What If I Believe In “God,” But Not In Jesus?
What is the point of Christians insisting that Jesus Christ is the only way to go to heaven? What about the man or woman who believes in, loves, and worships God, but does not believe in or worship Jesus? Is it possible that God would refuse to accept someone simply because they do not believe in Christ? Christian claims are exclusive by nature, which is one of the cultural challenges to their acceptance and practice. Take a look at the following passages: 1
- There is no one else who can save you. Acts 4:12
- I am the way, the truth, and the life
- No one comes to the Father except through me. No one else can bring someone to the Father but through me. 14:6
- John 14:6
The fact is that such comments are risky, if not downright disrespectful, in view of our culture’s stress on the relativity of truth and the diversity of suitable methods of approaching God. We face the accusation of exclusivity since Christianity has stated that trust in Christ is required for salvation. Our religion is then labeled as intolerant and so unsuitable in the marketplace of ideas. Is this charge warranted in this case? Is Christianity genuinely a religion of exclusion? Christian exclusivity arguments are rejected because they are incompatible with the belief that God, assuming He exists and is capable of such restrictions on access to Himself.
There is a key theological presupposition at the heart of this debate, and it must be addressed.
- In order to answer the question, God’s basic essence must be divided.
- Because if God is not triune, then Jesus is not completely divine, and the Christian faith is reduced to nothing more than another religion competing for people’s attention.
- Whoever has true and complete love and trust in one will also have true and complete love and trust in the other.
- Whoever confesses the Son has also confessed the Father.
- God has declared everyone who does not believe in him to be a liar, because he has not placed his faith in the witness that God has given concerning his Son.
- Whoever believes in the Son of God has eternal life; whoever does not believe in the Son of God does not have eternal life.
- Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him, as the saying goes.
– Luke 10:16 (NIV) Everyone who continues on their path and does not adhere to the teachings of Christ does not have God in their lives.
– 2 Thessalonians 9 When it comes to knowing Christ, there is an unbreakable relationship between knowing Christ and knowing Jesus Christ the Father.
This is a reciprocal relationship.
He is the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of all creation, and the embodiment of all that is good.
In addition, he is the head of the body, which is the church.
Because in him all of God’s fullness was pleased to dwell, and in him God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, bringing about peace through the blood of his crucifixion.
– Colossians 1:15-23.
Hopefully, we can put to death whatever immoral or ignorant pride we may have and become a people who, with tears in their eyes, implore every country, tongue, and tribe to repent and be reconciled to God through the person and work of Christ.
Considering our culture’s reliance on the relativity of truth and the range of acceptable ways to approach God, such comments are undoubtedly daring, if not plain insulting. Given that Christianity has asserted that trust in Christ is required for salvation, the accusation of exclusivity has been placed against our faith, and it has subsequently been blacklisted as intolerant and hence unsuitable in the marketplace of ideas. Is this accusation justified under the circumstances? What percentage of the population believes in Christianity as a whole?
- Do you think He would truly condemn someone who believed in, loved, and worshipped Him but did not necessarily believe in and adore Jesus?
- Assumption: Jesus is not God, according to the Bible God’s entire nature is forced to be divided by the issue.
- It follows that if God is not triune, Jesus is not completely divine, and the Christian faith is nothing more than another religion fighting for followers’ admiration.
- Who loves and trusts in one will unquestionably love and trust in the other, and vice versa.
- The Father is also confessed by whoever confesses the Son.
- God has declared everyone who does not believe in him to be a liar, because he has not placed his faith in the witness that God has given about his Son.
- It is those who have the Son of God who have life, and it is those who lack the Son of God who do not have life.
Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him, as the Bible states.
In Luke 10:16, the Bible states that Everyone who continues on his or her path and does not adhere to the teachings of Christ does not have God with them at all.
The Bible says in 2 John 9 that Knowledge of the Son and knowledge of the Father are inextricably intertwined and interdependent.
To suggest that God will accept individuals who have rejected Christ is to misunderstand the nature of Christ.
For it was by him and for him that all things were made, both visible and unseen, in heaven and on earth, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authority, for all things were created through him and for him.
The church is led by him, and he serves as its leader.
Because in him all of God’s fullness was pleased to dwell, and in him God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, through the blood of his crucifixion, bringing all things to reconciliation with himself.
– Colossians 1:15-23.
