Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just for the Big CP

One of my fellow B(L)Sers has posited this question: What do you believe? What a loaded question. Here's my attempt to break down my beliefs into discussable nuggets:

Tenet 1 - Nobody is absolutely right. God is too great a mystery to be understood completely by anyone or by any conglomerate of people. Even if you put every single person who ever lived in the same room and held a stinkin huge debate, you would still never get to the absolute bottom of who/what God is and who/what we are.

Tenet 2 - God is. It is more illogical to claim that there is no god than to claim that there is. Consider Descartes's logic, or what is sometimes called the "prime mover" argument (or something like that). Essentially, it argues that everything comes from something else. But if that's true (and almost undeniably it is), then the world cannot exist. Somewhere back in the shrouds of the past (4.6 billion years ago?) the Universe began. If the Universe began, then it had to come from something else. But what? The easiest and best answer is God, or at least some greater power.

Tenet 3 - God is not subject to logic. We see in the Christian Bible and most religious traditions that God/gods are not subject to physical laws. By analogy then, God/gods is not subject to the laws of logic.* For example, it is claimed that in certain situations, A cannot be both A and B at the same time. A dog cannot be a cat, say. But the Gospels claim (and many, many Christians believe) that Jesus is God and that Jesus is the Word of God. How can Jesus (person A) be God (person B) and the "word" of person B all at the same time? It's illogical! Precisely. It is absolutely futile to defend religion on logical grounds. It would be just as futile to defend the law of conservation of energy by referring to your experience driving. It doesn't work because science is not** subject to the laws of faith, just as religion is not subject to the laws of logic. Different realms, different ways of thinking.

Tenet 4 - Religion is nothing more or less than a way of explaining things we collectively don't understand. Religion in this sense includes science. For example, I don't understand why my television lights up when I press the power button on my remote. The answer--well it has something to do with the emission of light waves, the transfer of electrons, and the transmission of messages by pulses. I don't get it (nor, incidentally, does any scientist I know of), but I could explain it by reference to physical laws we've developed as explanations of how things work. I could just as easily claim that by pressing the power button, I am praying to God to turn my TV on and that each time he answers me because of my faith. Both answers are logically irrefutable by a third party.

At this point, we start getting into my specific beliefs. I was raised the Baptist son of a confused feminist. So here goes: I believe that there is a god, that the Judeo-Christian God most closely approximates the true God. I believe that all of us have sinned (forgotten who God is and who we are in relation to that) and deserve the worst punishment possible. I believe that the only way out of that punishment is God's grace and forgiveness in accepting our faith.*** I also believe that the fundamental commands of Christianity are love of God and love of neighbor. Once you get past that, you start getting into controversy that I am unprepared to discuss. But I'll gladly do it anyway. (:

Any questions?

* NOTE--Tenet 2 follows a syllogism not because God is bound by it but because we as humans are, just like we are bound by physical laws.

**But it actually is. Descartes himself (yes, the progenitor of numerous math things that begin with "Cartesian" or "Descartes's") asked how we really know that 2+2=4. He referred to it as "prima facie knowledge." That is, we know it because we know it. Do you buy that? Do you trust anything else just on intuition? You should: there's not enough information in the world to be satisfied of any proposition on empirical evidence alone.

***Faith in what? I think it's faith that God exists, that I can't do anything worthwhile on my own, and that I can't set things right with him on my own. It's faith that I'm not enough even though it seems like I might be.


Craig Pankratz said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will be placing a link to it on my blog so others can read and think about what you've said.

I do have one question for you: Do you believe that God is unknowable? You said that the knowledge of God cannot be attained by debate, and I agree with you. But is there a way to know Him, especially when Jesus Christ said, "And this is life eternal to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent"?

So if eternal life is to know God and Jesus, how can we know Them?

Again, your comments are very thought provoking.

Thank you,

Craig Pankratz said...

Thanks again for sharing. You've already helped me to understand a lot about what you believe.I can tell you've thought about God a lot.

But I wonder if we have the same definition of knowing God. It seems that a big part of your definition is that knowing God is knowing why He does what He does. Frankly, I don't know why He does a lot of what He does, especially in my own life. All I can do is trust that He knows what He's doing.

My definition of knowing God is knowing who He is, His attributes, character, nature, etc. . . . I suppose that knowing these things will give us a general idea of why He does what He does: that is, because He loves us. But as to specifics, I'll have to wait until after this life is over.

I'll be posting my own thoughts about knowing God on Sunday. Until then, here's one of my favorite discourses on knowing God. It is by Elder Jefferey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-401-21,00.html