The Professor’s Lesson On Grace

So I am currently enrolled in a very difficult class on the book of Romans. The professor who leads the class is one of the wisest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but he is also one of the most hardened and difficult professors I have ever learned under. For the sake of keeping his privacy, and so as not to potentially ruin anything for possible future students, he shall be referred to in this post as “The Professor.”

The Professor has an amazing ability that I cannot fully explain in that he can be the most difficult person to please, and yet he still manages to create a bond with people that makes them seek his approval. I’ve had difficult professors in the past, and most of the time I can say “screw that guy” and walk away, but this isn’t the case with The Professor. I have only cried twice in the past four years, and one of those moments was when The Professor (in a private meeting) told me that he didn’t think I was cut out to be a minister. Had any of my other professors told me this I’d have gotten upset at them and written them off as a nut job that didn’t know what they were talking about, but not The Professor. At the time I valued his opinion of me so much that I believed him and almost gave up. Thankfully I decided not to quit and instead it became my mission to prove him wrong. Years later I wonder if The Professor told me this, not because he believed it, but because he knew I would work twice as hard to prove him wrong. In any case, The Professor was and is a mental and spiritual titan in my life. He is not only one of the smartest men I know, but he is also one of the most Christian men I have ever come across. He is stern, but loving. He is both wise and humble. He will break you and then build you up stronger than before, and I sincerely hope that everyone meets someone like The Professor at some point in their life.

So what is the point of all this you may be asking? Well, last week The Professor gave us our first test in the class on Romans and I spent a great deal of time preparing for it. I really wanted to impress The Professor and earn his approval, plus I knew this test was going to be very difficult if it was anything like the other classes I had taken with him. The test consisted of only two questions and so I gave the most in-depth detailed answers I could think of. I spent nearly an hour on each question, and when I was done only two other people were still working. I thought about waiting and pretending to keep writing so I could be the impressive last one to turn their test in, but I decided against that.

The next class meeting went off like a normal lecture would, but at the very end The Professor ended by saying “Regarding your tests, I have given you all a 100. Class Dismissed.”

Everyone in the class just sat there confused. I knew without a doubt that not everyone in this class had made a perfect score. I don’t think it is really even possible to make a perfect score with The Professor. If it is possible I have never met the man who could pull it off. In all my years with the man I never once made above an 80% grade on anything. I thought perhaps he gave us a grade on a curve, but that seemed very much unlike The Professor. He was not a man who gave a perfect score to anything less than perfection. As I headed out the door I passed The Professor and wished him a good day, for which he thanked me and sent me on my way. I was so terribly confused.

Today we received our tests back, which was very unusual considering it hadn’t even been a week since we took the tests. I assumed that since we all got perfect marks he probably didn’t take the time to grade us. To my surprise when I went up and claimed my paper it had his writing all over it. He wrote detailed notes about how I omitted this, was too brief on that, spent too much time here, and failed to understand that. My paper was bleeding with mistakes, but to my relief on the last page my final grade was an 87. This excited me so much I gave an audible sigh of relief. I was confused about many things, but none of it mattered because I had made an 87 on a test issued by The Professor and that was amazing! I was very proud of myself and, being lost in the moment, I had forgotten anything about his words regarding giving us all 100 grades.

The point was raised as to whether these grades were ours or whether The Professor had given us all 100’s as he had said earlier. I cannot directly quote The Professor, but I will do my best to capture the essence of his words. He said:

“These are the marks you earned. Each and every one of you had the potential to make a perfect score and none of you did. Some failed more than others, but none of you were good enough. Perhaps some of you were good enough by university standards, but you all failed the standard I wanted for you. I have shown you grace, but not without great cost to myself. I spent hours grading each of your papers in great detail, I stayed up late and woke up vert early even though I knew from the beginning that I would give you grace. The sacrifice I made will hopefully make it real to you that grace is not cheap and that failure regardless of size is not without consequences. I did this out of love and hopefully some of you will understand why.”

The professor turned and began to write on the white board behind him, but after a minute he stopped and turned back around to face his audience again and he said this:

“What’s really funny is that out of all of you, only four or five took the time to thank me.”

I didn’t take a single note the rest of the lecture. I had failed to thank The Professor.

