Monday, October 02, 2006

Is the Hard Edge the Straight Edge?

Post-Debate Thoughts

A lengthy discussion broke out in the comments section of my post from September 20. Makeshift Renegade, who turns out to be a friend from child- and teenagehood, defended agnosticism; I defended Christian theism. I found that Makeshift’s comments were respectful and thoughtful, though we disagree concerning something fundamental. Yet I was troubled because I wasn’t sure he would say that I was likewise respectful and thoughtful concerning his position. This signaled that I should think a little bit harder about how I present myself, and the gospel, in conversations like these.

So first I reminded myself: I was not argued into the faith, so why would I act as if others could be? While I think it is valuable to debate the existence of God, I am questioning whether the tone of my particular debate gives sufficient honor to the one I’m seeking to honor.

Also, I decided that I want to rethink my view of conscience. The rest of this post gives my second thoughts on this issue:

In my comments, I advanced the belief that people are directed to God through nature. It’s not that I believe people are directed to a thorough knowledge of God, but to a certain confrontation with the creator nevertheless. Makeshift claimed, on the other hand, that he doesn’t at all resonate with this argument. He argued that nature is neutral on the idea of God, since nature could be explained other ways that are equally appealing to him philosophically.

All of this got me thinking. I take it as an article of faith (kind of a pun) that creation testifies to its creator. It’s a biblical concept, it’s reasonable, and (here I go again) it "makes sense of it all." So is my friend consciously resisting this reality? Is he lying? Is he not in touch with himself? How do we receive the testimony of one who looks at the world with all its beauty, complexity, and longings and says concerning God, “Maybe, maybe not”?

Another way of stating this is that I’ve often wondered whether certain questions are really “good” or “honest” questions, because I’ve wondered if people who question God’s existence are actually being honest with themselves. If one believes that such questions cannot be honest questions, then you are quickly committed to taking a hard edged approach to anyone who claims disbelief.

Yet while the Bible does state that conscience directs us to God, at the same time it teaches that the light of conscience can become dim… perhaps even extinguished? The reasons for this can be personal or societal. Not to mention that the bare idea of God is not necessarily attractive until combined with a vision of his glory and a taste of his mercy. All this means, practically, that many are not living with a strong awareness of God. While some may be shaking their fist at God, some may be simply shaking their head.

(As an aside, let me say that this cuts both ways. While I believe that people can question God in either an honest or dishonest way, I also believe that belief in God can also be argued in intellectually honest and dishonest ways.)

So, speaking of honesty, I owe that same honesty to others. So that is why I write this post – to confess that these are issues I am thinking through, and I hope that my testimony to my creator is not a bad witness to his character.



Makeshift Renegade said...

Oooh, I'm in print.

Regarding your tone, how you "come off" when presenting your arguments. I can't judge because anything you say just sounds like it comes from my friend Ken. I'm not likely to misunderstand your temperament because I know you too well. Which is the reason I didn't reveal myself right away -- I didn't want to color your response by you addressing me personally.

I certainly wasn't entertaining any thoughts of convincing you of anything, and fully expected you to more or less disagree on everything I said. It was just about bringing clarity to the issues so we all have greater understanding.

Anyway, carry on...

Joseph Adrian said...

Hi Ken,
I would like to throw in my two cents. Frankly,I do not find you to be abrasive or judgemental in general,and in the posts that you were referring to in particular(I don't think that was the case). I thought you were attemting to give your thoughts on the matter,I think your manner in general is and was kind and gracious.

njcopperhead said...

I agree with Joe. I dont think you need to worry about being too aggressive or even dogmatic (perhaps a bit more might be good at times!).

Anyway, this brought me back to thinking about "proving" God exists. The Christian is convinced by God himself and then sees evidence everywhere supporting something he already "knows". Similarly, the atheist starts with the premise that there is no God, something he "knows", and must see the world in that way - the implications of the existence of God are unthinkable (submission, sin etc). It seems that the challenge to both Christians and unbelievers alike is first to test the logical consistency of their beliefs and them to live in accordance with them - the Christian to submit to God in all things, and the atheist to acknowledge there is no morality, ultimate justice, or anything to life other than mechanical behaviorism. If we do this then we're all being honest with each other.

Ken Shomo said...


Although I am concerned about "tone," my main concern in this post was with how I *think* about an atheist/agnostic's questions. Do I think they are ultimately disingenuous, or do I think they are "honest questions"?

How one thinks about this will certainly affect one's tone. But I was trying to root out something a little deeper.


Makeshift Renegade said...

Maybe what you really mean to ask is, "Are they honest answers?" We are all asking the same essential questions, but coming up with different answers.

Joseph Adrian said...

I see what your getting at(I think).
Very often its hard to tell(even more so in writing)to attempt, to assess the nature of a person's questions. I think sometimes it goes to the motive of the person( are they just seeking honest and good answers to their questions).It can be very difficult to determine where someone is coming from(by this I mean their motive),and in this regard I think great care should be exercised. When in doubt of a person's motives(I think they should be given the benefit of the doubt unless things become very clear),by their words(or if speaking to a person their tone and attitiude).I think Christians often come up short in areas like this.Sharp and judgemental responses can be extremely unkind and unloving and when this is this case,Christlikeness is obscured(if seen at all).