Monday, June 29, 2009

Does God want to have a relationship with us?

This is an exciting venture for me (Pete). To embark on a blog that will hopefully serve as an aid to all participants in understanding and experiencing love, peace, and truth, all of which I believe come from God. This blog has been set up following a series at UTI that tackles the tough questions of God's existence and role in our lives. Here, Jon and I will be giving our thoughts following the series, and the lingering questions that are no doubt circulating the minds of many. In my first blog, I will respond to the questions and opinions of one particular member of UTI whom I respect dearly and am moved by his thoughts. Here is what he wrote: 

"If God truly wanted to have a relationship with human beings, and I really mean a relationship, then why would he have us endure so much pain and suffering in our lives? Why would he want us to experience the anguish of loss when he wants to be with us? I have seen no evidence in my life to prove otherwise. If God wished to truly be with us in any kind of relationship at all, then wouldn't there be some feeling; some manifestation of proof that he is with us when we face our problems? The only truth that I, or anyone else that has come to know, is that we are alone in our problems; it is we who suffer, we who must endure so much and it is we that must deal with it on our own. Say for a second that God is there, and that he sees us; Would he really want a relationship with a people who are so messed up that we could destroy ourselves in the time it takes to blink? The answer is no; it would be a waste of his time. The simple truth of the matter is that God does not wish to have a relationship with us, we are alone. We must endure on our own in this life where, the sad part is, there is no place for God in our lives. In a relationship or otherwise."

I was deeply moved by such an emotional, thought-out response to our original question. In it I saw a lot of struggle to come to grips with the idea that God is even there and wants anything to do with us, and also that based on evidence, it just doesn't seem like a likely possibility. With humility I would like to offer my response as a follower of Christ to the questions raised above. 

I find that sometimes in life, we all struggle to acknowledge the perspective of those around us. We know who we are and how we feel, and in the darker times it's hard to see anything else. We simply know that life sucks, that we are sad, and in the midst of the problem we are facing, there just doesn't seem to be any saving grace. So what do we do with the question of God, when we are going through such trials? I understand, first hand, that it can be difficult to "see" God in the midst of trials and tribulations. Even as a follower of Christ I would be remiss not to acknowledge my own struggles in which I found it hard to see God. But when I look to the life of Jesus, I see that God has struggled too. Many of us are familiar with the story of Jesus, and perhaps the climax of his story, his death on the cross. When I think about Jesus' execution on the cross, I realize that God knows all too well what it is like to suffer. And when I ponder the reasons for this death - why Jesus would ultimately want to suffer himself - I realize that Jesus did it for us; that he cared about us so much, that God himself would suffer for us. So when we experience pain and suffering, I always try to think about Jesus - not just his death, but the pain and suffering he no doubt felt whenever he witnessed the injustice of the Roman Empire, or the religious elite, or anyone else for that matter. Rather than saying that God wants us to experience the anguish of loss so he can be with us, I think it might be more accurate to say that God wants to be with us through the anguish of loss. That is the example I see when I read about Jesus. The shortest verse in the bible is also one of the most powerful: "Jesus wept." 

The next part of this young man's questioning (and I'm sure the question of many others) is "why?" Why would God want to "waste his time" with a messed up people like us? This to me, is perhaps the most beautiful and convicting part of the message of Jesus: It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, or what you will do - Jesus loves you! Who among us has never done something we've deeply regretted? Being a little older, my list might be little longer! But whatever the case, there have been many things in my life that I have deeply regretted - whether it be the times that I have "trespassed" against another, or times in which I just felt worthless as a human being, I have in many ways been saved by the message of Jesus. How we answer the question of "why" would God want to have a relationship with us, depends on "who" we believe God to be. Recognizing that we all have different beliefs, it's my belief that if a God does exist, that such a God would have to be the greatest, most caring, powerful, and amazing God, or be no God at all. I'm not sure I have the intellectual capacity to explain "why" God loves us the way he does and wants to be in relationship with him. But I believe that God not only displays love like no other, but is the epitome of love, and the author of love. It's simply up to us to accept that love. And I have found it to be amazing beyond words.