Having spent years under The Professor’s guidance I can say that nothing he does is without meaning. While I can never climb into The Professor’s mind I have a good guess as to what he was trying to get across.

I was proud of my 87 grade, it was quite honestly the best work I had ever put into a test. I had the potential for a 100, but when the challenge is so hard 87 is good enough right?

This is how most people approach sin. We are proud of ourselves for being “good enough” and while we all fail miserably at being good all the time, some of us think we are passing. Compared to the world’s standards maybe we are excelling. Perhaps we have earned the noble status of being a “good person.” No one is perfect, but that’s ok right?

The fact is while I might have passed the university standards I failed to meet the standard that The Professor planned for me. This is not unlike my spiritual life. While I may be good by the world’s standards I still fail to meet the standard that God had planned for my life. Like God, The Professor knew this would happen and decided that he would give us grace and mercy, but not without great cost to himself. Both God and The Professor had no need to sacrifice of themselves for the sake of us. If left alone we would get exactly what we deserve and no one would be unjust for leaving us as we stood. In the end though, sacrifices were made and grace and mercy undeserved were given out freely regardless of how poorly we failed to earn it.

Who do you think was more relieved, I who got an 87, or one of the unsuspecting younger students who probably got a 40 or lower? So it was with Christ and the Gospels. It is those who are truly aware of their need for a savior that best understand who Christ is and what he has done. Though I cannot confirm this to be true, I fully believe that those four students who thanked The Professor were the ones who needed his grace the most.

That is what I believe The Professor wanted us to remember. We all find ourselves coming short of the standard, be it that we got a 99 or a 2. We all are in need of a savior, whether we are deep enough in need to admit that or not. God at great cost to himself gave us grace and mercy, undeserved. He made us 100’s though we did nothing to deserve it. After all this, how few of us actually take the time to thank God for what he has done. How few of us really take the time to show gratitude for the one who gave all to pay our price.

Don’t be one of the many who never take the time to thank God.

Christian Music That Doesn’t Suck: “Bill Fay: Life is People”

So I’ll be one of the first people to come out and admit that I have a hard time really enjoying contemporary christian music. Christian rock tends to bore me to tears and I’d much rather be listening to some Grateful Dead than most of the stuff that comes on my local christian radio stations. I’m not going to call out any names of christian bands I don’t like, and I don’t want this to become a segment when use this time to build myself up as some kind of music snob. Instead I want for this segment to be a way  is to simply share with you guys some of the rare and often undiscovered christian gems that rarely get attention. To kick this off I could think of no better album than Bill Fay’s “Life is People”

billfay.11298altBill  Fay is an English singer, songwriter, and pianist that (despite his 40 year music career) has only ever released four albums. “Life is People” was his 2012 release and is probably the best stuff he has ever produced. His music is unabashedly christian in nature and subject, but the lyrics have a depth and sincerity that can often be found lacking in the monotonous and vapid contemporary christian music that gets radio play today.

His style is reminiscent of Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen in that the strength lies in the lyrics and most of the songs performed are very simple singer and instrument numbers. His songs vary in the amount of studio production that was put into each of them, but even the most “cleaned up” songs still maintain a sense of realness and naturalness that I personally look for in music.

These songs are not all worshipful songs. Some are haunting, painful, and many are written with a mix of darkness and hopefulness that those familiar with the christian faith know is nothing new. There’s also a sense of wonder and awe that I love. In his song “The Never Ending Happening”, Bill marvels at the ever-changing universe around him while reflecting on the majesty that is the meta-narrative of existence. He concludes that simply playing a part of the big story is astonishing to him. It’s a beautiful song and one of my favorites on the album, though it is hard to pick out which one I love the best.

“Thank You Lord” is another favorite of mine that comes off almost like a Psalm in many regards. Bill reflects on the simple gifts of God be it the creation around him or the gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s a haunting tune about thankfulness, and in the end he concludes that he has nothing more he can ask of God except that He might show his family and loved ones the same mercy and blessings he has received in his life. The song is very simply lyrically speaking, but there’s a sincerity to it that wins me over.

