November 22, 2017

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science.  A review of the book by Mike “Science Mike” McHargue.  Part 5.

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science

• Part 5

• • •

So when Mike returned home I imagine his conversation with his wife went something like this:

Mike:  Hi, honey I’m home.

Jenny: Hi, honey, how were your conferences?

Mike:  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news.  Which do want first?

Jenny:  I guess… the bad news.

Mike:  In my left brain I’m still an atheist.

Jenny:  And the good news?

Mike:  In my right brain I’m a Christian.

Jenny:  Wait… What?????

As a matter of fact, there is a neurological basis for what Mike was experiencing.  Although, as we learned in our examination of Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods, the whole left brain—right brain thing gets overblown in popular media; there is still something to it .  The brain’s right hemisphere controls the muscles on the left side of the body, while the left hemisphere controls the muscles on the right side of the human body.  In general, the left hemisphere is dominant in language: processing what you hear and handling most of the duties of speaking. It’s also in charge of carrying out logic and exact mathematical computations. When you need to retrieve a fact, your left brain pulls it from your memory.  The right hemisphere is mainly in charge of spatial abilities, face recognition and processing music. It performs some math, but only rough estimations and comparisons. The brain’s right side also helps us to comprehend visual imagery and make sense of what we see. It plays a role in language, particularly in interpreting context and a person’s tone.

The two halves of our brains communicate via a thick channel of nerves called the corpus callosum.  In the 1960s neurosurgeons attempted to treat severe epilepsy by severing the corpus callosum.  At first the patients seemed to respond positively but then a strange phenomenon occured known as Alien Hand Syndrome.

A patient tried to hug his wife with his right hand; and his left hand threw a punch.  Another patient was trying to pick out a sensible dress for work, when her left hand picked out a louder print.  So the researchers devised an experiment that would allow them to communicate with each half of the brain in isolation.  With a careful combination of special glasses, monitors, and positioning, the researchers could present questions in such a way that only half the patient’s brain could see them.  They then left Scrabble tiles on the table within easy reach of the left hand; because the right brain basically can’t speak.

Dr. Michio Kaku interviewed neuroscientists about these such experiments in his book The Future of the Mind.   What follows can only be described as freaky.  One subject was asked what he wanted to be when he graduated.  He said he want to be a draftsman; very practical occupation.  But when they asked his right brain, his left hand spelled our automobile racer!  The two halves of his brain had different agendas and goals for the future, but they were living in the same skull!  And Mike recounts this:

Another patient was asked what he believed about God.  His left brain spoke and said he was an atheist, but his right brain said he was a believer.  An atheist and a believer coexisting in the same skull.  Two halves of the same brain matter, flesh and blood.  So does half of a person’s soul go to heaven and the other to hell?  Does Jesus live in only half of a person’s heart?

Many of us can relate to this paradoxical experience.  Have you ever prayed fervently while simultaneously wondering if anyone was hearing that prayer?  Have you offered someone comfort in faith, while wondering if you believed anything you were saying?  For all its bizarreness, the phenomenon of split-brain patients gives me strange comfort.  Suddenly, I don’t feel so weird for identifying with both skeptical and spiritual people.  There is an atheist in my brain who remains wholly incredulous about the idea of a divine being who once dwelt among us in the form of a man.

There is a Christian in my brain who is indescribably and enduringly comforted by the idea and love of a supernatural Savior.  I’ve stopped trying to deny, starve, or otherwise do away with either of them.  I let my atheist question and examine.  I let him check my motives and search for ideas that can be proven.  Atheist Mike contemplates ethical issues from all angles, where right and wrong emerge not from ancient texts, but from the relation between our actions and the suffering or consent of others.  Christian Mike views the world through a lens of great compassion, seeing pieces of God in all His creations.  My Christian side suffers with those in pain and finds reason for hope in everyone.  Against all reason, Christian Mike believes it’s never too late for redemption and that salvation is always at hand.

Christian Mike wants to drop his fishing net and follow Jesus.  So I let him.  And Atheist Mike tags along for the ride.

And Mike lived happily ever after…. NOT!!! 

