Jan 12, 2012

Where I Went from There

So we can get God wrong, and that without malice aforethought or Satan’s meddling. Such an obvious little thought in hindsight, but it took me a shocking number of years to come to it, and an even longer time to work through the implications. Partially at least because I didn’t want to: I had my little belief system and I wanted it to be true.

But no matter, I’m here now, and the obvious next question is before us: if we can get God wrong, then how can we be sure we’ve gotten God right?

As it turns out, you can’t.

Perhaps you have a holy book: welcome to the club. You think that your sect alone understands it correctly: so does every other. You have prophets--just like everyone else; you have convictions--just like everyone else; you have rituals, emotion and religious experiences--just like everyone else. Perhaps you even have reports that the laws of physics were violated somewhere outside the range of video recording devices: you are not alone.

I wanted to believe, so this was a grave problem: believe what? I was capable of looking at things from outside the perspective of the tradition that I happened to be raised in, and I asked the question: why should I accept that tradition over all others, apart from the fact that I was raised in it?*

I found that I didn't have an answer.

Protestants at least would say that we have the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit by which to distinguish between the true and the false, but this methodology proves flawed. The 'still, small voice' that I was always taught to listen for sounds terribly similar to my own subconscious talking--enough so that I confess myself unable to distinguish between the two. The intuitions that I had ascribed to the spirit were no more likely to be correct than those I knew to be my own, and were on occasion spectacularly wrong.

To which our Protestant would reply, as so many have, that this is a failure on my part. If my spiritual walk were in better order--so goes the theory--then I could avoid such problems, but this is untrue: men more spiritual than I have disagreed to the point of blows on matters more weighty than those on which I sought the council of the Spirit.

The assumption of good faith, applied to the barest fraction of the ten thousand squabbling theologians of the Christian tradition alone, categorically rules out the possibility that this problem is unique to me. No; their myriad contradictions mean that 99.99%--at a minimum--are either frauds and liars, or else have visibly encountered similar difficulties.

Thus, when William Lane Craig says that the Holy Spirit gives him a self-authenticating way of knowing that Christianity is true apart from the evidence, I have two problems: first, that the Holy Spirit has not seen fit to make any such revelation to me, and second that the “Holy Spirit” has "self-authenticatingly" confirmed in many a Muslim’s heart that there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.

*And apart from the fact that I liked it, or at least the little version of it that I had created for myself.

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