May 5, 2011

Faith part 5: You Gotta Believe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , , at 10:01 PM by E. M.

UNBELIEF MAKES THINGS MORE COMPLICATED

The Second dispensation failed because the people of that era decided to only rely on the knowledge they had amassed during their lives.  They did not believe in anything that they did not have full knowledge of, therefore they did not believe in God.  They did not have faith.

The last few posts have dealt with the definition and application of faithreasonable faith is the willingness to rely on something that we do not fully know based on knowledge and experience. Now we need to look at the powerful result of faith – belief.

Every moment of our waking life is active.  We are constantly thinking, moving, acting, reacting, and making decisions.  When we act, we are performing that action based either on what we know, or what we don’t fully know.  There is no intellectual gap between knowing something, and acting on it.  However, when we don’t fully know something, the decision to act on it is based on what we believe about it.

Belief is the cognitive vehicle through which we act on that which we do not fully know. Belief, by definition, is based on faith.

Belief is absolutely necessary in order for us to live our lives because we do not know everything.  If we waited to have full knowledge of a situation before we acted on it, it would be impossible to ever get anything done.

If I want to go to the store to get some milk, I don’t know with 100% certainty that it is going to be a benign experience.  I don’t know that there is not a serial killer waiting outside my front door to lop my head off as soon as I step out.  There could be a three-car accident on the road to the store. The store may be cutting corners by getting milk from a herd with mad cow disease.

I’d need a Pentagon level of information and security details in order to try to have full knowledge of every possible contingency that could happen on my way to get milk.  But even that would not be enough.

It is not possible for us to know all the causes that could lead to all the possible effects, so I have to believe that the journey to get milk will be benign based on my previous milk buying experience and my knowledge that it is in the best interests of the store to provide me with an acceptable dairy product.

Why is belief so important?  The things you believe shape your mindset, your perspective, and your entire worldview.  They become the lens through which you view reality.  Belief is powerful because what we believe has a tremendous effect on who we are.

When we begin our lives as children, we have no knowledge or experience and (thanks to Adam and Eve) we have no connection to God.  Virtually helpless, we have nothing to rely on except irrational faith.  We believe everything we’re exposed to!

Generally the first thing of which we have we have real cognition is our parents and caretakers.  They are the first objects of our faith.  In an ideal environment, they would be our knowledge and experience guides, and would be there to mitigate our exploration of our new world.

But even the best parents are neither perfect nor omnipresent.  They will not always be there when we have a negative experience or get exposed to harmful knowledge.  In fact, they may be the source of much of the negativity.

What we believe during this time shapes our entire psyche.  Much of the science of human psychology is based on understanding and addressing the effects of these early beliefs.

If as a child you have a frightening experience with animals, water or heights (and no one is there to mitigate the fear), they could develop into life-long phobias and panic attacks because you will believe these things have inherent and omnipotent danger attached to them.  If your parents were unjust and contradictory in their behavior towards you, it could result in all kinds of relationship and personality disorders later in life.

It can get even worse as you grow up and begin to discover the philosophies that will shape your worldview.  Remember, beliefs are faith-based, which means if you have irrational faith, you will embrace irrational beliefs, which will result in an irrational worldview that will lead to you committing and justifying irrational actions and behaviors. (The preceding statement explains the existence of religion and political activists.)

But belief is also powerful because it is the key to healing all that psychological damage.

If the root causes of the damage to our psyche is wrong beliefs, then the solution is to replace those wrong beliefs with right (righteous) beliefs.  Its a matter of replacing your red jelly beans with blue ones.  Once again, it all comes back to contrastive thinking.

Remember, our psyche; the “real us” is spirit.  Replacing our wrong beliefs with righteous ones can heal and repair our spirit.  And where do we get the righteous beliefs to replace our wrong beliefs with?  From a source that is always and completely right and just.  God.

Belief in God can repair our spirits.  And since life is the ability to repair, belief in God can lead to eternal life.