Hopefully, we can put to death whatever immoral or ignorant pride we may have and become a people who, with tears in their eyes, implore every country, tongue, and tribe to be reconciled to God through the person and work of Jesus.
Can You Believe in God But Not Believe in Jesus?
Approximately 65 percent of individuals in the United States identify as Christians when questioned about their religious affiliation, according to Pew Research Center telephone polls conducted in 2018 and 2019. But what exactly does this term imply in practice? Is it necessary for someone to recognize Jesus as the Son of God and to follow His teachings in order to be considered a “Christian?” Is it possible to believe in God while not believing in Jesus? Is it possible to be a Christian while still rejecting Christ?
What Is a “Christian”?
According to Acts 11:26, the word “Christian” was first used in this context to refer to individuals who followed Jesus as followers. Barnabas had left the city of Antioch in order to bring Paul back to the city and instruct the new converts. “And when he finally tracked him down, he transported him to Antioch.” And for a complete year, they met with the church and taught a large number of people; as a result, the disciples became the first to be referred to as Christians in Antioch.” A biblical view of what it means to be a Christian is based on two terms found in this verse: “Christ” and “Christian.” In the first place, there is the word “disciple,” which is derived from the Greek wordmathts and defines a student, an apupil, or someone who adheres to the teachings of another.
- According to the Blue Letter Bible, the literal meaning is “a student” (from the Greek manthano, “to learn,” which comes from the rootmath-, which indicates thought coupled with effort).
- The underlying term is Christos, which literally translates as “anointed,” and in the Bible, it is always used to refer to the Messiah, the Son of God.
- Consequently, according to biblical teachings, a Christian is first and foremost a disciple, someone who follows and learns from Jesus, as well as someone who believes in and follows Him.
- Instead, they pick and choose which aspects of the “Christian” life they believe are beneficial to themselves and society, while rejecting the rest of what the Bible, and Jesus in particular, has to say about the subject.
Is it possible for someone to believe in God while rejecting Jesus? Is it possible for someone to identify as a Christian when they are neither a follower nor a student of Christ, as defined by the Bible? Is it possible to divorce Jesus from God? Is it possible to divorce God from Jesus?
Witnesses to Jesus’ Sovereignty
If one is devoted to the God of the Bible, I believe this is impossible to achieve. As a matter of fact, I would argue that when someone proclaims a belief in God other than Jesus, they are not serving God at all, but merely an imitation, an idol, which they have made out of their own free will and desire. Instead of serving the Deity who created them, they have constructed a god who serves them and their needs. Jesus Himself had to deal with a group of individuals who were hesitant to believe in Him, but who were outwardly and publicly dedicated to fulfilling the will of God.
In John 6, Christ provided His critics with three testimonies to the fact that He was, in fact, the Son of God and, thus, should be regarded as the Messiah who had been foretold.
Witness1 was John the Baptist, whom they had previously recognized as a trustworthy prophet of the Lord (Matthew 14:5, 21:26;Mark 11:32;Luke 20:6).
When John declared that Jesus was the Son of God, many people believed him (John 1:29-34).
The people realized that only God could achieve marvels of this magnitude (John 7:31, 9:30-33, 10:21) God the Father Himself bore witness3, first at Jesus’ baptism and then again when He was transfigured, appearing in His full glory, with His face gleaming like the sun and His robes as white as the dawning of day.
– (Matthew 3:13-17; 17:1-5; 18:1-5).
Instead than accepting the unassailable testimony, they looked for ways to reject them as untrue.
The Pharisees attempted to discredit Jesus by accusing Him of performing miracles through the power of demons (Matthew 12:22-24), and they attempted to seize Him on numerous occasions in order to prevent Him from continuing His teaching, fearing that they would lose their position and power if they did (John 11:48).
Where Does Jesus Affirm That He Is God?
Jesus does not want us to be perplexed about who He is or what He is about. He was forthright in his teaching that He came from God, that He is the Son of God, and that to reject Him is to reject God himself. “So that everyone would revere the Son as much as they honor the Father,” says John 5:23. “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him,” says the apostle Paul. 5:38 – “You do not have His message living in you because you do not believe Him who sent Him,” says the author of John 5.
“For it is the Father’s will that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on that last day.” “Everyone who has heard and learnt from the Father comes to Me,” says Jesus in John 6:45.
You have never heard His voice, nor have you ever seen His physical presence.
In John 8:42-43 and 47, Jesus says to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me because I came forth and have come from God, for I did not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.” What are you talking about that you don’t understand?
