Sunday, February 25, 2007

i think i hate faith

9:37 AM Posted by: M., 22 comments

I googled "I want to believe in God" and I found this question posed, and the following responses as well.

I Want To Believe In God
I want to believe in God because I want to go to heaven when I die. It's just hard for my brain to accept God. I was brought up a Christain, read my bible, prayed and I feel like I am losing it. Like there is no God.


1. Man says, "Show me, then I'll believe", but God says, "Believe, then I'll show you." "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed they that have not seen, and have believed. And to them that look for him, will he appear the second time without sin, for salvation." Hebrews 11:1; John 20:29; Hebrews 9:28.

2. Those who want to believe in God can call on God in prayer to reveal Himself to them. He is perfectly capable of doing so and in fact will do so if you will ask, openly, unashamedly confessing your need for him.

3. I have the same problem. I guess you could call me a wannabe Christian. I WANT it all to be true (i.e. the Bible, God, Christ, etc.) but I keep wondering, if it's really this simple then why doesn't everyone believe it?? When I read the Bible it all seems so mythical, even silly. I find myself wondering why anyone would believe it? Help!!

4. Did you ever read the works of the late Dr. Conrad Baars and the late Dr. Anna Terruwe, Christian psychiatrists? "Feeling and Healing Your Emotions" is a great book and I think it may give you an idea why you need "heart knowledge," not just "intellectual knowledge," to know and love God.

5. Sue; our flesh is an enemy against God. Our brain can't comprehend the things of God. For we must look at things through spiritual eyes. It is normal for someone to question if God exists. I did. But I realized that if there wasn't I wouldn't be here, for many reasons. It takes faith to believe in and upon God, without faith it is impossible to please God. Just believing in God won't take you to heaven. It takes more than that.

6. Faith. You get in your car and faith it will start. You go to the store and have faith your money will buy you something. You must have faith that God is real, (look around) that Jesus suffered, died and rose again the third day.The devil believes in God, You must believe in the Son of God. Believing in God will not save you, only putting your faith in His Son will.No man comes to the Father except the Spirit draw him.

7. An exercise that you might find helpful is to keep a journal of your prayer request and questions. Sometimes we get too intellectual about God and don't see him as interacting with us personally. It may not happen immediately but at intervals of say 3,6,9 months etc...look back at those prayer request and questions you asked God to help you with as you note them being answered you will see that God is working in your life maybe not as fast as you want but working, then praise him for it.

8. Susan, I highly recommend you to read the first three chapters of Ephesians over and over, and over until the Holy Spirit gives you wisdom and revelation knowledge. But you must be dilegent. And watch, before your eyes, things will start to happen. It will be like a light coming on when you flip the switch. These prayers of Paul were not just for the Ephesians in their day, but for us as well.

9. It all boils down to the heart. We have to believe with our heart, not because we want the rewards.Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.Like the way a child can believe in Santa with no doubts at all.Matt. 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

10. If you want to believe in God do the works of faith, faith without works is dead,obedience will bring his blessing, believe on Jesus, repent, be baptized, and get in a teaching church that is full gospel and grow in the Lord , do not be rebellious but submit to Godly teachers and learn to hear God speak to your heart

11. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Faith in God comes of, by, and through Jesus Christ alone. Would you write me personally? My personal e-mail address is in my pen pal profile. My id is linda6563. I hope to hear from you.

12. Susan, you are really honest. The immediate realities of life might dominate temporally and God might seem to be out of the equation, but the thoughts of God, fear of punishment do not actually leave us. we need to cautiously look into our ownself and check whether we are comfortable without Jesus. You need to put in effort to retain God. Have a look at Romans 1:28. Please pray.