The problem with the people in the second dispensation is that did not want to believe in God.  They wanted to believe that they could live without faith.  They believed that they could relay on nothing but their own knowledge.  They believed in themselves instead of God.  The inevitable result was death.

In the next post, we will wrap up our examination of the second dispensation by focusing on the famous event that ended it. What was the reasoning behind the Great Flood?  Why was it necessary to exterminate the entire population of the planet, save one family?  It’s a very controversial issue that we will take a look at next time.

March 29, 2011

Faith part 4: Fear Factor

Posted in Faith, Terminology tagged , , , , , at 7:36 AM by E. M.

In the last few posts, we have been examining faith. Generally speaking, faith is the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of.

Biblically speaking, faith is the expectation of something good, from a source or object that is not fully known, based on some previously validated knowledge and/or experience with the source

There is another “faith based” reaction to that which is not fully known.  There are circumstances where we react to what we do not know with some level of trepidation instead of hope.  This reaction is called “fear”.

Like faith, fear can be reasonable or irrational depending on whether or not it is based on knowledge and/or experience.

It is reasonable and sensible to be afraid if you are walking in a high crime area, being tailgated by a teenage driver, or swimming in shark infested waters.  Why?  Because we have knowledge (or experience) that crimes tend to happen in high crime areas, teenagers are clinically insane, and sharks tend to bite the living  $#!&% out of people whenever they get the opportunity.

Reasonable fear can be defined as the rational mindfulness of something that has the power to affect us.  Another word that can be used as a definition of reasonable fear is “respect”

The type of fear that will be the focus of this post is irrational fear – Fear that is not based on knowledge and experience – fear of the unknown.

Irrational fear is that general, undefined dread that people often feel without any logical reason.  This fear is so common that it has become a major aspect of clinical psychology where it is known as “anxiety”.  It can manifest as anything from simple anxiousness, and obsessive-compulsive activity, to debilitating panic attacks.

This type of fear is actually the antithesis of Biblical faith.  Biblical faith is the expectation of something positive based on knowledge.  Fear is the expectation of something negative based on the unknown.

In the Bible we are told to “fear God”.  It doesn’t mean we are to quake before Him in primitive dread of His arbitrary whim.  It means we should demonstrate a rational respectfulness based on our knowledge of His power and His nature.

There are nearly 200 admonitions in the Bible that we not be fearful or anxious.  Those admonitions generally refer to fear that is not based on knowledge.   For example, just about every time people witness the appearance of a supernatural being in the Bible, there first reaction is to be paralyzed with fear (or worse) because they don’t understand what they are seeing.  At this point, the being quickly tells them not to be afraid, and then gives them knowledge to help them understand.

Why is admonition against irrational fear so prominent in the Bible?

If you have no knowledge of a situation that is causing you fear, then you have a choice to be comparative or contrastive.   The contrastive choice is to either cognitively acknowledge that it is pointless to fear the unknown, or rely on a source that has some level of knowledge of the unknown thing you fear.  The comparative choice is to rely on yourself to deal with the unknown situation; but since you have no practical knowledge, you will either become paralyzed by the fear or you will take destructive (evil) actions.

The Bible does offer a remedy to fear – that remedy is love!

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

How does love remedy fear?  Remember we defined love in an earlier post as the willingness to give without expectation of getting anything in return.

The common theme in love and fear is “expectation” – fear expects something negative.  Love expects nothing.

Therefore, if you are focused on love (no expectations) then you can’t have negative expectations – you can’t love and fear at the same time!

We will conclude our discussion of faith by focusing on the cognitive process that acts as the gateway to faith and fear.  Next time, we will examine  “belief”.

February 20, 2011

Faith part 3: The Ballad of Jungle Joe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , at 4:20 PM by E. M.

God has all the knowledge in existence.  In order to fully know God we would have to have all the knowledge in existence.  But since we don’t, we can only believe in God by faith. And as we saw in the last post, faith in God can be considered reasonable faith because it is based on knowledge and experience.

