part of the lie of naturalism

Naturalism is the worldview which purports that everything is explainable in terms of nature, or what can be observed by the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, testing which continues. As valuable as that is to understand what we call the natural world, the understanding is limited. Albeit, it is a fine understanding insofar as it goes, can go and will go in its progression, it simply doesn’t tell the entire story.

One of the basic problems with naturalism is that it can’t begin to explain the something more which makes up human experience. And when it tries to, it’s a reduction which ends up being unable to explain such things as “love, just because.” I’m sure those on that side would resort to a naturalist explanation. But such explanation would arguably fail to take into account other factors, which perhaps can be subjected to such study. And yet may not be completely understood in terms of natural phenomena.

Philosophy surely has value in trying to sort out what happens in the natural world in terms of what and especially why along with how. While science and nature should have an important place in our understanding, I would want to suggest that there is more, much more than what meets the eye.

Faith is not endemic only to religion. It is a part of all of life, including the sciences. Admittedly, science is strictly in terms of what we can see, and trying to better understand and make sense of that. And as such it is truly a fascinating endeavor. But to deny the role of faith that points to something more, which, while in theory, it may all be explainable in natural terms, does not in itself, intrinsic within its discipline, put the matter to rest, except for those who are sold to believe that naturalism is the be all, end all.

We Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that the good news in Jesus is one which, while not at all denying the reality of the natural world, gives the something more which is in step with where many (if not most) of us live. It is a full of a beauty which has within it a hope and love which seem to give meaning to life, contra the Teacher, or Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes. Instead we can rest in the something more, which to those who see life apart from that, is all but lost in their view that in the end, all is meaningless. No. We find meaning because there actually is meaning. And that Meaning has stepped into history, as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The something more that we need.

for the love of science

There is a television series which I am plugged into for the first time since I don’t know when: Cosmos. Neil deGrasse Tyson does a masterful job with it, and it frankly leaves me spell-bound, even if I’m a bit lost. I think my wife gets aspects of it better than I, since she has something of a scientific mind. To appreciate science is to appreciate creation, to even become awed by the immensity, complexity and simplicity which makes up the natural world. It has a beauty all its own. The best scientists often are as much into art, so to speak, as science, having a creative flair which can help them see something of the immense creativity present in creation.

Science is good, at least in terms of the basics which make it up: observation, hypothesis, testing, theory, and more observation. Of course the word theory is used not at all in the way it is popularly used, but simply to draw up what has been understood from what has been observed, that being tested and refined in the same ongoing process over time.

Science per se is not the problem, but scientism is. Scientism is basically naturalism, or the idea that everything can be explained in scientific terms. That all of reality is material or somehow observable as part of the natural world. We are so steeped in that kind of thinking and world, that it doesn’t seem all that far fetched to us. Even though strictly speaking it is a statement of faith. In that faith scientism makes the wild declaration that unless something can be verified in scientific terms, we either can’t know, or we can at least doubt it. For example some doubt that one can explain human interactions apart from science. Love for example in their minds is reducible to scientific explanation, indeed the entire world is. That given time, everything could be explained scientifically, in scientific terms. No God of the gaps. I don’t think that idea is all that far fetched, however would that explanation explain it all? I don’t believe so for a moment.

We have all kinds of matters which make the thought that science is the explanation for everything more than questionable. Morality is one example. And the morality of Jesus of Nazareth in particular. The way of the cross, death and resurrection seems at odds with a naturalistic spin, I would think. God’s love expressed in that, and of course a God in the first place who created all things, and will make all things new in a new creation in and through Jesus. That is a faith statement, but to some extent may someday be verified as to its substance and reality in the science to come.

Meanwhile we can thank God for science, for scientists, even as in wonder we look with them at the mystery and beauty of the world, the wonder of creation.

mysticism

By faith we know, as the book of Hebrews tells us. Yet at the same time we have good evidence enough to make a sound rationale for why we hold to the Christian faith, specifically in terms of the resurrection account of Jesus, and the aftermath of that.

But there is a certain element of mysticism inherent to our faith, which smacks against the naturalism which many in the academics hold to (though certainly not all). By mysticism I mean something which can’t be explained according to the natural, everyday occurrence of things we observe and experience. And by this I don’t at all mean a kind of god of the gaps, by which we explain all we can’t explain by ascribing it to God and God’s miraculous working.

