Some Thoughts on Faith From Our Friend Phil

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Today we are excited to be able to welcome our friend Phil Pennington as a guest poster. Phil is someone that Chris & I have known for a really long time and whom we introduced to Trevor a number of years ago. catknifefightHe’s one of the most genuine and intelligent people we know as well as one of the funniest. He’s someone who will send you random pictures of cats knife fighting simply because he thinks it’s funny. Yep, he’s THAT guy. When we started talking about a series on faith, Phil is a voice I immediately thought would add to our conversation because of the journey he’s been on in recent years. He is an honest thinker and yes, an agnostic atheist. Although to know Phil is to understand that label is way too restricting to describe him. So we are excited for you to read his thoughts here because he offers a unique perspective. If you’d like to ask him any questions or send some love his way, we encourage you to do so in the comments. I’m sure he’s more than willing to respond and engage because he’s an awesome guy. Thanks for doing this, Phil. We love you, man. — Allen

If you don’t know me, my name is Phil. I was a Christian for most of my life until about 4 years ago when I began to identify as an agnostic atheist. I know that there can be some baggage that comes attached to those particular labels, but I am still content to own them. I am not here to claim a superior world view or denigrate the beliefs of others. I am simply here to tell part of my story, and be a part of some healthy dialogue.

It is difficult to have a conversation about why someone chooses one particular belief system or another. Typically their reasons are numerous and the rationale behind them can have many layers. But what we can do is have discussions about certain aspects of our world views and how we arrived at those conclusions. It is through these exchanges that we begin to find common ground. When we do this we start to care about each other in a way that is more personal, because we begin to see ourselves in the individual sitting across from us.

“Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.” Hebrews 11:1 (ISV)

Then the author of Hebrews goes on to express that only through faith can a person understand the fantastic circumstances in which God created time and space. A whole chapter dedicated to the importance of a faith that allowed people to avoid physical death, overcome worldwide floods, and become the unlikely father to nations. Faith helped inferior forces route superior armies, the mortal to raise the dead, and martyrs to calmly accept horrific fates knowing that there was more to come after this life.

It was a call for the Christians of that time to stand up and boldly join the ranks of the most storied heroes of their traditions. It tied the Old Testament to the new covenant and brought everything full circle. All that was required to take seat alongside these legendary men and women was faith.

This used to be my favorite part of the Bible, but things have changed. Where I used to see a call to arms, now I see a reminder of why I do not call myself a Christian today. Because it seems that I lack the most essential ingredient that is required for Christianity, and that is Faith.

No matter what particular theology you happen to hold about who God is or how we are supposed to relate to Him, those thought processes never occur without a foundation of faith. What I found to be true about myself, is that I had completely taken faith for granted. I had paid faith lip service. When something good happened, I had faith that God was the one orchestrating events. When something bad happened, I had faith that God worked in mysterious ways. If I found scientific information that contradicted the infallibility of the Bible, I simply ignored it and credited the victory to my faith.

This was a bullet proof way to approach life and it allowed me to have the right answer for every scenario. Faith was my “get out of thinking free” card, and I played it quite often. But like any holes in our reasoning, with enough time and opportunity, they become exposed. A shallow faith can only keep doubt at bay for so long. Some people can avoid pulling at that thread for their whole lives, but I am not one of those people. I like having answers. I like knowing that what I am trying to sell to others is real. The more life I lived, the more questions I asked. The more I asked, the less I found myself able to accept the idea that there were questions to which faith would be my only answer.

The Bible is a hard book to read without having faith. The accounts of creation and the flood found in Genesis require faith that the Bible is more accurate than the efforts of science. Stories of God allowing the death of Job’s children, killing the innocent Egyptian first born, and demanding the genocide of the Amalekites are hard to reconcile without faith in God’s goodness. Talking donkeys, giant Nephilim, long-haired judges with super strength; these are all fantastic stories that require faith if they are believed to be historically accurate. And that is just the Old Testament. Jesus jumps on the scene through a virgin birth and we see miracles, the dead risen, divine revelation, and ascensions to heaven. If these things are not true and did not really happen, then where is the authority behind Christ’s call for us to follow Him? The Bible is how I knew who God was and what he was about. The Bible was the foundation of my faith. When my ability to trust the Bible was compromised, my faith followed soon after.