His former atheist friends now reviled him for being delusional, and a fraud, and irrational; for mistaking socially induced hallucinations for experiences with God.  Isn’t it much more likely that rather than the Creator of the universe showing up for you while stubbornly obscuring any evidence that someone could actually use; your moment of transcendence was just a phenomenon of your brain triggered by alcohol and a wide-open space?

And Christians?  Well from an Amazon reader review of Finding God in the Waves:

However, I do think it’s sort of mis-marketed. Because this isn’t really about a guy becoming an atheist and then finding his faith (Christian faith) again. It’s more like a really devout Jesus-loving guy becoming an atheist and then having a deeply spiritual experience and becoming kind of a theist. He now sort of believes in a God, and thinks Jesus was really connected to God, and thinks there are all sorts of reasons why prayer works. And hey, you don’t even have to believe in God for it to work! And the resurrection? Nah.

So, the fact that this was marketed as a guy finding his way back to God through science is super disingenuous. Especially as he spends a lot of time talking about how much difference there is when people talk about “God.” He’s basically saying, “I’m pretty sure there is a God, and you can make the case for it.” “I’m pretty sure Jesus was an actual person, and nobody would call you crazy for thinking that.” “Prayer works, but it doesn’t really have anything to do ‘God.'”

I’m just at a loss, really. I don’t even know how to review this book. At what point do we stop calling it “progressive Christianity” and just call it … nothing. You can believe in evolution and still call it Christianity. You can doubt whether Adam and Eve were literal people. I think you can read the OT and admit that Noah and the Ark probably was more myth than fact and still call it Christianity. But removing the resurrection? Admitting Christ probably did live, but he surely did not die and was raised by God. Saying “prayer works, but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking it does,” … just stop. You’re not talking about Christianity anymore. And you didn’t find your way back to God (the God that you’re meaning by saying that; the God you’re hoping everyone assumes when you say that).

I guess this just feels like: Man loses faith, then man decides there could be a god, or even a God, man thinks Jesus was a great guy, man believes prayer to be powerful, though unrelated to religion. Man calls this faith. Everyone seems to love this book. Maybe I’m missing something? But i really wish I could go back in time and not have read this. I don’t think I am the intended audience, because honestly I feel a bit devastated by it.

It seems very sad to me that a man who has a crisis of faith, essentially loses it for all intents and purposes, and then begins a process of finding it again cannot be granted the space and the grace to work out that process.  It is ironic that most of the people at Mike’s Baptist church only discovered he’d lost his faith after he’d already regained it.  A few were supportive, but most could not abide the questioning attitude that Mike was finally open to admitting.  To them, Mike was “a double minded man… unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).  But if you read James in context, the double-mindedness has to do with the hypocritical treatment of the poor versus the fawning treatment of the rich, not intellectual questions.

In retrospect, Mike realized that it was time to move on from fundamentalism.  Crisis often brings growth.  As he came back to faith, he made peace with Christianity one piece at a time.  First, he says, he found scientific terms for the forces and experiences people called “God”.  Those insights let him be comfortable leaving the word atheist behind.  The practice of prayer has been shown to have valuable neurological benefits for the practitioners.  That knowledge let Mike pray un-self-consciously and feel like a real person of faith instead of a facsimile.  Coming to terms with Jesus was more difficult, but admitting the limits of his knowledge helped him, and finding a healthy church that accepted him for who he was and was willing to allow the growth to take place at his rate and understanding was important for his social health.

Coming to terms with the Bible took a little longer but Mike basically came to the conclusions that Chaplain Mike has noted in a recent post :

The Bible is incarnational. That is, it comes to us in fully human form, taking the words of people written in their own times, from within their own cultures, according to the genres and literary conventions common to their day, and within the confines of their own limited perspectives, to communicate God’s message.

The Bible involves a complex conversation of faith over time. The Bible contains multiple voices, a diversity of narrative and theological perspectives, and a development of thought over time. For example, Joshua and Judges present two sides of the conquest of Canaan. Ecclesiastes and Job protest the wisdom tradition represented by a book like Proverbs, which even in its own pages presents several points of view. The “history” of Chronicles presents a different scenario of the same events than we see in the books of Kings. This diversity is only a problem if we expect the Bible to be something it is not—a timeless and perfectly consistent, always harmonizable record that is precise in every detail according to modern standards of accuracy.