I could talk about each and every song on this album, but I’d rather you experience it for yourself. I’ll end by talking about “Healing Day” which is probably the track I’ve listened to most from this album since I got it back in 2012. This song is a quiet, but joyful song about looking forward to the healing day when all things will be made right and all wars, suffering, and pain end and the majesty of Gods creation is brought back into it’s full and perfect form. I love this song so much. It is inspiring, hopeful, and uplifting in all the right ways and it manages to avoid like it’s trying too hard.

I’d highly suggest giving this album a shot. If your music tastes are anything like mine I doubt you will be disappointed by this album.

Links:

A Ranting on the Real and Radical Rather than Relevant

The following was pretty much a stream of consciousness post. It’s a rambling rant that I wrote spur of the moment, and decided to publish because I think it hit on some points that are near to my heart and of great concern to me. Future posts will be better organized and structured: 

I’d like for you to be honest with yourself for a moment and seriously contemplate when was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit move you. When was the last time you really hated your sins and repented with a heart that was so hungry for grace that you could not help but be swallowed up in the love of God. If this sounds foreign to you then I hope and pray that this will not remain the case for much longer. Let us be honest.

This thing we call Christianity is not a simply belief, a rationality, a moral compass, or a set of truisms. This thing we call Christianity is a radical rebirth of the soul that calls for death of the old as well as birth of the new. This thing we call salvation is not a simple exchange of words or a singular moment in our life where we pray the sinners prayer (which is not found anywhere in scripture) but rather a life long striving for righteousness.

Let me explain to you something that should be common, but has somehow become lost and forgotten. Christ is freedom. We are completely liberated from the binds of legalism and law just as we are liberated from the binds of sin and death. Do you live a life that reflects the gratefulness that a slave shows his liberator, or do you stay at the side of your old master because leaving is hard?

Do you bind yourself up in legalistic judgementalism so that you can store up morality points and look down on those that don’t meet your standard? If that sounds remotely like you then I’m here to tell you that your morality is crap. Do you think a holy and perfect God is going to love you more because you are slightly less dirty or sick than your brother? A good parent doesn’t love his children on a scale of merit and a healer is not concerned with the fact that you need less healing than someone else. In his eyes you are both sick and he wishes only to make you both well. If anything he is more concerned with the sickest because they need him most. As one who has been the king of false judges, I promise you that no smug morality can ever compare to the reality of seeing someone truly broken and loving them with all your heart. To do this is to momentarily glimpse through the eyes of our creator and it is the greatest sensation I know.

Perhaps you are not the legalist. Perhaps you are the type that scoffs at legalism and instead goes around confident that you are free to do what you want because no man can judge you and God will forgive. If this rings true for you then I’m afraid you are still a slave who never left his master. You must understand that sin is not bad because God gets jollies out of taking away fun things from you. Sin is bad because it defiles, destroys, contaminates, perverts, or corrupts the good gifts of God for you.

God is not here to give you a cheapened and sheltered life, He designed you for a life more abundant and He wants to see you reach your potential. He designed you for a life that is truly life. As one who has had trouble with alcohol in the past I can promise you that a drunken stupor can never amount to the majesty of a purely sober moment spent in awe of the creator. As one who has indulged in more sexually immoral acts than I care to publicize, I promise you that no sexual gratification is a substitute for a pure and chaste love that consumes and envelopes you until you finally are able to love that person with mind, body, and soul. No unhealthy foods or substances can compare to the joy of health, no lies will ever be as liberating as being completely and brokenly honest. No possession will ever compare to the satisfaction of knowing you helped a brother or sister in their time of need. What fools we are to return to sin when such a majestic and full life awaits for us. Christ broke the chains, you just have to choose to walk away. How horrible we must be to have knowledge of the suffering God endured for us to liberate us, and yet in the end we choose to remain in our own filth. Hedonism is the ultimate slavery masked as liberation.

Why am I bringing this up? It scares me how dead many Christians seem to be and it scares me how dead at times I can be. Numb is no way to go through life, and yet so many of us grind our way through like some sad sap at the bank waiting for the line to end. We try so hard to be “relevant” with our bracelets, t-shirts, contemporary music, trendy bible covers, and snappy one liners like and in the end the vast majority of us are fakes and we wonder why people don’t want to come to church. If we continue to try to force Christianity into culturally relevant stigmas then we will never see what the Church is capable of. Christianity will never be culturally relevant because the world will not and cannot understand us until they meet our Lord.

