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Faith and Imagination

I haven’t been blogging here for the last couple of days. Even though I only do network management/maintenance work part time, every so often I end up with full days away from my computer, and thus likely to write much less. I must confess that my market value in technical work (I have my own company) is substantially higher than as a writer or lecturer. Thus I keep doing it.

As always I was collecting ideas for blogging. I found the Rapture Ready site through Exploring Our Matrix, and my plan was to post something about my Revelation study guide on my company blog–and I still plan to do so. (How’s that for sneaking the commercial into the intro?)

So this is my “Sunday morning, I got up early enough for work, but have time before church” blog! What caught my attention as I worked my way through the Rapture Ready site was a paragraph on evolution, and even there it was not what it said about evolution, but what it says about faith and imagination that really caught my interest:

In my opinion, it takes less faith to believe that Almighty God created the earth in six days—He could have done it in six minutes if He chose to—than to believe that some cosmic explosion is responsible for the life and beauty all around us. The creation story is not in conflict with science; it is in conflict with any worldview in which God is absent. When I look at a newborn baby, I cannot imagine a big bang, but I can imagine a loving creator.

“It takes less faith . . .” I’ve heard that one plenty of times. Someone explains some ridiculous conception of origins, and then says that it takes more faith than believing whatever they believe about origins. Now whether you agree with me on the theory of evolution or not, I’d like you to consider whether that is an argument you’d like to use.

Is there some benefit somewhere in believing the thing that takes less faith? “1Now faith is the substantial nature of things we hope for, the clear conviction of things we don’t see.” — Hebrews 11:1, my translation. There are really two elements here, the first is faith and its value, and the second is “things we don’t see.” I’ll get to that in a moment.

Regarding faith, however, I have a second question. If you believe God did it, how can there be a difference in the amount of faith it requires to believe in a particular way in which God did it? Apparently for the author of the Rapture Ready web site, it is much easier to believe in a literal creation week. But somehow he finds the Big Bang difficult to comprehend. (Since I’m not really trying to debate evolution here, I’ll ignore the fact that the Big Bang is not a part of the theory of evolution, well, at least mostly ignore it.)

But if God could make the world in six minutes if he chose, why not six seconds? Why not a fraction of a second? Why not in no time at all? The point I’m trying to make is that if God is omnipotent, or something so close to it that we can’t tell the difference, then there is no difference in the probability that he might use any particular way. If I see a complex creation of human ingenuity, I will assume that it was assembled one part at a time in some logical order. That’s because humans are limited. But if I assume a device that can create whole machines instantly, I would no longer be able to look at an assembled machine and make such an assumption.

There are no probabilities with God. We can’t say, based solely on theology, what God can or can’t do. That’s what omnipotence is all about. So theologically it truly shouldn’t take any different amount of faith to believe that God accomplished his will through one means or another. God can do it in whatever manner he chose.

In addition, there is certainly no value in believing the thing that takes less faith. Bluntly for me the “low faith” option is to just accept that the world is, and not worry about its origins. I’m actually quite capable of doing that. Christians might ask if I’m not really defaulting to a “high faith” option of believing that everything came into existence by pure chance. No, I would not be. Some people seem to have problems with unanswered questions. I’m fine with saying, “Here’s the universe. I’m clueless as to why it’s here, but here it is.” It happens that my faith goes beyond that, but that’s another thing. Amongst the various ways in which God could have done it, I see no difference in the faith required to believe any particular one.

But then we get to imagination. I think spirituality requires some imagination. I don’t really know all that much about any spiritual realm. I frequently disappoint atheist or agnostic friends with my lack of effort to prove any of the things I believe–by faith. You see, they are “not seen” and I don’t try to pretend that they really are seen. So in that gap there is some room for imagination.

People have imagined things in the spiritual realm for millenia. Descriptions of angels and demons, of God’s home in heaven or the place of torment in hell, and all the various ways God accomplishes things–all these are products of imagination. I believe that there is a spiritual something–we often use “spiritual reality” but that sounds like an oxymoron to me–behind the things that I imagine, but I suspect (or imagine?) that what is, in a spiritual sense, is so much beyond my imagination that I would find it not only hard, but impossible to imagine. MercyMe may only be able to imagine (I love the song), but I can’t even do that.

I think these are two arguments that should be dropped from our vocabulary. We can’t measure the faith required to believe God did things a particular way, because he is equally capable of using any way he chooses. If we could measure the faith, there is no reason to believe that the means requiring less faith would be better. Our imaginations aren’t the measure of what is true or what is possible. We can only imagine, and we do it poorly.

I have faith because, well, I just do. I imagine because it’s a great joy to do so. Neither prove anything.

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  1. Ed T says:

    Rapture Ready, wow. I’ve been to that site and found it very depressing. So many of the posters their seem to be living such sad lives that they wish for the end of the world to take their pain away.

    1. Yes, there’s a mention on the site of someone who wanted to commit suicide because he thought the rapture had passed and he was left behind. It’s an approach to interpretation that is totally foreign to me.

      I commented a bit on it here on my company blog.

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