Part 4:

 

 


 

Is it possible that you could ever reach the point where you'd step back, look at the big picture, and perhaps think that maybe you were wrong in your belief in the historical accuracy of Christianity, that there's some other explanation even though perhaps you'll never know it, but that even if you don't know the real answers you know enough to know that the answers suggested by Christians simply can't possibly be true?  Isn't it possible that by looking at the big picture, you might once again question whether all those answers to prayer and patterns that you see might be the result of your looking for something you expect to find, and creating the connections to fit the facts?

 

It is the big picture that is the most reinforcing structure in the cognitive aspects of this worldview, for me. At a purely cognitive level--apart from lived experience--all that has to be necessary to have adequate warrant to "believe" in the truthfulness of the core Christian position is this: 51% or more of the "areas of discussion" have to have "51% or more" of the data to support the position (assuming all areas have the same weight). That's all--a majority of a majority--not everything perfect, not every question answered, not every problem resolved…

 

Let me explain a little. In the piece I wrote on "Faith is simpler than it looks…" I mention some 40-50 arguments that are used by people to support the intellectual veracity of the faith. And, I give an example of a hypothetical court case, in which 'small pieces' of data 'intersected' to make an adequate case for conviction. If more than half of the 40-50 arguments, are more-than-halfway convincing (not 'compelling' at 100%), then the position is epistemically warranted. My study of the various arguments have led me to believe that this indeed is the case, and therefore I 'feel' warranted (cognitively and epistemically) in accepting its truthfulness.

 

This means, of course, that there can be TONS of difficulties in the system (as there are in ALL systems), but that these will only affect my 'confidence level' at any given moment. To throw out the entire system, when I find ONE area that cannot be explained satisfactorily, requires me then to construct alternate explanations for the 'majority data', and these are the ones that have proven most resistance to reinterpretation for me.

 

  1. I simply cannot make myself believe the resurrection story is simply false. I KNOW all the arguments against it, but they carry less believability and demonstrability (IMO) in this case, from what I know about historical science. They predict LESS of the 'historical residue' in the text and in history than does the evangelical understanding of that data.

 

  1. I simply cannot make myself believe that the post-resurrection appearances were simply nonexistent or ambiguous. I KNOW all the alternative positions, but they explain LESS of the data of history and the nature of the historical texts than does the evangelical understanding of that data.

 

  1. I simply cannot explain away several of the predictive prophecy texts in the OT. I KNOW all of the arguments against them, but I consider the arguments much more speculative that even the straightforward understanding of the prophecy/fulfillment data.

 

  1. I am unable to 'demote Jesus' to some pre-Gospel, non-troublemaker, non-claimant to VERY high authority. His words shook the world, and biblical and historical studies are authenticating more and more of those (against the backdrop of the more skeptical climate of 50 years ago). The alternate explanations of 'why he said' those bizarre things are just too incongruent with the events and impact of His life.

 

  1. I cannot find an alternate understanding of the 'shock value' and persuasive power of this message, to the Roman empire. The adoption rates and social impacts of the early church suggest something para-historical about those events. Comparisons with other 'miracle workers' of the day may this even MORE obvious to me: the difference in impact and the different in the 'density' of the data radically separates the two categories.

 

  1. I cannot find a 'comfortable' way to de-spiritualize or naturalize the almost ridiculous gratuity of color, beauty, tastes, sensory joys, family hyper-affection--most of  which would be considered 'gross waste' or 'overkill' in naturalistic explanations of the robust pleasurable experiences of humans.

 

  1. I cannot find a better explanation for the hardwiring of humans for transcendental beliefs (e.g. spirits, gods, ethics)--they just don't seem to add enough (or any) 'survival value' to us, for them  to be seen as purely 'naturalistic' mutations.

 

  1. I cannot find a better explanation for observed phenomena of spirits and consciousness than radical non-naturalism, and the data from various scientific disciplines is beginning to 'de-naturalize' our older 'closed' Newtonian machine…

 

  1. I could go on, but you get the drift…Each of these areas are STILL areas of research for me. There are still questions and doubts and unknowns, but as a group, they are still much more 'naturally' explained or understood by a simple belief in the core message as contained in the bible.

 

Also, I haven’t found a SINGLE argument for the Christian faith that "could not possibly be true"…Even the softer claim of "could possibly not be true" only surfaces a couple of possibilities for me--none of which I have actually SEEN shown to be 'not true' (e.g., possible candidates for 'possibly not true' would include--at different times (smile)--Anselm's ontological argument, some 'hardwired' arguments).

