Again, I am going to cross-post from Tough Questions Answered I thoroughly encourage you to visit Bill Pratt’s site, and interact a bit, it is the best in its class that I know.
I was asked point-blank why I believe the Christian account is true, by a lapsed Christian calling himself “Willy G.” I think my explanation should be on this blog.
========By the way, Willy, I can appreciate your idea of reading people who disagree with you. I have a couple of atheist blogs I visit from time to time ((Billy)) the Atheist being one, and have found it to my profit. Those guys give no quarter, but on the rare times I post there, the interaction always helps me cut the bs out of my argument, and they have alway treated me with about the same level of respect I give them. I learn very little by only reading people who agree with me. The only danger, Willy, is as true for you as it is for me. And that is to develope a love of debate for its own sake, not as a route to truth upon which I should change my life, but just because it is entertaining. Doing that can lead either one of us to an intellectual, emotional and spiritual life fragmented from our real self, and therefore illusionary. I don’t have much more hope for the eternal existence of the illusionary human than I do for the illusionary unicorn. Probably less – there may yet be real unicorns)
Willy G. wrote
Why is it reasonable to believe in the Christian God? Why do all the philosophical / apologetic / experiential arguments lead you to Yawheh and not Allah, Vishnu, Ra, etc? Why is it reasonable to believe in the Christian God?
Willy (or should I say PhD –for Phillistine Dog? Maybe Willy G., PhD.?)
I’m afraid I am not going to be able to give you answers that satisfy an intellectual proof. That is largely why I have avoided speaking directly to that issue on this thread. But I will be happy to lay out some of my thoughts.
My difficulties are several: first, I wish to differ to those who have spent for time with the classical arguments, and suspect both Bill and you surpass me on that score. I am not likely to strike fire where my superior has not.
Secondly, and probably more to the point, I do not believe such an irrefutable argument for the existence of the Christian God is to be found. This is decidedly not due to any ambivalence on my part: you saw (if you particularly enjoy watching train wrecks) me publicly state that I affirm 95% of our late friends theological statements. I’ll hold to that. I’m as knee-jerk orthodox as anyone. But from what I can see from the statements of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, it doesn’t seem as though a Q.E.D. proof was intended. Paul does indicate in Romans 1 that at least the beginnings can be plainly seen, and that seems evident to me. At the very least, I think we can see that someone/some principle/something is “in charge”, and further, that it ain’t me.
Lastly, what proofs I do have involve anecdotal evidence. As an undergrad, most of my training was in statistics and experimental design, for an intended academic career in psychological research. That path has been long abandoned, but it did leave a residue of “how do you know what you know, and how does one prove it?” Probably one of the more useful “abandonded” majors anyone could have. But anecdotes are not proof, only suggestions for further research (and more grant money).
With those disclaimers, I’ll dive in.
My path has not been terribly different from what you describe. I became a practicing Christian in High school, a committed one in univ., but about 10 years after that, I went through a crisis of faith that compelled me to throw it all away, like a bag of worthless stones. I remember standing at the end of a jetty off of Galveston Island praying to “whoevver is listening, if anyone.” Some six – twelve months latter, when I next took up the issue, I tried to figure out what I did actually believe. I discovered that I was a theist – that I definitely believed that there was a God (and by pretty clear deduction, this meant one and only one, whatever I should call him or it) latter, I found that I believed this entity to be good, and later, that it was personal (meaning having the characteristics of personality, and person-hood, not that he was necessarily connected to ME). This took me close to a year, but having got this far, the whole of Christian orthodoxy came rushing back as if a dam holding it back had broken. This re-affirmation, or re-discovery was both intellectual and emotional. I feel a lot of kinship with your struggle, but where I “bounced off” some bottom, you broke through. That was not due to any virtue in me that you lack; some would see it as me lacking a virtue you possess. But I do not believe it was from within me, and I don’t understand it outside of God’s grace.
To get more to the question, I take it that your question does not relate to specific deities proposed in other systems (I know v. little about comparative religion, although ignorance is often not an impediment). Rather I see it as a question about Christianity v other religion in abstract – why THIS instead of any other system one could devise?
And partly, the answer is as subjective as why I married the woman I did.
I did not read the book, her CV, and say “this proves it – she is the one for me!” Instead, I engaged a process of right foot – left foot, where my advancing intellectual knowledge of her fed my advancing emotional connection, which being found to be reliable so far, led to further exploration and advances in relationship until the point of commitment was reached.
My belief in God as the Christian story describes Him (and from here forward, I’ll just refer to “God” meaning this whole phrase) is not primarily intellectual at all. But it is also not primarily emotional. It is hand-over-hand leading to an experiential understanding that I believe is central to authentic relationship; and I think that this is what God desires. In fact, I think it almost the prime desire of the universe. I wish I could give mathematical proofs (there are mathematical true things, but I don’t think any of them ‘prove’ God) but I think He intends things to be a little more willful from us, and a little less compelled.
Working backward, I can by many of the arguments Bill would bring forth, and I think many of them true. Given the starting points I gave from Romans, that God is real, and I am not God, I can develop the doctrine of Trinity, creation, the fall, the restoration, and the ultimate consummation of the last chapters of the Revelation. There are of course, quite a bit that confuses me, but I find that the Biblical narrative holds together as a coherent story from beginning to end, even with all the diversions (like a Russian novel), and that unity both supports and is supported by my emotional experience. I find that, as I explore Christian doctrine, I find it shedding light on all sorts of experiences in this world, from sexuality to agriculture. I find that, like the sun, God is hard to look at. But by the sun, I can see everything else more clearly. And, if there truly is a trancendent, self-existant being who created all things including the very fabric of space and time itself, this is exactly what one should expect to find.
Still working backwards, if this God I posit above wishes to relate to us, then it would have to be in one of two fashions: a) Shakespeare must put something into Hamlet’s head about the author, or b) Shakespeare must write himself into the story. And Christianity’s claim is that God did exactly that: revelation and incarnation.
Willy, I could go on ad nauseum in the same fashion, but my point is either made or not by now. There is much that I don’t understand. After some 35 years, I am just beginning to see something of the mystery of how the death of Jesus and his resurrection is of personal benefit to me. I’ve long accepted it, but I am just starting to understand it a little, like a 2nd year physics student and quantum mechanics.
I believe in the Christian God because I heard a little, and asked him “is this true?” I understood that answer to that question as something like “come and see” I go back and forth between learning and experiencing, and should trust neither one, anymore than I should try to get down the road by hopping. The more I have understood and accepted the Christian story, the more sense this world, my place and your place, and everything else seems to make. If this story is indeed central to existence, I could expect no less. But I honestly do believe that there is relationship at the bottom of it; that God intends nothing less than the healing of this creation and us relating to him as in a marriage. Everything I have submitted to that framework fits, and is illuminated by it. That is why I believe it. That is why I believe there is great good to come for all who will accept it.