My heart becomes sombre when I think about the tough times we all go through. Some of it no doubt is of our own doing, other times, life seems to kick us when we're down, and it always hurts. Sometimes, when we go through enough of these tough times, we question the nature of our reality. Why it sucks so bad, why we hurt so much, and where is there any room for a God when such pain and suffering exists? The above "traveller of life" as I will call him, laments the following: "There is no place for God in our lives, the sad thing is that we are alone." What a powerful sentiment that is. Perhaps what I find most powerful however, is the declaration that it is a "sad" thing, that God doesn't exist. That we are alone, and beyond repair. As I close, I would say, that this is a cry that I have cried many times in my life. A cry for help, and a cry for hope. I would suggest, that the only thing (or being) big enough to fill the hope that I have, is an all-loving God. May we not settle for anything less. 


  1. I like where Pete is going with this subject and look forward to reading the responses from our group.

    I too, appreciate the comments made by people at U.T.I last month, on both sides of this issue. We can learn from each other and help direct one another on to a well developed world view that answers the questions of life properly (or else it's not a very good world view is it?).

    On the subject of God's desire to be in relationship with us, I will only mention two points separated into two replies.

    The first is something some at U.T.I have heard me speak on several months ago. It is the origin of Agape (greek for a sacrificial love that is above all other forms). Followers of the Christian God, understood right from their earliest writings that God was not only where we get the concept from, he is in fact, the being who IS agape and lives it out through his actions. God (the Trinity of Father, Son, Spirit) has always been in this amazing relationship where agape is at the centre. This develops commitment, respect, freedom, sacrifice, etc. God felt he could not keep this kind of love or relationship to himself so his desire was to create a world where he could share it with his creation. I find this beautiful and a great sign of what is at the heart of God. Not power, control, but love.

    Now, humanity eventually decided to turn their back on God through their own selfish desires, using the free will given to them by their creator. But that did not deter God. He continued to seek us, woo us, reveal himself to us, and sacrifice his very son through the greatest action of agape the world has ever seen. God is relentless in his pursuit of his creation, not because he needs us, but because his wants what is best for us and as our creator, understands our value greater than anyone else could.

    If that is not evidence of God desiring to have a relationship with us, then I don't know what else God could do to prove his love for us. I think many times, we as humans don't start from the beginning and therefore, miss the love of God. If God, just dropped us on this planet, flawed, sinning, with wars, famine and a decaying planet, like what we see currently, then I would myself have a very hard time accepting that God loves us. BUT, that is not the starting point. We need to start with God and how hi slove played out as mentioned above. It makes a world of difference in how you view yourself, God, the universe, and the future of our world.

  2. The final thought I have is defining the concept of "relationship" with God. We can also make the error of thinking that having a relationship with God will look the same as having one with your parents or friends. If so, we will search for ever and never find God. We must remember that God, our creator is spirit. God is not some man or woman with a physical body that flies around the sky at whim. He is spirit. So when you hear people say a relationship with God has no evidence, i find a majority base that on their unfair assumptions that a relationship must have a physical component in order to qualify. With God, this is not the case. The trinity has been in, let's just say a very long-term relationship without physical bodies and is in fact the perfect model where agape originated from. God created us, as the Bible says, in his image - not physically but spiritually. That means, our connection with the creator is deep within each of us through our connection with him by our own spiritual-ness. Our spirit does not need to verbally speak or physically touch God to remain in deep connection with him. As Rob Bell mentions in a Nooma episode, God and us connect at the deepest core of our being and very possibly or individual breath is declaring that God is with us.

    But does this just mean there is no evidence for a God's desire to be in relationship with us? No way! God being spirit, and being the creator of the world is IN all things and people of the world. To see Jesus is to witness the beauty of what is around us and imagine how much more beautiful it must have been (and one day will be) before humans went on their destruction of it. God as spirit is in the communities of people he blesses us with, the poor and oppressed (just read any of Mother Teressa's memoirs to realize this) and in our very cry from deep inside that there must be something better than what is currently being witnessed, and I must have a point or reason for being on this planet other than just being a random fluke with no purpose, hope or future beyond the grave.

    There are lot's of movies coming out now that are bringing back 3D to theatres. In order to see the effects and reality of the 3D you need to wear the glasses given to you or else you'll miss the beauty surrounding you. In the same way, I think discovering God's presence and desire to love us, is similar. Our world has suffered through millions of years of side effects of our rejection of our creator. It has impacted the way we treat others, the earth, and skewed what we think God feels about us. And through this, it has painted a picture that looks as if God is dead. But once we begin to recapture the concept of a loving God and the origins and purpose of life, God begins to jump out from all angles as we travel in this life. We can chose the pill that will keep us thinking that the world truly is only what we currently see, OR we can take the pill that will open our eyes to the reality of what is happening all around us if we start at the beginning of our story.