 

 

And the 'wait--we might find something else' position I have already dealt with at length above…If I lived as a contemporary with Plutarch perhaps I would be more open to this, but as a Miller, I would probably be too busy trying to eke out a living instead of thinking about these sorts of things…(smile)

 

And of course, this is the only the cognitive arena…and it is the personal experience that is generally dominant and determinative for most long-term followers of the Lord…

 

I have been a follower of Jesus now for over 30 years, having asked Him into my life at the age of 19. There has never been a time when my mind was not full of questions, nor do I ever expect there to be one…but the questions are largely ones of how to live and love, how to understand my experience versus others, how to become more open and teachable and gracious and gentle…and the such like…

 

The reality of the living Lord in my life makes all the cognitive apologetics-type questions 'interesting', and perhaps needful for those being eaten alive by them (like I have been frequently in my spiritual life), but they  are strangely personally irrelevant now…

 

There is a famous phrase about Christian learning: "faith seeking understanding". To this I might add another one" "experience seeking understanding"…

 

I remember the first time I REALLY saw the import of the question in John 14: Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

 

Somehow, God was going to manifest His life in my history in a way that would be almost 'indistinguishable' from 'natural' phenomena in MY life (i.e., I would recognize it, but the 'world' couldn't see it--even though I pointed and pointed to it). That God was going to not 'supernaturalize me' per se, but 'authenticize' me, to reach the highest 'naturalization' of me possible. I have seen this over the years, that as I grow in my experience of God, I become more 'human' in a good sense (Paul calls this the 'new man' re-created in the image of God). I become less other-worldy and less 'detached from suffering' and less 'withdrawn from the world'. I seem more alive to those around me, I laugh louder, I weep more deeply…but my face doesn’t glow like Moses and I am not surrounded by miracles and my life is filled with the same tragedies and treacheries faced by all (and by Jesus, during the days of His flesh)…I work my hands in wood, and I carry a cross everywhere I go…

 

As I see God more, people see the 'new me' more…but it doesn't look 'supernatural' as such…it might show how a person can reach higher and better, and leave behind destructive and hopeless habits and perspectives of the past (I think of people I know who have experienced 'dramatic' liberation from alcoholism, drug dependence, addictive behaviors--and who only then achieve 'natural joys and life')…

 

The evidence of the supernatural IN my life (to me) might be answered prayers, patterns of providence, numinous experiences, unexpected feelings of comfort or encouragement, victory over stubborn habits or character traits, ability to let people into my life more, and transforming insights from God's Word. But the evidence of the supernatural THROUGH my life (to others) might be that I seem to have 'matured' to higher levels of 'human' love, graciousness, humility, and sensitivity…Or perhaps when I tell them that Jesus can bring life into THEIR life, they won't have a reason to mistrust me or think me deranged…If they would ask me 'how' my life has "climbed higher", I personally would have to say 'from living with my Lord'…He 'rubs off' on those who "hang out" with Him…

 

There was a time when I thought these good changes in my character were simple maturation or mellowing processes, but when I began analyzing it, I realized that this would mean that most people NEVER mature or mellow…I see plenty of cases of hardening and stubbornness and withdrawal, but not as many cases of 'growing in graciousness' and/or increased involvement in personal learning/transformation and/or becoming less judgmental, as I would expect under a 'naturalistic' explanation…

 

So, the experience of God over the decades has just 'soaked in' and so now, at least some of the intellectual questions border on the irrelevant…

 

It would be sorta like trying to take objections to the historical existence of my mother seriously today…I can think of a half a dozen ways people could try to prove my mother never existed (Mother-mythers, I guess I would call them…chuckle) or get me to doubt my memory of her (or even my present experience of her over the phone)…but my experiences with her over the years--even though possibly modified by time--creates a personal certainty that would be unaffected by arguments of possibly misplaced birth records, faulty memories, psychological projections, hallucinations, impostors, fraud(!)…each memory could be challenged for 'independent evidence' or  objections raised about 'disagreements' with other memories…stories gathered from my siblings could be used to 'discredit' my testimony, since there would invariably be "discrepancies" in our memories of the past…

 

There is a 'data density' about the experiences that somehow creates a depth of confidence that reaches to 100% certainty.

