Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Is creation necessary? What are the intuitions? More on the faith of the heart

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In the many decades in which I was an atheist, one of the things that most annoyed me about many Christians who argued for the reality of God what there assumption that there must be an explanation, a cause for what exists.

This especially applies to the question which is being answered by 'creation from nothing'. 

But I never saw then - and I don't see now - why there must be an explanation or cause for what exists; instead my baseline assumption is that what exists always existed.

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That was my spontaneous intuition but I used to assume that this was idiosyncratic and most other people assumed that everything must have a cause, and therefore one was driven back to the inference that everything originally came from nothing.

In fact the opposite seems to be the statistically normal assumption among the inhabitants of most simple societies, and probably among children too that the bottom line is that some things were 'always' in existence.

Similarly, when anthropologists ask hunter gatherers how long they (as a people) have lived where they do, the answer is along the lines of always.

They have no record or memory of any time they lived anywhere else, and little curiosity about the matter - indeed rest on the assumption that what is now always was, and if this is challenged then this is interpreted as disputing that they belong where they are - preparatory to taking their land from them (or rather, taking them from their land, rather as someone might be taken from their parents).

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I think this is how the human mind naturally works. Beyond a certain point, beyond just a couple of levels of explanation and an explanation of that explanation - a cause and a cause of that cause; people rest in the assumption that this was how things always were, how things always worked - and it is a minority of philosophically-minded modern people, with their abstract concepts of time and causality, who come to see a problem in this.

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These inbuilt ways of thinking are difficult to overcome without creating confusion, alienation and disorientation - it is easier for philosophers to challenge and probe naive ways of thinking than to come up with better alternatives - it is easier to induce people to lose confidence in natural ways of thinking than it is to generate confidence in other ways of thinking.

Hence the history of philosophy.

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The big problem is conviction. I might (for a while - an hour, a few days, months or years) subscribe to a philosophical explanation yet this explanation may never carry my heart.

This is not just the fickleness of the human will - it is a matter of depth.

Some things I can't deeply believe - and others I can't not believe!

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This is relevant for Christian apologetics and evangelism - converting to Christianity from secular Leftism ought to bring (among other things!) a sense of moving onto solid ground, a grounding on realities which one can believe with the heart and not (as with so much of modern secular culture) believe only with the mind (easily manipulated by the establishment elite) or the body (easily manipulated by the mass media and fashions).

A belief of the heart carries both intellectual conviction and emotional warmth - but its intellectual convictions are resistant to mainstream academic manipulations, while its warmth is like the slow-smouldering heart of a fire, rather than the flickering flames that come and go. 

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This - if successful - is a risky business, and it is hard to predict where exactly it will lead; which is why in practice most Christian denominations are reluctant to go down the path of the heart.

To go down this path would mean that Christians must test all propositions with their heart, and build their faith from that which is endorsed by their heart, and set aside (even if not reject) that which does not carry the heart or which quenches the heart.

A Christian faith is thus a work in progress; and an active thing - and for many Christians this will be seen as lacking in humility and obedience, and in a sense it is.

But these are desperate times. We need the heart to detach us from the pervasive and increasing evils of modern secular culture, and we need the heart to sustain us through the process and after the reality of detachment.

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A strong, warm heart grants autonomy, and the heart also generates the strength required for autonomy - so that as we are restored to reality, we are also en-couraged (filled with courage).

Thus to be Christian is possible - despite the feebleness and incompleteness of the churches and the all-but-overwhelming hedonic evils of secular society.

IF a Christian faith can be built from the heart, all this may be possible.

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Without the heart to sustain feeble spirits in such hostile environments, real Christianity may be so difficult, miserable, lonely - as to be both rare and weak.

So, by this argument, intuitions - metaphysical intuitions concerning reality - probably should be accepted the basis of a heart-felt Christianity since only they enable the faith to resist a hostile and invasive world.

And I cannot see how such a faith can avoid being metaphysically, philosophically heterodox - positively and negatively, in many instances - so I think that must be accepted too.

Yet heterodoxy must be combined with strong loyalty to The Church (that mystical reality of the actual corrupt institutions) - which seems like a difficult trick...

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It is possible, I think, but there is no formula - and perhaps if heart-unity with The Church is actually achieved it will violate both head and body reasoning.

But the wonderful thing about the heart is that this is indeed possible; a faith in Christ that is grounded in the heart and fueled by the heart can reject any amount of negative evaluations and conclusions and be sustained through a maelstrom of bodily distractions.

Such a faith is in fact unstoppable and inevitable - if it is wanted: if it is asked for. 

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