He who is of God hears the words of God; as a result, you are unable to hear them because you are not of God.'” The Bible says in John 7:17, “If someone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is from God or if I am speaking from Myself.” If someone is willing to do God’s will, they will know of the teaching.
What Does It Mean to Believe in Jesus?
If we are to be confused about who Jesus is, He does not want us to be. And he was forthright in teaching that He was sent by God, that He is the Son of God, and that refusing Him was to reject God. “So that everyone would honor the Son in the same way that they honor the Father.” John 5:23 It is the same person who does not honor the Son who does not honor the Father who sent Him.” You do not have His word living in you because you do not believe Him who sent Him, according to the words of Jesus in John 5:38.
… The Father’s desire is that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him receive eternal life, and I will personally raise him up on the last day.
“And the Father, who sent Me, has given His testimony about Me,” says John 5:37-38.
As a result, you do not have His word ingrained in you because you do not trust Him who sent Him.” In John 8:42-43 and 47, Jesus says to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me since I came forth and have come from God, for I did not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.'” Why aren’t you getting what I’m trying to communicate?
He who is of God hears the words of God; as a result, you are unable to hear them because you are not of God.
Jesus says in John 16:27 that “the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came out from the Father.” “For the Father Himself loves you,” Jesus says.
Are You a Christian, or Do You Simply Believe in “god”?
In today’s culture, we’re led to think that there are several paths to paradise and that you may believe in a deity that welcomes you on your own terms. This is dishonesty at its most egregious level. While it may appear to be tolerant and kind to believe in the god of your choosing, doing so will ultimately result in disaster and an eternity apart from the Most High God who created you to worship Him and sent His Son to teach you how to do so. John 14:1–7 – – – – – – – – – – “Be calm and believe in God; believe also in Me,’ says the Lord.
- In the event that I leave to make a place for you, I will return to accept you into Myself so that you may be where I am as well.
- Then Jesus told him that he was the only route to the Father and that no one else could get to the Father except through Him.
- She and her husband are the founders of Around The Corner Ministries, which seeks to empower Christ-followers to proclaim the gospel in their communities where they live, work, and play, among other things.
- She has also written a Bible study for small groups who want to reach their communities for Christ, calledGoing Around The Corner.
A passionate student of God’s Word, Sheila writes on her blog, “The Way of the Word,” about the lessons she is learning from the Lord. Follow her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date.
Meet Those Who “Love Jesus but Not the Church”
We are living in an increasingly secularized American society. Religion is retreating from the public arena in this new age, and old organizations such as the church are no longer able to function with the cultural power that they previously possessed in previous generations, as has been observed. Today, about half of the population of the United States is unchurched. Although an increasing number of Americans are quitting the institutional church and its clearly defined border markers of religious identity, many continue to believe in God and exercise religion outside of its gates.
- Starting with the interesting portion of the American population that, as the expression goes, “love Jesus but hate the church,” let’s take a look at what makes them tick.
- Barna developed a measure to identify Christians who most closely meet the criteria of lasting fidelity notwithstanding their rejection of the institutional church in order to have a better understanding of this phenomenon.
- The majority of these people have a true faith (89 percent have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still vital in their lives today), yet they are noticeably missing from their local church.
- Among those interviewed, the majority (61 percent) are women, and four-fifths (80 percent) are between the ages of 33 and 70.
- The fact that Millennials are the least churched generation is compounded by the fact that they are also the least likely to identify as Christian or to state that Christianity is very important in their lives, which explains their underrepresentation within this group.
It appears that the majority of this group is white (63 percent) and that it is concentrated in the southern states (33 percent), the midwestern states (30 percent), and the western states (25 percent), with only a small number (13 percent) hailing from the northeast, which is traditionally home to the majority of post-Christian cities in America.
- Perhaps left-leaning individuals of religion are experiencing some kind of political strife inside their congregation, which may have driven them to leave.
- To send a tweet, simply click here.
- In every instance, their religious views are more orthodox than those held by the broader public, and they are even more orthodox than those held by their church-going counterparts.
- adults’ 59 percent and practicing Christians’ 90 percent); affirm that “God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today” (94 percent, compared to U.S.
- adults’ 59 percent and practicing Christians (95 percent compared to U.S.
- When it comes to religious convictions, persons who “love Jesus but don’t love the church” are considered to be orthodox.