 

Could I be accused of being 'close minded' for not being "open to the possibility that I might be WRONG about my decades of experience with my mother"? Only by an fool…

 

But I digress…

 

 

 

The fact that you seem certain of things and seem to have a "victorious" Christian experience, and that other Christians write to you with all their problems to solve, suggests to me that it's YOU who are doing something right (whatever it may be, and it may not be what you THINK you are doing), while they are doing said thing wrong, and that no supernatural influence whatever is involved.  A supernatural influence would be suggested by a more uniform Christian experience.  I would think that if there truly were something supernatural about Christian experience, it wouldn't matter if people "did it right" ‑‑ they'd ALL be "victorious" Christians, because GOD would be acting through them.

 

 

Several points here:

 

First, on the Tank, people don’t generally write to me with their 'problems' per se, but with their questions. And the questions they send are typically 'intellectual' ones, dealing with issues of history, philosophy, theology and such. This is not so much a measure of my 'success' (!), but of the focus and interest of the Tank. People send their marriage problems elsewhere, their car problems somewhere else, and their challenges with getting Perl scripts to run correctly yet elsewhere. So, the readership I draw is more about the subject matter and about the way I analyze things, rather than any 'victorious' Christian life.

 

Secondly, the biblical view of believers is that we are all supposed to be different. To use the Pauline image, one is to be an eye, one a foot, and one an earlobe. Some are to be teachers, some are to be counselors, some are to be admins, and some are to be 'encouragers'. These are very diverse roles, demanding very diverse skills and temperaments, so I don't see any real reason to postulate a uniform (visible) experience in developing and using those abilities, in service to others. [God likes diversity and robustness.]

 

Thirdly, at a biblical level, these believers actually DO have a "uniform experience", but only at a high level of generality--Their character is growing into analogical conformity to the character of Jesus. They all experience growth, failure, frustration, pedagogy, insight, discipline, renewal, embarrassment, and persecution. Theologically, its called 'progressive sanctification'--becoming 'different in a beautiful sense' from 'normal' humans--and every "aware" believer can tell you stories of what lessons God has taught them over their life (some very painfully, some easily, some slowly). But since the ways this is done vary from person-to-person and lesson-to-lesson and mood-to-mood, I would NOT expect the process to look uniform to ANYONE. The fact that the believer experiences this--over time--as being from God is the single unifying aspect of it.

 

Fourthly, the Christian life is a realistic one. The bible tells us that it can be full of frustration (e.g. over our personal lack of growth), anxiety (e.g. over our friends or our own circumstances), and suffering (e.g., grief, persecution). At any given moment, no two lives look alike, I would guess, and nor would a period of difficulty or challenge be representative of the entirety of one's life with the Lord. Pockets of non-victorious experience are "allowed" in for various reasons, but these don't make the Christian a 'loser' or different from other Christians currently experiencing 'victory' in visible aspects of their lives. [Another way to put this might be that it is not always obvious which experiences are 'victorious' or not: is the deep humility after failure, leading to a closer experience of God's forgiveness, acceptance, and restoration a 'non-victorious' experience? This notion of 'uniform' might not be clear enough for us to use here, actually.]

 

Fifth, and more importantly, God's stated goal for our lives (experienced progressively and in 'waves') is summarized in Galatians 5.22-23:

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control

 

Notice the last one: self-control. The scriptures describe one of our MAJOR problems as being addicted to or 'enslaved' to various elements of human experience: arrogance, deception, selfishness, destructive habits, dead religion, cold-heartedness etc. We were created to be 'autonomous' (so to speak), but cannot manage to be such! A life walking with God brings increasing freedom to our lives, and increasing ability to 'master ourselves' and make TRULY free choices. God interacts with us as truly personal agents, and the texture of our life will be as varied as our own choices and selves are at any given moment. Growth and development occurs in many different areas and different ways, but our personal exercise of progressive freedom radically impacts this. This would imply that Christian experience would NOT be uniform at all.

 

So, while there are DEFINITELY some predictable and ubiquitous elements in the lives of believers, I cannot see any real reason to expect any 'surface' uniformity at all--especially not in the kinds of questions they have, or send in to the Thinktank, friend.

 

 

 

 

It strikes me again and again that most Christians are better than their religion.  The Christ that you and many other admirable people portray is created by filling in the blanks in the New Testament.  The Inquisitors created a different Christ, based on the same records, filling in different things in the blanks.

