Guest Post: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

Today we have a guest post from Noah White. Noah is a junior at Houston Baptist University. He commented on a recent post here called Science, a Crisis of Faith, and Biologos. We began a conversation by email, and I suggested he consider writing a guest post to which he agreed. Noah’s post follows, slightly edited to conform to length requirements. Noah has also contributed eloquent comments to Biologos forum and The Hump of the Camel.

 

Someone told me once that no one has ever been argued into believing in God. At the time, I think I intellectually consented to this principle, but I always held out hope that I would come across one perfect, airtight argument that would render irrational anyone who denied it. At first I would’ve bet my life savings on the argument from design, and while I think it still has philosophical merit through the eyes of faith, it’s not without its defeaters. I thought I found it in the Big Bang and the Cosmic Fine-Tuning argument, but now I’m compelled by the burgeoning evidence for a multiverse (compelled, not convinced, mind you) to be wary of using this argument.

I grew up in a Christian household, and was baptized around age 12. Since my senior year in high school, 2 years ago, I’d comfortably settled into an agnostic view on origins: “I guess God can create however he chooses to.” But eventually I was forced to make a decision about the matter, and while it was easy to accept the science, it was difficult to reconcile that with my faith. It led to many nights of tossing and turning, depression, and several anxiety attacks. I felt my world spinning uncontrollably, teetering on the edge of collapse every waking moment.

I had to wrestle mightily with hard questions. If evolution is true, are humans still special? How can I know God acts if now or one day we will be able to explain everything materially? How can miracles happen in a world governed by natural laws? Is the Resurrection just a hoax? A mistake made by the distraught disciples? Why does humanity matter at all if we’re just a tiny blip in history—from its beginning to its (theorized) end, the universe will exist mostly without us. If we’re just one of 10500 multiverses, how much smaller do we feel! These are difficult questions, but I think the answer is that God cares for the least. The Israelites were not a powerful nation; Jesus was not a rich, powerful (in a worldly sense, of course) man. Jesus’ ministry was to the poor, the downtrodden.

The Renaissance said man was “the measure of all things”. The Enlightenment concurred. But slowly all those great scientific enquiries led us to a firm conclusion: the further we investigate our universe, the more we seem to find that we’re tiny, insignificant and, well, random. Or as Steven Weinberg, an atheist physicist, said: “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless”. Weinberg’s quote betrays the odd piety that people who take this view seem to emit—but that’s another story. I think Weinberg and others have arrived at this conclusion because they’re looking for meaning and God in all the wrong places. Here are my tentative thoughts on the matter.

God wants relationship with us. He doesn’t just want us to know he exists; even the demons know—and shudder! He doesn’t want us to know him by cold, indifferent inquiry. No. He wants us to know him through revelation, through a relationship. If God made the world in a way that there would incontrovertible, coercive evidence that He existed, there would be a less compelling need (in our eyes) for a relationship with Him. He wants us to trust Him, love Him, and believe in Him. That’s a taller order than I thought it was when I was baptized.

Science says I’ll die, and my brain will deteriorate, and with it, my very self will cease to exist. Science says the earth will be scorched when the sun expands, and the universe will dissipate or end in a big crunch. But God says, “that’s not the end!”. God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!” Are you going to trust Him? Hope in Him? We can debate, we can go to college and study apologetics, we can have proofs and arguments, but none of them—not a single one—will take the place of a relationship with God. They can help someone feel more sure about their faith, and they can be useful in evangelism, but they’re not substitute for the real thing. My God is the God of faith, hope, and love. Science says a lot, but it says nothing on these things. It says faith is useless, love is a chemical reaction used to propagate reproduction, and that hope—well, it says that there is no hope, I guess; only futility and entropy. This is not a diatribe against science. It’s an appraisal of what things science can say, and what a relationship with the Living God can say.

