Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teddy Bear Christianity

I asked a question of several Christians today. How can you prove that it is God that leads you, and not your own imagination? I have received no answers or comments.
It seems that most Christians derive their comfort from Christianity, and not God or Christ. Those Christians who say they derive their comfort and joy from God or Christ actually derive their comfort from their perceptions of Him. The Scriptures say that he who comes to God must believe in his existence and that he rewards those who seek Him. If you in fact are firmly convinced in this fashion, no amount of empirical evidence will sway you, for such evidence is merely appearance and not reality to you. God will answer in His time, and bless those that wait.
But given enough time, anything can and will happen. Possible outcomes increase exponentially with increased time, and upon this axiom rests the concept of biological evolution. What is the difference between ascribing the works of chance to God, and ascribing the works of God to chance? (Unless you are Calvinistic to the extreme, the question is valid.) Even more to the point, the argument against biological evolution by appeal to its general unobservability (outside of bacterial and viral adaptations) stands in high inconsistency with the argument for God's intervention despite the lack of evidence for it by appeal to "God's timing." If you want to see evolution now, I want to see God answer your prayer now.
The Scriptures tell us that faith is the substance of hope, and stands as evidence of what is not yet apparent. The requirement of faith in God negates any argument for the existence of God, because true faith would keep on believing even if no God existed. The requirement of faith itself is an indicator that no empirical or logical proof for God exists; His existence is a mere possibility. Otherwise, of what value is faith?
A god could choose to hide himself from man's perception in any explicit manner, forcing man to tentatively infer his existence if they choose to recognize him. That god would be no more tenable than a non-existent god.
The biblical writers resorted to the argument from design as a primary basis to prove God's existence, but as Bonhoeffer put it, we live in a "world come of age." Regardless of your position, viewed neutrally, evolution is as much a possibility as creation. Even if the brightest theologians agreed together tomorrow that evolution and the Bible were compatible, and laid out a solid framework for interpreting Scripture in such a manner, it does not demand that God's existence be recognized. Placing God's creation within an evolutionary framework is entirely different than making evolution dependant on God. Such a synthesis would serve only as a plausible explanation for the faithful--its utter inability to make the universe dependant on God's existence ultimately makes it a fatal capitulation.
If the people of God experienced God it might not make any difference. But the requirement of faith makes the experience of God one of interpretation. God is who we believe Him to be, because each of us believes we have the truth. Why then would our experience of God not be consistent with truth? If we are uncertain about the truth, then we are uncertain about God, and we are faulty in our experience of Him.
In our desire to experience Him, we strive for certainty. Those like me who give up certainty, have no ground upon which to experience Him. Certainty as a solution is confounded by the fact that those with the most certainty most certainly disagree.
But all of this misses the point when you consider these deliberations as reflections of a top-down Christian religiosity. The more compelling arguments for religion come from those who began with a spiritual experience and continued from there. Indeed, this epiphanaic spiritual experience is the bread and butter of any true religiosity. This bottom-up religiosity remains subjective but finds its basis in experience, albeit personal experience. Increasingly, however, Christian communities form around shared beliefs rather than shared experience. What is one to make of this except that God remains a product of interpretation and not experience?
So we see how Christianity is not driven by the experience of God but by sectarian conceptions of Him. Even those who have the most profound experiences ultimately submit themselves to this sectarianism. And we return to my original point, that Christians are not so much comforted by God as by how they perceive God. They believe God must feel and act toward them in a certain manner and that is a comfort. This is much like my two-year-old deriving comfort from his teddy bear, which is an inanimate object, or an older primary-age child spending time with an imaginary friend. It is a Teddy Bear Christianity.

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