 

I am not sure what you mean by 'their religion', but if you are comparing evangelical believers ("Christians") with the Inquisitors ("their religion"?), I suspect you are correct…but  I get the impression from your brief statement that you believe we "construct" a "good Jesus" because WE are good, instead of the way we normally talk about it--"we become good, because the good Jesus re-constructs US"…

 

Like Paul in the NT, we KNOW what we were like before we met Jesus, and we KNOW what has changed since then. We have a 'before' photo, and an 'after' photo, and a "process" we tried to follow…The "process" involved similar steps we would use in asking others for outside help: we recognized our need for change, we recognized that our own attempts had produced inadequate results, we went to a credible source (with a long, long list of successful clients and references--some we knew ourselves!), we described the 'bad symptoms', we asked for help from the expert/authority, He explained the underlying problem to give us insight and truth, we humbled ourselves to 'listen to instruction' and 'follow His treatment instructions', and then we continued feedback/evaluation/change loops…

 

For many, this was done in a simple reading an internal response to the single verse of John 3.16:

 

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only and unique Son, what whoever placed their trust in Him would not perish, but have eternal life."

 

or (my water-downed version…)

 

"For God so loved all of us, that He gave His one and only Son Jesus, that whoever placed their trust in Him for their 'rescue', welfare, and help,  would not continue on in a life dominated by defeat, destructive patterns, and addictive deceptions--leading to complete and irreversible character decay, but rather would begin to experience renewal, transformation, thawing of heart, expanding horizons of beauty and grace--leading to complete and irreversible character fulfillment. " [My unpacked/paraphrase version…]

 

This is not rocket science, but rather simple honest 'asking for help' and accepting help--on the treatment terms of the Helper, and trusting His experience and superior wisdom/knowledge…With earthly helpers, we don't have to ask him for transcripts of his educational background (and then go verify these, and interview his professors, and ask about how many cases of records tampering have occurred in the history of the Registrar), we don’t have to analyze why some people didn't follow through on the Treatment program, nor do we have to have every successful patient psychoanalyzed and polygraphed to make sure they aren’t Kooks/Quacks or deliberate Frauds--in league with the Practitioner. Some of the  people we know (or at least 'strongly believe') to be trustworthy, and if they say that the only thing that changed between the 'before photo' and the 'after photo' was the invitation to Jesus to come into their life--and this story is repeated by countless others--what possible grounds do we have for rationally rejecting their claims (other than 'placebo' effects, which we will discuss below) that this event/process led to the 'improved results'.

 

I don't have to understand the ins-and-outs of how medical techniques work on my body, to be able to testify that they did work. I have "photos" before and after, and a step I took in between. There is no rational reason to deny my testimony that the medical procedure "made the difference". When the only variable that changed was the treatment variable, there is no reason to theorize (much less, warrant to believe!)  that some 'unrecognized' variable changed too and created the medical cure…

 

It's simply unreasonable to ask me to explain/demonstrate/prove 'how' Christ worked inside my heart/mind to change it, or 'how' He grew peace within my heart, or 'how' He let the feeling of strengthening comfort grow inside my heart during bereavement. I can't explain adequately how I can will to move my fingers, either…I can't explain how 'discovery' occurs in my brain as I work…I can't explain how countless other things work…And in many case, dealing with human mind, neither can the professionals.

 

And to say that it’s a powerful case of 'wishful thinking', invoking perhaps concepts of placebo effects, is to explain the obscure by the more obscure. We have NO IDEA how placebo effects (and other psychosomatic effects) work, and the same is true for many, many psychiatric treatments and most of anesthesiology (and related psychoactive pharmacology). Practitioners use the techniques because 'they produce results'…To argue with a psychiatrist that since we cannot prove unconscious mentation, therefore treatments based on that concept cannot be said to be the 'cause' of a patient's improvement, would be absurd, and  might be looked on as evidence of a mental disorder itself!

 

The assumption that I do not have adequate warrant to believe that the intervening event (i.e., opening my life up to Jesus and asking for His involvement and remediation) was the central and catalytic  force/influence in changing the 'before' into the 'after' is just that--an assumption.

 

Think about that assumption for a moment. How would you defend such an assumption? It couldn’t be defended on the basis that I could not specify the 'mechanism' of successful change--for that occurs in all/most of my medical treatments (I typically don’t know the 'mechanism' except in the most general of terms (e.g. 'it helps the white blood cells eat more of the bad germs'…?). The only possible evidence you could advance for this would be cases in which I had made such a mistake prior to this situation, and then you would have to show why such a mistake would not only be possible AND likely to have been made again, BUT ALSO would have to give some kind of 'argument' that it ACTUALLY DID occur. [Plus you have to come up with some alternative naturalistic explanation of the whole process, and a 'retreat' to "I cannot explain it, but there MUST be a better explanation using the known laws of nature" won't work here either, for reasons we have already discussed…] And, even though there might be other humans who did this 'process' and then decided later that their experience was bogus (e.g., ex-tians?), there is no warrant for generalizing from a minority experience onto the rest of the population! One would be more justified (statistically speaking) to study and identify why that smaller group had 'failures' rather that performing the invalid induction to an assumption that the much larger group had concealed and ignored their failures (in spite of recognition by others that their lives had dramatically and 'surprisingly' improved) over the course of entire lifetimes…(smile).