Now Mike blogs, and podcasts, and gives talks about his journey in churches, colleges, and conferences exploring the intersection of science and faith.  Even though atheists wonder why he bothers trying to put intellectual legs on hokey, Bronze age mythology and even though prominent Christian websites recently called one of his podcasts as “more dangerous than atheism.”  But he has an audience among the nones and dones that those “prominent Christian websites” can only wish for.  They have ceased having an audience in this culture and are now locked in their own echo chamber, literally preaching to their own choir.

And even though skeptics challenge the idea of an unseen spirit realm, what is the world but the composition of strange little particles, themselves made of energy and invisible fields.  We are, in fact, numinous and ethereal beings made of mostly empty space and probabilistic waveforms.  So, yes, sometimes Mike uses new metaphors for God, blending the words of the ancients with the insights of modern science.  But Mike thinks, and I wholly agree, that doing so plants him firmly and deeply within the biblical Christian tradition.  Mike says:

The God in my axioms isn’t superior to the God I once found in the Southern Baptist faith and message…I’m done saying I’ve found the right one—mysticism tells me that these are all metaphors, all symbols, pointing to a single God who is beyond anything I will ever be able to imagine.

Be it Moses’ burning bush or Carl Sagan’s cosmos, both propel me to a posture of worship: an understanding that I did nothing to get here, on this planet at this time with these people, and yet I get to enjoy it all.  Every sunrise, every breakfast at the table with my kids, every skinned knee, and every kiss from my wife.  Every song, poem, and yes, every loved one I lose is a gift.  To share the joys and sorrows of my friends, to see little ones born and old ones die, all tie me to an incredible cycle of unspeakable beauty that I am part of, and the only possible word I have for all is this one: God.

I keep finding God in the waves—the waves of the Pacific, the waves of gravity, the waves of electromagnetic energy, and all the waves that move through our brains.  I find God in the sound waves of ancient hymns, of children laughing… This is, of course all wildly unscientific, wildly imprecise.  It has to be… Only a poet or a painter can do the work of sharing this truest of all things. Love.

I find Mike’s story to deeply resonate within me.  Every Christian apologetic is eventually answered by the skeptic just as every atheist assertion has a Christian rebuttal.  Every spiritual experience is merely hearsay to everyone else.  Deeply personal experience is still just that—personal.  And as I said in a previous post, if you make God a hypothesis of nature you can only end up making that god into a demiurge.  Therefore, empirically, God does not exist, as we have no need of that hypothesis.  Virgins don’t give birth, especially to male babies, and 3-day dead corpses don’t re-animate and ascend to… where?  The sky, outer space?  Just where is heaven anyway; empirically it doesn’t exist.

In the end, one is, of course perfectly free to believe in the “just-there-ness” of the cosmos.  But that naturalist view of things is just a picture of the world, not a truth about it that we can know, or even a conviction that rests upon a secure rational foundation.  If the naturalist is perfectly consistent then we must see that such a view is utterly deterministic.  On the other hand, this deterministic machine floats upon a quantum flux of ceaseless spontaneity and infinite indeterminacy.  Neither level of reality explains the existence of the other.  So nothing we know obliges us to find this picture more convincing that one in which higher causes (among which we might, for instance, include free will) operate upon lower, or in which all physical reality is open to a transcendent order that reveals itself in the very existence of nature.  To my mind, “chaos” could not produce laws unless it were already governed by laws, and the question of being cannot be answered by a theory that applies only to physical realities.  But maybe that’s just me (and David Bentley Hart whom I borrowed these notions from) and your mileage may vary.

Comments

  1. flatrocker says:

    Just when I’m warming up to the idea of riding around on an elephant (…thanks CM), it looks like I’m riding around on two elephants. No wonder our lives feel like a circus.

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “a double minded man… unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8)

    That verse . . . heard that before. Used out of a deep respect for scripture , all context discarded, by those who would wish the entire book of James would just go away [all that Liberal rot about works and The Poor, sheesh].

    But, I’ve also thought: Oh to be merely *double* minded. It is like a meeting of parliament up in there.

    I’m not so sure how I feel about Quantum God [*1] metaphors – but worst case this Mike sounds like someone I’d want to hang out with. Christianity desperately needs more authors people can describe that way.