So here I am, a man without faith. I have no regrets about where I have ended up, because I know my journey began and continues with a desire to be honest about who I really am and what it is that I actually believe. I know that there are many out there who have had similar journeys and have come away with faith intact and strengthened. I also know that there are many who followed their doubt into a world without faith or God. But what I am sure of more than anything is that there are those out there who are just like I was and take faith for granted. To those I would say that it is time to trust yourself and dive into those difficult questions. You will either come away with a stronger belief or you will come away unburdened from a faith that you never really owned in the first place.

Thank you Allen, Trevor, and Chris for allowing me to share the margin you have created for these types of discussions. Thank you for not excluding me from your community, just because I approach the world a little differently than you. It means the world to me.

I love respectful dialogue and feedback, so feel free to comment and I will answer any questions that you may have.

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30 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Faith From Our Friend Phil

  1. Are you single or married? I appreciate your personal journey but if you married your wife as a Christian, how did this change your relationship with her? Do you have any children and how does this affect them? Was there “one event” that led to this change in thinking about your faith or was it a gradual process? Are you open to welcoming faith back into your life in the future? Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Great questions, this may be a lengthy reply 🙂

      I am married with 2 boys. My wife is a Christian and we have been married for 15 years. For 12 of those years I was a Christian. While it was very difficult to navigate such a change it was one of the best things to happen to us because it forced us to stop taking each other for granted. We had to communicate our desires for our sons and realize the heavy responsibility that lays in assigning a particular set of beliefs to your children. My wife knows my heart, and I know hers. No one loves me or my sons like her, so I try to let my world view grow beyond the talking points of people like Richard Dawkins and try to find that common ground (which is why I love authors like Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans). She does the same for me.

      I think it was an accumulation of events as well as the fact that I am a skeptical person by nature. I remember being 7 years old and telling my grandmother (who, along with my grandfather was a missionary) that the idea of Satan made no sense to me “Why doesn’t he just apologize” I asked her, I mean, the guy had the entire span of existence to realize he was wrong. But, anyway I remember really struggling with the idea of hell. How could God send people to an eternity of suffering for a finite lifetime of sin. I would not send my worst enemy to such an end, but how can I be more gracious than God. There was a point that I realized that I did not care what the Bible said, that I would never believe that God would send people to hell. That was the first crack in my foundation of faith in the Bible. Things fell apart frighteningly quick after that.

      I think that faith is hard to come back to once you have given it up. I do have faith in this sense. I believe that if there is a God, that he (for lack of a more definitive pronoun) would rather I honor my true beliefs than to simply fake it in an effort to gain favor, fit in, or avoid stigma.

      Thanks for your questions Emily, I hope I answered them with enough depth. Here is some common ground for us. The Bible says that God is the personification of truth and love. If I worship anything in this life, it is truth and love.

  2. Truth and Love = a great foundation we can both stand on!

    Emily is my daughter and I would worry about her if my husband and I did not share the same faith, or any faith at all, in your case. Can I ask, how do you explain the differences to your sons? If your son came to you one day and wanted to have a conversation about why you no longer believe but mom does, how would that conversation go/end?

    We all grow and change as we age but does your wife feel like she is married to a different person now? What I mean to say is, she probably looked to you as the spiritual leader of the family but now she has to take on that role. Because you decided to change, she now has to change as well. I hope her faith has been made even stronger because of this.

    Again, thank you for sharing. Thank you Allen, Trevor, and Chris for this perspective. How would the three of you respond to a blog post/friend like this?

    • Thanks for your engagement and graciousness here, Emily’s Mom. As to your question, the 3 of us may have some different responses, but I’ll give you a little of my perspective.

      1. Phil is a dear friend. Which means he is more than simply his beliefs. Too many times when we talk about faith or the Bible or belief, we talk about “issues” and end up talking past one another (I am grateful that you are not doing this!). So I begin here: I love Phil and he has been an important person in my life. So I want to hear and try to understand even when we disagree or it’s difficult.

      2. Faith is so much more difficult than it’s often talked about. I do believe that faith can be a spiritual gift. It comes easily for some people. But if you read my post from yesterday, you can see how it’s a struggle for me. Now, I’m rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ. But some of the things Phil mentioned in his post that bothered him about the Bible, Hell, etc also bother me. So we begin in a similar place. I think the difference ultimately is that my faith will not let me go. I see the world and simply cannot understand it in any way other than there is so much more going on that I cannot understand or comprehend.