Radical Christianity is not going to manifest itself in a hebrew tattoo, or a jesus t-shirt, or a christian folk band. Radical Christianity should be redundant because Christianity, if it is Christianity at all, is radical by its very nature. If you call yourself Christian you side with those who reject both rigid morality and hedonistic self-gratification. If you call yourself Christian you side with those who do not see good people or bad people, but a world full of sick and dirty people who need the healing and cleansing hand of God. If you call yourself a Christian you side with those who reject revenge and human honor and embrace mercy, grace, forgiveness, and limitless love for all those who cannot and do not deserve it. If you are my brother or sister in Christ you are amazingly radical, so let us live like it.

Book Review: “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton

“People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum and safe. There never was anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy”

-G.K. Chesterton

151836 “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton is quite easily one of the greatest Christian works of the 20th century although from reading it you get the impression that Chesterton had no clue that his work would ever be seen as something influential. He writes as one who is only doing so on a whim, and that tends to work for the books advantage. Chesterton’s book is a joy to read, but if you expect this book to be anything more than enlightened ramblings you may be disappointed. By this I mean that, while the book is a wonderful read, it reads as if Chesterton were merely flowing from one thought to the next without really any end goal in mind. Most all of his chapters will inevitably end up connecting back to the beginning of the Chapter in some means as a sort of loose circle of thought, but the author feels free to go wherever his thought or the spirit leads.

As a result of this you should be prepared to simply enjoy the ride and allow your mind to wander with Chesterton as you read this book. By doing so you will hear very interesting and thoughtful contemplations on evolution, buddhism, Frederich Nietzche, suicide, materialism, politics, martyrdom, mythology, and the absurdist human desire for meaning (just to name a few). Chesterton is an intellectual giant who, upon contemplating life, meaning, purpose, death, and the philosophy of self realized that Christian Orthodoxy was one of the few things that was successful in actually making complete sense of the world around us and our place in it. He elaborates heavily on the Christian view of the world and how vastly distinct it is from the other theologies and philosophies of the world.

It is also worth noting that Chesterton was a wonderful wordsmith. His thought flow very smoothly and his writing comes off natural, like an old grandfather recalling a tale he has told a thousand times. Nothing feels forced here and (thought I do not fully agree with all of his conclusions) I can easily follow how he reached every conclusion he states. He puts as much logic into Christianity as is possible for a “faith” to have, and I would be a terrible reviewer if I failed to mention that this is easily one of the most quotable books I have ever come across. The book is riddled with “Chesterton-isms” that are both enlightening and occasionally humorous. His writings are reminiscent of Lewis or in style, but with the mental and philosophical strength of Kierkegaard or Bultman, and the lucid and free roaming nature of Donald Miller. Very well done, and highly recommended.


If you want a free copy of Orthodoxy, you are in luck because it exists in the public domain:

Lent and the Value of Discipline

So as some of you who follow my blog may know by now I’m not exactly a typical Baptist when it comes to many of the religious traditions I observe. I like to mix a bit of high church tradition in with my simple Baptist beliefs, and Lent is no exception. On the chance you are unfamiliar with Lent, it is a six-week time leading up to Easter that is traditionally observed with forty days of fasting. Some people will give up soda, chocolate, television, or some other material comfort in order to have more time to spend in prayer and meditation and as a means to turn cravings into reminders of the reason for the season.

Unfortunately many denominations do not openly advocate or recognize Lent, which is a real shame in my opinion. If there is one thing I think people today need to work on their self-discipline. We who are in the developed world are really lacking in self-discipline because instant gratification is so readily available to us. We have youtube, netflix, online shopping, fast food, instant coffee, texting, automobiles, and advertisements galore just to name a few. We have to go on “retreats” into nature just to escape the fast pace world we live in. There is very little that is not readily available to us in a matter of minutes and as a result we tend to be very impatient and unappreciative people.