    Good luck in your search for truth and God.

  3. Going back to the original post, I found the response to the question of "why does God allow us to suffer?" to be a little unsatisfactory for me. I feel as though you have given the answer that Jesus/God suffered just like we do, so we should find comfort in that when we are going through hard times. This answer doesn't really address the original question. If anything, it leads us to another question: why did Jesus/God have to suffer? The usual answer to this question is so that we can have our sins forgiven by believing in Jesus, so that we can ultimately be united with God. My problem with this line of thinking is that is makes God appear as if he is a slave to his own rules, and how can you bee talking about God if you introduce a rule system that even God must obey? The rule system then becomes God. This rule system that I'm talking about is the rule that "sin is a barrier between man and God and belief in Jesus is the only way to take it away" If God is God then why does this rule need to be fulfilled in order for him to forgive? Jon often makes the comment that Jesus didn't come to place another religion cupcake on the buffet table, but when we look at this system, all I see is religion, not relationship. A relationship requires interaction, and I don't see real, intimate interaction with God as possible. One of your comments stated that in order to have a relationship with God, you need to put on the 3D glasses, take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes, etc. If one needs to be intently looking for God in order to experience a relationship with God, then I see that relationship as a creation of one's own mind. A woman once approached me on the street and said that she wanted to talk to me about God. She explained to me that one day, she realized that everything that had happened to her in her life had a purpose and that God had been speaking to her and one day she just realized it. She also said that sometimes when she opens the bible and reads something, she feels as if it is speaking directly to her. I think this is a good demonstration of how one creates a relationship with God in their mind. Here this lady took a collection of random events in her life and looked for a pattern in it, and interpreted that pattern as the work of God. The human brain just naturally looks for patterns and tends to see patterns even when there aren't any. And as for her believing that the bible was speaking directly to her, I believe that works on the same principle as horoscopes, psychics, palm readers, etc. People are given broad, general statements and they want to believe that the horoscope is true, the psychic is right, or the bible is talking to them, so their brains make them perceive it as so strongly directed towards them on such a personal level.

    Well those are just some initial thoughts. I look forward to your guys' responses.

  4. James, thanks for your response. I really do appreciate your thoughts, and am honored to converse together on such things. There's a lot to respond to so I (Pete) will get right to it.

    You bring up a lot of issues regarding both the existence of God and the nature of our own existence - especially dealing with how we "read between the lines" of life.

    Let me start by saying that God's point has never been to institute rules for his creation to obey. As one of my favourite thinkers says, using a metaphor of tennis, "The rules were made to protect the game, not the game to protect the rules." Of course life is not a game, but I think we get the idea. There are rules in everything we do and participate in. The institution of rules is no bad thing in and of itself, rather it is the nature of the rules that makes them good or bad. So is the nature of God's rules bad?

    Moving forward, you said that, "This rule system that I'm talking about is the rule that 'sin is a barrier between man and God and belief in Jesus is the only way to take it away.'" I feel I should say that this isn't a rule, but rather a reality of the human condition. Not only that, but this human condition is of our doing, not God's. Therefore when we start to question why God "can't just do this or that" it leaves out a very important piece of the equation, namely our free will. God didn't create us like this (separated from him) - we separated ourselves from God. So then, God is not a slave to his own rules. God institutes rules with the eternal purpose in mind of restoring the relationship between he and his creation. Jesus was the climax of this purpose. Anything that is right and good came from God - God authored them. It is hard to imagine that God would be a slave to that which he himself created, especially if we agree that we are talking about God, and not some super-human upgrade.

  5. Switching gears, let's talk about our role in this whole thing. As evidenced by previous discussions, faith is necessary for any worldview, which in a way is nice in that it keeps us humble! That said, not having all the answers can be frustrating at times, yet it is a reality we all must accept. The opinion that a relationship with God is the creation of one's own mind is one half of the faith coin. The other half is that it is the realization of our true purpose of life. Richard Dawkins says that people who believe in God have brains that are malfunctioning. Is that the case or is it the other way around? That's up to us to figure out as best we can. I can no more argue someone into believing in God than Richard Dawkins can argue the purpose out of life.