But God doesn’t JUST ask that we believe in His existence, He wants us to believe in in Him TOTALLY!

Based on the fact that there are almost 400 references to faith in the Bible, faith is obviously a critical part of a fellowship with God.  Why is faith so important to God’s plan?  Let’s look again at the components of faith.

Rational faith seems to be the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of, based on some degree of prior knowledge/experience that we have had with the object of faith. In order to have faith, you must intentionally choose to ask the question “what don’t I know?”  That is a contrastive question!

The reason that faith is so important to God’s plan is because Reasonable faith requires humility and contrastive thinking.  And contrastive thinking is the way to become more righteous.

On the other hand, comparative thinking is antithetical to faith in this case because when you are comparative, you are relying only on what you do know. And again, since our knowledge is limited, we cannot fully believe in God if we are comparative.  This is the reason why the second dispensation failed!

If a person should reasonably believe in God because of their knowledge and/or experience of God, then the converse must also be true – one should NOT reasonably believe in God if that person has NO knowledge or experience with Him.

This brings up one of the skeptics’ favorite “contradictions” concerning faith in God and salvation.  It takes a form similar to the encounter below, which I have heard so many times I have come to refer to it as “The Jungle Joe Paradox”.  It goes something like this:

“You Christians say that all people are doomed to Hell from birth and the only way to be saved into Heaven is to believe in God.  Well that’s fine for people in America where there is a church on every corner and 24-hour Christian television, but what about the people who live in primitive jungles?  They may go their entire life without ever meeting a Christian or reading the Bible.  According to you, God is going to send them all to Hell because they never believed in Him.  That’s totally unfair and I can’t believe in a so called “loving God” who would operate like that.

When a cynic or an atheist presents this argument, it is usually not out of a sincere desire to know God’s plan, but more as a deflection to take the focus off of their personal unbelief and project it onto the hypothetical “Jungle Joe”.

The silliness of that objection can easily be shown by asking them a few questions.  I first ask them if they’ve had an opportunity to choose a college, a career, a place to live, and a spouse during their life.  The answer is usually yes.  Then I ask them if the relative predicament of an anonymous person living in the jungle played a role in any of these decisions.  The answer of course is no.  Thus they acknowledge that they are fully capable of making choices that have great impact on their lives without taking Jungle Joe into account, and the decision about their eternity should be no different.”

However, essence of the dilemma does deserve to be addressed.  If there are people who have no knowledge or experience with God, it would be unjust of God to hold them accountable to have reasonable faith in Him. However, the Bible makes it clear

For what can beknown about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-21 ESV

What this verse is saying is that the nature of creation itself testifies to God’s existence.  The first 8 posts in this blog proves God’s existence based solely on logic and reason. The reason Jungle Joe can be held to the same level of accountability as someone in the “civilized word” is that man has an innate knowledge of God whether he has been exposed to organized Christianity or not.

No matter what geographical, political, or social situation in which a human being exists, they are universally aware of six things

  1. There is a transcendent being who is all powerful and created the universe – People are inherently theistic, you don’t have to convince a young child or “uncivilized” man to believe in God; it’s natural to them.  Atheism has to be taught.
  2. This transcendent being is not indifferent to his creation and interacts with it/us – People in primitive societies acknowledge that deity(s) intervene in their lives.  There are no deists in the jungle
  3. There is an absolute right and wrong (good and bad). – Moral relativism is another creation of “civilized society”
  4. The rightness (righteousness) originates in the transcendent being and wrongness (unrighteousness) is all that is in opposition to him – We all inherently know that we need to be justified
  5. Like righteousness, justice exists, is absolute, and is mediated by the transcendent being – We all inherently know when we are being treated unfairly and we all expect justice to be equaled out.
  6. Man’s natural tendency is to be unrighteous and unjust (sinful) – all societies and cultures have to impose rules/laws to enforce good behavior.