- Views of religion that are positive, though amorphous Despite their apparent dissatisfaction with the church, this group has a highly favorable attitude on religion.
However, when it comes to the distinctiveness of Christianity, the narrative is slightly different: The majority of people (55 percent) believe that all faiths fundamentally teach the same thing, which is far closer to the general public (51 percent) than devout Christians (68 percent) and even further away from evangelicals (35 percent) (86 percent ).
- Spirituality in the privacy of one’s own home Because of their long-standing religious affiliation as well as their obviously religious faith, this group does not fit into the category of “spiritual but not religious” people, which will be the subject of next week’s article.
- Almost nine out of ten people (89 percent) describe themselves as “spiritual,” which is on par with devout Christians (90 percent) and significantly higher than the national average (65 percent ).
- More over half of practicing Christians (41 percent) and nearly four times as many evangelicals (67 percent) believe that evangelism and expressing their beliefs are important activities in their lives.
- The “love Jesus but not the church” group thinks strongly that they have a responsibility to proselytize (28 percent), although more than half of practicing Christians (56 percent) and all Evangelicals agree strongly on the subject (50 percent) (100 percent ).
- These beliefs are highly personal, with many choosing to keep their faith a secret from those around them.
- Informal Routes to the Almighty This group continues to be engaged in their faith, but in a less conventional manner than previous generations.
- (26 percent compared to 56 percent ).
The implication of all of this is that people are abandoning authoritative sources of religious identification in favor of spiritual practices that are far more informal and personally led.
What the Findings of the Study Imply We will be delving more into the issue of religion outside of the church in the coming weeks, but one thing that stands out among this group of individuals who “love Jesus but don’t love the church” is their unwavering dedication to their faith.
They, on the other hand, have lost trust in the church.
The most important message that churches must convey to this group is that there is a cause for churches to exist in the first place.
Churches must be able to tell these individuals — and demonstrate for themselves — that there is a unique path to discover God that can only be found in church.
Concerning the Investigation 1,281 web-based surveys were administered to individuals over the age of 18 in each of the 50 states, resulting in a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 from each of the 50 states.
In this study, the sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, according to the results.
Millennials are people who were born between 1984 and 2002.
Baby Boomers are those who were born between 1946 and 1964.
Those who attend a religious service at least once a month, who express that their faith is extremely important in their life, and who self-identify as Christians are considered to be practicing Christians.
It is claimed that they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today,” that their faith is very important in their lives today; that when they die, they will be admitted to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior; that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; that Satan exists; and that et cetera.
Whether or not you are labeled as an evangelical is not based on your church attendance, the denominational affiliation of the church you attend, or your sense of self-identity.
Barna Research was founded in 1996.
For more than three decades, Barna Group has conducted and analyzed primary research to better understand cultural patterns linked to values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. The company is based in Ventura, California. Barna Group published a report in 2017 titled
“I Believe in God, but Not Jesus”
God-talking is a dangerously deluded kind of entertainment. There is an alarmingly large percentage of individuals who claim to “believe in God,” but who do not believe in Jesus. This is especially true in places of the world that are culturally or ostensibly Christian in nature. This is a feeling that can be found almost everywhere. “I believe in the existence of God. My prayers are said first thing in the morning and last thing at night.” “I believe in God,” for example. I’m confident that He has seen me through a lot of difficulties.” “I believe in God,” for example.
- God, for example, is not someone to be trifled with.
- He is to be revered and adored, and he is to be worshipped with reverence and awe.
- His common charity toward creation implies that a whole slew of people who do not know Him are blessed by His kindness in a variety of ways, including release from a difficult circumstance.
- However, we will not rest on our laurels!
- The fact is that it is impossible to believe in God in any way that is truly saving and not come to Him via trust in Jesus as the Son of God.
- Aside from God the Son, we do not have a God the Father in our lives.
No one else can bring anybody else to the Father except through me.
Having so much God talk gives for the appearance of religiosity and faith, but it rejects the power of the Holy Spirit by rejecting the Son of God.
Of course, there is also the inverse issue to consider.
Matthew 11:27, on the other hand, is addressed to them as well: “No one knows the Son but the Father.” Alternatively, John 10:30 states, “I and the Father are one.” “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” says Jesus in John 14:9.
The Father and the Son come together in this encounter. It is not possible to have one without the other. Either you have the Father in and through the Son, or you don’t have anything at all. This fundamental fact is obscured by ambiguous God discourse.