OKAY. Almost all of these responses were just telling the person to not look at God so intellectually and to look at God ONLY from within Christianity. I just wonder why God made our brains if we aren't supposed to really use them to understand him. Why can God only be seen and experienced from within Christianity--it seems that way because everyone keeps saying that you have to read the Bible or pray or do works of faith to see him...I don't know I am confused, as is obvious. You can say that we use our brains by learning about science and stuff that God uses and all that, but why can't we see him intellectually? Maybe we can--I hope so, but I am just wading through a big swamp of flowery fluffy faith language to get there. And I keep wondering how in the world people believed in God before the Bible--we rely on it SO much now and we rely on what big famous writers tell us is true--what about people before the Bible, or people who still dont have access to the Bible? They just go to Hell or can't find God? It's all just a little sketchy.

it is interesting that no one has even said anything so simple as like,
"here are some ways to think about God,
1) Nothing can move itself.
2) If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover.
3) This first mover is the Unmoved Mover, called God."

wow, we really think too intellectually about God!


Becky said...

I think the problem is that people believe that they can do things in order for God to move when in actuality He moves when He chooses to move. People actually believe they can manipulate God.

Possibly to answer your question concerning why can we only experience God within Christianity is that in all the world religions,they try to attain or be acceptable to God. Religion is based on how much we do, how good we are, etc. If you look closely, modern day Christianity has fallen into this trap; however, the true meaning of the gospel is the work of Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. In order to be in the presense of God, you have to be 100% holy, can anyone do that or be that? If we are not 100% holy, we are a dead man.

The reason the Bible doesn't make sense alot of times is because man tries to interpret it when in fact the Spirit has to interpret it.


exapologist said...

It's interesting to read the sorts of responses christians have given in your post. The Psalms tell us that the heavens declare the glory of God, and Paul in the NT picks up on this point in Romans, in his argument that the Gentiles are under the condemnation of God. For, he says, the existence (and even the attributes! I guess all those people in religious traditions are crazy or stupid -- or wicked -- to have accounts of the nature of God that differ from those of the God of Christianity) of God can be clearly seen through the creation and their concience, so that they are without excuse for not believing in God and doing what is wrong.

If this is right, then christians should be able to point out some inductive, abductive, or deductive arguments for the existence of the God of Christian theism to convince you, but that doesn't seem to be happening. Could the psalter and Paul be mistaken that God's existence is rationally demonstrable?

marie said...

Becky--I like what you said. I wish I could say that I believe in the spirit right now but i am not sure. But that is just me. I really think that you make sense though. I just am struggling with the idea that man cannot interpret the Bible and why...

Exapologist--thanks so much for that eloquent response--it is so true. I really do feel that in the eyes of most Christians around us, there is no excuse for not believing in God. It is frustrating because I want to believe in God, but I am not seeing for myself what others are seeing--especially in creation. I was asked tonight whether or not I think that God is obviously visible in creation...and I couldn't say if I did or not...and I just felt that that was the wrong answer or something. It is like those Magic Eye optical illusion puzzles, and the class is pressuring you to see something that you can't find.

exapologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exapologist said...

I sympathize with you here. I've spent a huge chunk of my life internalizing and scrutinizing these arguments, only to be left with a question mark:

1. Is it the sheer existence of the universe that declares the glory of God? If so, then I'm not sure why that's so.

A. If it's because the history of the universe -- or matter in general -- can't go back forever in time, and therefore must have a first cause? If so, then this certainly isn't clear. Why *can't* matter be eternal, with each event being caused by one prior to it, and so on without end? Apologists like William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland have made valiant attempts at demonstrating this, but these arguments all seem to depend on at least one dubious premise or other.

B. Is it because, whether or not the universe or matter is eternal, it is a contingent, dependent being, and thus requires and explanation or cause in terms of a necessary being (which we all call "God")? If so, then this isn't obvious either. Why can't the universe be a logically contingent yet metaphysically independent being -- i.e., there are possible worlds in which matter doesn't exist, but given that it does, it's eternal and "free-standing"?

Perhaps one would respond that even if matter is like this, it would still need a further explanation for why it exists, as opposed to just nothing? But why think this? This assumes that every object and fact has a sufficient reason for why it exists, either in terms of something beyond it or in terms of its own inner nature -- i.e., it assumes the truth of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). But why accept PSR? It's not a self-evidently true proposiition (I reflect on the meaning of its constituent concepts, yet fail to see that it's necessarily true).

Furthermore, even if you think that there must be a necessary, self-existent being to explain the existence of contingent beings, why can't that being be that matter/energy out of which all things in the universe is composed (instead of God)?

