I did want to get to these, but, like you said, I've been busy.
If you were to read the scriptures and pray to know if they're true, the evidence you receive in return would be faith.
I've done that. I spent several years doing that and I got nothing in return. In fact, I came to the conclusion it was complete baloney. Now what?
When you say "the evidence you receive in return", what exactly do you mean? Is it "well, I feel like god is talking to me"? Or do you mean actual evidence - plates of gold will appear, or jesus will manifest before me, or what?
I've been meaning to address the negative result. I hope this will answer jetson's question and a few others as well.
I'd like to first say that I am not in any way officially representing anything--the LDS church, Christianity as a whole, God, etc.--just myself. If you have studied and prayed for some period (a few weeks of diligent study I think is good) and you did so with the sincere intent to follow what you find, then you have satisfied your end of the bargain. At that point, it's God's obligation to demonstrate His existence to you. It's not your job to will yourself into believing. It's God's job to give you the knowledge that He exists. It takes time, but it doesn't require self-delusion. God's promise is that you will know He exists. I don't know exactly how he will show you.
My belief in God has built up slowly. I have had lots of experiences where the Holy Spirit guided me to good things. With few exceptions, any one of these experiences I could dismiss as a coincidence in isolation. But, taken together, they form a strong inductive "proof" that God exists, loves me, hears my prayers and knows how to lead me to happiness.
Correct me if you disagree, but I think that's a different definition of faith. Also valid, but not what we're discussing here. It is a slippery topic and I'm trying to stick to just one definition.
As I said, there are several meanings. That is why any discussion that involves "faith" is inherently a difficult one. I would like to eliminate the word altogether because it is so confusing. It is like the way the smurfs would use the word "smurf". All purpose and fits in where ever you need it to.
So if you would like to stick to one definition, great. I don't think you can do it though. You need different definitions. Part of being religious is employing Orwellian doublethink. You probably don't realize when you slip in and out of different definitions of faith. I won't yet get into how you also probably slip in and out of different definitions of god.
That's certainly unfair. I think I've done well sticking to one definition, but nobody's perfect (present company excepted). If you have objections to specific things I've said, I'd be glad to hear about it.
"If we presuppose a god that is all-powerful and wants us to be perfectly good and perfectly wise, why aren't we perfectly good and perfectly wise?"
That is a tough question, but not the one I was getting at.
Why is the criterion of judgment faith? Why not some other measure? Intelligence, knowledge, strength, whatever. Why faith? If, as you suggest, god is some kind of father to people, what kind of father would want its children to believe it exists and loves them without any any evidence of either? For what purpose?
This is what I'm trying to say in that blog post. Faith, meaning access to the evidence of things you can't see with your eyes, is critical because it empowers us to not only hear God's will for us, but to follow it. There is a story in the Book of Mormon about 4 brothers. One of them, Nephi, has great faith, meaning that he easily hears what God is saying even when he can't see it with his eyes. A few of the others, in particular the one named Laman, do not. Through several events, God gives commandments to do some hard things. Nephi follows. Laman resists. And God demonstrates his presence to then both in increasingly visible ways. But here's the lesson. Even after seeing great manifestations making the presence of God undeniable, Laman still does not obey. It's not his habit. When we learn something with our eyes, we sometimes follow that knowledge. But, when we learn something via the Holy Spirit, we are much more likely to obey because faith gives us power to obey. So, I submit that the reason god does not provide visible evidence of his presence is to make us listen to the Holy Spirit.
Consider this: whom does blind faith benefit?
A question well worth considering. There are plenty of people using concepts of god to get rich, oppress people and "grind the face of the poor"
. It's critical, when you begin tuning in to your spiritual sources of truth, that you don't turn off your brain
. I realize we're not talking about the Mormon church specifically here, but it's important to know that clergy in the Mormon church are not paid. When you go to a Mormon service
, the man running the meeting is a volunteer. So is everyone speaking and teaching. I think you'll agree it's a better way to run a church.
In the words of CS Lewis, "He cannot ravish, He can only woo."
Despite my namesake, I have more respect for Jerry Lewis than I do C.S.. He apparently never opened a bible. The Canaanite deity yhwh ravished as a matter of course. It is only in these modern days where we know lightning, earthquakes, floods, droughts and fertility are not the work of yhwh that he has retreated and hidden. Prior to our technological advancements, yhwh was a very hands on kind of god.
I realize now that was a quote from Screwtape himself. Someone else brought up the fact that miracles are more scarce these days, but I don't think that's necessarily true. We have a record of several hundred miracles in a few thousand years. That's not a high rate at all. Live baseball is going to seem a terrible bore if all you've ever done is watch Play of the Day on Sportscenter.
God expressed that we are the "offspring" of God.
Where did god do that? Are you sure it was god expressing that and not some guy who said it was god expressing that? If so, how can you be sure?
The reference is Acts 17:29
. We've been talking this whole time about how God communicates with us. Sometimes it's through the scriptures. The way to discover whether Luke was just making it up is to read Acts and pray for God to make the truth of it know to you. When you do so, make sure you really intend to follow what you read there. God will not answer a purely academic question.
You are God's son and he can't make of you what He wants without your consent.
Cannot or will not? A god that is not omnipotent is not God. It is merely a god. And what is that, really? Just some guy who has more power than us and lives a lot longer than us. Meh. I see not reason to grovel for that guy.
I really meant what I said and I'm not shy about saying that God cannot
wave a magic wand and make you perfect. You can decide whether or not its worth pursuing a God who treats you more like a son than a piece of clay.
Also, you missed these questions: What part of us is that? Define "spiritual". Define "spiritual truths" and give me examples.
I guess I'm using "spiritual" to mean the things that we learn through this alternate epistemology that I've been talking about. When you begin listening to God, you begin to notice the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is something you feel more than hear and it often accompanies hearing or reading truth about God or your relationship to Him. It's hard to describe. People have called it a "burning" in your "bosom." Paul said it is accompanied by love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, etc. But, it's something you have to learn to recognize and associate with truth. Do you think such a thing is possible?
What I mean to say is that God's goal for us is not just that we *know* truth, but that we *follow* truth. It happens quite often that I know I should act a certain way, even that it will make me happier, but I don't do it. I can't. God wants to help us get from knowing to doing. And, people are more able to follow the knowledge they gained through revelation from God than the knowledge they gain through seeing it with their eyes. Spiritual knowledge comes harder, but sticks better.
Supposing there is a god, and supposing there is no evidence of it (as you have already granted), how do we know what it wants? Your theory is that if you pray, with blind faith, you can have a great deal of certainty that god will give you "evidence", though what that evidence is we have not defined just yet.
But there are several problems with that. You say it wants one thing. I have heard lots of people say it wants other things that conflict with what you say. I heard 19 assholes thought it wanted them to fly airplanes into buildings a few years ago. I am pretty sure they were as certain about that as you are about your beliefs.
Let me give you an example that hits a little closer to home for you. Have you ever heard of Dan and Ron Lafferty?
These are very good reasons not to trust any belief system that requires you to listen without independent verification. I think you'll grant that, even without God, humans have found plenty of stupid reasons to do cruel and malicious things to one another. Here's an example.