Unitarian Universalist Views of Jesus
The views of Unitarian Universalists on Jesus reflect the diversity of thinking fostered by our liberal faith. Our Principles include a dedication to “a free and responsible search for truth and purpose”; whatever one’s beliefs, there is certainly a Unitarian Universalist who holds them as well as one’s beliefs. We are, nevertheless, more than the sum of our particular tales. Universalism, as a religion, draws inspiration from various sources, including the acts and teachings of great teachers, the illuminating knowledge of the world’s diverse religions, and our Jewish and Christian roots.
- UUs may regard Jesus as a moral example who exemplifies the compassion, kindness, and mercy that he preached by living out his teachings.
- For some, Jesus is a prophetic figure who also serves as a conduit for the divine.
- Many people have described a personal interaction with him that has been both strengthening and inspiring.
- Others see Jesus as a reformer and a rebel, as an underdog and as an ally of the oppressed.
- He spoke up against injustice in his local neighborhood as well as in the federal government.
- Jesus invites us to transformation, to oppose the unjust structures that separate us and remodel them for the greater good of everyone.
Rev. Dawn Skjei Cooley
Louisville, Kentucky’s First Unitarian Church is a congregation of Unitarian Universalists. Because I am an agnostic humanist, I have a strong emotional connection to the Jesus depicted in the early Gospels. In this guy, we see a somebody who treated the ill, fed the hungry, and clothed the impoverished. He took action in response to the agony he witnessed because he felt a strong connection to individuals who were suffering. In this regard, he was a revolutionary, as he went outside of the current structures to correct the wrongs of the existing system.
Rev. Scott McNeill
Members of the Bull Run Unitarian Universalists (UUs). Manassas, Virginia A Unitarian Universalist, I delight in reading the Gospels and seeing how Jesus would assist people to solutions rather than simply providing them with the answers they seek. Rather than merely going through the rituals of everyday life, I see Jesus as a person who wanted to address the issues that he saw in his church community and society and to construct the community that he knew was attainable, rather than simply going through the motions of everyday life.
It was only through my de-deification of Jesus that I was able to reconnect with his tale, surrendering the role of messiah for that of a mentor.
Rev. Jonalu Johnstone
Manhattan Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is a religious organization in Manhattan, Kansas. It took years of involvement in and even leadership of Unitarian Universalist churches for me to rediscover the significance of Jesus in my spiritual life. When I first discovered Unitarian Universalism, I was relieved to discover that I didn’t have to know what I thought about God, prayer, or Christianity in order to participate. God—or Goddess—came back to life for me through time, thanks to paganism, which was introduced to me by a fellow Unitarian Universalist sister.
As my career in ministry progressed, I felt increasingly compelled to engage with the Christian tradition on a personal level.
I was horrified by the misapplication of scripture against gay people and against women, but I understood that only by truly owning those stories for myself could I honestly address the injustice that operated against me and against those who needed what church had to give, including myself.
That is one of the reasons why I identify as a Christian today.
DCA Universalist National Memorial ChurchUniversalist National Memorial ChurchWashington, DC Among the many pictures of salvation found in the Bible, the one that resonates with me the most is one that is connected to the root word for salvation, which is salve. In this way, salvation is defined as the process by which God’s healing salve is administered to the human race. Jesus, in my opinion, exemplifies the method in which God would have many of us administer this healing salve to the rest of the world.
Jesus, in my opinion, exhibits healing and demonstrates the power of salvation—a power that we are called to pursue and share as frequently as we can during this life.
The Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard Theological School is a group of people who work together to improve the lives of others. When I was a teenager, I abandoned my Christian faith. However, it was when I looked for a Unitarian Universalist congregation to support my children’s liberal religious education and subsequently began working as their director of religious education that I came face to face with Jesus once more. Although I am an agnostic, I considered him to be a member of an All-Star squad of major religious professors whom I committed to portray with respect so that young people might learn about Christianity alongside other global religions.
However, over the years, I have come to regard him as something like to a seasoned colleague in a difficult sector, someone with whom I share a common professional interest.
In the tale of how Jesus encouraged youngsters to sit with him, one of his most persuasive teachings comes to mind, thanks to my decade of experience in religious education.
We are reminded by his simple gesture of welcoming that young people need to feel claimed by this faith, and he indicates that their amazement and delight could alter us in return.
Making space in our hearts, minds, and congregations for the sake of learning and developing in religion together is what Jesus demands of us.
