On Trusting God (Two)
(Continued from Part 1)
It’s interesting how you describe the relationship; symbiotic is the word that comes to mind. However, I’m still not sure how you know there to be two entities and not just one (you) believing there are two. You said you distinguish thoughts dropped by God from your own by the way they form: your own thoughts are more connected, a train of thoughts, while thoughts you attribute to God are unbidden and unexpected. How do you know the latter aren’t your own thoughts too?
I see two different issues at play in your question. My belief in the truth that there are two distinct entities (as opposed to me merely believing or wishing there are two) is not based on where a train of thought may have come from. It’s based on my fundamental belief in the existence of a supernatural Creator God Who is a real, rational being separate from (and above) my own being.
It’s from that foundation that I was answering your specific questions about the source of my thoughts when I wrote you back. As I mentioned, I don’t always know whether it’s Divine inspiration or my own mind. In a sense, it doesn’t matter, but it’s interesting to me. In analyzing it I’ve come up with at least two things I consider when attempting to identify the source of a thought: (1.) A spiritual “impression”, which I can only describe as an awareness that is, to me, distinct from both intellectual perception and emotional experience. (2.) The logical trail of “tracks” leading up to the idea.
Right. So you trusted/had faith God to help you with your answer to me, and when asked how you know whether he actually did help you, you again trust/have faith that he did. Correct? Is it the same with other things you trust God to help you with? You mentioned you trusted God to help you with your career, for example. If I asked how you know he actually did something to help and how you know what he did, would the end conclusion be trust/faith there as well?
Is the question you’re driving at epistemological in nature? How do I know He actually did something to help? If so, I’ve already answered that at least partially: I don’t always know. There is no audible voice or direct revelation, nor is there any empirical evidence that could prove with 100% certainty that God did something.
But that’s like anything else in life. If my wife leaves for the day and says she trusts me to take out the garbage, how does she know I did it? When she gets home she can check to see if the garbage has been taken out, but that only tells her if the event happened or not. It doesn’t tell her if I am the one responsible for it. Maybe our daughter took out the garbage, or maybe a thief broke into our home and stole it. She can ask me if I did it, and I can verbally reveal to her that I did. But even then, how does she know I’m not lying and taking the credit for someone else’s effort?
Unless she actually witnessed me taking out the garbage while I was doing it, she couldn’t know I did it with 100% certainty. But she could make a logical deduction to a reasonable conclusion based on prior knowledge. The theory of a thief could be dismissed as logically implausible, the theory of our teenage daughter doing any chore without being asked could be dismissed as highly unlikely, and the theory of me lying would contradict my track record of being truthful with her for the past 25 years. So it would be reasonable for her to conclude that I did, in fact, take out the garbage.
The same concept holds true with God. Unless one witnesses Him doing something while He is doing it, how could they know with 100% certainty He did it? They can’t. But they can certainly deduce to God as the best explanation.
It occurs to me my Chair of Faith analogy might be useful again here. Another way we can know if we can trust something is to do it and see what happens. For example, I don’t need to fully understand the laws of physics and gravity before I decide to trust the chair and sit in it. I can sit in it and see what happens. If it holds me up, it justifies my trust in it. The same thing goes with faith in Christ. One doesn’t need to fully understand theology or how a supernatural Being could exist before they decide to trust Him. They could start “sitting in the faith”, living out His teachings, talking to Him, and see if He justifies their trust in Him.
Which brings up another point: what kind of evidence one should reasonably expect when trying to determine if God actually did something. God is spirit, so anything He does couldn’t actually be witnessed using our five senses. We could only witness the physical results of it happening. (Sights, sounds, etc.) This is why the best explanation for a “miraculous” event in the real world—like my friend Jimmy who killed himself and, after being pronounced dead by the paramedics, came back to life—is disagreed on by intelligent, reasonable people. As a Christian who believes in a supernatural, loving, Creator, God’s intervention is the most plausible explanation. (Especially considering all that’s happened in Jimmy’s life since then.) For an atheist, God can never be accepted as the best explanation for anything because He doesn’t exist.
So you use faith to underpin your belief that God is doing things in your life, inserting thoughts in your brain, and even bringing people back to life. Would you say that faith, in general, is a reliable way to come to true beliefs? Are beliefs grounded in faith generally true? Are they more likely to be true than beliefs where people use other methods to assess the correctness of the belief?
I feel like I’m being interviewed for a magazine or something! ☺ I’m happy to continue to share my thoughts, but this feels like a one-sided conversation. I’d love to know your thoughts on faith. How much faith comes into play for you when you consider your beliefs. You’ve only said you don’t see good reasons to believe God exists. What DO you believe? And when you use the word “faith” what do you mean? Are you referring to confidence or trust in a person or thing? Or do you use the word faith to mean a decision to believe something in spite of a complete lack of evidence?
My native language is Dutch and it has one word (noun: geloof, verb: geloven) that can mean both (religious) faith and belief depending on the context. So that’s why I don’t think I used it until you brought it up yourself?
So I’m hesitant to use the word because it’s a bit alien to me. And I don’t need the word faith to describe my beliefs or whatever. If you’d ask me about chairs, I’d say I “expect” the chair to hold my weight, or “I know from experience” that it holds my weight. If you’d ask me about the garbage can example I’d say my wife will “assume” I’ve taken it out, or she “trust” I will do it. So I guess faith plays no role in my beliefs.
That’s one problem with the English language; we have too many words that mean the same (or very nearly the same) thing! The word “faith” is often used interchangeably with words like trust, confidence, acceptance, belief, conviction, and hope. (e.g. I have faith (hope) my football team will win the game. I have faith (confidence) my friend will arrive on time.)
There’s also the concept of “blind faith”, which is when one chooses to believe something for which they have no evidence or understanding. Too often I find non-theists think Christians only operate under blind faith. (And, admittedly, many do!) But in fact, Christianity is an evidence-based faith. The evidence I rely on for my belief in Jesus comes from multiple sources; nature, history, logical deduction, revelation, philosophy, creation, archaeology, the moral law, inference, experience, reason, testimony, etc. My faith is a bridge built on that evidence, that takes me to a belief that God exists, even though I can’t prove it scientifically.
If there is anything you believe to be true, but you can’t prove it scientifically, you have exercised faith to get to your belief.
Are you saying you have more confidence in your beliefs being true than is warranted by the evidence on its own? And that the additional confidence you have is based on faith?
There is enough evidence to warrant belief in God. It’s like a legal case. I cannot scientifically prove that God exists. But the case for His existence is much stronger than the case against it. Therefore I believe (have faith) that God exists.