    Nonetheless, the story of the woman you encountered is interesting. Everyone has their own spin/interpretations of life's events, and I would have to say that perhaps neither of us knows enough about this woman to form an educated opinion. However, what I will say is that rather than her taking a "collection of random events in her life and looked for a pattern in it, and interpreted that pattern as the work of God", her interpretation is ripe with purpose, and bereft of randomness. Rather than a random interpretation of isolated events, she claims to have come to the understanding that her life has a purpose, and that purpose comes from a purposeful God. Even further, if she was looking for such patterns, the question then becomes, "is she tapping into the natural state of mind that God gave us, or is she delusional?" Regardless of one's opinion, I think to be fair we need to search for such truths ourselves before passing judgment on her own journey. Of course not everyone will come up with the same answer, but we need to search earnestly regardless of our pre-suppositions.

    To close, I'll simply say that I think the bible and palm readers are polar opposites. There is much evidence for historical and spiritual truth in the bible, as well as an explanation for our lives and current state of being. Astrologers have no cohesive answers or evidence for any of those questions or topics.

    Thanks again for your response James, I look forward to hearing more from you.

  6. Thanks for your response, Pete.

    You seem to have outlined the basics of the Christian world view here, and you have given a series of answers adequate for people who already accept various presuppositions (for example: God exists, the Bible is the word of God, Jesus was the Son of God, the Bible can be used as a viable historical record, etc.) The Christian worldview is one that works just fine and provides answers to a lot of questions if one is willing to accept the various presuppositions, as well as ignore the major problems with the world view.

    The truth is that I feel quite frustrated right now because I don't think that you have really addressed the problems that I raised in my first comment. But I guess I shouldn't have expected satisfying answers. I think this all goes back to what Sarah K. was saying when we first discussed this topic at U.T.I. The concept that God wants a relationship with us is an easy one to believe for people who already accept the presuppositions that need to be in place in order to believe it. I find the presuppositions too ridiculous to put my faith in, and therefore can't give a good response to your latest posts. Everything you have said is under presuppositions that I don't accept, so I can't debate your points anymore than I can debate the colour of the easter bunny's fur.

  7. This is not going to directly relate to what James had to say, but it does have to do with weather or not God wants a realtionship with us. I (Laura) believe that if there is a God it could be possible for Him to want a relationship with us. This being said I feel that he could show it better that this is what He wishes for.

    I've been going to church my entire life, and so I know that one way in which God can communicate to us is through the Bible. But how do we even know what certain passages in the Bible are trying to say? Many people think certain passages are saying different things, so how do we know the actual meaning.

    Another way to sustain a relationship with God is through prayer. People pray believing God is listening. But there is no evidence that He is. I have been told that God listens and responds, well when I used to pray I never felt like God ever responded. Some people say how God responded to their prayers, most of the time I feel that they are basing this on random events and occurences.

    Saying that it is so difficult to communicate with God, I do not believe we are able to sustain a proper and functioning relationship with God. Relationships are not simple things. The christian God is believed to be all powerfull. So I feel, if He really wanted a relationship with us, He could make it possible and much easier.

  8. Hey guys,

    I think I'm going to give my 2 cents here if that is okay. I'd like to mostly address James' past two posts. I would first of all like to state that my reply here is in love and not anger. But that I do feel when someone pushes, attacks or dismisses anothers view / belief system, that person must be prepared to have their beliefs go under the same kind of attack or microscope that they based others on. So this is a push back in love.

    You mention that God having to adhere to rules somehow dilutes his Godness, or that rules become God. I would like to ask you if your view of God is someone who is immmoral, a law breaker, a rapist, murderer, and sexual preditor? If you follow your comments to conclusion then you must think that God has to break every law in the world in order to prove he is God. To me, that is absurd. Therefore, I would like to propose that God exists within certain rules in the universe, not because he cannot break them, but rather, because a moral, loving creator chooses to. Can I aks what is wrong with that?
    There is a huge difference between choosing to stay within boundaries, and having no ability to do otherwise.

    You state that you "only" see religion in Jesus and Christianity and do not see anything that resembles relationship. So let's look at the basics of Christianity with it's presuppositions as you have allowed; God creates us to live in "relationship" with him (Genesis), we sinned against him like a son does to a father (parable of the prodical son),which then causes Jesus to sacrifice his own life in order to bring his "brothers and sisters" back into a relationship if they so chose. Now you may be able to twist some of this into religion James, but come on, can you really tell us you see no relationship in this at all and still say you are open-minded?

