Thursday, 13 March 2008

Breaking open the vessel

As I haven't posted for a fortnight, here's a comment I wrote in response to Jonathan's post on 'Musings' top right, 'Science and its limits: Chapter Seven', March 8th. It expresses some of my recent thoughts about faith.

'...I don't think God will be found in the detached testable way you want. We're looking at reality in very different ways, like through a different lens or set of specs. I'm thinking about how people move from atheism to belief in God, and it strikes me that the idea of paradigm shift is helpful here: a different way of looking at reality. And while discussion has a part to play in tackling intellectual problems, you'd likely find from testimony that things like time and experience - or a particular very striking experience - have a part to play. CS Lewis in 'Surprised by joy' is a case in point (he like A McGrath was an atheist first).

If you see reality through this radically different paradigm, then it - the same reality we all see - can positively throb with a sense of the presence of God, at least some of the time; eg ask an African Christian, I'm sure from the perspective of a culture steeped in a sense of the spiritual character of the world and nature, he/she would give a very different account of what reality looks like from a western secularist.
I'm just trying to challenge the secular science view a bit here.

For me, evidence of God is primarily relational - though this has taken time to develop. Not through detached observation of data. A good starting point is a simple step like the prayer, 'God, if you are real, please reveal yourself to me', with even a 'mustard seed' of at least openness. It could be mixed with a load of scepticism and questions to be answered - it'd just be a start. Who knows what might happen given time. Another principle of 'evidence' from the Christian perspective is, act on the little that is revealed, even just a small step like a question to read up on, and more truth and presence (of God) are revealed.

REVELATION is a key concept; that we don't have to work it all out for ourselves, but that God reveals Himself. In various ways, nature, the bible, and primarily through a Person, Jesus. It is through dynamic interacting personal relationship with Christ as revealed in scripture that I experience God's reality in a growing way from day to day. It's a whole being interaction, head, heart, will, not just head. Yes, some intellectual obstacles may need to be removed first, and go on being removed. But then it's like a process of surrender - not of your brain, but of your whole being, to the reality of God as personal dynamic presence that breaks and crashes upon you like waves.

I'm just trying here to give a clearer picture of what having faith in God looks and feels like for a Christian - spurred by the 'evidence' question J.

I've been meditating recently over several days on John 9 in the bible, about a man born blind who was healed by Jesus - had an experience no-one could take from him, even in the teeth of strong opposition and questioning from the religious elite of the day. It seems relevant. Again, this is a way I think God is revealed, through narrative and drama, not just philosophical or scientific speculation.

Think about what's going on when you fall in love, or read an epic like Lord of the Rings - examples of something like the kind of suspension of intellectual scepticism, and openness and vulnerability of heart and imagination that are involved in faith in God.

No, I haven't been on acid. I'm just a bit more lucid in the morning.'