The Ground of Faith

Exploring Science Mysticism and Experience together

The Ground of Faith


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OCTOBER 2004

INVINCIBLE SCEPTISM

1. SCEPTICISM
2. A (biological) breath of fresh air
3. science and religion links


SCEPTICISM

  Have you heard about the very honest liberal clergyman?
He said, "In our church we are very aware that only half of what we believe is correct. Our problem is that we don't know which half" !

  We who are not sceptical about Spirit, can be in the same box.
For it is only half the truth when say we base our faith on the Bible. For the truth is that all Christians without exception appeal to just those parts of the Bible that fit in with their feelings and their beliefs.

  Liberals are only too happy to point the finger at the lack of honesty of countless Fundamentalist sects claiming to derive infallible beliefs from their personal choice of Bible passages; they notice that no-one for instance stones disobedient sons to death, (Deut.21.21.) and that none will countenance prostitution, incest, slavery and polygamy, all matters countenanced in the Bible.

  If non-Fundamentalist Christians likewise select their favourite parts of the Bible, what is the real ground of their faith?

  For conservative and liberal alike the factual ground must be complex, based partly on Bible passages to which we feel we can relate, partly on a traditional consensus amongst the people of faith with whom we associate, partly from our personal experience of Spirit, from our feelings about love, life and reality. We are all human, and sense our belongingness to the Unseen, we all reach out for meaning, purpose in our lives, seek spiritual guidance, see the importance of loving and serving others.

  If we are to bear witness to the activity of Spirit, we must not rely only on the testimony of our spiritual ancestors, but base our testimony on what we can know and experience in the here and now, corporately and individually.

  Now, it is the perception in this e-Journal that, in examining the ground of their faith, Christians do not readily turn to the testimony of spiritually-minded scientists, hear the testimony of the mystics, and they avoid psychic research, and stories of communication with the "dead".

  So far as most theologians are concerned, most commentators on the Bible, science, mystics, and psychical research, are matters completely to be ignored. And even though our faith can be based on much of everything, even though we have shining examples of good, loving and holy lives, science, mysticism and psychical research are key areas to be investigating if we seek to establish the grounds for our faith.

  Lack of investigating science, mysticism and psychic research has led many influential theologians into scepticism.

  The Jesus Seminar is sceptical that we can know much about the teaching of Jesus, and the truth about reported miracles. There are theologians sceptical about the resurrection and the afterlife, and in fact there are surveys that indicate that more than twelve percent of practising Catholics and Anglicans do not believe in a world of Spirit.

  Open-minded scepticism of course is a very good thing. It saves us from believing in rubbish, and from superstition. But closed-mind scepticism simply excludes us from the truth as well as from the rubbish.

Closed-minded sceptics:

  Sceptics of all kinds, (when confronted by other people's testimonies to paranormal events, such as telepathy, or seeing a vision of a dead person as if alive, at the moment of death in a distant place) are happy to quote David Hume, an eighteenth century philosopher where he wrote, "A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. The only sufficient testimony for it would be testimony whose falsehood would be even more miraculous than the miracle itself." Thomas Paris summed up Hume's point of view: "Is it more likely that nature should go out of her course or that a man should lie?"

  Such an argument is fallacious. There are in fact no real laws of nature, there are only good theories. For instance Newton's "Law of gravity" has been transcended by other more complete descriptions of a phenomenon that in fact is not fully understood.

  A little more humility about our theories about how the world works could transform myself and other reporters of the paranormal into possible truth-tellers.

  • There is little humility behind the 19th century materialism underlying much modern science. Materialism knows the universe is machine-like, that "Spirit" is an illusion. And Materialism totally ignores that branch of physics which asks questions about Reality.
  • Modern QM physics is much more willing to be humble. With the notable achievement of the development of Quantum Mechanics, theories are put forward depicting the universe as a phenomenon of mind, as a psychophysical continuum, and well-founded theories likewise about wider orders of consciousness, and about meaningful coincidences. These are theories, put forward on a sound basis, always open to challenge and development, as is always the case with good science.

  If you are sceptical about Spirit, you are perhaps a closed-minded sceptic..

  • Good books for the layman on the cosmological implications of QM physics have been available for seventy years or more. How many of them have you read?
  • Good books are available on reputable psychic research providing strong evidence for the reality of the Afterlife. Books by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, Colin Wilson (especially), Raymond A. Moody Life after Life, F.W.H. Myers, William James, G.N.M. Tyrrell, and Victor Zammit's The Book (especially). How many reputable books have you read? It is a reasonable question, bearing in mind that the Afterlife is a key part of Christian belief.

