Here was Adam's response...


Dear Glenn.

No one has ever before given me any kind of a non question-begging, non issue-evading, non circular reasoning type of answer to my question about why God does not give us proof. You were the only one to not only be sincere and dialectically (or syllogistically, or whatever word it is I'm trying to find) correct but also the only one to clarify (actually, to even make me aware of) the difference between epistemic and psychological certainty.

I realize now (from reading your response, from the Linguistic Wall and from the Self-Stultifying Arguments) that the kind of certainty I wish to get is impossible for me to receive and have any use of while maintaining an unaltered sensory system. I suppose I still prefer to have communion with God now the way I will in Heaven (therefore, after death, in a "resurrection body"), rather than the kind of communion and communication available for me now (did I just adopt a rude, inconsiderate and unappreciating attitude toward the provision of my God?); but, since this is impossible for the reasons found in the works referred to above, I suppose the only way for my wish to be fulfilled would be to die immediately after "conversion". And yet, God has reserved for me so much extra fun stuff to do here on earth, on top of eternal life in Heaven.

I also realize now that the impossibility of the realization of my wish (that is, my wish for certainty of the existence of God and of life after death) need not be of a mathematical nature (in fact it cannot be) for me to know that Jesus and the claims about him CANNOT BUT BE true.

So now I would like to ask you: What do I do now in order to eventually develop the psychological certainty I need? I know you mentioned the Bible as one possible source of divinely proscribed information (God's "family history"); you also mentioned the need christians have of one another, of community; and you also mentioned the need on my part to wait for the development of confidence (psycho-certainty) as I live the christian life and follow Jesus, and as I progressively begin to identify his work, love and presense being more and more tangible as opposed to just beautiful concepts.

Certain obstacles inhibit me from using the above-mentioned mechanisms, so I would like to ask your advice.

1) I think that I have identified certain elements which might demonstrate that certain passages in the Bible are definitely not divinely inspired because they are unfulfilled prophesy (whether literally or figuratively approached with regard to interpretation). Other passages seem to be clearly unethical. I may well be wrong on those counts, and I know that I haven't explained precisely what passages I have in mind and what my reasons are for rejecting them.

2) Other passages, we really cannot be certain that were divinely inspired (but we cannot be certain of the opposite either).

So, regarding which passages are the word of God and which are not, how do I study? How do I avoid the trap of looking for calculus type of certainties? How do I avoid the other extreme, the trap in which people fall when they just "pray that the Spirit will enlighten them", and then they proceed to believe whatever it is they say the Spirit told them (no matter how inaccurate at times)?

I've been a Bible student for the last 10 years, so I have an idea of schools of theological and philosophical thought, bibliographies (but certainly not as extensive a knowledge as yours, so please, keep the bibliography suggestions coming whenever you think they are in order). However, I need to study the word of God AS SUCH: the word of my loving Father; not necessarily and exclusively something I'll have to write a dissertation on. But in order to do that, I'll have to identify which the divinely inspired parts are; but I also need the Spirit's help on that; but charismatics, spiritualists, mormons, David Koresh and the like have also said (and BELIEVED) that they were divinely guided/appointed/inspired. How do I sort out what's genuine from what's not?

How do I make sure that my bias, wishful thinking, "sinful nature" (whatever) doesn't make me blinded (doesn't inhibit my discernment)?

Why should I place any trust on the Canon when Canonicity itself is questionable with regard to certainty and even integrity? (why, for example, should I believe that a book is the word of God just because a bunch of priests and laymen came together at Niece, Chalchedon and wherever else, in order to decide on such matters?)

3) With regard to community, I think you probably got an idea of how disappointed, distrustful, cynical and pessimistic I am about churches (and about people in general, since wishful thinking, arrogance, sp.> s&, $ ziness, need for attention and approbation, suppression of fears (burying heads in the sand), self-righteousness, hypocricy, and internal politics are most usually the norm within large groups of people) from my last email (the one titled "Name").

I am aware of (most of) my shortcomings. I'm not being arrogant. I know that it is by grace that I too have been saved. So I'm not scornful, only afraid (that is, mistrustful and cautious) of christians. The amount of hypocrisy, distortion, circular reasoning, double standard, spiritual bullying, narrow-mindedness (I can go on and on; regretably I can write MY name to the list of the perpetrators as well from time to time) that I have and do come across is PHENOMENAL. I thank the Lord for making his love enough of an incentive and teaching device for me to use in my attempt to tolerate and love (sincerely) such people. But how can I learn from them?

More importantly, how can I keep from getting corrupted? They, deliberately or not, appeal to the two most sought after items on a human being's agenda: our need for the attention of others (a remedy to loneliness and to the knowledge of our mortality) and our need for a firm ground ("certainty", stability, security etc). How can I maintain my sincerity and intellectual (let alone moral) integrity and not compromise them? (I think you get the general idea; I could tell you of encounters I've had with prominent members of christian communities in various places of the globe; I could reproduce conversations, and let you draw your own conclusions; but I don't think it's necessary).

If I read that Jesus rose from the dead or that the disciples were accused of stealing the body, or that Jesus performed a certain miracle in the middle of the Temple area during "rush hour" in front of hostile witnesses, I can feel confident that this is what really happened. But with other passages (like the ones about the Israelites in the desert and God's repeated and gracious intervention) I find myself saying, "ah, but DID this happen?". How do I sort out which is which...and how do I learn to reconcile myself with on of the most boring and at times hateful environments like churches and christian communities? Please understand, no disrespect or offense is meant. It's just the way I feel. Every fiber of my being is crying out for me to describe in detail the many many instances of lack of sincerity and integrity, and everything else I've encountered among christians (but, like I said, I won't). I don't believe that I was just unlucky; it's a trend: people become fat, complacent, arrogant and self-righteous. Add to that the need for purpose, attention and self- assurance, and you got the worst kind of propagandised crusaders.

You know Glenn, whenever I would ask someone I REALLY respected "Have you had an encounter with God? Can you guarantee that he exists? Will I live eternally and with God?", I would already have a doubt in the back of my head, no matter how much I respected that person. I'd inevitably say, "maybe even he cannot avoid wishful thinking and convincing himself of what he wishes to be true".

You are sincerely the first person I've come across whose word I can absolutely find enough for me (this is not a compliment, only a realization). I don't even have to ask you the question; I already got the answer in your response (these are your own words):

"The interesting thing about this discussion for me is how 'strange' the question seems to me now. My waking life is spent in vivid awareness of God's consciousness in my life. I am never aware of being away from Him--even in those occasinal moments when I wish to `flee from Him' --Psalm 139! I live in an incessant stream of in-audible dialogue with Him, in which His responses are increasingly obvious over time , and in which my sensitivity to His patterns of disclosure grows. I am not at all sure how this transpires, but I know that my invisible `Room-mate' is constantly leaving messages coded ONLY for my eyes: love notes, work assignments, instructions, moral comments, encouragement, rebukes, `directed readings'".
I wanna be able to say these things too. I am dying to be able to say these things too. Every word. I know that I believe you mean what you're saying; I know that you are not just trying to convince yourself.

What do I have to do?

Thank you, wholeheartedly, for everything.
Adam
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[My response.]


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