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.