2. Is it rather because the universe has features or objects that indicate that it/they were produced by a supremely intelligent designer? If so, then this isn't obvious.

First, it seems that we can explain pretty much all of the complexity of biological organisms in terms of mutation and natural selection (i.e., evolution). Also, we can explain the apparently fine-tuning of the fundamental constants of nature in terms of a many-universes hypothesis. The idea is that there are lots and lots of other universes, each with a different set of numerical values for its fundamental constants, and that, if so, then it's no longer surprising that at least one of the universes has constants that are life-permitting (any more than that it would be surprising that I won the lottery if I bought all the tickets). And what's wrong with this explanation? Is it that no one has or can see these other universes? Well the same goes for the invisible intelligent designer. *Both* hypotheses have to postulate a theoretical entity or entities to explain the data of fine-tuning; so the fact that we can't see these other universes is not a decisive objection to the hypothesis.

Second, the argument seems to assume that all such intricacy requires a designer. But then what about the intricacy of God's mind? We would then say that it, too, requires a designer. But suppose we say that, no, just this once, such intricacy doesn't require a designer -- the order and functionality of God's mind is a brute fact without further explanation. Well, doesn't this work to the non-theist's or agnostic's advantage? For if the theist bites the bullet and says that at least some such order is brute, then why can't we say that the fine-tuning of the universe is brute -- or at least that of a hypothetical multiverse?

Finally, even if the intricacy of living organisms and/or the fine-tuning of the cosmos really were best explained in terms of intelligent design, it wouldn't follow that the designer is incorporeal, omnipresent, all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good, or that there is just one designer (one god) -- or even that the designer still exists.

3. Or is the compelling evidence supposed to be the existence of moraliity? On closer inspection, it seems that that there's nothing about God that would make him uniquely suited to ground morality. For do we want to say that God creates morality through acts of commanding? That seems crazy -- how could God make something right (say, torturing babies for the fun of it) by just commanding it? Commands just don't seem to be sufficient to ground morality (at least not as a complete explanation) On the other hand, if we say that God would never command such things, since he's perfectly good, then we're saying that right and wrong are at least partly independent of God's commands. Now you could say that, still, moral goodness is grounded in God's nature, and that God only commands what is in confomity with his good nature, but how is this an advance over saying that the property of goodness *itself* is what's doing the explanatory work here, and not God's nature? Sticking the property of goodness in God's essence seems merely to make our account of morality more convoluted than is strickly required. This is one reason why many (perhaps most) contemporary theistic philosophers have abandoned arguments for God based on the existence of morality. Many theistic philosophers (like, e.g., Richard Swinburne at Oxford, now emeritus), think that moral propositions are necessary truths, and independent of God (in much the same way that mathematical truths are).

4. So what are we left with, religious experience? That is, perhaps having an experience that seems to be of a divine being is prima facie, defeasible evidence for the existence of at least one divine being. Ok, but people in different religious traditions have differing religious experiences -- some of Allah, some of Vishnu, some of Jesus, etc. So religious experience, even if veridical, is too coarse-grained to tell us which being is experienced, and thus which religion is true. Now you could say in reply that there's a distinction between *experiences* of the divine on the one hand, and our *interpretations* of them on the other, and say that the experiences are all roughly the same, but our differing religious traditions cause us to interpret them differently. Fine, but then this cuts both ways: how do you know that your interpretation of your religious experience as of Jesus is the correct interpretation; maybe you're experiencing Vishnu, but your religious interpretive framework leads you to interpret it as of Jesus? Indeed, maybe you're not experiencing a divine being at all, but are interpreting it as such.

5. Or perhaps the evidence for God in creation is the irreducibility of consciousness to the physical? I think this argument scores a point -- so far, we haven't been able to reduce conscious experience to states of the brain and central nervous system. So that is evidence against hardcore versions of materialism. But does it get us all the way to Christian theism? I don't even think it get's us to deism -- or even a dual-aspect theory of objects.