  With regard to the Resurrection, there are well-known theologians who deny it. They do so on the basis of their materialist philosophies, on their doubts of the historicity of Gospel texts. They ignore psychic research, and the view of reality suggested by QM physicists. Because of their prestige, the inadequacies of their philosophic and scientific background are not examined. They certainly help to sow confusion in the churches.

  Commenting on my own book, an English bishop wrote: "It has to be said most people do not really believe in God at a rational level, though probably most do at an emotional level. This is why almost everyone fumbles over the resurrection of Jesus. For most it's an impossible miracle they cannot believe in and for others it's an impossible miracle which proves their Christian faith."

 

So why are many Christians not willing to appeal to the evidence of modern science, and of experience to help confirm their faith?

 

  Reasons will vary, of course, depending on the individual.

  For some people Spirit is very close, very real. They experience Divine guidance, they see answers to prayer. They are so open to Spirit, that they ignore Materialism, do not need reassurance from science, they do not doubt.

  There are others who have true faith mixed with doubt. They cling to an infallible Bible, or to the teachings of their church. They are aware of the threat of Materialism, think science proves Materialism, and have absorbed their church's suspicion of psychic research. (A suspicion sometimes well-founded, for there is a lot of rubbish out there.) These people have found what relation to Spirit that they have, as members of communities of faith, worshipping congregations, and receive no encouragement to look to science and the spiritual experience of others, as an even firmer basis for their faith.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God

(Heb.10.31)

  Consciously, or unconsciously, Materialism gives us an excuse not to fall into the hands of the living God; not to surrender to a Power Greater than Ourselves, not to abandon rigid belief structures, false views of self, not to love, not to grow spiritually. And this is a great pity, because to be in Spirit demands such a surrender.

  It may seem a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. In actual fact, of course, we fall into the hands of universal Love, the very opposite of fearfulness. The only fearful thing is that the non-love, all that is anti-Spirit, has to be purged away.

 

Another breath of fresh air:

Dr Bruce Nicholls writes:

"Here in Auckland for the past year we have sponsored a Science and Faith Forum of 7-8 university professors and scientists and the same number of theologians. Our distinctive is that we claim the be evangelical, upholding the historic orthodox faith. We have founded a publishing company, Telos Books. So far we have published 4 monographs...

This year our Forum is focussing on Creation Theology and the care of Creation. We are sponsoring a conference in Auckland University February 16-19, 2005 on this theme.

 

The Editors comment:

  Dr Nicholls enclosed one of these monographs, by Dr Graeme Finlay, God's books, genetics, and Genesis. Chapter headings are: Science: an aspect of Christian thought; Evolution: an aspect of scientific thought; Theological comment on evolving creation, etc.

  A note on the back cover reads: "Some Christians argue vehemently against evolution (and some scientists against the biblical idea of creation) because they believe the concepts to be mutually exclusive. This is a pervasive and tragic fallacy. This booklet sets out to demonstrate the scientific understanding of evolution is based on overwhelming evidence, and that the evolutionary history that science has discovered is part of the creative work of God."

  It is a breath of fresh air, because our Journal up to now has largely confined its consideration of science to QM physics. Now it is biology that is being considered. It seems to be very good science, helping us to better use inspirational words of the Scriptures, to glorify God and draw closer to Spirit.

  Monographs can be ordered from TELOS publications, PO Box 56167, Dominion Road, Auckland 1030, NZ

 

Graeme Finlay's book supplies a number of science and religion links:

Christians in Science (CiS): http://www.cis.org.uk/
The Victoria Institute: http.www.faithandthought.org.uk/
Scibel: http://scibel.gospelcom.net/
Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology (ISCAST): http://www.iscast.org.au/

 

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

I hear and behold God in every object. . .
I hear and behold God in every object. . . Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass. I find letters from God dropped in the street - and every one is signed by God's name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come forever and ever.

Walt Whitman (1860)

 

A vast similitude interlocks all, All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids, All distances, however wide, All distances of time - all inanimate forms, All Souls - all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds, All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes - the fishes, the brutes, All men and women - me also, All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe or any globe, All lives and deaths - all of past, present and future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, and shall forever span them, and compactly hold them.

[Leaves of Grass 12]

 

Emerson
Unity of All.

A leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world. . . . So intimate is this Unity, that, it is easily seen, it lies under the undermost garment of nature, and betrays its source in the Universal Spirit. . . It is like a great circle on a sphere, comprising all possible circles; which, however, may be drawn, and comprise it, in like manner.

[Nature, 1836].