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A recent blog post of mine was the beginning of an online exchange between myself and a friend and coworker, Marcelo.  Marcelo and I disagree on the subject of God’s existence, he being a naturalist while I’m a Christian.  But we also enjoy a good, reasonable discussion, and thought that even if we don’t end up changing each other’s beliefs in the matter, it could be a mentally stimulating exercise that could broaden both of our perspectives.  If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to follow along on my site and on his.  The following is in response to his post linked below.

Response to “Religious Worldview: It Doesn’t Suit Me

Marcelo wrote: One set of rules tells me that questioning is bad and that I’ll go to hell if I even think about questioning it. The other one tells me that if I question the rules and find something interesting, I may even get a prize for it and perhaps be recognized in history as a smart person. It also doesn’t require me to “believe” anything, for everything is discoverable. If I want, I can try to prove it all by myself, and unless I make a mistake, or find an error in their rules, I’ll arrive to the same conclusions. Needless to say, I’d rather spend 60 years trying to understand the Big Bang than reading a story that must not be tampered with, or I’ll forever roast in a pit of lava while others rejoice.

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As an engineer, I work with a lot of smart people who are logically- and scientifically-minded.  I share this perspective, so it makes for a comfortable and enjoyable environment for me.  However, many at my workplace and in the larger scientific community hold to a naturalistic worldview akin to that espoused by its more vocal proselyte, Richard Dawkins.  While I do not intend in this post to present a complete rebuttal to this perspective, I do want to explain how I, a self-considered “reasonable” man, can be both a devout Christian and an honest lover of science.  I’ve already presented much of this in a video series that I’m almost done uploading (ran into a snag with Blip.tv and I’m migrating to Vimeo), so feel free to check it out.  But I thought it’d be valuable to give a more succinct summary in writing.  I considered writing an original post, but then read through an exchange I had with an atheist friend of mine a while back, and thought I’d just post it.  I’ve paraphrased his comments so as not to reprint them without permission.

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Love & Freedom

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My church group is studying “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller.  This week’s chapter was on the perception that Christianity is a “straitjacket” that compromises our freedom.  Keller’s conclusion is excellent:

“What then is the moral-spiritual reality we must acknowledge to thrive?  What is the environment that liberates us if we confine ourselves to it, like water liberates the fish?  Love.  Love is the most liberating freedom-loss of all.

“One of the principles of love – either love for a friend or romantic love – is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy.  If you want the “freedoms” of love – the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings – you must limit your freedom in many ways.  You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life.  To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.  [...]

“A love relationship limits your personal options.  Again we are confronted with the complexity of the concept of “freedom.”  Human beings are most free and alive in relationships of love.  We only become ourselves in love, and yet healthy love relationships involve mutual, unselfish service, a mutual loss of independence.  C.S. Lewis puts it eloquently:

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I’ve begun reading Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God at the recommendation of a pastor friend of mine.  The following excerpt from the introduction describes exactly the viewpoint I’ve come to consider to be profoundly important for our society.  I honestly believe that the failure to take this approach in forming one’s beliefs is one of the greatest problems facing Americans today.  It affects how we interact with and respect one another, and how we determine those beliefs upon which our worldview is based.

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation, such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt.

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Tonight at the Bible study I attend, the issue of abortion came up.  Our brief discussion inspired me to expand upon some points I made in a post a year ago, which led to a valuable exchange with some friends in the comments: read it here.

I won’t reiterate that entire post, but our conversation tonight reinforced my opinion that the pulpit really isn’t the right place to address this topic.  The moment the church starts making a religious issue out of abortion, we’ve conceded the idea that it is a judgment call that’s determined by personal beliefs.  If being pro-life garners its mandate from a religious movement, its adoption will be largely limited to that sphere.  This approach often leads to debating abortion on an emotional level with women who either wish to assert their feminine rights, or defend their decision in light of the motherly hardships they’d have to endure without the presence of a committed husband/father.  While I feel for the women in these situations, debating the issue in this way is completely beside the point and, again, implies that it is still a personal judgment call.

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