 

Now, about us 'creating Christ' by  the 'filling in the blanks'…

 

How one 'constructs' a Christology is NOT as arbitrary and 'un-tethered' a process as your brief statement might suggest!

 

(And, just to clear up a possible misunderstanding, the Inquisition theology was based on soteriology, not on Christology…it was NOT a 'view of Christ' that led to that at all…)

 

This is a complex subject, and something a believer works through all his/her life…getting to know Jesus better and better, more clearly and more forcefully, over time…but I will at least mention a couple of the items that make it much more 'objective' of a process that might be inferred from your statement…

 

I remember as a young seminary student, reading a book on the subject of 'competing Christologies'. The book devoted each chapter to a variant Christology (e.g., traditional, Marxist, Hindu). Since that time, I have read other such books contrasting Jesus the Wandering Cynic Philosopher, the Mystic, the Political Revolutionary, the Rabbi, the Shaman, the Apocalyptic Visionary, the Charismatic Miracle-Worker, the Sage…

 

The competing views tend to have two characteristics:

 

  1. Some throw out passages that don't fit their model (as being 'later interpolations' or whatever) [this is bad historical procedure]

 

  1. Each weights more heavily some passage(s) than ALL the other passages in constructing their model of 'who Jesus was' [this is okay historical procedure, as a starting point, as long as it doesn’t lead to #1]

 

For example, the "Jesus as Rabbi" model would emphasize Jesus' rabbinical argument forms (and discipleship methods), whereas "Jesus the Shaman" would emphasize his exorcisms and selected healings. The "Apocalyptic Jesus" would be "discovered" in his prophetic passages, and the "Jesus as Sage" in his more 'proverbs like' statements and wisdom-type observations about the lilies and the birds…

 

But, practically speaking, these are not as divergent at a practical level as one might suppose. Many of the strongest advocates of each position are probably 'right in what they affirm, but wrong in what they deny'. The narrative documents that come down to us about Jesus, plus the interpretative ones by His intimate followers, portray Jesus in all of these ways, but varying by situation and needs. He had all of these roles, just as traditional theology has recognized Him as 'prophet, priest, and king'…As long as a particular model of Jesus is able to include the other views somehow in its model (similar to how scientific or historical theories MUST be able to 'explain' and accommodate peripheral or even dissonant data), these can be useful as heuristic tools and interpretative grids for casting light on specific words/actions of our Lord.

 

These categories should also be recognized as being those of scholars, not us normal folk.

 

Normal believers, who already know Jesus through the bible and interactions in history, call Him by scriptural names--"Lord", "Christ", "Savior", etc…for it is from those documents that much of the structuring of our "profile" of Him occurs. Believers all over the world and all over time share a basic understanding and experience of Jesus--as Lord/leader, as teacher, as friend, as companion, as comforter. This is a common experience of believers who relocate from one church to another, who discuss Jesus in chat rooms with other believers, and believers who "resonate" with writings about the Lord by other believers. There is a core 'shared' experience of Jesus which gives rise to a core shared 'description' of Him.

 

Our problem is not that there are large numbers of significant 'blanks' in the New Testament (requiring filling in before we can have an understanding of who Jesus was, what He said and did--compare the Criteria for Authenticity developed by NT scholars), but that the range and amount of data about our Lord is so wide and large. We have portraits of Him rebuking strongly--in 1st century Jewish 'in your face' forms--the religious elite. And we have portraits of his 'meekness and gentleness' before that elite as well. The events are seen in 'synoptic' perspective, and the impact of those events (and words) are given generally by Jesus himself--it is NOT left up to us to 'figure out' that His dying on the Cross was foreknown to him, and accepted by Him because of His love for people. It is NOT left up to us to 'figure out' that He 'came down' from heaven for this task, unlike every other human in the world. It is NOT left up to us to 'figure out' that the purpose of His coming was to make rescue and freedom and truth and immortality a practical possibility for everyone with a heart honest about their need…

 

Christians can draw literary portraits or literary metaphors of Jesus, like the Singer (Calvin Miller), Six Hours One Friday (Lucado), Aslan in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Beggar King (Dan Hamilton) and readers delight to recognize the same precious Heart of their experience in those portraits…This IS one "uniform experience" in a believer's life--"My sheep know My voice…"

 

 

 

 

 

But ‑‑ I've digressed into the question of whether the Bible is "the inspired Word of God", and I didn't really intend to go there.  As I said before, I could probably accept some form of Christianity while regarding the Old and New Testaments simply as historical documents, with no obligation upon me to try to force myself to approve of things I find morally repugnant.