    We've been reading the Gospels for the past several years and seeing again and again how Jesus wept, loved, sacrificed, called his followers friends, died for people, lifted up the oppressed and poor and ridiculed the religious leaders at every turn. Can you honestly say that reading the Christian story, you see no relationship? If so, I am not sure there would be anything God could do to change your mind that he already has not done.

    You ask, why did Jesus have to come and restore our relationship and good standing with God? I do not see this as a sign of weakness or religious or evil or self-serving. In fact, we as humans require / demand justice for peoples actions so why would you not expect God to do likewise if we are truly created by him and in his image? Sin requires justice and comes with consequences. I don't think you would have a problem with that if someone came and did something to you, those you loved, or something you cared for, so why try to pigeon hole God into not having the right to do the same at a much more significant level?

    I feel it can be easy to lob grenades at other peoples views, but there comes a time when each of us then must defend our own opinions and see how they stack up to the major questions of life. So James, I've heard your complaints and issues about others opinions and would like to now gently push back in love and hold you to the same microscope:

  9. You say the human brain looks for patterns and therefore this somehow goes a long way to removing or dismissing peoples experiences with God. One problem, why do we look to do so in the first place? Why does the human look for God, believe in God, search for God if a) there is none and b) God does not desire a relationship with us?

    I know you do not classify yourself as an atheist and are more of an agnostic-deist, but then how can you answer b)? Did we just evolve to need God in a darwinian system that also teaches survival of the fittest? I don't think you will find many atheists to back that up. So why, if God does not desire a relationship with?

    What do you classify as "relationship"? Are you expecting God who is spirit to have the exact, physical relationship with you as a woman? Is that possible? You yourself told me the other week basically that an all-mighty, knowing God could not possibly have that same kind of relationship. So what do you "allow" for God to be deemed relationship?

    How does your worldview answer the questions of life? As an agnostic, you most likely will say something like, "It is impossible to know if God exists" or "I don't know". But, in all gentleness, does that seem even close to an intellectual answer to life's questions? To answer "I can't know" to why are we here? To answer "I don't know" to what is our hope for the future? I would almost have more appreciation for someone who makes up a story about aliens giving birth to us and then being destroyed by the great gazzoo, because at least is makes an attempt to answer the questions. To me, agnosticism can become a cop-out, removing someone with any answers to life. And if they have no answers themselves, then it seems hard to listen to them attack other peoples belief system where they at least try to answer the questions in my opinion.

    And of course, if you do choose to answer my question about what your worldview is, I can do exactly as you did to Pete and say that you must accept all your views presuppositions which I don't and then can reject it.

    I also heard you mention something about all religions are the same and have the same evidence. I'd really like to know how you calculated and studied the main world religions to come up with that easy to state, but hard to quantify, comment. How did you come to that result and how did they all end up exactly even if evidence? What presuppositions did you bring into your study? And how did you even begin to do this when you don't believe in them in the first place?

    Finally, you commented that Pete responded to your post based on his beliefs and presuppositions that come along with that belief. For him, I know his beliefs are based on years of thought, emotion and experience. I'd like to ask you how else you would expect him to answer your questions? Should he have responded as an atheist? Should I expect you to reply to my post as a Muslim? I don't really see your point.

    Well that is all I've got for now but I really look forward to your turn to defend your beliefs and just want to say that i think you are amazing, and will always look forward to an ongoing discussion as long as there are open minds and respect on both sides.


  10. Regarding the issue of if there is a relationship in Christianity, your response is all based on bible stories. I would agree that this is evidence of a relationship in concept, but I have not seen any convincing evidence that this relationship can exist in reality. I come to this conclusion largely based on my own experiences. In the years that I called myself a follower of christ, during which I sincerely and prayerfully pursued a relationship with god, I never experienced anything that I feel resembled a personal experience with any kind of god. No matter how sincere I was, I always felt fake while I was praying. I never sensed any kind of divine connection. Looking back on the times where I felt a strongest sensation that I identified as an encounter with divinity, I now see that those were purely emotions brought on by manipulation. I was always striving for something that I couldn't reach. I found that whenever I looked for god in my life, I always ended up creating him in my mind. When I realized this, I knew that the strength of my faith was going to be determined by how well I could fool myself. At that point in my thinking, believing the truth was more important than preserving my faith, so I concluded that a relationship with god is not possible.

