists, of course, say chance + limitless time can essentially produce any level of complexity.)
We are living in an unparalleled time. There has never been a time in history where more evidences and resources have been available to the true seeker of truth. May God encourage and uphold you as you seek to found your faith on an accurate understanding of reality.