With the beginning of the year I undertook the goal of becoming more disciplined in the way I eat and in staying more physically active. It was difficult and required me to withhold may pleasures and comforts, but so far I have lost seventeen pounds and I look better and feel healthier. So much so that I wonder why I ever could have been so content with lounging around and eating so unhealthy. The point I’m making is discipline and self-control are the tools we need to develop if we ever want to truly live life to its full potential rather than settling for instant gratification.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

– Hebrews 12:11

Now I started my Lent a little early (since most people don’t start until Wednesday) but I want to encourage you to really participate this year and go for something difficult. This year I have given up “time-wasting” which is a very difficult thing to give up. By this I mean that for the past week and for the next forty days I have committed not to do anything that I would consider time-wasting. What does that mean for me? It means I have given up:

  • Television
  • Movies
  • Time Wasting Websites (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc…)
  • Being Bored and Doing Nothing

Now I really do want to emphasize that Lent isn’t simply about learning to resist, but also learning to achieve and work towards something. In the time I have open from eliminating the above things I have filled with:

  • Prayer
  • Scripture Reading
  • Finishing All Those Books I Never Get Around To
  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Spending Time With Loved Ones
  • Writing That Book I Always Wanted To Write

And, that’s not all you can do with the time and energy you save during Lent. You could use your time to create art, or finish that product you started a long time ago, learn a skill, or to do what ever you have always wanted to do. Maybe you have a bad habit or unhealthy area of your life you need to get rid of, well this is the perfect time to break it and fill the hole with something you are passionate about. Most importantly though, this is a great time to seek the Lord and prepare your heart for the Easter season.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

– Proverbs 13:4

If you are not one who gets into scripture regularly I encourage you to do so. If you are not one who prays easily or one who can meditate on the Lord without fidgeting or mentally wandering I encourage you to work on that. This is a great time to grow spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally if you only seize the opportunity. Like me, you don’t have to wait for Ash Wednesday to start. I’m already a week in and I’ve accomplished so much in the this short time.

Take this time and use it to become a more centered person and to grow spiritually in your Christian walk. Giving up chocolate is fine and dandy, but I’d really love to see more people really take up the heart of Lent and actually push themselves to make some big changes. Discipline is not something to feared, it is merely a tool which a person uses to reach the full potential that God has given them.

Faith Within Reason: The Closed Minds of Free Thinkers

So one of the most hilariously mislabeled groups of all time are the “Free Thinkers.” You may know them by different labels, but the best way to identify a “free-thinker” is that they will deny any claim that cannot be backed up by empirical evidence. So heavily confined to their own logic are they that the will outright deny any reality that contradicts their ability to comprehend and logically sort out. Free Thinking is ironically one of the most binding, limiting, restraining, and mentally crippling schools of though. I can hardly think of a more close minded view than the one that says “If I cannot understand, it cannot be so.” This worship and deifying of the human mind is not only limiting in its ability to fully appreciate and comprehend life, but it is also extremely (and ironically) un-logical in its approach to denying the miraculous.

I always come across the same two arguments when ever I find myself in a discussion with a free-thinker. They love these arguments wield them like faith smashing sticks ready to bludgeon any feeble religious mind they come across. It is always kind of humorous to see these arguments flipped on their head and see their own weapons of choice used to poke holes in their own philosophy. Let me explain:

Argument 1: 

  • Premise: Those that testified to the miracles in scripture are unreliable because they are superstitious and unscientific.
  • Reasoning: They are superstitious an unscientific because they attest to miracles.
  • The Problem: If testifying to a miracle disqualifies one form being credible, how then could one credibly attest to a miracle if one were encountered?

In case that didn’t make sense, the “free-thinker” who uses these arguments to deny the miraculous creates a circular vacuums that makes it impossible for anyone to ever attest to a miracle. Testifying to a miracle makes you lose credibility, therefore no one can credibly attest to a miracle. This is not a very open-minded approach to the proposed question of miracles because it already presupposes that the denier is correct and that the one making the claim is false, as well as setting up a fallacy in which the one making the claim can never move around. It is really only a few steps above sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “I’m not listening because you are stupid and I am not.”

Counter Argument 1: 

  • Premise: Those that testified to love are unreliable because they are superstitious and unscientific.
  • Reasoning: They are superstitious an unscientific because they attest to love.
  • The Problem: If testifying to love disqualifies one form being credible because these properties cannot be empirically tested, how then could one credibly attest to love for those who have  never encounter it?