    [*1] I probably know just a bit too much science/math, making it less metaphorical.

  3. “I don’t even know how to review this book. At what point do we stop calling it “progressive Christianity” and just call it … nothing.”

    Because, of course, there is NO middle ground between Fundamentalist Christianity and Fundamentalist Atheism. Choose and perish. :-/

    Linking all this with the discussions over the past several days, it comes down to how you see “truth”. Is “truth” the One Axiomatic Paradigm that explains literally EVERYTHING? Or is “truth” the best approximation we have of the vast, glorious, multitudinous mess that is reality? Fundamentalists demand a Paradigm – and if one fails, they pick another. Why else to rabid Christians flip to becoming rabid atheists, or rabid anti-Catholics flip to rabid Catholics, or rabid Liberals flip to being rabid Paleoconservatives?

    As for me and myself, I can’t con myself anymore into thinking that the dissonances that any One Axiomatic Paradigm must generate when faced with reality can, or should, be explained away to preserve that Paradigm.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Why else to rabid Christians flip to becoming rabid atheists, or rabid anti-Catholics flip to rabid
      > Catholics, or rabid Liberals flip to being rabid Paleoconservatives?

      And the common thread in all the above is “rabid”.

      Poetic, as when something is Rabid it fears The Water more than anything else; it has become a thing whose thirst will not be quenched.

    • Robert F says:

      Even science doesn’t have a Grand Unified Theory that can accommodate everything scientific theory. Quantum Mechanics is not compatible with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, even though scientists have been strenuously trying to find a unifying theory. It may be that they never will, and if they don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised. It may be that the oneness of truth is not something we will ever be able capture in any single paradigm or theory; it may be that the oneness of truth is not expressible in language. It may be that that all phenomenon cannot be rationally explained ina single theory or system. Which means that, in all cases, we should use the paradigm or theory that, in it’s limited way, best explains what we are observing, and best predicts what we will find as we investigate further. Pragmatism is the way to go.

      • Robert F says:

        The one pointer to the oneness of truth is that we are able to perceive that no single theory or paradigm accounts for all it; but it takes humility to admit that this is so, because it requires us to acknowledge our limitations.

      • Science per se, by my definition above, is not a One Axiomatic Paradigm.

        Scient*ism*, on the other hand… 😉

  4. 1932-1934 was Edwyn Bevan’s Gifford Lectures. His XV deals with rationalism and mysticism He says rationalism challenges believers to modify their beliefs so that the logical contradiction will no longer trouble them. In mystical experience, man apprehends Reality by direct contact or by identification.
    Therefore it’s no surprise he ends…..” It is highly improbable that anyone who had no belief in God was ever led to believe in God by any of the standard proofs of God’s existence…the ontological, cosmological, teleological proof. They were thought of by men who already believed in God as considerations harmonizing their belief, for themselves and for others, with a general view of the universe. It is , of course, a dogma of the Roman Catholic that the existence of God can be demonstrated by rational inference from visible phenomenon. But no Roman Catholic could take this to mean that it can be demonstrated by arguments which are sure to be recognized by all men of normal understanding as cogent. For it is a plain fact of the world that there are many men of normal understanding who do not recognize the arguments put forward as cogent. If you already believe in God, then ontologically you will see everything that exists as existing because one Will, and so the cosmological argument will indicate a rational agreement with your belief and your view of the universe, and you will see the order of the universe as directed to realize value to a supreme degree, and so a teleological argument. It is only, I think, in the sense of giving rational comfort to people who already believe in God that the standard dogma can be regarded as demonstrating the existence of God. What actually causes anyone to believe in God is direct perception of the Divine”. And that was the end of his 337 pages of lectures.

    • “It is , of course, a dogma of the Roman Catholic that the existence of God can be demonstrated by rational inference from visible phenomenon”

      It ain’t just the Catholics, brother. Pick up any random evangelical apologetics text and you’ll get the same line, to a lesser or greater degree. In fact, I once owned a book by a Christian apologist that was in essence a 200-page denial and attack on Bevan’s final conclusion – for thus guy, mysticism is totally unreliable, and logic and written revelation is the only sound basis for knowing God.