6. But suppose we admit that none of these arguments work as sound deductive proofs for theism. Still, perhaps the key piece of data in each argument can be used as a *clue* in a sort of abductive inference to theism as the best explanation? Again, it's not so clear. For before we can tally it up, we have to throw in the apparently conflicting data of massive suffering, religious diversity, and religious ambiguity -- we can't just gerrymander or cherry pick the data. So suppose we state some rival hypotheses of the data:

H1: theism
H2: naturalism

And suppose we list our data that needs explaining:

D1: the apparent contingency of the universe
D2: intricacy of living things and the fundamental constants of nature
D3: religious experience
D4: the apparent irreducibility of consciousness
D5: massive amounts of suffering (animal and human) -- much of it apparently pointless and indiscriminatory
D6: massive religous diversity
D7: religious ambiguity -- it's possible to reasonably disbelieve that God exists
D8: Divine hiddenness: God seems to be "hiding" --- even when we most need him

Once we look at all the relevant data, it seems that, to say the least, the data does not *obviously* point to theism -- let alone deism. At worst, it seems that some non-theistic hypothesis might be a better explanation.

Thus, so far as I can tell it's *not* obvious that the God of theim -- much less the God of Christian theism -- exists.

7. But how about good ol' faith without evidence, or Pascal's wager, say? Suppose we say that the pious thing to do is to just have faith in God, or at least to wager on God, even if we don't yet have such faith. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain, right? Ok. I'm with you and ready to throw in my lot with God. So tell me: which God? We can't appeal to evidence, right? Just faith alone? What if we wager on the wrong God? Perhaps Islam is true, and I wager on Protestant evangelical Christianity? Uh-oh. I believe that, according to orthodox islam, I'm going to hell for wagering incorrectly. The same goes for me wagering on Islam, and it turns out that Christianity is true -- I'm cooked. Now apart from the moral absurdity of God arbitrarily throwing me into hell on a blind bet that he's forced me to play, we see that faith alone *isn't* enough: we need evidence to at least pick a religion. So we are back to arguments and evidence, which, as we've just seen, gets us more or less nowhere.

That's my honest two cents, anyway. Take it for what it's worth.



Agnosis said...

Well said Exapologist. Thank you for the broad road map through current apologetics territory.

I think you would benefit from some reading in the Divine Hiddenness literature. In crude summary, it asks the question why God would seemingly hide from those who honestly want to find "him" but yet are hindered by the inconclusivity, if not outright contradictory, evidence for "his" existence. Some take this as a sufficient reason for disbelief. I think it gives good voice for the struggle of those who want to, but can't seem to, believe.

Becky said...

The best way I can explain interpreting the Bible is that yes man can interpret it, but if he interprets it by man's thoughts, feelings and emotions then it is just a man-made concept; however when the Spirit testifies what the word is about and its depth of meaning then the word comes to life and makes sense.


marie said...

(pardon if i post scattered--I just woke up and I am still in bed as I write this.)

Exapologist--that was such a great post. My parents are really into this christian philosopher they met in Colorado Springs and they have been telling me his arguments and I have been thinking that I find huge exceptions to them, but I just haven't been able to gather my thoughts exactly. But what you say here makes total sense, and you are right--I still am left with a question mark. But at least it is a question mark after a great deal of investigation and scrutiny. I really have difficulty believing that this kind of discontent with christian apologetics passed down and curiosity about the likelihood of certain realities, is a sin. I mean, I would imagine that God would want us to investigate and find him rather than just believe immediately because someone told us--if he wanted that, why even really make "free will"? And if God is real, his appearance on earth should at least be able to challenge well many of those hypotheses.

Agnosis--thanks a lot for the suggestion. I will definitely check that out.

Becky said...

I have a question and it may be a dumb one but what imperical evidence do you need in order for God to exist? What is your box or criteria? That is if God does blank then I will believe that God is?


exapologist said...

Marie -- is the philosopher Doug Groothuis? He's an evangelical guy, right? I've read some of his stuff, but not much. I would master and internalize the arguments he offers -- that way, I couldn't lose: if his arguments are good, then I'd then have good reason to accept them; if not, then I'd have good reason to reject them. BTW, if you read him, I would be interested in hearing his arguments!

Becky --were you asking your question to Marie? Just checking.

Becky said...

the question is for anyone


HeIsSailing said...