Rev. Robin Bartlett
MAI grew up as a Unitarian Universalist at the First Church of Sterling. Christmas was the only time that Jesus appeared in the form of a newborn. When someone asked me who Jesus was when I was a youngster, I said, “a mythical character who some people believe to be God.” This response revealed a great deal more about myself and my parents than it did about Christ. Now that I’m married, I have my own children. When I asked my four-year-old Eloisa who Jesus was, she replied that Jesus is the “Queen of God.” Cecilia, my eight-year-old daughter, described him as “the one who is always with me, in my heart.” And these responses are understandable since Eloisa has always wished to be Queen, and Cecilia has always wished to be good to others.
We must respond to Jesus when he asks, “Who do you claim that I am?” because our response reveals a great deal about our vision for the world.
So, if Jesus were here, and he asked me, “Who do you think I am?” I would respond, “Who do you think I am?” or “Can you tell me what you tell your children about me when you’re talking about me?” This is what I would say: “Jesus, I believe you are a person sent by God to demonstrate what love looks like.
You have come to break the bonds of injustice and to make the earth as beautiful as paradise.
- Visit the website of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship (UUCF). Read Erik Walker Wikstrom’sTeacher, Guide, Companion: Rediscovering Jesus in a Secular World for more information. Scotty McLennan’s Christ for Unitarian Universalists is a good read.
For Your Congregation
According to the most recent religious polls conducted in the United States, between a fourth and a third of Americans identify as “spiritual but not religious,” depending on the study. This is something that many of my friends identify with. From “I believe in a higher power with whom I interact and pray” to “I believe in God, so why would I bother going to church?” their beliefs cover a broad spectrum. A number of Jesus’ teachings, in particular, are admired and followed by some, while others do not claim membership in any one spiritual organization or tradition.
The Church’s teachings on politics, money, and moral concerns don’t sit well with me.
And if I choose one, am I implying that I believe all other religions are incorrect or that I believe I will burn in hell?” Nonetheless, despite all of their doubts, my friends tell me that they have a deep sense of belonging to something greater than themselves in their hearts.
I’d want to share some of the insights I’ve taken away from those discussions.
Feed the fire
The people who are the most spiritually alive are those who never give up their search. If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to ask them. If you want answers, you must seek them out. Read, research, debate, pray, and worship. The fact is that you are neither the first or the last person to go on this trip, and the vast bulk of human experience indicates that there are genuine solutions to be found. The majority of religious traditions teach that God is boundless, enigmatic, and unfathomable – yet that humans may nonetheless learn and understand a great deal about him.
The same is true of God: we can grow to know him even if He remains a mystery to us at first.
This is critical, regardless of whether you are religious or not.
The folks, according to one of my college classmates, were the reason he quit attending Mass in the midst of our freshman year. His theory was that those who went to church on Sunday were either hypocrites — having gone to church on Saturday after binge-drinking and random hook ups — or blind sheep just following their parents’ instructions. As a religious person, his experience prompted me to consider the question: Am I self-righteous? Is it possible that I am a hypocrite who talks the talk but doesn’t practice the walk?
Is it possible that I’m allowing people to do my thinking for me?
Isn’t it true that I’m likewise flawed and hypocritical in certain ways?
Is it possible that I’m allowing the inadequacies of others to stand in the way of my spiritual development?
Being part of a team
Perhaps this explains why so much of St. Paul’s work (1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Galatians, to name a few examples) is devoted to educating flawed individuals how to negotiate community conflicts: conflict is a necessary component of the community’s purpose. It is possible that Jesus could have said, “All right, now everybody listen to my words, but then do your own thing and don’t get in each other’s way,” if He had desired to do so. But He didn’t; instead, He gathered a group of people (in Greek, the word isekkelsia; in English, the name “Church”), gave them a mission (to live and seek the kingdom of God on earth as if it were in heaven), and appointed leaders (apostles) to lead them.
And, despite the fact that community might be frustrating, it can also be a wonderful support system.
The list could go on indefinitely. I may be able to find some of these on my own, but in order to really move deeper in my spiritual life, I require community, and they require my assistance in doing so.