      • Robert F says:

        It’s unfortunate that Protestantism picked inherited the dogmatic theology habit of Roman Catholicism, but not its mystical theology habit.

        • Oh, Protestantism had its mystics. Quakers, Shakers, Anabaptists… all duly and properly persecuted, of course. :-/

          • The Creflo Dollars, the Fort Lauderdale Five, the Mike Bickles…

            “Mystics”.

            • Christiane says:

              Mystics? not exactly,

              shysters? maybe, most likely, . . . . . okay, shysters it is 🙂

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Robert, the good news is that there are mystics, Catholic and otherwise, who are not constrained by tribalism. They are more than willing to point us poor Protestants and anyone else down that beautiful road without any thought of bringing us into their tribe or any tribe.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > rationalism and mysticism

      I’m down with most of this; but I would never call myself a mystic.

      For me, much of what is falling under the umbrella of Mysticism [because of course we MUST have a SIDE beside Rationalism] is essentially Humility.

      • Robert F says:

        Not much of a mystic either, though I tried for year to be one or understand myself as one. But on the one hand, I no longer think that not being a mystic puts one at a disadvantage when it come to matters of the spirit; and on the other, I think there is a mysticism of the ordinary that takes no special talent or skill. Either way, the lack of humility, whether one is a mystic or not, does put one at a disadvantage in matters of the spirit, and in all other matters as well; and believe me, I understand that I have a long way to go myself in the area of humility.

  5. Making myself very predictable by quoting Jung once again but:
    “The unconscious is not just evil by nature, it is also the source of the highest good: not only dark but also light, not only bestial, semihuman, and demonic but superhuman, spiritual, and, in the classical sense of the word, “divine.”
    The Practice of Psychotherapy, p. 364 (1953)
    Fits like a glove with the right/left brain findings.

    • Pascal said something very similar 300 years prior to Jung…

      • Absolutely. Modern psychology was born of the philosophers and didn’t just show up in a vacuum. And you could fairly say Paul and Jesus and Jeremiah, et al. How could the Bible, if it is what we think it is, not point to that fundamental character of human nature?

  6. But removing the resurrection?

    Nah. Still Christianity. If Christianity is about following and living out the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, no resurrection is needed. None. Period.

    But yes, it certainly isn’t…whatever Christianity in America is now.

    • Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels do seem to linger quite a bit on His getting executed and then coming back to life. He didn’t just teach radical morals – He taught a radical vision of Himself as God, and how that manifested in His life, death… and resurrection.

      • Sure, not disagreeing. But living life like him and by his morals and principles don’t hinge on his defeating death.

        Set aside all the God stuff, and you still get basic Christianity, or “Followers of the The Way”, or however you want to package it.

        • “But living life like him and by his morals and principles don’t hinge on his defeating death.”

          Again, if it’s just the morals and principles, yes. But for Jesus, it wasn’t only about the morals and principles. It was about *following Him*, as a Person. And He based His claims for that obedience on His fulfillment of His Father’s will – and that included the Crucifixion. And the apostles were all united in saying that that was signified by God through His raising Christ from the dead. Christianity encompasses the the instinctual moral code of humanity (the Tao, as C S Lewis called it), but it slso transcends it through Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. THAT is the core of Christianity.

        • Ronald Avra says:

          Paul, the apostle, stated that he regarded his lifestyle to be delusional in the absence of the hope of a resurrection. Not that his opinion is proof of the resurrection, but that from the earliest moments of the Christian faith, some persons have questioned the reasonableness of following Jesus without the hope of a future life grounded in God’s restorative justice.

          • I would tend to agree with you Ron. Not in the book, but in one of his recent podcasts, Mike said he believes in the resurrection as a mystic but not as an empiricist. I’m down with that.

            • Is it not possible to believe in physical things for mystical reasons? Is raw evidentialism the only permissible epistemology?

              • Ben Carmack says:

                We believe in the God who became Man. The resurrection of the literal body of the physical God-Man is the sine qua non of Christian faith.