      3. Phil & I actually have a lot more in common than not. We both have skeptical minds that can compete with faith. We share similar values and ideas about how the world should work. This may sound strange to many since I’m a Christian minister and he’s an agnostic atheist, but it’s true. We simply disagree in this one (admittedly big) area. But it helps to find the common ground first if we are ever to have healthy dialogue.

      4. Some of your questions about how this has affected his marriage and children were my concerns as well. Phil & I have talked about this many times. So I’ll let him answer them himself. I will say that I think it will be a continual process and conversation in his family. Phil is a good dad who loves his family, so I know it will be done well.

      5. In his response to your comment, Phil said, “I believe that if there is a God, that he (for lack of a more definitive pronoun) would rather I honor my true beliefs than to simply fake it in an effort to gain favor, fit in, or avoid stigma.” This is something that Phil has really opened my eyes to. I am very appreciative of his desire to be honest & authentic. I believe God honors this. I don’t think God wants us to fake anything with him. I do not believe that God sees Phil as his enemy.

      6. I appreciate Phil’s openness when we talk about issues like this. We don’t agree on everything, but are willing to consider the other’s perspective. We won’t get anywhere unless this is the case. We have had some really uncomfortable conversations and some really amazing ones. I hope that continues.

      7. I rest in the grace, love and mercy of God. I believe this wholeheartedly.

      • First, I want to echo Allen’s comments about appreciation for Phil and making sure we keep human beings in perspective. Emily’s mom, I am thankful for your honest and questions as well. I wanted to answer your parenting question with my own thoughts:

        I have two little ones and there are a lot of areas I struggle with on how to communicate with them. But my wife and I both see faith as a journey and a struggle. So we do that together. And we keep the lines of communication open with our kids in these areas. We feel like even if we are unsure about how we feel about certain things, keeping communication open is the most important thing. I want my kids to wrestle towards truth and love. They are young enough that we don’t have extremely deep conversations, but we are intentional about both asking and answering questions. And as we guide them, we always guide them towards love and respect towards others.

        I know that may not directly answer the question, but my point is that I think it is healthy to teach kids that faith is an on-going process. We grow and change, and that is ok. I think we need to give our kids and ourselves permission for that to happen.

    • Hey, Emily’s mom! Thanks for reading and replying thoughtfully.

      Phil is one of my few best friends and when he told me about his change in faith, it hit me hard. But since I have been able to spend time with him understanding why he came to his conclusions, I have been able to have a much healthier dialogue with him. What I appreciate the most is the fact he has a community here where he can wrestle with these questions. Unfortunately, church is not a great place to do that so he does it here.

      And if we are speaking about faith, my faith isn’t really challenged much regarding the existence of God or about his loving nature, but with the church that represents God. So while we both struggle with faith, we do so about different sides of the issue.

      I’ll echo Allen in saying Phil is a fantastic father and a loving husband. I am thankful Phil and his wife have stayed together through this. It makes me believe in God more to see them stay together and become stronger. It’s a weird thing, but to know God will never leave us should be informed by the fact that we don’t leave each other – even when we disagree.

      Thanks again for your comments and your grace.

      • Chris – “It makes me believe in God more to see them stay together and become stronger. It’s a weird thing, but to know God will never leave us should be informed by the fact that we don’t leave each other – even when we disagree.”

        How wonderfully put. Sounds like Phil has some great friends in his life. I see God working here.

  3. I guess we both had to come to terms with the fact that no matter what we prefer, it is best for our sons to grow up taking an honest and compassionate approach to the world. If that leads them to faith or away from it, our main goal is that they have a reason for why they believe what they believe. We do not want them carrying a world view only because it is all that they have ever been exposed to.

    I would not say that I decided to change so much as that I decided to be honest with myself about my struggles and accept where they lead me. I don’t think that we just “decide” to believe one thing or another. An interesting thought experiment would be to attempt to believe in something that you have very little evidence to support (for example, try believing that I have a full head of hair). Being convinced by evidence or a lack of evidence is a process that sometimes is more about being compelled and less about simply making a choice. I hope I am not splitting hairs or being nit-picky. But you are right in saying that my change put my wife in a difficult position, but she loves me enough to wade into those tough-to-navigate areas.

  4. Editor’s note: The name on this comment has been edited. We appreciate the comment but please refrain from material that may be viewed as offensive.

    Did your parents struggle with this life changing decision? It sounds like one of your biggest life choices. Comings out and taking ownership of your feelings is really inspiring.

