Sunday, August 3, 2014

Belief by Francis S. Collins

Francis Collins is a believer in God and a serious scientist. Since he regularly encounters people who have a hard time squaring those two positions, he edited a series of essay in his book, Belief. He aims to show you can believe in God “with all your mind.” He states in the intro, “... absolute proof of God’s existence is not going to be available in this life. But that doesn’t mean deeply rational arguments for faith are not available for inspection and debate by interested believers, seekers, and skeptics.”

He includes a wide variety of essay, some dating back many centuries, to the modern era. Not every one is even written by a traditional believer, but all point to a transcendent. And they are all fascinating. I could write a post on each, but I will try to confine myself.

Collins describes his own journey towards faith in God. It started with the idea of Moral Law. It appears that there is some standard of right and wrong written on the hearts of man. Evolutionary theory falls far short of explaining it. He calls the Moral Law, “an interesting signpost toward a holy and personal God.” From there, he studied religion seriously and became a believer.

Essay #1: N.T. Wright: Wright points out that we all long for some sort of cosmic justice, where in the world will be put right. We thirst for spirituality. These are other signposts pointing to the divine.

#2 Plato: Using the Socratic method, Plato walks the reader through his classical arguments for faith and reason.

#3 Augustine: Augustine argues that because there is absolute truth, there must be and absolute mind. He, like Plato, uses the Socratic method to lead the reader to a Divine Source of Truth, which we can call God, who exists above us and our earthly reality.

#4 Anselm of Canterbury: He argues that what we can imagine, must exist. So we can imagine God, therefore, there must BE a God.

#5 Thomas Aquinas: From the Summa Theologica, Aquinas posits an “Unmoved Mover” or first cause of the world.

#6 John Locke: Our own faculties of reason lead one to believe that the creator must be still more reasonable. It must be eternal and cogitative in order to produce us. 

#7 Blaise Pascal: Pascal argues the we should believe because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

#8 Os Guinness: God’s Truth is a robust Truth. Truth is everywhere at all times. Truth can be discovered and is available to us and makes us free of manipulation.

#9 Madeleine L’Engle: The famous author describes the search for Truth as frightening because it demands something from us. Real Truth, found in Jesus, transcends mere rational truth and gives us something to both live and die for.

#10 Dorothy Sayers: She links history to Scripture to make Jesus and his disciples “really” real. 

#11 John Stott: Belief is a battle of ideas and we must believe in the power of Truth. 

#12 David Elton Trueblood: He encourages the reader not to deny others’ religious experiences, but to rationally test them to see if they have borne fruit.

#13 Keith Ward: He challenges the notion that religion is simply a social construct.

#14 Art Lindsley: He defends absolute truth in our relativistic world. If we know there is evil, there must be good and only God defines what is good. 

#15 Desmond Tutu: He believes that in the face of true evil, we can be confident, because the oppressed have already won. Truth is on their side. “We humans can tolerate suffering but we cannot tolerate meaninglessness.”

#16 Elie Wiesel: After suffering tremendously in the Holocaust, he explores true evil and our response to it.

#17 Tim Keller: The church is filled with fallen and flawed people. That where Grace comes in. In fact, we cannot critique Christianity and Christians without first starting with the framework given us by Christianity. 

#18 Martin Luther King Jr.: We must have both a tough mind and a tender heart. 

#19 Paul Brand: We are the hands of Christ.

#20 John Polkinghorne: God gave us the ability to explore and understand our world through science.

#21 C.S. Lewis: He expounds on miracles.

#22 Alister McGrath: We all search for meaning. Yet our longing requires a leap of faith.

#23 Thomas Merton: We must engage in mystical contemplation by accepting God’s gift of Himself. 

#24 Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Coming from the evil world of Nazi Germany, Bonhoeffer describes true love and true enemies. He reminds us that our enemies, the ones we are called to love, are those that “are quite intractable and utterly unresponsive to our love.” Jesus modeled how we are to treat enemies when He dies to save His own enemies.

#25 Viktor Frankl: Another Holocaust victim, describes man’s will for meaning. 

#26 Mother Teresa: We must love those around us with all our hearts!

#27 Mahatma Gandhi: If we fear God, we will not fear anything else. Truth is on our side.

#28 The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso): Science must be guided by moral ethics for “values, creativity and spirituality, as well as deeper metaphysical questions, lie outside the scope of scientific inquiry.” Science and spirituality can have a collaborative relationship and can be closer than ever. 

#29 G.K. Chesterton: “He expounds ont the collaboration of faith and reason like this, ‘It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.’”

#30 Hans K√ľng: He attacks Freud’s atheism.

#31 Alvin Plantinga: He compares evolution to naturalism to show them in opposition to each other. Fascinating stuff.

#32 Antony Flew: The famous atheist came to belief in God because of (1.) nature obeys laws, (2.) the existence of intelligent and purpose-driven beings, and (3.) the existence of nature.

Every essay was fascinating and more than a few WAY over my head. If I had the time, I could spend hours reviewing and digesting each one. I’m sure that if the authors were to read my piddly summaries, they would cringe. I apologize for not doing them justice. 

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