Truth, science, reason & faith

We want to be a fellowship where the mind is a part of our faith and faithfulness, and where questions, wonderings, doubts, and thinking are all welcome. Below is part of an online discussion between our pastor Ron Simkins and a person with some deep feelings and some important thoughts.


some believe in a god or gods.

others do not.

it lies with believers to prove the existence of supernatural beings. until then, they exist only in the form of electronic impulses bouncing around in your head. It’s not that complicated.

Ron—Response to C:

You probably are pretty intelligent and I am as well; however there are people all over the 21st century world with higher intelligence than either you or I reflect, and some of them are convinced that there is an active and involved personal God as the Judeo-Christian scriptures claim, and some of them are convinced that there is nothing in the universe other than the human mind that gives any content to any form of the word “god.” I resent it when Christians make comments about those who do not agree with them indicating a lack of intelligence, and it doesn’t work any better when it comes from those who do not share my experience or trust in ‘the God and Father of Jesus the Messiah.”
I try to make sure that at least half of my serious reading involves reading smart people who disagree with my deepest paradigms and experiences of reality. You might try reading Pulkinghorne the English Royal Physist who speaks to your comments on “hope” in his recent book, or the sociologist Rodney Stark who provides reams of data to indicate that your reconstruction of the history of faith as primitive and unintelligent is out of touch with a lot of reality, etc. You may not find them convincing, but any honest reading will not find them lacking in intelligence, nor will it find them fearful, nor will it find them unwilling to look at other points of view.

C—response to Ron:

ron, thanks for the reading tips. i have not read pulkinghorne or stark. but i will now be on the look out for them. i have enjoyed francis eagleton’s critique of compatriots dawkins and hitchins.

intelligence is not the issue. reason is. coherent explanations i find much more compelling that spiritual rants. just my preference.

Ron—response to C:

To C—and thank you for the Eagleton reference; I will be on the lookout for it as well.

Reason is my favorite playground and probably my best ability, but it is limited too. It is only as good as the unprovable deep assumptions of reality that underlie and inform it, and it hits its limits before the reality we are attempting to analyze is exhausted.

One quick example, I am fortunate enough to have a wife who loves me. Do I have evidence that gives me reasons for believing that I just made a true statement about reality? Yes. Could I “prove” she loves me with scientific conclusiveness? No. Could I give other rational scenarios with varying degrees of possibility or probabilty for why she does what she does and acts like she does? Yes. Do I entertain these rational possibilities as having anything to do with reality — no, I do not. Does my lack of scientifically conclusive proof cause me to doubt her love? No, it just assures me that science and reason both have hit their limits. Because I “know” (with all the human limitations that implies) that her loving me is real. I don’t think that intuitive experiential knowledge is a rant, and it is not irrational, it is just more than reason.

C—response to Ron:

does intuition lead to—or imply—faith (in anything, not just a god or many gods) in a belief.

or are we talking about an assumption?

deductive reasoning, real-life experience and observation have led you to conclude reasonably that your wife loves you. but this is something difficult to ‘prove’ conclusively. more easily demonstrated : – )

a better example, or a more reasonable conclusion, would be the love children have for their parents.

from reason to intuition, from belief to faith . . . (more later) i find this very interesting, especially the LEAPING part.

Ron—response to C:

To C: You have also “leaped” haven’t you? You have concluded that millions of human beings past and present, who say that they have experienced God’s presence in their daily lives are, in fact, presenting you with data that you can justifiably re-interpret into your “Big Picture” of reality. And, since you are unable to scientifically “test” most of this data, you are choosing to make a big leap of faith based on your “deep beliefs” about reality.

Everybody “leaps” based on what they consider to be the most valid evidence when it comes to the most fundamental deep beliefs about reality. Sometimes the evidence is fairly good evidence—coherent, possible, maybe even probable—but, it is never rationally conclusive when it comes to the most basic working beliefs about the Master Story of reality. The deepest beliefs are always part of a working paradigm or master story that makes all other thinking and evaluating possible. We can test, doubt, struggle with, and re-test these fundamental beliefs, but they are never really based on the conclusive and indubitable reasoning we like to think they are. Thomas Kuhn illustrated this pretty vividly where basic scientific paradigms are concerned in his “Anatomy of a Scientific Revolution.” Since then, the issue of “Master Story” or “big paradigm” has become important in all testing of our reason and reasoning.

(Note: The conversation published here took place in the comments section of a blog post at Halfway to Normal.)

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