    I apologize for my lack of tact in my postings and I want you to know that this aggression is more directed towards my former self because it makes me very angry that I wasted so much of my time and energy feeling inadequate because I wasn't able to be a part of a relationship that I now believe to be completely imaginary.

    Regarding your statement about agnosticism being a cop-out, my response is simply that I am being honest. Upon realizing that a relationship with god is not possible, my entire faith crumbled and I swept it away, as one would expect. I have studied many other religions very briefly in my world religions class in grade 11. Although I realize that I cannot understand every religion entirely after one semester of study, I felt that no other religion made any more sense to me than christianity did. After this experience, I didn't think that anyone had the answers to the questions that religions try to answer.

    I'm surprised that you are accusing me of not trying to find the answers, because I thought that we have had enough conversations for you to know that I have considered these kinds of questions with considerable thought, effort and sincerity. I have attempted to answer these questions for years and I have come to the place where I believe that I can never know the answers. I differ from you entirely regarding your statement that someone who invents a preposterous world view deserves more respect than one who admits that he doesn't have the answers. In complete honesty, I don't have the answers I don't believe I ever will, and I'm not going to except something that makes no sense to me just for the sake of having answers.

  11. Hey James, sorry for the delay in my response but the past 10 days have been crazy for me with my entire family going down to strep throat on top of everything else.

    Please find my response to be again in love but one that pushes you a little on your comments as you have pushed others in theirs. I would also like to state that I am not looking to win a battle here or desire that either of us wave the white flag, surrender and join the other persons worldview. What I am seeking to do is gently demonstrate that many of your comments do not allow you to objectively look for truth because you have dismissed any possible opportunities to be enlightened by someone who holds to a different view other than yours and that you are not holding yourself to the same criteria you expect from others. One thing I enjoy about my small group in u.t.i is that we have many different views on life but do not try to "trap" each other but instead, are honest in our answers to the questions but give grace to others who have different opinions, even if we disagree. When we get to the point of being angry at others because of their views, or belittle them because we think we have it all figured out, we lose the beauty of u.t.i and assume we are superior which is a dangerous road to travel.

    In one of your previous posts, you took issue with Pete for not answering the questions you posed to him. However, when I asked you to give defense of your beliefs and asked you questions, you did the same and did not give a response. Questions such as, does God have to break all laws and rules for you to prove he is almighty, in response to your comment about the law being greater than God if he cannot break them.

    The questions of why has humanity always searched / believed / debated God through our history if there is none and if he does not desire a relationship with us?

    The question of what do you classify as "relationship" with God? In other words, what personal evidence / experience do you allow God to be justified as seeking relationship with us? Do you allow God to perhaps have a different idea about relationship than yours that are based on human relationships?

    On the matter of our discussions on agnosticism, I would like to go back to one of our most recent conversations about it from our current series at U.T.I. I told you that for me, I can respect the "ordinary" agnostic who simply states, I'm not sure if God exist as I don't have enough evidence. That to me is a place many of us come to at different times in our lives but it also allows us to continue the search for the answers of purpose and life's questions. This agnositic is still open minded.

    However, I have issue with the "ornery agnostic" view because it simply states we cannot know, therefore removing the possibility of changing views due to future experience or evidence. It is hard for me to understand how someone can simply give up trying to make sense of this life and say they will never know why they get up every morning or take that next breath. As you mentioned, "I don't have the answers I don't believe I ever will."

    But it also goes much deeper than that because in my opinion, the ornery agnostic view which you seem to embrace, is impossible to live out.
    Here are some reasons why.

  12. When someone says that you cannot know if God exists or what our purpose is in this life, they have the burden to prove such a bold statement. You can't just throw that out there without showing why someone should accept it. So far, from what you have shared in this blog, your reason to say "we can't know" is based on personal experience. You mention, "I come to this conclusion largely based on my own experiences. In the years that I called myself a follower of christ, I never experienced anything that I feel resembled a personal experience with any kind of god." You said that "believing the truth was more important than preserving my faith, so I concluded that a relationship with god is not possible." Now James, I know you often say you look for proof and hard evidence and are not very convinced about people using personal experience to support a view. But isn't this the very thing you have just done? Have you not concluded the following: God did not answer my prayers / I did not feel him - therefore God is false. If I was someone looking for truth and hard evidence, and had you share that conclusion with me, do you think it would be convincing that because of you not getting the results you desired from God, based on your presuppositions about relationships, he must not exist?