Here’s the most important part – if, after realizing that it is impossible for him to be always and completely righteous and just by his own power, Jungle Joe contrastively appeals to the transcendent being (and Him alone) to rescue him from his unconquerable desire to do evil, then he has shown the faith that God desires, and it is counted to him as righteousness in the same manner as the Old Testament saints [Galatians 3:6-9]. But if he decides to justify himself and/or appease the deity by his own actions, his situation is no different than any other unbeliever.

Everyone has enough knowledge of God to have reasonable faith in Him.  Whether or not we choose to have faith is up to us.

Biblical faith is based on hope that something good will occur.  But there is a darker form of “faith” that is actually the opposite of Biblical faith and can result in evil.  Next time, we take a look at “fear”.

January 28, 2011

Faith part 2 – Evidence For Hope

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , , at 11:29 AM by E. M.

No one ever talks about Isaac's faith. . .

The second dispensation failed because the people of that had great knowledge, but they relied on knowledge alone to form their worldview.  They did not believe in anything they did not know completely, therefore they did not fully believe in God.  They lacked faith.

Generally speaking, faith is the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of.  We also learned in the last post that faith can either be reasonable or irrational based on the object that one chooses to have faith in.

Faith is obviously a vital component of any belief system because none of us has all the knowledge in existence. Only God has that level of knowledge, therefore it takes some degree of faith to believe in anything that we don’t fully know – including God.

But does faith in God fall into the category of reasonable faith or irrational faith?  And for that matter, how does God define faith?

Fortunately, faith is one of the terms for which the Bible provides a direct definition:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

The key terms in this definition are “hope”, “evidence”, and “the unseen” (or unknown).

Hope is the expectation of a positive occurrence.  From a Biblical standpoint, it would be the expectation of something good.

Evidence is empirical validation learned via direct or indirect means – either by knowledge or experience.

The unseen is that which is not fully known and/or that which has not been experienced.

So, Biblically speaking, faith is the expectation of something good, from a source or object that is not fully known, based on some previously validated knowledge and/or experience with the source.

This definition definitely meets the criteria of reasonable faith presented in the last post.

Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith”.  After giving the definition of faith, the writer provides examples of Biblical characters who demonstrated their rational faith by their expectation of good based of previous knowledge and experience with God.

One of the examples is the narrative of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (which we looked at during our examination of love).  If Abraham’s first encounter with God was simply an arbitrary command to drag his beloved son up a mountain and plunge a knife in his chest just for the hell of it, then Abraham’s willingness to do so and hope for the best would be an example of irrational faith.

However Hebrews 11: 8-16 shows that Abraham’s history with God consisted of progressive experiences of God’s unwavering and miraculous commitment to Abraham’s prophetic destiny to be the father of a great nation.  After decades of this knowledge and experience Abraham willingly obeyed the command to sacrifice Isaac under the reasonable presumption that God could not break His covenant.  Abraham had so much faith in God’s nature that he presumed that if he killed Isaac, God would have to resurrect him is order to keep His promise!

 

This type of faith is evident throughout the Bible.  When God requires an act of faith from anyone in the scriptures, it is always based either on knowledge that the person has or their prior experience.

That standard of faith has not changed.  If anyone today chooses to have faith in God, that faith is only reasonable if it is based on knowledge and/or experience.  The primary reason that I titled this blog “Faith by Reason” is that my main goal is to progressively give logical reasons (knowledge) for faith in God (plus its sounds better that my original title, “Mabrie Explains it All!”).  The first 12 posts in the blog give reasons to believe in God based on knowledge.

So we now see that despite claims to the contrary, the faith required by the God of the Bible is reasonable.  But why does God require it?  Why is faith so important to God’s plan? Next time. . .

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January 10, 2011

Faith part 1: Reason to Believe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , , , at 11:33 AM by E. M.

I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO WATCH THIS

In the second dispensation, humanity was given time to amass an abundance of knowledge in order to determine if knowledge alone would lead them to choose God.

The dispensation failed because while men had knowledge of God, they did not believe in God.  They lacked faith.  Faith is the mechanism through which we believe.