    • I think my mother struggles, but she knows my heart. I am grateful that her faith is not the kind that compels her to separate herself from me over our differences. She is a great mom.

  5. Thank you Allen and Phil for your responses and honesty. Sounds like you are great friends and lucky to have each other.

    I must be honest, as a wife and mother, I would mourn the relationship that would be lost between my husband and I if he came to the same conclusion as Phil. It feels like that aspect of your relationship has been washed away. What a joy it is to sit beside my husband and worship God together. I would feel oh so lonely if my husband were not there with me.

    What a joy I have when I see him lead our family in prayer and my daughter leads the next one. It makes my heart melt to hear him read bible stories at night and to hear the two of them discuss what she thinks it means in her life. VBS, summer camp, teaching bible class, will you miss out on all of those activities with your sons?

    Phil – I appreciate your openness and taking the time to share your journey.

    Allen – as you decided that your faith “just wouldn’t let you go” I hope you remain close with Phil and be a lighthouse should he need help to come home.

    • Thank you so much for your engagement and also sharing your heart. This is what we want this place to be about. I celebrate the joy you find in sharing faith with your family. It’s beautiful.

      Phil and I will remain close. We continue to stretch one another and dialogue together. Everything begins with relationship and I am happy to say that I believe that to be very strong.

  6. Hi…my name is Marisa and I am Phil’s wife. I appreciate your questions regarding our relationship and our kids. You will have to forgive me but I am not a great of a writer as my husband and I often struggle with my thoughts.

    I love my husband very much. The few years after he made his conclusions were very tough. I couldn’t see past the atheist. We argued constantly. He wanted me converse with him about his thoughts and questions and I just didn’t want to go there. He tends to think on a higher level than me and often I feel inferior. But like he said, it took time but we were able to see each other beyond the Christian and the atheist. As for our kids, we just had to find common ground. We both agreed that no matter what we wanted them to grow up to respect people and to make their own conclusions. I still attend church and phil often goes with me. I do not like going alone and so that keeps me from going a lot.
    As for my faith, it is something I haven’t been willing to let go of. We are now able to have conversations about the bible, Christianity, atheism..etc without fighting. And a lot of the ideas and concepts make sense coming from an atheist. So holding on to my faith has been a struggle. I appreciate my husband for respecting that, offering to come to church with me so I won’t be alone and understanding our differences.

    • PS Marisa – it sounds like Phil has a great group of friends and I hope you do as well. You need community, friends, and family that are willing to sit beside you on those days that Phil is not. Remember what Solomon said, “two are better than one” Ecc 4:9.

  7. Marisa – I am so glad you decided to comment. I just want to reach through this screen and hug you. “I do not like going alone and so that keeps me from going a lot” is what I was worried about. I’m so glad to hear your faith is something you haven’t been willing to let go of and I’m also so glad to hear you two have decided not to let go of each other. I can’t imagine how difficult the change would have been but I’m glad you can openly talk about it without fighting now. I hope the dialogue has strengthened your faith and marriage.

    I’m glad you found common ground when it comes to your children. We have always welcomed questions with our daughter and have been honest if we didn’t know the answer. That’s why it’s so great to share the same faith so we can all take the bible out and research to find the answers together. Questions are great; dialogue is encouraged. I hope she never stops asking questions. I just pray that she continues to find the answers in her bible.

    Phil – “Holding on to my faith has been a struggle” how do you feel when you hear your wife say this?

    Thank you everyone for this post and this discussion. I look forward to discussing this tonight at my dinner table.

    • I also think holding onto faith is a struggle, so I can relate.

      I think a big part of genuine relationships is when you can love someone for who they are and not who you wish they were. When you can love them for how they approach life and not just for how they make you feel about yourself. I also think those things are easier to say than to do, and that if we are honest the times that our love and relationships are put to those ultimate tests occur pretty infrequently. We tend to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals to keep the dissonance at a minimum. When those times do come about, they require a lot of grace and patience. Fortunately my wife is full of those things (and she would say I am full of some others) 🙂

  8. Emily’s Mom, I am Allen’s mother and a kind of “second mother” to Phil and Chris as these two boys did a good portion of their growing up under my roof. I also know Trevor but only on a more superficial level as he has been in my son’s life. All four of these young men (as they will always remain to me) are very deep thinkers. I struggle to keep up with their thought patterns, but they are patient with slower thinkers like me.