    But going further into ornery agnosticism reveals more issues for me. The theist on the one side states God is real and we have purpose. The atheist on the other side states God is fake and we have no purpose and our existence makes no ultimate difference.

    So for the Agnostic to say there is no evidence or it is unknowable means he must have the scales of evidence perfectly centred, not leaning to either side......for the rest of his life. But in life our scales do change as we have new experiences and gain new insight. The scales in our life always change to one side or the other and if they do, ornery agnosticism is impossible to live out.

    William Craig once commented that it would be as if a chicken laid an egg on the tip of the barn roof and it had to stay there perfectly on the tip for ever, without ever tilting to one side or the other in the midst of the effect of the elements. Is this possible?

    But let's go even deeper. How should I live my life if I am an ornery agnostic? I don't know if my life has any purpose or if people have value, or if there is any hope for this world. I become stuck in some artificial existence, crippled to do anything or make wise decisions because i have no wisdom on the questions of life, no direction.

    And I think if we are honest, this is impossible and the ornery agnostic will , although stating we can't know either way, lives their life in accordance with the atheistic or theistic world view. And if they do, does that not in itself demonstrate the world view is broken? Why would i embrace a worldview that can not even be lived out? For me personally, it becomes a nice theory that is impractical and unlivable. And if the scales are perfectly balanced, why do most agnostics, when they say they don't know, then reject the existence of God? Is that compatible with not knowing? Does that in itself not show a bias? Does this itself not show a leaning toward one side?

    Let's go even deeper. At the centre of ornery agnosticism is the belief that for a belief to be rational, you must have sound arguments or hard proof to validate it. But there are such things as "Properly Basic Beliefs". These are basic beliefs we have without the hard evidence to prove they even exist. Properly basic beliefs are things that are self-evident or incorrigible. Examples of this are beliefs we share such as, 1+1+1=3, that i have certain types of experiences in life, belief in the past or external world, Descartes Cogito ergo sum, etc.

  13. These beliefs arise from experience but cannot be proven. The overwhelming majority of the world population has always viewed God as a properly basic belief. And if these do exist, and we all experience and believe many of them, where does that leave the ornery agnostic's main argument? Therefore, someone could actually be an ordinary agnostic and be a theist at the same time.

    You mentioned in your last post that many of my responses were based on Bible stories. This is certainly true. I have used personal experience, properly basic beliefs and evidence from past generations who have written their findings in print. You also, have a belief that uses authors, philosophers and written articles / text books whom you have studied. You place your faith in their experiences and written words from them, as i do the authors of the scriptures. You did not all of a sudden invent your view, nor did i. We use similar tools to reach conclusions, so i don't see your point about using the bible as a negative because i could do the same to you.

    You also mentioned that the Christian worldview has evidence in concept, and i see that as one of many reasons to believe it. It is a concept for me that answers the important questions. Even you, yourself said the Christian worldview works fine and answers a lot of questions. Should not our worldview answers these questions well? Should that not be important to us?

    But my belief in Jesus and God is also based on history such as the historical Jesus and non-christian historical figures whose writings support him and the evidence and accuracy of scripture. How they were assembled, who put them together, and how they lived their lives to demonstrate their beliefs.

    My beliefs are also based on how the message of God and the scriptures are in harmony with our experiences of pain and tragedy, love, pleasure, significance, justice, mercy, community, etc.

    And my beliefs also embrace science, quantum physics, the origins of the universe, and see so many old and new discoveries as more evidence that is in harmony with my belief in God.

    I remain open, always knowing I could be wrong, but i base my life on what has been given me and move forward. One day everything could change for me and Jesus could be fake, but my beliefs, as yours, are based on a combination of evidence and faith. Faith in the hope we are correct in the decisions we have made because they hold great consequences for all of us, now and beyond.

    I will finish where i began. We all need to search for the answers and not all of us will find the same conclusion. My point is not to guilt, bully, or scream people into the kingdom of God. My point is none of us can come forward and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are right and everyone else is wrong. U.T.I leadership teaches the Christian worldview and all that we do and discuss is based around Jesus; who he is and how he led his life as an example for us to follow. And yet, we have actually fought to make sure everyone who joins us has a say and can be respected in their worldview even if they reject Jesus, but they must also do the same in return to us. That, is a basic request and expectation and one that will remain as long as I am at U.T.I.

