Tag Archives: Illogical

We believe…but what does it mean? Part 3

Absolute truth. From the time I graduated high school until just a couple of years ago, every Christian worldview seminar and every apologetics class was focused on the concept of absolute truth. The argument of absolute truth went something like this: if I could convince a person skeptic of Christianity that absolute truth exists, then they would have to accept that God exists because where else would absolute truth come from if not from God? It was toted as the end all argument to postmoderns everywhere.

However, in flying the banner of absolute truth, we really failed in two key ways. First, the church misread and demonized postmodernism rather than seeing it as an opening of opportunity to engage a whole generation that sought to bring mystery back into a world composed of scientific formulas and purely physical observations. Second, through the process of first establishing absolute truth then deducing God from that basis, absolute truth became an idol and led to the idolatry of absolute truth. In the quest to prove God, absolute truth became the Great Divine under which God became subservient.

Two questions naturally arise. What does absolute truth actually mean? And how do we take absolute truth (a legitimate Christian belief because truth is found within God) and recast it back into its proper place?

Let’s take each in turn. I usually hear absolute truth defined in terms of moral absolutes- there is a definitive right and wrong. What this definition fails to take into account is that what we often see as definitive right and wrong actually derive more from our values as Westerns than our values as Christians. In other words, if we were immersed in an Eastern, African or South American culture, then our absolutes may not seem so absolute. Instead of viewing absolute truth solely in terms of morality or right and wrong, I propose that we write a new definition and thereby place absolute truth back in its proper place.

Two new phrases have been circling around in my head that attempt to rename absolute truth in such as way as to place as deriving from God and not the other way around. The two phrases are: authored truth and originated truth. I think I like the phrase “authored truth” the best. It connotes that truth is not a force or entity that is somehow separate from God and that God has to follow somehow. Rather, it recognizes that truth has an author and an originator. While I have argued elsewhere that belief and unbelief in God is, in fact, illogical, meaning that there is not a way to fully prove or disprove God’s existence and we each come to God with our share of proofs, doubts, answers and questions. However, that does not mean that we cannot use our minds to think of God, deduce attributes of God, think about how the message of God works within the world and ponder ways of communicating that to people; in fact, this is called theology. A discussion of truth can be one of the ways we think about God, as long as we keep truth under God and not as an idol above God.

We believe in authored truth.

 

© Ryan Vanderland 2014

Perspectives: Witnessing

Last week I wrote a piece about how it is, in fact, illogical to believe in God- but it is supposed to be. There was some great discussion after that post and I encourage you to read the post and the comments and join in the conversation- comments are always welcome.

In this post, I want to mention one result of seeing belief and unbelief in God, both, as illogical. (Illogical, as I am using it, means an idea that does not follow a set of predetermined steps.) Belief and unbelief are illogical because there is no formula or experiment that can prove either the existence or the inexistence of God. Belief, therefore, becomes a matter of faith and not a matter of correct knowledge or correct action.

Looks like this guy is using the ol' Roman Road technique.

Looks like this guy is using the ol’ Roman Road technique.

This becomes extremely important when it comes to, what has traditionally been called, witnessing. The way I was taught to share about my faith was to teach the Christian A,B,C’s, the Roman Road or the 4 Spiritual Laws. Essentially I was taught that there was a formula and once I shared the formula, then the other person would be forced (by logic) to accept his or her own sinfulness, believe in Jesus and God’s grace and become a Christian. However, I never understood, if that premise was correct, why Christians didn’t just buy space on every TV and radio station and teach the Roman Road and have millions of people become Christians. The fact remains; there is no formula for belief.

Sometimes your clothes can do the witnessing for you.

Sometimes your clothes can do the witnessing for you.

Once we understand that there is no formula, how does that change the way we share our faith and have conversations with people who hold different beliefs about God or don’t believe in God at all? How do we share our illogical beliefs with someone who holds equally illogical beliefs?

The answer, I think, starts in the most illogical belief that Christians hold: the highest virtue is sacrificial love. John 15:13 says it like this: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” It is illogical that Jesus would lay down his life for us- people that weren’t his friends but his enemies. And it is illogical that we, as Christians, would hold a sacrificial love for the poor, the outcast, the enemy and the unbeliever.

When we “witness,” we are suppose to speak about what we have seen, heard and understood in Christ, but often it is a way to speak about ourselves and what we have seen, heard and understood about ourselves. We want to show off what we know and how logical our faith is- even though a logical faith is no faith at all.

Even when we share our faith, we need to share it in the midst of the illogical- and that’s a new perspective.

© Ryan Vanderland 2013

Perspectives: God

To believe in God as “an idealized Superman is so patently infantile and so foreign to reality, that… it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never rise about this view of life.” – Sigmund Freud

Is it illogical to believe in God?

There are some people who would answer unequivocally, “No!” While others would answer with an unmistakable, “Yes!”

Sigmund Freud- Intellectual Atheist

Sigmund Freud- Intellectual Atheist

Over the course of history, the world’s brightest scholars, scientists, academics and intellectuals have landed on both answers- some using their intellect to argue for the existence of God (and the need for humanity to believe in God) and others arguing against the existence of God (and for the human race to move beyond such fantasies and illogical beliefs).

What are we to make of the fact these cultured, intelligent people answered this question so drastically different? How can one person use their mind and come to believe in the existence of God and another person uses their mind and comes to the opposite conclusion?

[Before going forward, I want to take a moment define the terms we are talking about before my fellow post-moderns begin asking questions like, “What do you mean by logic?” and “How do you define God?” By “illogical,” I mean “an idea that does not follow a set of predetermined steps.” And by “God,” I am talking about the God, YHWH, revealed in the Hebrew Tanak and the Christian New Testament, and who became a man in the person of Jesus.]

Is belief in God more like a science experiment, where, if all the steps are followed correctly, one must believe in the existence of God (or the reverse for those who argue against God’s existence)? Or is belief in God more like watching a film and drawing a conclusion on the film’s merit- based on individual preferences of style, content, actors and directors, as well as, past life experiences and past film experiences?

Most of us would like the think that the former is true but I believe the latter must be true; God cannot be boiled down to an experiment or a formula that will either prove, or disprove, God’s existence. (If there was a formula, don’t you think God would have put it in writing somewhere?) And that makes belief in God wholly and utterly illogical- but it also makes unbelief in God just as illogical.

The fact is, we all come to God (or don’t come to God) because of and with a host of “whys,” “becauses, ”“in spite ofs,” along with assurances and doubts. To believe in the existence of God leaves a lot of things to be explained, but I believe, to doubt the existence of God leaves even more things to be explained.

Believing in God is illogical- and that’s a different perspective on God.

Next week, I’ll write about one result of this new perspective in the way people both side of this question can converse with one another.

But what do you think? Is belief in God illogical? How does an illogical belief or unbelief play out in our lives? Add your thoughts to the comments section- especially if you are outside the United States, I would love to hear from you.

 

© Ryan Vanderland 2013