    Phil has always been a questioner and a seeker. Things have not always been a bed of roses for him and he has struggled, sometimes very deeply, with situations and circumstances. I admire him deeply and he is a precious one to me. I also know his wife, Marisa, and their two darling boys. No one could be more faithful and supportive to Phil, and their love and intelligence in raising those boys is amazing.

    It was difficult for me when Phil drew away from our church family. I prayed for his guidance as he struggled and as I fought to try and understand why. Even though I do not see eye-to-eye with him on some issues, I do admire him greatly. He is honest and open about his struggle and the path he has been down. I believe his openness and willingness to have open dialog with Allen, Chris, and Trevor has helped all of them to grow in many ways. I can attest to the fact that his searching for answers has affected my conversations with my son in a very good way. I was not raised “in the church”, and for many, many years just accepted whatever I was taught as truth. In the past few years that has changed. I now struggle with many issues and traditions and so-called truths which I used to take on faith. However, these have only made my relationship with Jesus stronger.

    I just had to join this conversation on a small level as these matters are important ones we need to be open and honest about. Closing someone out of your life because of differences is just not what I see as loving.

  9. Thanks for the love Deborah, I always felt so fortunate to have people like you in my life to help shape the person I am today. I learned a lot from being in your home and witnessing the relationship you and Gerry have with your kids.

  10. Deborah – Thank you for raising a man like Allen and for being a “second mom” to Phil and Chris. It’s a testament to you as a mother. I am glad to hear their friendship and open dialogue has helped them all grow in many ways. I hope no one questions my belief that Phil is a good husband and great father. I just mourn the loss and was curious how his change affected his family.

  11. I have loved your questions, Emily’s Mom! They have brought to attention many of the ones I and others have had over the past few years. It is so refreshing and such a blessing to be able to openly and honestly discuss our beliefs, questions, and trials. Only by doing so do we learn to grow and truly love each other for who we are and not for who we expect one to be.

    Hugs to you and the family, Phil!

  12. Phil – I don’t know you, but I know Allen. If he says your a good guy and family man, I believe it. In the reverse, you don’t know me either. I occasionally have foot-in-mouth disease, so if/when you read this, please know that every word is from a place of love and concern; not a place of malice or judgment. Whether you believe the Bible or not, I hope we can agree that the message that comes from Jesus in the Bible is a message of love. I try to live that in my life, but I’m not always successful. Enough of the preface.

    I, too, have struggled and do struggle with my faith. My fellow believers at our congregation asked me to be one of their shepherds about a year-and-a-half back. There are many days I ask myself, “Why did they do that? Why did I accept?” I consider what science says about the universe and the origin of mankind and all species on this planet. I think about dinosaurs. There is no mention of them in the Bible, but we’ve been digging up bones for years. I have a friend who struggles with the “missionary” question? Are the Aztecs and Incas from 33 A.D to 1492 A.D condemned to hell because there was no one to share the good news of Christ with them? I also think about silly, non-applicable things, like did the apostles ever get sick once they started following Jesus? Did they wake up in the morning with a sore throat and ask Jesus to heal them? But less silly and more applicable, why did Jesus heal so many, but Paul had to live with his “thorn of the flesh?” What are the parameters that God chooses to heal or not heal?

    One thing I’d like to be clear on is that I believe you have faith. I believe that we all have faith, just not necessarily a Christian faith. You are an agnostic atheist. That is your faith. You believe the evidences, or the perceived lack thereof, that have led you to draw the conclusions of your belief system. You have faith in those evidences. Even scientists that base their atheism on the cold, hard facts of science are taking things on faith. They just don’t think they are. I read your post, but will not jump to the conclusion that your questions of the validity of the Bible are the only source for your current beliefs. I, too, have questions about descriptions of events in the Bible and wonder, “Did that really happen like that?”. I also wonder if my own attempts to tie together what science teaches, what the Bible says, and what I think God thinks…all together into one pretty, little package is futile rationalization.

    Ultimately, I don’t think it is futile, mainly because of what I believe about God. It comes down to a few verses from the Bible for me (I do see the “irony” in using the Bible to try to express something to someone who questions the Bible…on top of which quoting from one of the books that has led to some of the questions). Isaiah 55:9 – “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”, Job 38:1-2 – “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?'”, and John 6:60,66 – “On hearing it, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?….From this time, many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” I’ve come to accept that God’s ways are higher than my own, and that there are things that I will never understand while on this earth (maybe not even after, because then it just won’t matter).