Faith is a necessary part of our cognitive experience to varying degrees because no one knows everything (not even lawyers, despite the impression they give).  Since none of us have all the knowledge in existence, we are consistently faced with situations where we have to make definitive decisions based on knowledge that we may not completely have or fully understand.  These decisions are based on some measure of faith.

Faith seems to be the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of.

Faith is obviously a major tenet of any belief system.  Whether it’s a belief in a God we cannot see, or the belief that no such God exists – unless one can claim complete knowledge, both beliefs require faith.

Yet despite the fact that it takes just as much (if not more) faith to believe God doesn’t exist as it does to believe in Him, atheists generally speak of the concept of faith pejoratively. They often contend that their worldview is superior because they claim it is not based on faith.

Of course that claim is untrue because even those individuals who profess to abhor the concept of faith in any form contradict their stance in their everyday life. An interesting example of this is in an old video I recently watched of an interview with famous writer and philosopher Ayn Rand, author of the book Atlas Shrugged (which happens to be my favorite novel).

A major tenet of Ms. Rand’s philosophy is that individuals should choose their values and actions based on logic and reason.  She held contempt for anything that she considered irrational.  Because she also held that faith was antithetical to reason, Ms. Rand vigorously opposed religion.

While I agree with her about religion, her ideas about faith are an example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  All faith is not created equal.  Nor is faith necessarily antithetical to logic and reason (this blog would be ill named if it were).

In spite of herself, Ms. Rand gave a succinct example of this during the interview I saw.  When she was introduced, her first action after she walked onto the stage was completely faith-based – she sat down in a chair next to the interviewer.  She did not examine the structural soundness of the chair before she sat in it.  She had no empirical evidence that it would adequately support her.  Yet she sat in it with no hesitation.

It could (and should) be argued that it was reasonable for her to expect that the chair would be sound, based on knowledge and experience.  Ms. Rand had knowledge that the purpose of a chair is to support a seated person, and she knew that it would be in the best interests of the interviewer to provide her with a functioning chair. She also, no doubt, had extensive experience with chairs during her life; the vast majority of which probably served their purpose adequately.  Thus, while sitting in the chair was an act of faith on her part, it was “reasonable faith” based on knowledge and experience.

Like other cognitive processes, faith can be rational, or irrational based on the soundness and reliability of the information or object that is the focus of the cognitive process.

Thus the reasonability of one’s objective faith is based on the knowledge and experience one has with the object of one’s faith.  Ms. Rand’s faith in the chair is a good example of rational faith

An example of irrational faith would be watching a banal romantic comedy movie and believing that the plot and storyline will be even incrementally different than the plot and storyline of every other banal romantic comedy.  There is simply no evidence in existence upon which to base this belief.

However no mater the reasonableness or irrationality of the object, the act of having faith in it is still a choice.  Moreover, having faith is a risk.  No matter how much information or evidence you have, when you choose to have faith in something you are relying on the unknown to some degree.

One would think that the architect of the universe would be a reasonable object of faith, yet the people in the second dispensation did not have faith in Him.  Why?

Choosing to have faith in God is uncomfortable.  Relying on someone else when you lack all the information about a situation requires humility.  The people of the second dispensation relied only on the knowledge they had, so they chose not believe in anything they did not know.  Although they had an abundance of information about God, they did not have complete knowledge in Him.

They were comparative in their knowledge.  If they were willing to be contrastive, they would have focused on what they didn’t know, as opposed to relying solely on the knowledge they had.  This mindset resulted in the people of the second dispensation becoming irredeemable corrupt.   So it seems that attempting to live without faith and relying solely on your own knowledge will not only prevent you from choosing God, it will actually lead you further away from Him in the long-term.

We understand now that faith can be reasonable or irrational.  So does faith in God qualify as reasonable faith?  How does the Bible define faith?  Does God ask us to believe in Him blindly or based on evidence?  And perhaps most importantly, why is our faith so important to God?  We’ll look at these questions next time.

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