This post is a reply to a blog post here: And They Say There Is No God
Many controversies, such as the one you highlight here about whether there is a Creator, are themselves secondary to a greater problem. I don’t mean to suggest that the question of creation is unimportant, but rather, that there’s something that’s of more fundamental concern. Two things, actually.
The first is that mankind, while having been created with an amazing capacity for wisdom, character, and logic, also has an amazing capacity for entitlement, foolishness, hearsay, laziness, incuriosity, and irresponsibility. It is the practice of these latter traits that underlies and permeates practically every debate/discussion about any point of doctrine.
One may say, “I just don’t understand why those folks can’t see the obvious here”, but he himself may or may not be wrong about the issue at hand, or about related issues. As the old saying goes, “Even a blind hog can root up an acorn from time to time.” So often when folks are right about some point of doctrine, they are “right by accident”. That is, they are not right because they are the kind of people who patiently and conscientiously research and vet every idea before they believe it. No, they are right either on a fluke, of even for the WRONG reasons, and don’t really understand the whole of the matter.
So how can we know whether we are right on some issue or not? How do we know that what we think we know is not undercut by some other error in which we persist? On a great many matters, we can never know IF WE STUDY AND THINK AS DO MOST BELIEVERS. They study a bit here and read a bit there, but have no interest in an exhaustive study or understanding of the doctrines they espouse. So not only do they not know; they do not care—-not really. So at the end of the day, we have a bunch of people arguing over things that they have not fully vetted themselves. And what’s the point of that? What good does that do?
I like what you said here: “I am only hoping that the holes I have in my theology are quickly pointed out to me, so I don’t become like all the heretics we study in church history.”
For as little as many people study, it’s not unlikely that some of those “heretics we study in church history” weren’t heretics at all. (Surely many were.) Most people, however, simply go on hearsay, and if the particular book they’re reading or preacher to whom they are listening calls someone a heretic, then that’s all they want to know.
This sort of half-cocked theology does a lot of damage. Take, for instance, that set of people who read Genesis and from it surmise that God created the Earth. OK, no problem there. But a fairly large subset of those people also cling to some very problematic ideas that more educated people find ridiculous and even repulsive.
For example, many claim that there was a “water canopy” over the earth. And why? Because they’re trying to interpret the source of the flood waters in Genesis 6 and 7 without ever having come to an accurate understanding of the model portrayed in Genesis 1. (The “firmament” that separated the “waters below” and the “waters above” in 1:6 is the crust of the earth, and not the sky.) But because they never “did the math” in Chapter 1, they have postulated that there must have been a super-atmospheric water source.
Scientists hear this baseless assertion and scoff. Meanwhile, the believers who promote it get offended at the “faithlessness” of those who don’t believe it, never realizing that the source of the flood was subterranean waters that burst forth from the “great deep”.
What tends to happen, therefore, is quite like our superficial political landscape, where parties vie against each other for position, and yet nobody seems to be very interested in getting to the heart of the matter–to a meaningful reform of our Republic. Instead, the believers vie against the unbelievers, or even against each other, and practically nobody wants to understand everything. A great many “experts” are mere hacks—and especially in religion.
The second fundamental issue here is that on many topics, the Bible simply doesn’t provide enough data from which to draw a sound conclusion. Careless people, however, often like to presume that it does, failing to notice that certain passages in the Bible may well cast doubts upon their traditional explanations of things.
A great example of this is the fashionable notion that since the Bible accounts add up to about 4,000 years from Genesis to the First Century, and since the First Century as about 2,000 years ago, the Earth must be about 6,000 years old. People who want everything to be nice and tidy may find this idea quite attractive.
The fact of the matter, however, is that we do not have enough information from which to draw such a conclusion honestly, responsibly, and logically. Many may want to slam those mean ol’ scientists with a solid Bible argument, but they completely miss the fact that there is LOTS of room in the language and interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2 to suppose that there MIGHT have been a gap in time between the creation of the universe and the events of 1:3 and following.