    As strange as it seems, this is meant as an encouragement. What I encourage you to do is to continue to ask the questions you have. Continue to be open to coming to a conclusion different, if not completely opposite, to the one you have now. Ultimately, our faith is our own. I can’t have my parent’s faith. My kids can’t have my faith. The same is true for you and your family. If God exists and you don’t believe in Him, it will not change the fact that He exists. If God doesn’t exist and I believe in Him, it would not change the fact that He doesn’t exist. It comes down to which “faith” do you go with?

    Again, I encourage you to continue in your pursuit of answers. I think if you put the same focus into questioning the thought processes behind the thought that there is no God, you will find the same uncertainty. I believe God intended it that way. To be His follower is to believe in Him, not Him to prove to us He exists, or explain to us why He makes all the decisions He makes, or to justify Himself to us. If at some point, you return to a faith in God, I think you will find that it is much, much stronger that it ever was before.

    I appreciate your open dialog about where you are at with your faith in your life. Again, I have no malice or judgment towards you. I wish you and your family well. Peace

    • Thanks, James. I appreciate you sharing some of your own tough questions that you have struggled with. I did not feel any malice or judgment from your words and they were well written.

      I am not sure I agree with the idea that atheism requires a similar faith as theism. I do think that my world view requires some faith, but it is faith in the truth and trustworthiness of an idea as it relates to the available evidence. Christian faith is a faith that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, but on the belief that God can bridge the gaps in our own lack of knowledge. The equivocation falls short (but again, this is just my opinion). For instance, I do not consider faith as part of the equation in my disbelief of the claim that Joseph Smith was lead by an angel to a book written on golden plates?

      I hope I am not misrepresenting what you said, if so please let me know.

      Anyways, I thank you for the encouragement to keep asking questions and to maintain an open mind. I also appreciate that you put yourself out there and were willing to join the conversation.

  13. I appreciate the feedback. I think where we may differ slightly is in our view of truth and trustworthiness. While the Christian faith (and any faith that believes in an unseen deity), ultimately requires a leap of faith, I believe there is logical proof and material evidence to support the Christian faith. Obviously not enough to convince most people beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s actually one of the things that I find comforting about the Bible. It tells us that most people won’t believe. To those that don’t believe, it is foolishness. It also tells us that there will be people who try to use the good news message for their own purposes. In a weird, sick sense, I find it comforting when I see people using religion for their own gain, because God told us it would be so. I find it comforting that prophets wrote words hundreds, if not thousands, of years prior to the coming of Jesus and that each one was fulfilled. If the writers of the gospels colluded to make sure every single prophecy was covered in their writings (but not every prophecy covered in each gospel), that coordinated effort was an impressive feat. Those are some of the thoughts that I consider to be logical proof and material evidences. It helps me make that leap of faith when my doubts start. Would it convince a jury of my peers? Certainly not all of them.

    When it comes to a world view, there are more logical evidences that we can understand and comprehend based on what we see in the world around us. To ignore the progress of man would be silly. We’re having a nice conversation over the magical interwebs, having never met each other. It was in our life times that this possibility came to be. That is because of mankind’s push for scientific discoveries both great and small (and due to the pursuit of how to capitalize financially on scientific progress). You are right. Faith in those evidences is different than the Christian faith. It’s easier. It’s based in what we see and what we think we understand. I shared with you some of my doubts and questions about my Christian faith. I’d like to share with you some of my doubts and questions about what mankind and science have to say about creation and evolution.

    Before I do that, three things real quick. One, I’m obviously long winded. Sorry. I’m traveling for business, so I’m stuck alone in a hotel room. Thank you for patience and for the distraction of not having to stare at a television to try not to be bored. Two, I in no way attribute what I’m about to write to your beliefs. I’m just sharing some of my thoughts and doubts on a generalized world view. If they match your beliefs, it is pure coincidence (as far as I know). Three, there are a lot of people that know a lot more about science than me, but I did get my degree in Engineering Physics many years ago. About the only thing I can do with it know is spell it, but science is not foreign to me. So here goes…