I don’t have all the answers right now. I don’t even have most of them. But I’ve come to learn that while knowledge is important, we don’t come to know God through proofs and arguments—we come to know Him because He calls us, and His sheep hear his voice. Indeed, to quote the band Bon Iver: “a word about Gnosis / it ain’t gonna buy the groceries”. We’ve too long been searching for God in creation, instead of through creation. If that seems like an arbitrary distinction of prepositions, well, maybe it is. But I think it helps to put it in perspective. My God is not a proposition, He’s not a hypothesis that needs to be tested. Hume, Russell, and their intellectual descendants have long implored us for evidence of God’s existence, and we’ve gone down that bunny trail with them for too long. It’s time to get back on the path and focus on what matters in the Kingdom—not proving God, but showing His love whether it is acknowledged by everyone or not.

I know these aren’t terribly original thoughts, and I know they probably won’t convince a skeptic. I still have moments where I go cold and wonder if it all really could be true. I still get scared, I still doubt. But if you’re reading this and you’re doubting your faith, or if you’re seeking some hope beyond what we know and are wondering if Christ really is risen as Lord of all creation—listen to Him in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the first fruits of the new creation; King of all Kings, Lord of all Lords; He is the Lamb who was slain! And He was for you, me, and the whole cosmos. Know there is hope, and don’t let anyone steal it away from you.

 

 

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6 Responses to Guest Post: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

  1. Ethan Ortega says:

    Amen. Absolutely wonderful thoughts Noah, and thank you Sy for putting this up on your blog. As a point of interest, I was born and raised in west Texas (Amarillo) and throughout my high school and college days (which are not quite over) there was a big push in certain Christian groups towards apologetics and a very defensive mindset towards perceived threats, science being a major one. I believe the people who pushed this mentality were well-intentioned, but were too focused on something that should by necessity require a bit of faith. I eventually moved away from that and have since been recognizing science as God’s gift and something not to fear, but to inspire worship. I’ve had two periods of intense doubt in recent years concerning my faith and science. But praise be to God, I’ve come through it with a much deeper faith and a greater love for God’s creation. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s time we get back to the work of the Kingdom and show God to others rather than trying to “prove” His existence.
    Peace and Love of Christ.

    • NoahWhite says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words and compelling thoughts, Ethan; it means a lot (and is nice to hear from a fellow Texan!). My school has a very formidable apologetics department (William Lane Craig and Craig A. Evans, among others) so it’s definitely something I come across quite often. On the one hand, I understand needing it as a discipline and school of thought, but on the other, I just don’t see much fruit from formal debates except that each side gets more entrenched (though Larry A. Taunton’s recent book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, works to show that this isn’t always the case). But it’s also difficult to not go that route when you feel your faith is being slandered. Luckily, I think the New Atheists have lost a bit of their grip. I could be missing something here that a wiser person could correct me on, though.

      We’re most certainly agreed on all your points, and thanks again for the comment!

  2. SheilaDeeth says:

    I grew up Catholic in England and went to a Catholic school, which meant all my teachers had some Christian belief (not all Catholic), and faith was as “given” as breathing. There was one teacher who wanted us to “prove” the existence of God. I guess I was already too interested in science to accept his arguments. But I was deeply grounded in faith, and breathing. Sometimes I hold my breath, but not for long. Ditto faith. Thank you for your wonderful article!

  3. Jon Garvey says:

    Nice piece, Noah. Thanks.

    It prompted an analogy in my mind (or maybe it’s the real situation!). Imagine that we were not just specks in a vast physical Universe, but knowingly tiny occupants of the dwelling place of an infinite God, who nevertheless dropped regularly to make surprisingly intimate conversation, show us a few cool truths and so on.

    Outside our little community we could see glorious angels about their (God’s) incomprehensible business, things far above our physical facilities, in fact incontrovertible signs that God, as he is, is infinite. But that awesome reality somehow would include his ability to pop in for a coffee and respond to requests about the weather and so on.

    We would never, under those circumstances, fool ourselves into thinking we could “find God” by our endeavours, but our knowledge of him would be utterly secure. In fact the world isn’t quite like that – maybe the way it is has a better plan behind it!

    • NoahWhite says:

      Jon,

      This is a wonderful illustration. I think it comes back to the odd (false?) sense of piety exhibited by those who talk as though discovering our smallness makes God less likely. It’s purely a philosophical induction (as you said in your most recent post), of course. I’d say it’s the only appropriate induction when we try to figure stuff out ourselves instead of responding to God’s persistent pursuit of relationship with us. Colossians 2:6-8 comes to mind.

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