                • Mike the Geologist says:

                  Yes, Ben and I believe it. But it is not empirically provable it is a matter of faith. I am not a Gnostic, I believe in a physical bodily resurrection, and I believe He will raise me as well on the last day. But science is useless here because you cannot use methodological naturalism to demonstrate a supernatural miracle. Resurrection is not what naturally happens as a matter of measurable experience. So what Mike McHargue (and likewise myself) are really saying is that we accept Jesus’ resurrection as a matter of faith despite the empirical evidence against it i.e. dead men don’t come back to life in the normal course of events. If you don’t get that you don’t know what faith or empiricism means.

          • That sounds similar tho to saying that the only reason someone isn’t a murderer or rapist or robber is solely because they are a Christian. I’m not sure I can go that far.

            I guess I’ve never interpreted Paul as saying that his lifestyle was delusional in the absence of the hope of a resurrection. Maybe…his travels and endeavors, his mission, his beliefs, etc. But not in anything of his lifestyle in regards to how it follows the lifestyle of Christ.

    • brianthegrandad says:

      and you were concerned i was quoting scott adams…

    • –> “But removing the resurrection? Nah. Still Christianity. If Christianity is about following and living out the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, no resurrection is needed. None. Period.”

      I often agree with you on certain issues, Stuart, but not on this point. To me, the resurrection tells me I’m taken care of in the Beyond. It also tells me the Victory has been won, whether it looks like it right now, or even as I die, or not.

      And to me, if you remove the resurrection, we’re all basically f-ed.

      So anyone who says they’re a Christian but not a believer in his resurrection, I just don’t see where they get their ultimate hope.

      Now in reality I tend to downplay the resurrection – life IS mostly about following and living out Jesus’ teachings – but it’s always in my hip pocket, ready when I need the reminder.

      • Not really disagreeing at all, I think we’re on the same page because of your last paragraph.

        Ex: two different people. One follows Jesus’ example but doesn’t believe in the resurrection. The other believes in the resurrection but doesn’t live anything like Jesus.

        Which is closer to being a Christian? I want to say the former. But I imagine, for many, the latter *is* the Christian.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Good point.

        • Dana Ames says:

          It is a good point – if one is taught that the point is “to live morally.” This is not bad, but it falls short – it especially falls short of what the earliest Christians understood as the reason why God became man. If someone asks this question, that person is engaging in dogmatic inquiry. That person may not fully understand them, or may live in a way that is inconsistent with what s/he believes, but as soon as one asks for “a reason why” in a religious context, dogmatic beliefs come on the scene.

          I’ve been re-reading Irenaeus’ “On the Apostolic Preaching” – it’s a short work, 80 pages in a small paperback book, including notes from the translator. (It’s available for free at CCEL, where I first read it.) Irenaeus lived in the late 2nd century and knew Polycarp, who knew the apostle John. That time frame is like meeting people my grandparents’ age who were acquainted with Civil War veterans – so 3-4 generations, 120-150 years ago, not that far away in time from the original disciples. Right up front in section 6, he is talking about the Trinity (yes, he is!), and writes why Christ came, quoting phrases from both Testaments:

          “Christ Jesus our Lord… by whom all things were made, and who,
          in the last times [that is, the fulfillment of time – D.],
          to recapitulate all things [he uses this term 150 years before the Cappadocians – D.],
          became a man among men [of course he means human beings, not just males – D],
          visible and palpable [making a claim against those who believed Christ was not a material human being and did not die – D.],
          -in order to abolish death,
          -to demonstrate life,
          -and to effect communion between God and man.”

          In reverse order, I. is affirming what the later 4th C theologians wrote regarding the Incarnation, which they saw as beginning the effecting of communion between God and man. This is true mutual participation, not some kind of psychological idea about “fellowship” or “relationship” between God and humans. With the Incarnation, everything – esp about what it means to be human – began to change, both forward and backward in time, like ripples from a rock dropped in a pond. Secondly – and here’s where “moral actions” come in – Christ demonstrated life – that is, the way to live. But it’s not only that. He calls himself The Life – he is demonstrating that in which life truly consists, which is ultimately self-giving love, even to the point of death – and humility in his identification with the lowest of the low, which is how a crucified criminal was regarded by both Jew and Gentile. Thirdly, but first in I’s list, To Abolish Death. There was remarkable consensus among the fathers who wrote in Greek, from Paul and the Apostolics on through Irenaeus and the Cappadocians, that this is THE most important thing Christ accomplished in his death and bodily resurrection, which have to be taken together as one act – Pascha.