Possibly, this is why so much of St. Paul’s work (1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Galatians, among other places) is concerned with teaching flawed individuals how to handle community conflicts: conflict is a necessary element of the community’s purpose. It is possible that Jesus could have said, “All right, now everybody listen to my words, but then do your own thing and don’t get in each other’s way,” if He had desired to. But He didn’t; instead, He gathered a group of people (in Greek, the term isekkelsia; in English, the name “Church”), gave them a mission (to live and seek the kingdom of God on earth as if it were in heaven), and appointed leaders (apostles) to help them on their journey.
Even though it might be irritating, the support system provided by a community can be invaluable.
On and on it may go!
Be in the know withGrotto
Sign up for free newsletters from Scientific American. ” data-newsletterpromo article-image=” data-newsletterpromo article-button-text=”Sign Up” data-newsletterpromo article-button-link=” name=”articleBody” itemprop=”articleBody”> name=”articleBody” itemprop=”articleBody”> As an example of the complex link between science and religion that I like to bring up when talking to my students, I like to bring up the case of Francis Collins. Collins was a skilled gene hunter early in his career, and he was instrumental in the identification of genes related with cystic fibrosis and other illnesses.
- Since 2009, he has served as director of the National Institutes of Health, which has a budget of more than $40 billion this year.
- Atheist Collins was until 1978, when he had a conversion experience while trekking in the mountains and converted to Christianity.
- In his best-selling book The Language of God, published in 2006, Collins asserted that there is no conflict between science and religious belief.
- Collins has been awarded the Templeton Prize, which is worth $1.3 million and was established in 1972 to encourage the reconciliation of science and faith.
- An edited transcript of my chat with Collins, which took place in Washington D.C., may be seen below the fold.
- However, our final conversations, in which he displayed a fatalistic perspective on humanity’s destiny, left a bad taste in my throat.
- — Senator John Horgan Horgan: As a member of the scientific community, what does it feel like to be at the epicenter of the present dispute between science and religion?
It would be wonderful if my notion that there is a harmonic middle ground places me in the center of a blazing argument.
It is dangerous to try to appeal to individuals on both sides of a contentious discussion, as Horgan points out: Collins:You’re getting bombs fired at you from all sides!
Collins: The overwhelming majority of people have responded in a positive manner.
Finally, several very strongly worded communications from fundamentalists who believe that I have undermined the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and have labeled me as a false prophet have arrived in my inbox.
Horgan: What do you believe has caused the argument to become so polarized?
Every action necessitates an equal and diametrically opposed reaction.
Horgan: Sadly, I must admit that I’ve become increasingly concerned about religion’s potentially destructive impacts in recent years, owing to acts of religious terrorism such as September 11th, 2001, and the growing dominance of the religious right in the United States.
The Inquisition, the Crusades, the World Trade Center.whatever it was, it was a terrible event in human history.
We, as God’s children, have been given this knowledge of good and evil, which I refer to as “Moral Law,” which I believe is a very strong signpost pointing to the existence of God.
We shouldn’t hold faith responsible for the ways in which individuals distort and misuse it.
Isn’t it just this that transforms religious beliefs from something lovely into something bigoted and hate-filled?
I believe that we Christians have been far too quick to characterize ourselves as members of a select group of individuals.
The statement, “My truth is purer than your truth,” is both inconsistent with and highly off-putting to me because it contradicts what I perceive in Christ as a person.
Take, for example, the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is based on a narrative spoken by Jesus himself.
Horgan: In your capacity as a scientist who seeks scientific explanations for phenomena and requires evidence, how can you simultaneously believe in miracles such as the resurrection?
Not a pantheist God who is completely encircled by nature, nor a Deist God who began it all and then just stopped caring, but a supernatural God who is interested in what is going on in our world and who may choose to interfere from time to time.
Soon after I arrived, the possibility that He would resurrect from the grave was no longer a source of concern.
However, as a scientist, I have very high expectations when it comes to miracles.
Miracles, for me, are problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they contradict what science has shown us about how the world works.
For example, many individuals think that if they pray long and hard enough, God will intercede on their behalf and heal them or someone they care about.
Collins: A miracle healing has not occurred in my professional experience as a physician, and I do not anticipate to witness one in the future.
Prayer for me is far more about attempting to enter into a state of communion with God.
Take, for example, the Lord’s Prayer.
It wasn’t something like, “Our Father who art in Heaven, please provide me a parking place,” or something like.
If God truly loves us, then why is there so much suffering in the world?
First and foremost, if our ultimate objective is to develop, learn, and discover new things about ourselves and about God, then living a life of leisure is most likely not the best path to take to get there.