Marie, check out this article that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It is a similar topic, but I like your take on it also.

exapologist said...

Speaking for myself, I would take any evidence that met ordinary standards of evaluation. As long as the evidence made it at least a little bit more likely than not that theism is true, then that would be enough to make me believe it.

But think of it this way. Consider an orthodox Muslim, or a devoted, committed practitioner of any other belief system -- even an atheist, say. Suppose they just read books and articles that merely supported their atheistic (or Muslim, or ...) position, and sort of opportunistically used such literature to help them continue to retain their current beliefs, while refusing to listen to any other views or contrary arguments. Would you think that this was appropriate or respectable, or that such an approach to evidence increases that person's likelihood of having true beliefs? Shouldn't they listen to criticisms of their own views, and abandon them if they don't stant up to scrutiny?

In short, if your goal is believing things that are true and avoiding things that are false, then the best way to increase the likelihood of success in this is to critically evaluate your own views, listen sympathetically and fairly to the views of others, etc. What do you think?



exapologist said...

Hi Marie,

I like the way you put it: it's not that the inquiry gets us nowhere; it's actually very fruitful. We have sifted carefully, thoughtfully, and responsibly, doing our best, on the issue of fundamental questions, and have found, at least by our own lights, the balance of the evidence. That's saying quite a lot!

The philosopher John Locke said, roughly, that perhaps it's beyond our power to come to know the truth with certainty on certain matters, but at least one thing *is* in our power: doing our duty of careful inquiry, and proportioning our beliefs to the evidence (this is pretty close to what Hume said, too).

Thanks for your nice point!



Becky said...

I agree with you... are you implying that I haven't looked at the other options?


marie said...


I think I have been putting off posting in these comments because I don't really know what to say. I guess I will start answering the questions.

Becky--I am not sure what evidence I will need. I agree with Exapologist about needing enough to make Christianity being true a little more likely than it not. I don't know what that will look like or if I will ever find it. Maybe even tomorrow, faith without empirical evidence will make sense to me and I will never really need any evidence. I am not sure. The only thing I am sure of now, is that the faith and Christianity I have had in my life thus far is not enough to sustain me any longer, let alone for the rest of my life. I am not content with it and I don't think it is wrong to feel that way. Maybe everyone has different necessities in determining the validity of God's existence--I haven't been previed to mine yet. So I am not sure, but if God is who he says he is, I dont think that it would be a problem for him to show something to me that I can't deny, it seems that has happened to other people--at least they think that. I am not asking for him to come sit in front of me and like walk through glass, just something, something to make me think that this isn't all just total shit.

EA--the philosopher is JP Moreland I think. My parents got the CDs of his lectures, so I will try to listen to them--I will totally check out the guy you suggested too. That is reallt good advice about learning the philosphers' arguments

And I am glad/flattered you liked the point I made--I am seriously always awed by what you write because it is always like perfectly succinct, yet detailed, and totally, logically, amazingly, eloquently stated. So it is an honor that you found something that made sense in my digital sputtering.

and Heissailing--I read that post and I want to put a comment on it but your site wont let me, I might have to play around on it some more. But you have composed SUCH an amazing description of what it feels like to want to believe. You so clearly state that the idea of christianity can and should be amazing, but its manifestation around us is rotten...

i will try to comment more later on your site--it is a problem with a cookie or something.



exapologist said...


Thanks for the kind words!

Oh, it's Moreland? So perhaps your parents saw him at a conference in Colorado, I bet. He teaches at Biola University in La Mirada, California (also at Talbot Theological Seminary, which is the part of Biola that has a graduate program).

I was an acolyte of his for more years than I care to mention. He was my hero, and his main book on general apologetics, Scaling the Secular City, was pretty much my Bible for a good while. My dream was to study with him in the Philosophy M.A. program at Talbot -- in fact, I did! Well, at least for a year. They don't have fellowships or TAships there, and so you have to pay out of your own pocket to go there. That lasted for a year. When I realized that I'd rather have my way paid through grad school, I went to a "secular" program.