          This is how the earliest Christians interpreted what Jesus (and the Father and the Spirit) were up to; it’s their answer, interpreting both Christ and the OT as they read it “backwards” through the lens of Pascha, to the “Why?” question. This is not the same interpretation I was taught, either as a Protestant or as a Catholic; in fact, it’s pretty radically different. For myself, having come to the belief, beginning with reading N.T. Wright and continuing to investigate the earliest writings of Christians (not Gnostics or other non-little-o orthodox) that this interpretation is the correct one – which follows on from Judaism and far surpasses, for so many reasons, the one I was taught – I can say with St Anthony the Great, one of the first Desert Fathers: “I no longer fear God, but I love Him.”

          Ben Myers, a Methodist and Australian theology professor, has written the best summary of the Greek Patristic view I have ever read. I can’t recommend enough the ScribeD document embedded here:
          https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/church-fathers-christus-victor-and-the-atonement-gustav-aulen-got-it-wrong/
          If you want to take the time to listen to him deliver a lecture on this, you can search the same web site for October 2015; the video is still good.

          Dana

  7. “To my mind, “chaos” could not produce laws unless it were already governed by laws, and the question of being cannot be answered by a theory that applies only to physical realities.”

    Yep. I remember the first time somebody told me about the “universe arose from a quantum fluctuation in nothingness” theory. I basically told the guy, “if you believe THAT, you have no rational justification to deride Christians as illogical, because at least we believe that every effect has a cause.” 😛

    • Hm. Not following. Could you expand that a little more?

      • “A quantum fluctuation in nothingness” basically assumed that before there was ANYTHING – before time, space, matter, energy, any existence at all – SOMETHING happened that caused all that – space, time, matter, energy – to come into existence. And it is a foundational principle of scientific enquiry that “every effect must have a cause”. To my mind, you can’t keep “every effect has a cause” and “The universe came about via a quantum fluctuation in norhingness” simultaneously. That, and the fact that I have yet to hear a convincing scientific or philosophical argument that that “quantum fluctuation in nothingness” somehow defines God out as a First Cause. 😉

        • Mike the Geologist says:

          Also it is a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum is not nothing, it is the quantum state with the lowest possible energy. Generally, it contains no physical particles. But it is not empty space. Krauss was pulling a sleight of hand and he knew it.

          • Well I don’t think Krauss was “pulling a sleight of hand “. It’s just that “nothing” means something different to a physicist than it does to regular folks.

            Quantum Physics is batsh*t crazy. But we know it’s real because we can use the math to make amazingly accurate predictions. The entire GPS process is predicated on it being real. We just don’t understand it. Lots of Nobel Prizes waiting to be claimed!

            The really honest answer to the question of how the universe began is “I don’t know”.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Some 30 years ago after an all-night gaming session, my GM commented on Quantum Physics that “Physics crossed over into Metaphysics some time ago, but nobody will admit to it.”

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    At first the patients seemed to respond positively but then a strange phenomenon occured known as Alien Hand Syndrome.

    DOCTOR STRANGELOVE!

    It seems very sad to me that a man who has a crisis of faith, essentially loses it for all intents and purposes, and then begins a process of finding it again cannot be granted the space and the grace to work out that process.

    Instead, what he got was “DIE, HERETIC!!!!!” from both sides.

  9. Ronald Avra says:

    Mike (the Geologist, too many Mikes around here), once again, thanks for your effort and thoughtfulness in putting theses posts together.

  10. Many mystics………Underhill and all those from history she writes about; and today the many who are calling for recovery of contemplation, mysticism…… all maintain the simplicity and that being misconstrued.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. It has some wildly esoteric connotations but it really is the simple definition of what it means to be engaged as a Christian. By definition we live by faith which is to say we see the unseen and hear the unheard. Mysticism. Seeing into a hidden realm.

  11. The Amazon review embedded in today’s post…sad and hilarious at the same time. Yes, here’s a person who can’t let a person tell of their own spiritual journey without making it about HIM (the reviewer). Where’s the grace and mercy?
    Apparently not with THIS Christian, at least not for THIS honest seeker.