You see, there are many things in life from theoretical physics to the binding love of a husband and wife that are beyond the empirical. People denied the existence of the Okapi for many years though many people had claimed to have seen it. Why was it denied? Because every credible person knew that no such creature existed. It was clearly the in the realm of fantasy, and yet we now know that it does in fact exist. Miracles by nature can only be observed by those who happen to be there to observe them, and they cannot be empirically explained and prove or else they cease to be miracles. This is not the only argument, however, that is used to attack the miraculous events described in scripture.

Argument 2:

  • Premise: Those that testify to the miracles in scripture are unreliable because they were looking for miracles and were not observing subjective.
  • Reasoning: Those that look for miracles will find them, though they would not have found them if they were not looking for them.
  • The Problem: If looking for something disqualifies one from being credible then are the only credible discoveries those that are found by pure chance and happenstance?

Events of a miraculous nature have been testified throughout human existence from our very earliest records. Some miracles have more documentation to them than many ancient events we consider facts, and even today accounts of miracles in day-to-day life are not unheard of. I myself have witnessed several “miraculous” events in my years on this earth, but of course none of these are acceptable to the free-thinker.  The common dismissal of these claims is to dismiss the ancient man as a superstitious creature who lacked scientific understanding of the universe, but when one questions why we are to assume ancient man was superstitious the answer is usually that he attested to miracles. This logic is used even today every time a miraculous event occurs, one cannot attest to a miracle without being labeled superstitious and stupid based on the presupposition that belief in miracles is superstitious and stupid. This creates a circular logical fallacy where if one was to witness a miracle one could never attest to it because by attesting to the validity of the miracle one was also dismissing his own credibility.

To those people I raise this counter argument:

Counter Argument 2:

  • Premise: Those that testify to the existence of scientific laws are unreliable because they were looking for scientific laws and were not observing subjectively.
  • Reasoning: Those that look for laws of nature will find them, though they would not have found them if they were not looking for them.
  • The Problem: If one never supposed that the universe was bound by laws of nature then would have never discovered any of the laws of physics, chemistry, or many of the mathematical principles.

Is the assumption that the universe is somehow innately bound by physically consistent laws of nature really more logical than the assumption that God could involve himself in history through miraculous means. The only reason I can find that one is readily accepted and one is so cautiously denied is because one is testable and the other is not. We cannot invoke a miracle any time we wish, but to test whether gravity is consistent, one only needs to drop something from a height. To assume that because something is not testable it cannot be true is scientism, which is one of the most closed-minded views a man could take. To assume that his senses and logical reasoning are the only masters of truth in the universe is arrogance to the highest degree. This also becomes problematic when one raises the question of why the universe is bound to certain physical laws of nature. The scientismist (if that is even a world) would most likely attempt to dismiss the question without providing an answer while the monotheist could point to a grand designer.

Notice I am not writing this to attack science, but scientism. Science is a wonderful thing that explores the inner workings of the grand design. Scientism is the denial of all empirically unprovable aspects of life. Where science would look at a miracle and say “We cannot prove, test, or recreate that instance” scientism would look at a miracle and say “This cannot be!”

So why do I claim to believe in the miraculous events attributed to Christ? Because I find the testimony of these events both credible and highly likely. After Christ’s crucifixion the twelve men who had followed Christ (that were said to have run and hid during his death and burial) somehow became so convinced that they had seen the resurrected Christ that they spread his gospel all over the world. These men would rather die horrific deaths (which almost all of them did) rather than deny the truth of the risen Lord. This is not something one does on a whim, these men believed with all their heart and soul that Christ was risen and sin defeated.

Look a the life of Saul of Tarsus who by his own account and the account of Luke was a persecutor of the faith and a killer of Christians. Saul has a miraculous encounter on the road to Damascus that convinced him that the people he was so eagerly killing were actually the proclaimers of the true gospel of God. After changing his name to Paul this “Jew among Jews” whom had lived by the Torah and avidly fought against the “heresy” of Christianity, now became its biggest avocate. He planted churches all across the world and did a complete 180 turn form a life of self-righteous legalism to a servant like devotion to God and an advocate of the spiritual freedom found in Christ.