Furthermore, we are unable to place all of the world’s grief and suffering at the feet of God.
Horgan: This subject has been written on by the physicist Steven Weinberg, who happens to be an atheist.
Collins:If God had to intervene magically every time one of us made the decision to do anything bad, the world would be a bizarre, chaotic, and unpredictable place to live.
As a result, innocent people are killed.
As a result, God is not to blame.
A cancer-stricken kid, a natural calamity such as a tornado or a tsunami, etc.
Horgan: Theologians like as Charles Hartshorne have speculated that God may not be completely in charge of His creation, and this has sparked controversy.
Collins: That’s amusing—and possibly blasphemous—to hear!
I can say this in a way that is admittedly metaphysical because it permits me to acknowledge that the significance of pain is not always obvious to me.
Horgan:I believe you’re an agnostic, to be honest.
Horgan: You claim that God’s ways are incomprehensible to a certain extent.
That has the ring of agnosticism about it.
I’m not an agnostic when it comes to God himself.
I’m a firm believer in it!
“Doubt is not the polar opposite of faith,” says Paul Tillich, to paraphrase.
Horgan: I identify as an agnostic, and I was offended when you referred to agnosticism as a “copout” in your book.
It indicates that you are dissatisfied with any of the answers to what are, after all, ultimate riddles.
I was reacting to the agnosticism that I see in the scientific community, which I believe has not been reached via a thorough analysis of the evidence, as I explained above.
Horgan: Free will is a notion that is very essential to me, just as it is to you.
You don’t seem to be concerned that science in general, and genetics in particular—as seen by your work as the director of the Human Genome Project—is weakening confidence in free choice, do you?
That is completely at odds with everything we already know about science!
Consider, on the other hand, identical twins who have exactly the same DNA but who may not always behave or think in the same way.
The validity of free choice is something I believe we can all agree on, regardless of our religious beliefs.
Horgan: What are your thoughts on Darwinian explanations of altruism, or what you refer to as agape, or completely selfless love and compassion for someone who is not a direct family member?
Many people believe that altruism has been promoted by evolution since it aids in the survival of the community as a whole.
Mother Teresa, Oscar Schindler, and a slew of others come to mind.
Although it appears that a Darwinian model cannot explain this, I’m not placing my confidence in it at this time.
Collins: You have free will once more, so there’s that.
Horgan: Consider the field of neurotheology, which seeks to understand the neural underpinnings of religious experiences.
Collins: It’s intriguing, but it’s not very unexpected, in my opinion.
I wouldn’t be concerned if I were to have some sort of spiritual experience myself and discovered that my temporal lobe had been illuminated.
“It’s all right!” That does not rule out the possibility of profound spiritual significance in this situation.
In reality, this mystical experience does have a natural correlate!
Horgan: What if this research leads to drugs or devices for artificially inducing religious experiences?
You probably heard about the recent report from Johns Hopkins that the psychedelic drug psilocybin triggered spiritual experiences.
If you are talking about the ingestion of an exogenous psychoactive substance or some kind of brain-stimulating contraption, that would smack of not being an authentic, justifiable, trust-worthy experience.
Horgan: Some scientists have predicted that genetic engineering may give us superhuman intelligence and greatly extended life spans, and possibly even immortality.
These are possible long-term consequences of the Human Genome Project and other lines of research.
Collins:That outcome would trouble me.
If you get too tied up on the hypotheticals of what night happen in the next few hundred years, then you get paralyzed and you fail to live up to the opportunity to reach out and help people now.
Horgan:I’m particularly curious if religion necessitates pain and misery.
Although we have made all of these wonderful medical advancements that have made it possible to live longer lives and eradicate diseases, we will almost certainly continue to find ways to argue with one another and, at times, to kill one another out of our sense of self-righteousness and our determination to be the best in the world.
We may know a great deal about biology, we may know a great deal about how to prevent illness, and we may know a great deal about the human lifespan.
That will always be our most memorable and distressing experience while on this planet, and it will be this that will cause us to yearn the most, perhaps, for something more in our lives.
In addition to offering advice to Donald Trump, Richard Dawkins also offers other words of wisdom.
Problems with the Mind-Body Connection (free online book, also available asKindle e-bookandpaperback).
A professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, John Horgan serves as director of the Center for Science Writings.
He also has a website, mindbodyproblems.com. His popular blog Cross Check for Scientific American was published for many years, and he continues to write it today.