 

 

Two quick points:

 

1. Most people don’t approach the Lord with highly developed theological views of scripture, and most don’t even think about issues of 'inspiration' for quite some time (if ever). The initial issue is always trying to 'see Jesus', having enough confidence in the portrayal of Jesus by the New Testament documents to assess His kindness (can we approach Him without fear of rejection?), trustworthiness (can we depend on His commitment to us?) and sufficiency-to-rescue (can He truly deliver on His promises?). Once one 'sees' this Jesus as loving, human and Savior, dead and risen, the issue becomes simply 'What will I do with Him?"…the first step is ALWAYS about the claims, trustworthiness, and genuineness of Jesus--not about the bible, Christian living, etc. I would caution you to deal with this central issue, instead of 'getting off track' and trying to tackle and  "solve" major theological, historical, and ethical issues…they will/may occupy much of your time LATER, but they will be useless to you in trying to initially establish a deeply experiential relationship with the Lord.

 

2. The 'moral repugnance' issue is a big more problematic, since you are having to navigate between two poles:  a foolish position that you are morally blameless and indeed, superior to God, and an equally foolish position that NONE of your moral intuitions are even remotely correct about things. As we have discussed above, God did invest the creature with moral notions and intuitions (although there is a great deal of plasticity in these…hence the difficulty of finding many absolutes between cultures), and God expects the creature to use these moral notions to (a) avoid doing evil; and (b) reacting to evil when found in community-destructive forms. At the same time, we have seen above that your condemnations of certain principles which you THOUGHT were biblical positions but which were NOT would have been false accusations against the Lord. Likewise, I have pointed out that our limited epistemic position (especially in areas of moral governance) can easily give rise to false inductions and lead us to false 'condemnations'. The appropriate response, for example, to a 'moral repugnancy' for a believer would be something more 'humble' along these lines:

 

"Lord, look at this passage here! My moral sense--which YOU put in me and which YOU are developing, correcting, and refining every day of our shared life--tells me something is very "wrong" here. I know you want me to use 'sound judgment' and not just 'appearances', so I need to study this situation more before I make "final" judgments about it. So I would like to ask you to guide my research, and give me insight into what is actually going on in this text/situation/saying, so that I don't make a superficial judgment. Also, thanks for my moral sensitivity, Lord, and help me 'use it on myself' today, to spot areas of my own life that need attention as well."

 

 

So, the appropriate attitude to situations like this involves:

 

 

 

 

Now, it has been my experience that there are TWO major errors here--one more often made by skeptics and one more often made by believers--which should be avoided:

 

  1. Seeing problems were there are none. That is, making superficial judgments about some situation being morally wrong. This is a frequent mistake made by skeptics. The use of the moral sensibility is laudable, but the fact that they don’t do adequate study--before making a judgment--is culpable ("He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame."  Prov 18.13).

 

  1. Ignoring even surface-level problems. That is, ignoring the moral sensibility when it 'complains' about a passage or situation. This is NOT the same as saying "this bothers me Lord, but I have reasons to trust that you will show me how everything works out okay" (a legitimate response of experienced faith), but is rather a case of Ostrich-faith ('bring some more sand--my head is not buried deep enough for this one"). This is a frequent mistake made by believers--sweeping the problem under the rug.

 

I personally have been guilty of both of these--repeatedly--in the past. I have often "seen problems" where there were none--and lived with doubt and guilt without even giving the data a chance to 'speak for itself'; and I have often 'ignored my moral sensibility' when passages 'cried out to me' for investigation. God has used the Tank in my life to teach me to do neither--to pay attention to my heart (or the hearts of others), delay judgment until I have surfaced all the background, options, issues, principles, etc, and then make a 'sound judgment' that allows both intellectual integrity and peace of conscience to be maintained.

 

So, whereas I do not want you to 'numb' your moral sense, I would encourage you to use it carefully, wisely, humbly, reflexively, and consistently.

 

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