In the first few centuries Christians were fed to lions in colosseums, crucified in the emperor’s gardens, and burned alive or stoned for their refusal to deny the miraculous and life changing power of Christ. Even today there are thousands (possibly millions) of Christians all over the globe who would rather die than deny the miraculous and radical God-man who was Jesus the Christ. Considering that only around 3% of the world’s population outright denies the existence of the supernatural, maybe it is time for Free Thinkers to free up their minds a bit.

 

Faith Within Reason: Charles H. Townes on Faith in Scientific Thought

So I’m currently reading Science and Theology: The New Consonance which so far has proven to be an amazing read. It’s a collection of essays written by theologians, physicists, Nobel Prize winners, evolutionary theorists, a former president of the “American Association for the Advancement of Science”, and even Pope John Paul II himself. Seriously though if you want a good intellectual read pick this book up. I’ll post a book review as soon as I’m done, but I can already tell you that this one’s a keeper.

The book deals with the relationship between Science and Theology from various points of view and is really a profound collection of works. I bring it up because today’s post was inspired by one of the essays found in the book: “Logic and Uncertainties in Science and Religion” by Charles H. Townes (a physicist). In it his essay Townes contributes a very interesting perspective on the notion of “Faith”, that being that even the most coldly logical human beings rely on faith at some point.

“Science and religion not only share common logic; they also share something else, namely, uncertainty. We must recognize that we do not know things for sure. Knowledge, even scientific knowledge, is less than absolute.”

– Charles H. Townes

The above quote came form the man who helped revolutionize the study of light and laser theories. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture:

Charles-Townes1

I told you he was smart!

All joking aside that’s a ballsy thing for a scientist to say considering you make a living based on the assumption that you can understand the universe around you and figure out how things work. He openly admits though that most of what he does as a scientist has grounds in faith at some point.

“The mathematician Godel proved that uncertainty is inherent even in the nature of our logic…. [He] proved that we can never be sure that the assumption with which we started are even self-consistent, let alone true. The only way we may show that they are self-consistent is to appeal to a new set of assumptions…. but of course these assumptions are subject to the same uncertainty regarding consistency, and so on. Logic and uncertainty come together in a single package and to take them seriously, there must be faith”

Charles H. Townes.

For those of you who don’t know Godel was the father of modern mathematics who also supposedly proved the existence of God using math.

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This somehow proves that God exists, but for the life of me it just looks like a bunch of numbers and squiggles. There’s a reason I didn’t major in math.

I don’t get it either, but the point made is that if we question everything, then we eventually reach a belief in nothing at all. Eventually no matter how deep down your thought goes it will eventually have to reside in an assumption. Nothing exists or can be possibly known unless an act of faith is taken at some level, even if it is simply to take on your own words that you are real. Trippy right?

For successful science of the type we know, we must have faith that the universe is governed by reliable laws and, further, that these laws can be discovered by human inquiry. The logic of human inquiry is trustworthy only if nature is itself logical…. This is the faith of reason”

– Charles H. Townes

Have you ever wondered why things always work in the same way over and over. Whether it is subatomic particles or the expansion of the universe itself science seems to be fairly reliable. Do you ever stop and wonder why that is? We assume that because gravity, for instance, always works that it always will work. This isn’t really a reason to believe other than we have no reason to think otherwise. We believe the universe is bound to certain laws and that these laws can be studied, comprehended, and understood by the human mind. If you are religious then you probably attribute the existence of these laws to designer or creator. If you are of the atheist opinion then I guess you assume these just exist because they do (I’m not an atheist so I don’t know what they think). It might just be me but I love thinking about this kind of stuff, the more I learn about the universe and the world around me the more I can see God’s handiwork in even the tiniest details.

[The scientist] must have faith that the problem is solvable, and that there is an inherent logic in nature which his or her mind is capable of reading.”

Charles H. Townes

We are all questing for truth. Some of us choose to look deep inside ourselves and other look outward. There are philosophers, scientists, theologians, logicians, mathematicians, day dreamers, poets, and deep thought thinkers but all of them have faith in something. Faith ties us all together and it is only by having faith in something that we are able to move forward.