    Wow, this is really long...thanks for listening :)

  14. Hey Jon,
    I'll admit that I neglected to answer a lot of questions that I have been asked and that's mainly because how I've been writing these comments is that I read the previous comment, and then write whatever comes to my mind. However, this time I've got two windows open, so I'll do my best to address each point you make :P

    You asked me if god has to break all the rules to prove to me that he is almighty. I believe you are addressing my criticism of the system through which one achieves salvation in the Christian world view. My criticism of it was that god can't forgive anyone unless they believe that Jesus was the son of god, put their faith in him, etc. The point isn't that god should breaks this rule, but that the rule shouldn't exist in the first place. To me, it doesn't make sense that the one thing that determines one's place in the afterlife is faith. Why should people be punished for not believing something that just genuinely doesn't make sense to them?

    I think humanity has always searched for / believed in / debated the existence of god because if god does exist, the implications are huge regarding our purpose and meaning, and people desperately want to believe that there is purpose and meaning to their lives. I'm sure you would agree with me on this point. However, the fact that people want desperately to believe something doesn't make that thing true. Still, I believe that this is one of the strongest arguments for the existence of god. But does this argument just sound very strong to me because of my own desire to feel like life is meaningful? This is a question that I struggle with.

    I would classify a "relationship" with god as one in which one interacts with god. I can think of no personal experience that I see as rational that constitutes a relationship with god. This is a huge reason why I don't think a relationship with god is possible. Maybe god has a different idea about relationship than mine, which are based on human relationships, but any example of this that I can think of is either very impersonal/one sided (ex.: serving what one believes to be god's will) or can't be distinguished from an illusion created by one's mind (ex.: getting a sensation that one identifies as being of the holy spirit).

    The reason I used personal experience in my last post was because that was regarding my decision to leave my faith, and faith in Jesus is one that depends on personal experience to work. One needs to experience a personal relationship with god.

    The reason I say I will never know if there is a god or not is because there is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt either way. This is not, however to say that I will never have faith that there is a god. To the contrary, I do believe that the universe was created by a higher intelligence. This is reflected in my calling myself an agnostic deist. I don't come to the conclusion that god must not exist because I didn't get the results I wanted from him. I come to the conclusion that god must not exist as the Christian world view describes him because there is no evidence that convinces me that a relationship with god is possible, and a relationship with god is essential to the Christian view of god.

  15. I admit that I've never heard of the terms "ornery agnostic" and "ordinary agnostic". I've held my current position for much shorter than you have held yours and I'm still putting my view together. I'm not really sure if I'm an "ornery agnostic" or an "ordinary agnostic" and I don't really feel the need to label myself one of the two. I think I've described my view in a way that doesn't really fit either entirely. I may be considered an ornery agnostic when it comes to the Christian view of god, but a deist when dealing with the bare question of "is there a god or not?".

    I agree with a lot of your analysis of the life of an agnostic. You said: "I don't know if my life has any purpose or if people have value, or if there is any hope for this world. I become stuck in some artificial existence, crippled to do anything or make wise decisions because i have no wisdom on the questions of life, no direction." To be completely honest, I feel exactly like this a lot of the time. But the fact that it doesn't feel good doesn't make it untrue. It's impractical and unlivable, but I don't see how that disproves it. Maybe the truth is inconvenient. Do agnostics lean to one side? I think so. I admit that I do and explained that earlier.

    Now, back to this idea that the Christian world view works in concept. Where I was getting with this comment was that the fact that it neatly answers all our curiosities can be evidence that it is invented as much as it can be evidence that it is true. What makes me lean toward the side that it is invented goes back to the issue that I don't believe a relationship with god to be possible, my reasoning for which I have already explained.

    You continue to insist that each party needs to demonstrate respect in this discussion. I feel that I have been respectful and have already acknowledged and apologized for when I have not been. So I'm not sure why you keep talking about how important respect is unless you found my last post offensive. I don't think anything I said in my last post was disrespectful and if you did find it to be untactful, I expect that you will also find this one to be hostile. So I want to say that I haven't meant any offense in anything that I've said in this post. I am just stating my opinions as gently as I can while still getting my point across. After all, the whole point of this blog was to get a dialog going, and I believe I have given you a great opportunity to express your opinions as well as you have given me an opportunity to express mine.

    Okay, I am throughly exhausted.

  16. This was fantastic. Thanks everyone who shared their thoughts on the "why" questions. Great!