I have a ton of his recordings (on apologetics, spiritual disciplines, philosophy, integrating academics and faith, etc.), too! I would listen to them over and over (and over and over and..), until I had his stuff memorized. I used his arguments in undergraduate Philosophy papers, and used them when "witnessing" to co-workers, etc.

He's a good man. But looking back, I can't believe I thought his arguments were as good as I had hoped. I remember doing an independent study course on the kalam cosmological argument as an undergrad. I wanted to show my professors (who were and are first-rate people, and who never disparaged my faith.) that theism was rationally supported by good arguments. I read every single article, chapter, and book related to that argument for my paper (I was using the paper as my writing sample for grad school applications), including Moreland's versions of the argument. Before ever writing the paper, I knew Moreland's versions of the argument backwards and forwards. They were crushed in about two email exchanges with my professsor for the independent study.

If you'd like to discuss his arguments, I'd be more than happy to!



Becky said...

Marie and exapologist,

I hope I have not given the impression that this search you are on is wrong. I think it is great because whatever you eventually believe will be yours. From my perspective sometimes I feel because I am a believer, those who question the faith, reject it, etc. believe, that Christians haven't thought these things through. Don't get me wrong I know Christians who haven't questioned anything and harass and make others feel guilty for doing so. Let me make the record straight, I am not one of those.

From my viewpoint, I believe iron sharpens iron.

I still do not feel my question that I asked has been answered, which is what criteria of yours will demonstrate that God is?


marie said...

Hi Becky-

I am not sure I really know how to answer your question because I don't really know what it will take for me to come back to God. If he is real and evidence of him comes into my life, I would hope he wouldnt allow me to miss it. I don't know. I have lived for a long time on faith and it can no longer sustain me alone.

I am trying to be open right now to what exists--I feel that if I come up with something that I must see in order to believe--I may ignore other signs.

This "journey" of mine is relativey new to me, so I am still trying to even figure out what I am starting--so right now I would just say, I don't know. I wish I could give you a better answer.

I probably come across like I am judging christians for not exhausting the search for other possibilities or truth--I am sure a lot have, but I just know that I never really did before--at least in an open-minded way.

I don't feel at all like you are undermining this search. I would be interested to know how you came to the faith and how it sustains you--I have gleaned some from your comments on here, but I would like to know more about you. I am still exploring your blog so there may be answers there as well.

thanks again for posting!


Becky said...


I really do not know how to answer the question(s)about me and my journey. I am afraid, I'd write an epistle and I do not want to leave one as a comment:+) You can read my blogs because they can glean into sides of me. I would recommend my earlier posts from 2006 starting around January, February, March and April. My journey, my questioning, my rejecting began in my early twenties--I am 36 now. Alot has happened since that time. Some good ..some not so good.

I'll leave sides of myself along the way at times on your blogs.


Agnosis said...


Thanks for the kind interaction from a current believer. It can be very agravating to constantly be preached at when you're in the midst of serious questioning. I find that mostly, with rare exceptions, those who have gone through their own "valley of death" are the ones who understand and sympathize. The ones who are nothing but confident tend to be the ones who condemn and proselytize. True compassion is an extremely existential reality.

Your question about the evidence for God seems problematic for a couple of reasons. First, belief based on evidence evaluation is a foundationalist approach which has been called into question in recent decades by philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga. You may not agree with their ultimate position, but it at least warrants a cautious rephrasing of such questions or approaches. Keirkegaard thought that evaluation of objective evidence only resulted in an approximation process which could never in end in real faith.

Second, granting an evidentialist approach, such a question seems to fall prey to the predator of most Christian apologetics. There is to date no evidence, that I'm aware of, that specifically validates the Christian form of theism. The most that can be proven is the existence of a deity. In America we assume this proof leads to the Christian God, in India it would prove Vishnu. A person's interpretation of any religious experience, manefestation or proof is deeply cultural. In the end we need to honestly evaluate ourselves and our belief structures, and constantly remain prudently open-minded. I think you would agree that belief in any form of transcendence is not a mathematical problem of probabilities to be solved and closed forever.

Becky said...

I am wondering... if one cannot rely on experiential and/or cultural norms can that hold true for the western culture who adheres to scientific and empirical evidence as well?