This sort of Christian mysticism is inherent in God himself (or, God’s Self) as Trinity, as well as entering into creation through the Incarnation when the Word became flesh in Jesus. And the faith is now received and lived out through the Spirit. This mysticism is also relevant in terms of heaven and earth becoming one in and through Jesus, beginning now, but someday to be realized fully and completely when Jesus reappears, the new creation being completed in him.

I like sound, coherent explanations, and therefore I like scientific endeavor, even though I don’t naturally think well with reference to it, but rather am an admirer of it. But even within that realm, while in theory everything may be explainable, we know in practice that what is found as humans are able to more and more probe the depths of things, is just how mind boggling reality is.

But when you bring a Creator into the picture, one immediately has to accept the idea of faith. Faith in something which cannot be observed or experienced in the normal way humans go about life. Though that last thought does open up big questions when we think of love. Yes, we could make that into nothing more than natural responses and grind that down even further into elements and what is behind that, naturally speaking. But is that even rational in itself, really? Of course it would be in terms of naturalism, but what about in terms of life itself as we live it?

Mysticism to some extent saves the day for me. I mean it ends up that God in Jesus by the Spirit makes all the difference in my life. And that difference is in regard to big and small matters. In every matter. But it’s a mysticism as alluded to above (ref: Jesus’ resurrection) which has its foot in the real world. Which lives in the same mess and blessing in which the rest of humankind lives (give or take starkly different circumstances globally).

It ends up being “me and God” to some extent (of course understood in terms of God being the center). And me and others in God through Jesus. Together in Jesus living out this mystic faith and life in and for the world.

what are we known for?

In our society “evangelical” is a name which is known and shunned to some extent. Of course Christians want to attribute that to them being persecuted. But I think other reasons are involved as well.

Evangelical Christians advocate war more than the general population in the United States. We also have an aversion against science. Taking a stand against naturalism is one thing; doing the same against peer reviewed science itself is another. And we are known for taking a stand against gays. We have political clout in everything. We’re known for wanting to take America back for God. As well as having fringes of “left behind”, apocalyptic sentiments. And being anti-intellectual.

This is all a tragedy. Some of it is indeed unfair. Just as we need to listen to the other, they need to hear us out as well. At the same time we are deserving of some of this, I’m afraid.

What should we be known for?–is the question. The answer has to be related to the good news we are to live out, be a witness to, and proclaim. The good news in and through Jesus. That he indeed is Messiah, that God’s kingdom has come in him. That there is a new way of being human, indeed a new community in this world in and through him. That the old ways are gone, to be judged, to be thrown on the trash heaps of history. That the new way in Jesus has come to stay. Resurrection life in the way of the cross in Jesus.

This must be more than just about our individual lives. It must be communal, missional, intentional, active.

Whatever we might be known for, that is what we’re to be about. What God is about in and through Jesus to and for the world.

faith depends on God in Jesus

There are anthropologists and others who hold to the idea that religion was invented by humankind to cope with life. On a certain level I can understand their thought. It’s interesting to study ancient and modern religions, indeed the history of religion, and see how humans factored in a deity, and deities, and the significance each had to them, as well as the character of such deities.

In actuality such a theory is a child of a naturalistic world view which shuts out the possibility that there is anything beyond nature, or what humankind can observe and verify. But the fact of the matter is that faith itself has proven to be more than a band-aid. There is a deep hunger and longing in the human soul which only through faith can be satisfied. And life cannot be seen in its wholeness within mere naturalistic terms and observations.

There is one thing I know as far as my own faith life goes. It depends on God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it is beyond me. I’m all but lost at times, completely lost in and of myself. That is not unlike the account of Abraham to whom God promises a son, but who has to wait way beyond the point of any human hope. And even beyond that, so that while Abraham has a sense of the greatness and goodness of God, God’s promise to him is year after year after year not fulfilled.  And yet God kept Abraham going on in faith. And finally the promise comes. Surely through this God developed a faith in Abraham he would not have had otherwise.

God meets me time and time again, and always in Jesus and by the Spirit. And more and more within community in Jesus, which is one of God’s preferred, and indeed organic ways of doing so. We are saved through Jesus, but understood rightly, not apart from the church. But that’s another subject. The point here being that by simple faith we enter into God’s promises to us in and through Jesus. And in the here and now to the very end our faith depends on the person we entrust our lives too, that we might find our place in the Story in which God is all in all through Jesus.