    Scientists seem to be sure of themselves when it comes to the Big Bang Theory. As far as they’re concerned, the only reason it isn’t a scientific law is because they didn’t actually observe it. But the math works, so it must be true. Does the math work because it’s the foundation of the universe or does the math work because it’s an invention of man on how to describe the universe? How do they know that matter and energy behaved 14 billion years ago the way it does now? Their calculations depend on it. But they don’t know for sure. They are also missing pieces to their puzzle, so scientists have decided that there is dark energy and dark matter out there to make up for the holes in their equations. I still don’t understand where this extremely tiny bundle of energy came from and why was it floating around in cosmic nothingness? The same could be said about God, but either way, it’s being taken on faith. What caused this little ball of energy to explode into the universe creating billions of galaxies with billions of stars? What happened to the cosmic nothingness that this energy was floating around in? Moving on billions of years into the future, the earth and our solar system formed from the gravitational pull of all the space dust, and formed perfectly to facilitate the creation of life. So the lightning struck the methane and the primordial ooze was formed. Life slowly, slowly evolved. Somewhere along the way, our ancient fish ancestors flew out of the ooze and began to breathe. As they began to move around the earth, they adapted to their habitats, gradually evolving and changing to stay alive. Before you know it, every plant and animal species has developed into what they are today. Some have gone on before us like the dinosaurs and the Dodo bird, but mankind was lucky enough to develop a big brain and opposable thumbs, so here we are. What part of the lightning striking the methane gave us, and most everything on this planet, a will to live? Are our emotions and thoughts nothing more than a combination of chemistry and evolution? Is our soul in a hydrogen atom? I have trouble believing all of that just like some have trouble believing the creation story in the Bible. This is all believed to be true because mankind can comprehend it and put in a box. Problem solved. I have many more questions along these lines, but I’ll wrap it up there.

    I don’t mean for any of that to sound harsh, but I wanted to express why I think it takes faith to believe in anything. I still have questions about the Bible, but I have questions about a world without the Bible, too. The Bible says faith is being confident of what we hope for and assured of what we don’t see. To me that applies to science as well. Science is a good thing, but it is not the end all, beat all, to me. I trust that electricity will power the light bulb in the lamp when I flip the switch on the wall, but I don’t fully trust science to tell me how I was created and why I am who I am today. It just so happens that I think God gave us that inquisitive mind to seek Him (Ecclesiastes 3:11, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.). Science was one of the tools He gave us to try to help understand Him, but somewhere along the way, we started to leave Him out of it. More times than I wish, the same can be said of religion.

    So, while our human perception may be that there is little logic/material evidence and more faith required in the Christian walk and there is little faith requirement and more logic/material evidence in a world without God, I think there is more to both views than that. My wife always tells me that I should be careful that I don’t come across like I’m trying to win an argument. Please don’t take it that way, because that is not my intent. My intent is to stimulate thought. These ideas may already be things you’ve thought about and reconciled with your views. It is also to let you know that my faith isn’t blind, but it is very accepting of the fact that I can’t know everything. Which is what faith is….accepting your belief. I thank you for stimulating my thoughts and indulging me this little diatribe. I hope we get to meet someday.

  14. Long winded…I’m not seeing it 🙂

    I don’t know how we all got here to be honest. I know what science speculates and some ideas are better supported with evidence than others. We know very little about abiogenesis, but quite a bit about evolution. The nice thing about science is that it is self correcting and makes falsifiable claims.

    But ultimately “I don’t know, and I may never know” is an answer that I am content with. Christianity (and I am speaking only for myself here) seemed to scratch the itch of needing to have all the answers.

    Obviously your faith is not blind, as a mine tended to be. When I tried to deepen it and discover a theology I thought relevant to who God is in today’s world, I discovered that the secular world view just made more sense to me.

    I acknowledge that these conversations can be tough. To me, there are no eternal implications that are tied to my belief system. But for a Christian they see a person like me and they want to intervene because they feel that there is so much at stake. I will never take that personally. I appreciate the compassion it takes to try and approach someone with that urgency while also trying to respect their point of view.

  15. My name is Josh and I am the preacher where Phil and Marisa attend periodically. I am so thankful for Phil and his honesty. I have only known him for a short time and we get together every few months or so for some coffee or food and a discussion. Until these talks, I have never directly engaged with someone who holds an atheistic view. The thing I appreciate about Phil is that he has opened my eyes to the complexity of faith. The issues with faith are not easily or flippantly answered (like they are unrealistically answered in many Christian films and one-sided dialogues).

    Looking forward to our next talk Phil!

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