DiaBlogue: A Post-Modern Faith in Jesus

I’ve recently received a couple of emails regarding friends of friends who’ve “lost faith.” In most cases, they’re rejecting a fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity on empirical grounds, with the end result of rejecting all of historic Christianity.

While I admire their intellectual honesty, I suspect that part of the problem is the lack of an appropriate alternate hypothesis. That is, the God they used to believe (and the reasons for such belief) have proved false, so they fall back to the claim that there is no God (at least of any relevance, or connection to the Christian faith).

So, at the risk of ruffling some feathers, I thought I’d summarize those of my beliefs which I claim are empirically verifiable using the same epistemic reasoning I use to do in science. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily true, just plausible given the evidence — which arguably is all that can be done using mere reason. But I agree Faith should support Reason, not fight it, so I think it a fair question.

Click [Read More] for my post-modern creed.

A skeptic who has rejected Christianity as unscientific told me:

The paradigm that I am putting my faith in [instead] is that an idea merits my tentative belief if it explains a pattern of past events, has been used successfully in the past to predict future events, and does not make predictions that are contrary to known facts

Sounds good so far; I am completely comfortable with that definition. If we agree on that, then the question is merely whether any evidence points to there being *any* God, and particularly the one described by the Bible. This does require some reasonable rules for ‘standards of evidence’, of course, which is always tricky in the social sciences.

Just to be clear:

* I am not defending “Bibolatry” — the belief that the Bible we have can be (and must be) treated as 100% precise and accurate (and correctly translated) in every particular
* I am not even going to defend the proposition that Christianity is the One True Religion and that all others are completely false.

If you insist that Chrisitanity must defend those propositions, we have a category argument, not an empirical one.

However, I *am* willing to posit sufficient empirical support for the following propositions. They are listed in order of:

* decreasing generality (from less to more specific)
* *increasing* testability (from less to more objective evidence)

I believe (and am willing to defend) the following to be true and knowable according to traditional scientific standards of evidence:

a. There is a God — that is, a source of information, power, and will external to the physical universe
b. That this God has revealed Himself in numerous ways to numerous people (not necessarily just Judeo-Christians), providing insights, leadership, and occasionally miracles beyond those accessible to mortal men
c. That communities which respond to these revelations by ‘worship’ (submission) live healthier, happier, and holier lives that those who denigrate or deny such revelations — in proportion to the character of the God they worship
d. That the revelation of truth contained in the person and actions of Jesus Christ is vastly superior to anything claimed by any individual before or since; and that to create a Jesus myth would require wisdom equal to (or greater) than that ascribed to Jesus himself
e. That Jesus himself, whatever may have been added by legend, explicitly characterized himself as a representative of the above-mentioned external God
f. That *someone* and *something* -very unusual- happened in the first century AD that gave birth to the Christian movement, in a way that allows enormous diversity yet amazing continuity across both space and time.

I am not saying that any of these are easily proved. However, I assert that each of these propositions is more consistent with the available evidence than its contradiction, i.e. at least “relatively true.”, and that they all support each other. In other words, if you can at least believe either “f” or “a”, you ought to be able to infer the rest without difficulty.

To be sure, a God described by this logic may be very different than the one described by certain Christian traditions. But, I would argue that such would be a GOOD thing. I actually think that a lot of our Platonic terminology about God (e.g., omniscience, omnipotence) is misleading (and un-biblical, for that matter). First we ought to figure out what we know is true, then we can use that to constrain other conjectures.

Conversely, such a God may offend certain of our philosophic convictions about what God should be like. So what? I believe we need to take the evidence (about either the natural and supernatural worlds) on its own terms, not the way we’d like it to be. Quantum physics has taught me that much.

One final point about testability:

I know many deep thinkers and religious people outside the Christian faith. I have consistently observed a far stronger correlation between (i) the ability to apprehend transformational change and (ii-a) effort spent seeking God’s truth in Christ vs (ii-b) effort spend pursuing truth from self or nature. That is — in my experience — whether or not truth -could- come from things other than Christianity, it far more commonly _does_.

That is — assuming there *was* such a thing as moral virtue — Christianity correlated far more highly with it than communities based on other religious traditions, much less those build on naturalistic assumptions. In my (scientific) worldview, wherever there is a correlation there must be -some- causality (even if the source is obscure).

I don’t in any way want to dishonor or disregard the price paid to pursue truth in these touchy matters. In fact, I commend all those who are willing to walk that road. I just hope that I can at least persuade you that *I* have validated faith based on *my* experiences using a paradigm, that, at least in principle, you could respect. And thus, suggest experiments that would useful differentiate between your current null hypothesis (“there is no God”) vs. merely “there is no God as described to me by my evangelical upbringing” — but there may be another one.

In other words, that you’d be willing to explore the evidence with me to see if there is in fact a God out there you can know with your scientific mind.