    The closing line…HILARIOUS:

    “I don’t think I am the intended audience, because honestly I feel a bit devastated by it.”

    Yeah, you didn’t realize that as you were reading it!?!?

    • Yep, that’s the Fundamentalist mindset – there IS a One Axiomatic Paradigm. If it isn’t mine, well, there is always the polar opposite one.

      The only option that is unthinkable, that is “a bit devastatiing”, is that there IS NO One Axiomatic Paradigm.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Being “a bit devastated” by something you don’t think was the intended for you AND that you don’t believe anyway? Very odd. And the sad truth is, he/she probably isn’t the bit devastated by things that he should ACTUALLY feel a bit devastated by, i.e. the poor, the orphans, the widows….

  12. Perhaps a reread of the posts is in order. It was not “liberalism” that devastated Mike’s faith. It was hidebound unbending hyperconservatism. If you’re going to pontificate, at least deal with the actual story in front of you rather than recasting it to fit into your One Axiomatic Paradigm…

    • Uh, did you notice my commenting on the importance of the resurrection earlier? Just because I didn’t couch it in REPENT OR PERISH language doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a critical belief.

      It’s called “tact”.

      • From *my* reading of Scripture – and as a seminarian I read it a *lot* – Jesus and the Apostles almost *always* reserved the harsh language and brutal calls to repentance for the smug self-righteous religious know it all’s. Even with the outright pagans Paul was calm, reasonable, and accommodating in his sermons. Doubt is not so vile a sin as unloving dogmatic “assurance” – read Job if you doubt me.

        • Thanks Ben. We’ve had a rush hereabouts of atheist crankiness lately and your fundamentalist crankiness is a nice change of pace.

    • And a whole lot more than that, since in your own reply you tied inerrancy and gender roles into the package.

      Either all beliefs are of equal importance and necessity… or they are not.

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      The story Mike McHargue is telling is that he went full on atheist: no resurrection, no virgin birth, no God at all. Then the grace of Jesus pulled him back from that nihilism. Slowly, under that grace, he is rebuilding his faith. Then he tells of some Christians who just don’t want to allow him the space and grace to move at his own pace.

      And for the record, Chaplain MIke and I and the other Imonk authors, and most if not all of the regular commenters are creedal Christians, we accept the historic creeds and we let that define our faith. None of us encourage anybody to doubt the creeds. But more and more people these days DO doubt those creeds. We try to dialogue with those people; to help them come to terms with those doubts and maybe resolve them in favor of the historic faith. But one thing is manifestly obvious, the judgmental, condemnatory, holier-than-thou attitude, does not help anyone resolve those doubts, it just pushes them away.

  13. Sigh. As HUG would say, “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs, and won’t be taken in.”

  14. “more dangerous than atheism”

    OMG if it was me that would be the blurb on everything I ever produced for public consumption in perpetuity!

  15. Note – I have eliminated most of Ben’s comments. They went beyond critique to name-calling and personal attacks.

  16. Dana Ames says:

    I’m glad Mike McH. found some peace of mind. It seems somehow sad to me that he has to think of himself as, in a way, schizophrenic (not the psychological disorder, but the root meaning of the term – split mind); does not bespeak wholeness to me.

    I read this in a comments thread on another blog today:
    “Many specific religious claims are undermined by science (origin of species being a biggie); but the grand metaphysical claims of religions are simply outside its purview.”

    I think the theological framework in which Mike McH. came of age was very problematic, in that it mandated that religion and science always fall under the same purview. More people than Mike McH have lost faith because of that. I wonder, though… faith in what?

    Dana

  17. Mike lost his atheist friends and his “Christian” friends. That makes complete sense. He went through a BIG transformational journey. The kind that tears one from his moorings and sets him, alone, out to sea. He changed shape. That’s what trans-forming is. A new, previously unseen, form. At first one becomes a bit unrecognizable in large part because the jargon changes. Many of the old words and phrases are virtually devoid of meaning and the transformation impairs group speak. Soon, maybe, a few old friends begin to accept the new form but also some new friends may come out of the wings from different circles. Still, transformation is as painful as it is joyful. It is through many tribulations… It’s rich but it ain’t always easy.