Sunday, January 10, 2016

An Unexpected Answer

I decided on the topic of my last blog post (A Frank Question) while listening to the worship band rehearse before Mercy's 8am service. It focused on the question:
Why should I believe in anything when there are tons of conflicting belief systems with no empirically 'correct' choice?
It wasn't until the service started that I learned that Jeff (Heidcamp) was preaching on Ecclesiastes 3:
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath[c]; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”  (From Bible Gateway, emphasis is mine).
I cannot shake the feeling that this was something more than coincidence. This is not the first time the preaching at Mercy has been unusually applicable1 to my life. By my count, it's at least the 6th2.

Rather than a direct answer, I believe it was (perplexingly) an affirmation of the question.

This apparent answer prompts a few more compelling questions:
  • How can I avoid confirmation bias when attempting to determine whether God influenced something in my life? Maybe Jeff and I both think gloomy thoughts in January?
  • If God is answering this way, why wasn't it a more direct answer? If He's all powerful, couldn't He just show up and tell me?

Again, I don't know the answers, but I liked Jeff's comment on Ecclesiastes:
If they were gutsy enough to put this in the bible, these people were serious

  1. I define "unusually applicable" to mean the sermon was on a topic which was uniquely applicable to my life that day and would not have been as applicable one week before or after.
  2. I have notes on each specific occurrence, but I don't want to share them in this format. If you know me personally, feel free to ask. 

A Frank Question

Sometimes the things I believe seem startlingly absurd. If we divide the realm of faith into the haves and have-nots, then I'm sitting in the same boat with Christians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Scientologists. Mathematics tells me that some large portion of the group is probably barking up the wrong tree, and I have as much hard evidence to back up my beliefs as anyone else.

This makes atheism look pretty appealing. Instead of being in a big messy group of the faithful, atheism elegantly stands apart, categorically rejecting anything which can't be empirically proven.

Why should I believe in anything when there are tons of conflicting belief systems with no empirically 'correct' choice?

I have answers to this question, but that doesn't prevent me from asking it over and over.  It's useful to dwell on the notion that I don't know a perfect answer; the notion that I could very well be wrong to believe in anything.

It reminds me that in everything I write and say about faith, I have no grounds to talk down to anyone.