Many will reject this idea immediately as radical “conjecture”, but the point is to be honest, and not just to go with tradition. The fact of the matter is that we are not given enough information in the Bible from which to draw a sound conclusion as to the age of the Earth. As nice as that might be, we are simply without it. Anyone who pretends to know otherwise, therefore, does not have a healthy paradigm of honesty.
Even so, a great many Christians go about claiming to know this, that, and the other thing when, at best, they’re wrong about half of it, and right about half of what remains simply by accident. They wonder why their audiences don’t just “turn themselves in” as they expound on what all they “know”—and they marvel at how “faithless” those people are. They reject the idea that their own arguments are being rejected on matters of fact, logic, and sourcing, and want to insist instead, that what is missing is “faith” in the hearts of their audience. But the fact of the matter is that they have failed to make a sound argument capable of persuading the MIND. Instead, they want the audience to be persuaded to believe ANYWAY—without, or even against, reason. Then they get puffed up even more in their “faith” and they get even further away from fact, logic, and sourcing, having now become pompous and self righteous. What supposedly began in their hearts as a religion of “truth” is now reduced in practice to a religion of dogmatic and irrational adamancy and they are no longer interested in the truth where it contradicts their doctrinal traditions.
This epidemic is so far reaching that I suppose that hardly a one of us would be anything less than astonished to learn upon death just how many things about which he had been wrong. Very few ever come close to grasping just how great is their dependence upon hearsay and assumption. Instead, they THINK that they are getting their understanding from none other than God himself, yet so much of what they believe can be soundly disproved from the Bible—which they generally claim to be “God’s word”.
It is a very troubling thing for most to try to come to grips with the fact that we don’t know nearly as much as we might like to think we know—and more specifically, that the Bible doesn’t give us as much information as we think we need to know in order to adequately emulate the Christian life or the business of the church. For many, it upsets their concept of just what the Bible is and what is God’s interactive role in their lives. So conjecture and assumption reign as the PRIMARY basis for so many doctrines. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that there is NO clear doctrine in the Bible upon which all should be able to agree readily. Indeed, there are many passages that are very clear. But far too many proclaim without sound reason that this or that passage is “clear” and they reject as either heretics or faithless those who will not jump on their bandwagon.
But there are so many examples of questions raised in but unexplained by the Bible that any honest person must admit a continuing issue here. But this rocks the traditional view of things….just as do the many points of fact that CAN be proved from the Bible contrary to popular tradition.
It is no wonder, therefore, that so many are challenging the notion of creation; just look at the types of folks who are arguing FOR it!: Uninformed, undisciplined, irrational, and dishonest people, presuming to be “ambassadors for Christ” and yet stumbling all over themselves in an attempt to make a sound argument. (Ironically, Paul’s “ambassadors for Christ” line was NOT about the congregation at Corinth, nor about all believers, but about his own apostolic team. It was NEVER meant as a description of all believers, yet practically EVERY church today commandeers the term with which to describe themselves.)
So what we have here is a dark “comedy of errors”, for the most part. And it is exceedingly rare to find anyone who wants to study it all—and much less, to FIX anything. Indeed, having and exercising a paradigm of fixing things can get you invited to LEAVE a great many church institutions!
Is it any wonder, therefore, that the members of the institutions are so passive as to routinely persist in errors that have already been demonstrated to them? They have been conditioned, against common sense, to behave this way—to live with the intellectual dissonance between fact/logic/sourcing and those tenets of dogma that they are expected to uphold irrationally. And, wouldn’t you know it, this is EXACTLY the way the scientists are trained, too, in this irrational world of ours.
What you are saying about fixing the “holes in (your) theology”, therefore, is very rarely said by anyone—and much rarer than that is the person who is actually PURSUING it! To pursue such an endeavor, one must have an extraordinary level of self motivation, as no such motivation should be expected to come from one’s peers in a traditional organization. I’m not trying to be patently negative with that statement; it’s just the FACT of the matter.